Understanding Visual Complexity and Prototypicality
First impressions are incredibly important when it comes to your website. With everyone’s super-short attention spans these days, if someone isn’t immediately pulled in by your site you can expect them to hit the back button straight away.
A recent study by Google Research only helped confirm this, arguing that people form their judgement on a website’s appearance in less than a second – 50 milliseconds, in fact.
The study states that “a websites’ first impression is known to be a crucial moment for capturing the user’s interest. Within a fraction of time, people build a first visceral ‘gut feeling’ that helps them to decide whether they are going to stay at this place or continue surfing to other sites.”
So, this means that – no matter what the goal of your website is – you’ll need to make sure it’s visually appealing and able to provide solutions quickly enough if you want visitors to stay on site. These are issues that most website’s grapple with and most web developers spend their time trying to resolve.
Google’s report highlights two things in particular that determine people’s first impressions of a site:
- Visual Complexity (VC)
- Prototypicality (PT)
We’ll explore in a little more detail what these mean.
What is Visual Complexity?
While the concept of Visual Complexity may sound, well, complex, thankfully it’s actually very simple. Visual Complexity refers to the website’s visual appearance and how it influences how people interact with it. In most cases, the more visually complex a website is, the less likely a user is going to properly engage with it.
So, make sure your website isn’t needlessly complicated. Users generally prefer websites that are easy to navigate and understand. If, when they first land on your site, they’re bombarded with loads of content, images, pop-ups, and dropdowns, they’re likely to get overwhelmed and leave. Users like to be able to find what they’re looking for fast. Complicating that process is only likely to have a negative impact.
What is Prototypicality?
Prototypicality is a little harder to explain. In short, it’s defined as an object which represents a class of objects. For example, for an online furniture site, a chair symbol could be used to represent the dining room category, while a bed could be used to represent the bedroom category.
This functions on a larger scale as well. Normally, people associate certain types of websites with certain formats. For example, you might expect a fashion website to have a certain layout, but a travel site or a banking site to have a completely different one with different things on the homepage, different types of imagery, etc.
But how does this tie into the UX on your site? Well, if your site’s appearance doesn’t match what users are looking for, then they’re more likely to decide to leave during those all-important 50 milliseconds.
So, when it comes to assessing your website, make sure you don’t overlook these two very important factors.