A study of websites by researchers at Northumbria and Sheffield Universities reveals how different design and information content factors influence visitor’s trust of sites.

The study showed clearly that the look and feel of the website are the primary drivers of first impressions. Of all the feedback the test participants gave, 94% was about design: complex, busy layout, lack of navigation aids, boring web design especially use of color, slow introductions to site, small print, too much text, corporate look and feel, poor search facilities. Only 6% of the feedback was about the actual content. Visual appeal and website navigation had by far the biggest influence on people’s first impressions of the site.

At the same time, poor interface design was particularly associated with rapid rejection and mistrust of a website. When participants did not like some aspect of the design, the whole website was often not explored further than the homepage and was not considered suitable.

The data showed that the average consumer paid far more attention to the superficial aspects of a site, such as visual cues than to its content. For example, nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes.

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