First impressions count. But the first 50 milliseconds?
 
A recent Canadian research study found that the snap judgments made by test subjects shown glimpses of Web pages -- 50 milliseconds, about the flash rate of a television screen -- were roughly the same as other subjects given a much longer look at the same pages. That initial impression, formed in the blink of an eye, may also influence how Internet users gauge the general performance of a website over time, the study showed.
 
That's because people tend to like being right, the researchers said. By continuing to use a website they initially liked -- if only for a fraction of a second -- users are proving to themselves that their rash decisions are sound.

Gitte Lindgaard, a Carleton University researcher who led the study, said that has big implications for e-commerce and other businesses moving online: "Unless the first impression is favorable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors," she told www.nature.com.