1/20th of a second. That’s all it takes for someone to form an opinion about the quality of your organization based on nothing more than viewing your website. In other words, judgments are formed almost as quickly as the eye can take in information.
Here’s more good news (or less, depending on the current state of your graphics). Researchers also believe that these quickly formed first impressions last because of the “halo effect.” That means your visuals set up a benchmark of expectations. First identified by psychologists in the 1920s, the halo effect states that the first traits or features we recognize in other people or situations influence our interpretation and perception of later ones — because of our expectations.
For instance, it’s no secret that attractive people are often judged as having a more desirable personality and more skills than someone of average appearance. Thus, we see celebrities being used to endorse products that they have no actual expertise in evaluating, and with which they may not even have any prior affiliation.
The halo effect works for brands — the positive feelings created by having a hit product (Apple’s iPod) extend to the rest of the company’s offerings — and also for bands — one hit song leads to exploration and expectations about the rest of an artist’s musical library.
Business is competitive. People make snap judgments. We shouldn’t, but we do. Too often, the only difference between landing new business and watching new business land elsewhere is the quality of your graphics. And graphics, ladies and gentlemen, can be created, fixed, massaged and managed so that they say exactly what you want them to say.