Perception is Reality: How People Perceive Value Online

February 11, 2019 Jayci Morrison

tablet graph

Every now and then, I get a little extra time to check out new articles, ideas and applications in the design and insurance worlds.

Sometimes, if I'm super lucky, interesting things get sent to me. As is the case with the article we'll discuss today. If you’re too busy, let me give you a brief rundown.


In Perceived Value in User Interfaces, Nielsen Norman Group (or NN/g) explains websites suffer from the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” NN/g explains users judge a website based on the first page they visit. That impression is what determines whether users will engage your website or not. That first impression will either lead them further into the website or make them leave the site.

So, let’s break this down. What does perceived value mean? NN/g gave us a great definition.

percieved value definition nng

But that doesn’t help you understand how to get more people to stay on your website right? (You may be thinking, “Everyone’s different and they value different things. So why am I wasting your time with perceived value if that doesn’t actually help you?” Well, continue on!)

They discuss how it's not only perceived value we're worried about, but also the perceived cost. Comparing the perceived value and perceived cost creates the expected utility. In the most basic sense, perceived value is what you think you will gain from something. Perceived cost is how much effort you think it will take to gain that thing. Expected utility is asking if the thing is worth the effort.

And remember, it's all perceived. So, for example, let’s say your agency’s bread and butter is auto quotes. Thus, the only button on your homepage links to your auto quote page. (This would be silly, don't do it.) But, you also quote for homeowners and motorcycles.

That means a percentage of your prospects or customers don't have a button. In this case, your auto quotes button carries little perceived value to them. The perceived cost from those customers finding information about homeowners or motorcycle insurance is pretty high.

A clear call to action is perceived as very helpful. Unless that's not what someone is looking for.


What Affects Perceived Value

NN/g explains what affects perceived value by comparing two store faces. See the image below.


storefront comparison


One displays many items, which NN/g regards this as signaling cheaper prices and lower quality. While the other store has three mannequins in the window which attaches a higher value and exclusivity to the store. They attribute this assessment to the concept of scarcity bias. In other words, “Many items crammed into a display appear easy to obtain, while a single object seems more elusive.”

It's the same for web pages. A cluttered website suggest the site is lower quality. It also suggests the business doesn't have a clear path for you to achieve your goal. I couldn’t find an insurance example (and definitely none of our clients), so I had to Google search cluttered websites, and this is what I found.



Imagine landing on this website and needing actual information. Without scrolling, I counted 58 links. Now, I know they do something with gates, but, without reading, I couldn’t tell you whether they create, sell or install gates. Maybe they only sell the parts that open your gate? I might be a little dramatic, but I think I made my point. A cluttered website looks like it leads everywhere. But it won’t actually lead users anywhere very easily.

As we've discussed in previous blogs, your website is part of your brand. If you wouldn't wear stripes and polka dots to the office, don't do the same to your website.

The article explains neither clutter nor exclusivity are right or wrong, though. NN/g compares two airline sites as an example.

airline websites

They state “the ‘budget’ impression communicated by Tigerair’s bright colors and dense presentation of deals works well because the company’s value proposition is low price, not exceptional service.” While “on the other hand, users who care about hospitality and service will prefer the sophisticated design of Singapore Airlines…”

If luxury and sophistication isn't what your customer base is about, then you shouldn't be either. But, even if you’re not aiming for sophistication, you still need to aim for organization, color scheme, style, and the feel of your website.


Perception is Reality

NN/g cited a recent usability study for a client. The article stated the “initial impression primed the remainder of the participants’ visits: On sites where users perceived the brand was too ‘discount’ for their tastes, they only half-heartedly proceeded with the given task.”

Because they are primed, everything stems from a user's initial reaction. Whether they stay on the website to dig deeper or leave immediately. In the end, "you can increase the expected utility of your website by making sure it conveys the right message and has good usability."

In short: Make your website is easy to use and navigate, and you'll attract the right customers.


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About the Author

Jayci Morrison

Jayci Morrison is a design and media specialist on ITC's Insurance Website Builder team. She's responsible for giving each website its distinctive look and then bringing that look to life. She also has a hand in creating AgencyBuzz email templates, ITC marketing collateral, and any other design needs the team has. When she's not staring at a computer screen, she can be found anywhere outdoors with her husband and their two dogs.

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