How the Psychology of First Impressions Defines Startups

April 12, 2016 - 2 minutes read

startup mobile app first impressions

Making an app is, in many ways, like preparing a good meal — long hours of preparation for something consumed in the blink of an eye. Mobile app developers and UI designers labor endlessly on the home screens and initial on-boarding experience because the data shows that users judge whether or not to abandon an app within the first half second of opening. For most users, the first impression literally defines the app in their mind.

Science author Malcolm Gladwell defines these split-second unconscious decisions as “a little bit quicker and […] slightly more mysterious than the deliberate decision-making style of thinking we’re more accustomed to.” Psychologist call it “thin slicing” — essentially, the habit of making huge judgments based on tiny slices or snapshots of input. Los Angeles Mobile app developers aren’t the only demographic exposed to the effects of thin slicing. In fact, it’s a psychological phenomena that touches everything from social interactions to religious beliefs.

Luckily, thin slicing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Studies have shown that people are able to make surprisingly accurate assumptions based on the limited data gathered from first impressions. This creates two key opportunities for mobile app developers:

  1. Delight the user with a fast, attractive visual impression.
  2. Arrange the home screen UI such that users can understand your app’s core function and make broad assumptions about usability.

UI designers can imagine their app is a person, and the first impression should lead to a favorable first conversation. If a user bothers to engage, their first questions will be the sort of boring-but-useful questions people ask at parties. (Namely, “what do you do?”)

Answering that question through the placement of screen elements and color coding is obviously easier said than done. Regardless, acknowledging the power and potential of first impressions opens up a whole new toolset for mobile app developers willing think outside the box and push their UI as close to perfect as possible.

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