If we spotted danger, our natural flight response was triggered, and we high-tailed it in the other direction. If we couldn’t identify the danger after a second or so, most of us tended to take to the hills just in case. It was a matter of life or death.
Our hard-wiring hasn’t changed with the absence of tigers roaming around down-town suburbia. Studies by Janine Willis and Alexander Todoros show that we decide on a person’s likeability, trustworthiness, attractiveness, competence and aggressiveness in 1/10th of a second. That’s right. You get a whopping 1/10th of a second to make a good first impression.
Other studies have shown that we also judge confidence, social standing, intelligence and warmth in similar timeframes.
I am not saying these judgements are 100% accurate (and there are libraries of studies about how inaccurate our first impressions often are), just that this is the time it takes for someone to make their assessment about you. And based on this personal assessment, to make a decision about whether they would buy you a coffee or cross to the other side of the street.
Now let’s take this research over to the internet. One of the parts of Google’s ranking algorithm is your website page loading time. Faster loading sites = better search engine rankings.
Google knows that people are turned off by delay. Every additional second it takes for your website to load increases frustration and people clicking away from your site.
Why? I hypothesise that the human wiring for making snap judgements comes into play here. When you click on a link to a site, you are expecting to be able to make a judgement about the content and the business within a second. Delay that decision-making ability and the flight mode kicks in and people feel uncomfortable enough to want to leave. So, the 1/10th of a second rule also applies on the web.
And when someone hits your website, they will then run their internal assessments based on what they see about your likeability, trustworthiness, attractiveness, competence, aggressiveness, confidence, social standing, intelligence, warmth and a host of other factors.
This all happens before they read your first line of copy – just as the general assessments about you are made in real life before you open your mouth.
Great copy reinforces the impression you have already made. It generally will not change the impression about you – in as much the same way as the studies showed that more time spent assessing a person simply increases the initial confidence in the split second assessment rather than changing it.
So what are the takeaways from this? Remember what your grandma told you: “First impressions matter.” In business and life, you need to pay attention to all of the factors that go into making a great first impression and not allow silly little mistakes cost you potential great employees or clients. Do you pass the 1/10th of second test?