When people in business think of first impressions, they're likely to consider their brick-and-mortar location or the professionalism of their customer-facing teams. In the digital age, however, the first impression on websites can be just as important. While a major component of this is content, design needs to come first. After all, most customers will spend 15 seconds or less on your site, and it takes a mere 50 milliseconds for a user to form an opinion of your website. Furthermore, a study by Stanford shows that 75% of users admit to making a judgment about brand credibility based on site design. When 85% of customers will head to the internet before making a purchase decision (possibly before ever contacting your brand directly), it's pretty obvious how important your website design is to your bottom line. Here's a few more statistics to consider as well:
- It takes users 2.6 seconds to consciously cue into the area of a web page that will most influence their opinion of your brand.
- 94% of a user's first impression is design related.
- 38% of users will leave a web page if the content or layout is unattractive.
As a business in mid-missouri, your website needs to be your marketing hub, i.e., a point of contact that gives users everything they need to know about your brand - literally at their fingertips. Everything about your website, including the design, needs to reflect your brand, from your value proposition to who your brand is and the benefits it offers. Whether you can afford to hire professional web designers in Missouri, or you're utilizing DIY options, there's some key elements and website best practices that can help you avoid a poor design that will lose business.
Do: Keep It Simple
The adage “Keep It Simple Stupid” became so memorable for a reason. When you have so little time to provide what the customer wants with as little friction as possible, you need to keep your website simple. That's because simple design provides an uncluttered framework that makes it easy for users to consume your content.
Don't: Let Site Navigation Become Over-Complicated
Your site needs to be frictionless, and that means navigating through it needs to be easy and obvious. If it's too complicated or too frustrating to use, customers are likely to abandon your site rather than follow through to conversion or purchase. This is especially important if there's marketing calls-to-action that direct users to particular items on your site. For example, if you're promoting a digital coupon, it better be prominent.
Do: Keep It Consistent
Brand consistency is key to developing customer trust and loyalty. The elements, language, and message you use in store or in marketing (be it digital, radio, or otherwise) need to be the same that you offer on your site. If users navigate to your brand site expecting a certain kind of experience but don't receive it, then they're likely to just move on.
Don't: Change Elements Like Logo
You also want your site to be easily identifiable and associated with your brand. That means that the branding you use on your products and service materials needs to be present. Even something as seemingly minor as using a different color could leave a user questioning a website's authenticity.
Do: Keep It Fast
Optimize your site for speed, especially with mobile users in mind. For one thing, load speeds are a ranking factor for search engines. More importantly, however, customers will abandon a web page that doesn't load quickly enough. Generally, two seconds is considered acceptable, one second is preferable, and Google's gold standard is half of a second. There's evidence to suggest load speeds play a big role in user loyalty to a particular site as well.
Don't: Get Carried Away with Hi-Res Images
Beautiful design is engaging, and beautiful images tend to be a part of that, especially if your business uses e-commerce. However, you need to make sure that your images are sized and compressed properly to maintain load speeds. The images will only hurt instead of help if they interfere with the user experience.
Do: Keep It Real
Your website needs to authentically represent your brand, even if it exists for e-commerce. This plays directly into your site's consistency. For example, your value proposition shouldn't be buried at the bottom of a page; that just makes your business seem insincere, even if everything about your site is positive. It should be prominent and brief.
Don't: Be Misleading
You never want your users to feel like they just fell for a bait and switch, nor do you want to be coy about your business goals or message. Not only will this have users avoiding your site, it will reflect badly on your brand as a whole.
Do: Keep It Organized
Use elements like white space, buttons, and calls-to-action to move users through a page as well as through your site. As we mentioned, design should be the framework that supports your content, and that means laying things out in a way that makes sense and makes things easier for users.
Don't: Cramp Everything Together
Users in the 21st Century expect to scroll through web pages. That's due in part to the rise of mobile; the screen real estate for websites on a smartphone makes it hard to fit a significant amount of information on just one screen. Hopefully you're using a responsive layout to make that transition easier, but even if you consider just desktop users, you need to remember to avoid trying to condense everything into just one page or use long blocks of text.
First impressions are critical, and that's no less true for first impressions on websites. Start by taking advantage of our website best practices above and you'll have an excellent foundation for the type of design that can support great content and "set the stage" for a positive brand experience.