Keep it simple and keep it familiar

We’ve spent a lot of time on the importance of first impressions in your website design, and last time we covered “thin slicing” – making judgements in fractions of a second based on incomplete data.

These are important because, as we’ve seen, visitors to your site make, to all intents and purposes, an instantaneous decision whether or not to stay on the site.

We introduced two key factors:

  1. Visual complexity – how complex the visual design of a website looks
  2. Prototypicality – how representative a design looks for a certain category of websites

 As a reminder, here’s an extract from a Google Research blog:

 “… these two factors are interrelated: if the visual complexity of a website is high, users perceive it as less beautiful, even if the design is familiar. And if the design is unfamiliar — i.e., the site has low prototypicality — users judge it as uglier, even if it’s simple.”

(You can click here to link to the blog).


  1.  Keep it SIMPLE …
  2. … and keep it FAMILIAR

But what do we mean by this, in practice?  Let’s delve deeper.

What is a prototypical website?

Let’s start with an understanding of what we mean by the term.  Prototypicality is the fundamental set of mental images that your brain creates and stores to help you categorise everything that you interact with.

A good way to describe it is by using word association: if someone says “nightingale” you’ll almost certainly think “bird”.  If someone says “rose” you’ll probably think “flower”.  It gets more and more complex, but the principle will always apply.  If someone says “Abbey Road” you may think about the Beatles album, the recording studio, or the famous zebra crossing – but you’ll certainly (and immediately) think of something.

If we now take this into the on-line world – and remember this is based upon validated research by Google and not on conjecture – internet users will have these mental images (even if they don’t consciously know that they do) in advance of visiting the site.  In other words, they have expectations.

They won’t know exactly what they want the site to look like, but they will certainly know what they don’t want it to look like – and here we are back to that instantaneous decision again.

Why cognitive fluency matters

The human brain.  Such a complex piece of – what should we call it – engineeringMachinery?  If we started giving you facts and statistics about the brain and how (scientists think) it works, this article would turn into a novella (and we’d be veering slightly off-track).

That said, as it’s so interesting we may return to it later on anyway!

Where were we?  Yes, complexity.  The brain prefers to think about things that are easy to think about.  If you think about it, that makes perfect sense.

By now you’ve probably guessed why we’ve mentioned this – but in any event we’ll be covering it in more detail next time, in the context of website design.

Great opening lines of novels 

We’ve done Pride and Prejudice.  Here’s another, and in our next article we’ll tell you why we quoted it:

“My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.”

(Brilliant isn’t it?  Teeing up one of the greatest novels of all time).

If you can’t wait

We’re always here to help … and inspire!

You can click here for our home page, here for our contact page, or call us any time on 020 7199 8713

You’ll receive a wonderful first impression before our team of experts go on to delight you with our thoughts and revelations on brilliant website design.

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