Insights/ Created August 2019

Making a great first, second and lasting impression.... with design

Converting website visitors to loyal customers is no easy feat and there are many factors that come into play. Making a good first impression is one of them.

Humans react to first impressions almost instantly, it’s psychology.

If your website isn’t making a great first impression, if the user experience isn’t up to scratch or there’s friction between the user arriving at your website and them achieving their objective, you’re in trouble!

Making that first impression great should therefore be pretty high on your list of objectives.

Talking to the subconscious

The user experience starts way before anything is read or clicked. It only takes 50ms for users to form an impression of your website. These are gut reactions that are emotional at heart and result from the way your site is designed and presented. It can lead users to be excited, relaxed, or even disinterested right from the get go.

If you’ve lost someone on that first impression, it takes a lot more to sway them back onto your side…. Tough crowd!!

Emotional Design

In 2005, Don Norman published his book Emotional Design and introduced the idea that there are three stages of visual design that evoke emotions in users:

1. The visceral stage

The visceral stage describes our automatic emotional response to something we see. This reaction is a result of how we're wired and is out of our control. It's the first impression we get when landing on a page and we can't help ourselves but excited, calmed or bored. This is the first step to consider when designing for emotions.

2. The behavioral stage

Most UX practitioners focus on the behavioral stage since it's all about functionality and usability. A website that is easy to navigate, has a clear visual hierarchy and is altogether easy to use will generally result in a positive emotional reaction. On the flip side, if users need to expend excess mental effort to find what they're looking for, expect frustration and impatience. That’s why we’re constantly talking about removing friction! Eliminating pain points and defining smooth journeys is vital.

3. The reflective stage

This is where we take a step back and reflect upon the entire experience we've had with a brand's website. This can have a huge impact on whether a user becomes a regular visitor. It’s the least immediate and takes the most time to form, but it's just as important. Providing a memorable experience, for the right reasons can pay dividends long into the future.

UX Design Strategy and Psychology

In Summary

We have to remember humans are complex emotional creatures and making a good impression is a huge step towards a rewarding experience.

Each stage of visual design plays a key role in creating an emotional response that fits your brand's image. However, it is important to keep the temporal order of these stages in mind.

First time visitors will go through the visceral stage and that will have a tremendous impact on the rest of a user's journey. It anchors them to an emotional state. Making the behavioural stage rewarding, allowing the user to achieve their objectives easily is key to conversion. And finally, ensuring you leave users feeling satisfied with the experience but providing memorable interactions, might just be what you need to gain a new loyal customer.


At Elephants Can Dance, human centered design (HCD) is at the centre of everything we do. Understanding your audience on a deeper level is always going to yield better results.

Get in touch for a consultation and see how we can help improve the experience of your users.


Nick Vandermolen, Design Director and Head of UX


6 Middlemiss Street,
Lavender Bay 2060. Sydney

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