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October 2, 2013

First Impressions

Statistics show, maybe because of our ever-diminishing attentions spans, that you have less than 10 seconds to make a good first impression with your website.

Think about how you surf the internet. If you don’t see what you’re looking for on the first page you land on, you move on. Your customers do the same thing, which is why good website design is so important.

website designOf course, there are many other factors are at play when trying to capture the attention of that elusive visitor and keep their attention on your site for more than 10 seconds. There is the intricately linked combination of load time and design. Does the design capture the attention of the user? Are the combination of colours and content (headlines, copy, pictures and navigation) appealing and user-friendly?

Here are some tips for making a good first impression on the web: 

Load quickly. If you only have a few seconds to make it count, you had better not use up that precious time loading your front page. If it takes more than 20 seconds to load, most visitors would rather leave than wait. Speed up the loading of your pages by eliminating unnecessary or large graphics. Avoid using elaborate flash animation, offsite page counters, news feeds, and other resources that slow down the efficiency of your home page.

Clean + efficient. Your website should put your viewers at ease. Choose a clean, efficient design with an easily visible central focus. Take advantage of white space; choose comforting and well paired colours and readable fonts.

Avoid speckled or overly dark backgrounds, unreadable type fonts and a confusing assortment of buttons, animations, drop down or pop-up menus, and multiple frames.

Don’t overwhelm. Avoid putting too much information or overly verbose text on the front page of your site. That’s why most large sites divide the page into two or three main areas.

The first area is where the left navigation panel is usually placed with links to different categories of information. Names should include hot button words that appeal to the visitor searching for content related to the central focus of the site.

The second area holds the primary body text area. This should present the main focus of the site, with interesting headlines and teaser copy linking to new articles and content pages. Use headlines to pique the interest of your visitors and give them a reason to explore further.

The third area is where the right navigation panel usually resides. This space is reserved for additional info, calendars, surveys, small banner ads, etc. Reduce cluttered by using plenty of space between these three main areas, and plenty of white space throughout.

Keep it simple
. Use a standard navigation system throughout your site. Seeing a user-friendly navigation system can make visitors feel comfortable and continue exploring your site. Avoid using difficult drop down menus, hard to read fonts or graphic buttons, or any other programming tricks that may prevent visitors from exploring your site further.

Keep it fresh. Make sure the information on your main page is always kept up to date. Visitors are usually interested in current news, reviews, and information, and will leave if it looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 90s. This is especially true when it comes to navigation links.

Usually, visitors will become frustrated after encountering just two broken links. Keep them coming back. If you want visitors to return to your site, give them a reason to bookmark it.

If your site is appealing and offers new and interesting content that visitors may want to look at again, they will usually bookmark your site. Reviewing your analytics for page views and bounce rate can usually help you determine if your site is poorly designed, confusing, outdated, or hard to navigate.

Take the statistics to heart, and consider making a few simple changes that will turn that first impression into a long-term relationship. And if you need help designing your website, or if your current site just needs a renovation, we’re here to help!

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