First impressions and interface design

18Jan10

While shopping for an insurance policy over the weekend, I started with a basic set of requirements: strong financial strength, ability to get a quote online, etc. After narrowing down the field to five or six companies, I opened up their online quote pages and took a look at what they were asking and how they presented it. From just glancing at the first one or two screens of the quoting process, it was obvious which companies had paid the most attention to the user experience.

Based on the quality of their user interfaces, I selected the three insurance companies who appeared to offer the easiest quoting and buying process. Was this a conscious decision? To some extent, yes: I pay a lot of attention to design, and firmly believe that products that look easier to use tend to deliver a better experience.

What about people who’ve never read a single article about UX or interface design? The same heuristics hold: we make a quick assessment of products based on past experience, and that subconscious feeling can greatly influence what we do next. In other words, the first impression of a company or product often determines if we’ll give that company a chance at earning our business.

In my case, I tried to get a quote from each of the three companies. The first one confused me with certain questions, so I moved on to number two. The second company’s site didn’t work in Firefox, so I found myself at number three. Luckily, the third company’s website worked really well, and I was able to buy the policy online. Interestingly, that final site was the one that I felt had the best design at the very beginning, but I tried the others first since I liked certain aspects of those companies better. Given that I ended up with the site that made the best first impression from a user interface perspective, maybe I should trust my design instincts even more next time.



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