Anybody who has a website needs it to be a success and to look fantastic, but perhaps one of the most important factors to consider is differentiating the website you have from that of everyone else.

One of the best methods is to make your website fun and pleasant to look at which hopefully will ensure return visitors. The aesthetic reaction to a website is very influential because various studies have shown that a website is judged in approximately a second after it is first viewed and this will make visitors decide if it is worth spending time on that site.

Whilst there is no precise measure, one of the factors that can be measured is human emotional response through facial expressions, pupil dilation and even leaning towards and away from the screen. Site visitors can also answer a questionnaire to express how they feel about a specific site.

There are a number of methods that are used in an attempt to determine the reaction of site visitors. None of these are completely reliable, but nonetheless they do give an understanding about how people feel about a particular website.

There is the estimated time that people may remain on a particular site compared to how long they think they used a site. It is believed that if people overestimate the time they were there, then they did not enjoy the experience, whereas if they underestimate the time they were on a site, then they did enjoy the experience. This relies on people being unaware of the time factor throughout the duration of the site visit and of course some people will overestimate no matter how good the site was.

The mood of site visitors can also be measured after using a website, but of course there are flaws in this methodology as it is not viable to gauge if mood change is related to a website visit.

It is said that facial expressions can be used as a gauge, depending on smiles, frowns, looks of confusion, etc. Obviously, the more positive expressions that are spotted, the better. However, the difficulty with this method is misinterpreting the facial expressions of people.

One method that is used extensively in the car design industry is SEQAM (Sensory Quality Assessment Method). This entails people not being shown a complete design, but instead being shown a succession of alternative design parts and being asked their opinions on each. This method means that anyone taking part cannot see a whole design and the testing requires many alternative parts.

Asking for direct feedback after somebody has visited a website has been found to be quite unreliable because people tend to give the answer they believe you want them to give you.

Another technique is opposing scale questionnaires, which requires those taking part to complete scale questionnaires between two extremes of feelings, e.g. 1 for a poor experience and 5 for an excellent one. This works more effectively when more than one site is being analysed.

Which method should you use? Each has strengths and weaknesses and of course you are measuring that which cannot effectively be measured – opinions. To have a more accurate picture, use more than one method.

Effective website design need not cost a fortune, as there are cheap web design agencies who will do just as good a job as those who charge far more to cover their overheads for a fancy office space. It is possible to find affordable web design professionals, just ensure you do your homework properly.

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