I have always been deeply interested in how visual aspects influence the human behaviour.In this article I would like to dig deeper into the subject : how does the visual appeal of a website affects its users decisions. There is a very interesting social-psychology phenomenon known as the “Halo Effect” where people’s judgments are based on their feelings, in most of the cases that do not have any link with the subject. For instance, a judgement that a good looking person has some other good characteristics such as kindness or intelligence without any logical reasons, or vice versa.
Whistle stop tour
The “Halo Effect” was first identified by the psychologist Edward Thorndike: “A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings“. There are two different sides to this phenomenon:
- The “Halo Effect” (or “Halo Error”) he described as a people’s positive beliefs on subject matter.
- The “Devil Effect” (or “Reverse-Halo Effect”) is opposite to the “Halo Effect” based on negative belief structure.
In work “Halo and devil effects demonstrate valenced-based influences on source-monitoring decisions” by Cook, Marsh and Hicks very precisely explained these two phenomenons “People are often influenced by their own subjective theories concerning other people’s personalities.”
Halo Effect & Devil Effect
Why are these named halo and devil effect? Just recall in your memory a religion’s paintings of holy people with a halo around their head. How are they perceived? A halo gives them all saint’s attributes (it must be a very good person indeed!). The same principle with the devil effect, but with the opposite feeling: one relying attribute and we have a full judgement about a person or subject.
What’s on your mind?
We all have our websites, social media profiles and it will be useful to know how other people feel about us and our businesses. In brand marketing a halo effect is playing a very big role if not the main, and the main task is to create a positive, trustworthy and reliable image of a brand. Most of us interact with an audience through the Internet with our websites, so the first and most important effect must be simply brilliant. But, our website users judge us just after they have landed on our homepage, and they have already made their own decision, even before reading our content. So, how long has it taken to impress them and make them stay for a while and what do makes them come to their verdict so quick?
Only 50 milliseconds
Gitte Lindgaard is the Director of the Human Oriented Technology Lab (HOTLab) and a Professor of Psychology in her article “Aesthetics, Visual Appeal, Usability and User Satisfaction: What Do the User’s Eyes Tell the User’s Brain?” gives us exact figures that confirm empirically that a user makes his decision wether to like or dislike a website homepage after an exposure time of only 50 milliseconds, which is 1/20 of a second. That is too short a time to have any brain conclusions, but it is enough for the first impression when “the body tells me what to think”. What can our body see that our brain cannot? The first thing they take in is the colour of a websites homepage, The colours are the connection between visual appeal and user satisfaction with a web site.
The visual appeal is not just about beauty, it’s more about a calming sensation and the users ability to perform a simple task within a website. So it is important to keep the “Halo Effect ” principals in your mind when you plan to create a website. For the first impression the colour combinations impact on perception of your site user dramatically.