Cognitive Bias

January 18, 2006

Last week I was reading about the 5 Second Test. It's a usability test given to focus groups. You give the tester a goal, and then flash the page for 5 seconds. If the user can complete the goal the test passes.

Now just yesterday researchers from Canada released a study that shows that users determine the quality of a web page in the first 1/20 of a second. Here's a quote from's coverage:

The lasting effect of first impressions is known to psychologists as the 'halo effect': if you can snare people with an attractive design, they are more likely to overlook other minor faults with the site, and may rate its actual content (such as this article, for example) more favourably.

This is because of 'cognitive bias', Lindgaard explains. People enjoy being right, so continuing to use a website that gave a good first impression helps to 'prove' to themselves that they made a good initial decision.

Jason Fried over at 37 Signals also picked up on the article. He suggested that this study is a big win for the big text camp.

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