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Website First Impressions

“When a new visitor accesses your Web site, a rapid and almost unconscious, complex thought process is activated. Within seconds, an impression is formed, a determination is made, and the visitor decides whether to stay or leave.” As reported by Steven Brightbill, in an article entitled Your Website’s First Impression, published by Sounding Line Magazine, a resource that provides insight for making smart decisions about insurance technology.

This is why it is extremely important to understand first impressions when dealing with your website. What does your site initially say when you view it? Of course, as you are the designer you may have a biased opinion, that’s why it’s important to seek the opinion from an unbiased source. You may get a good review, but then again, as it is an unbiased opinion, you better prepare yourself for what you are about to hear and not take it personally. Always use these reviews as constructive criticism to better your site.

So, what exactly happens during the short timespan of a first impression that Brightbill talks about? He goes on to mention that your web site must quickly answer the two most important questions the visitor wants to know: 1) Where am I? and 2) What does this site do?

For a more in-depth explanation of how Brightbill goes about addressing these questions, feel free to read the article as it’s a very informative. To sum up the article, he mentions that in order to answer the question of “Where Am I?” you should always display your name and logo. He discourages the use of flash or splash screens as they can take awhile to load.

“What does this site do?” Brightbill mentions that also it may seem obvious from first glance but sometimes it may not be as obvious because websites can do more than one thing. He mentions that usually you can answer this question by adding a keyword tagline by the logo or name. For example, he mentions the word “Insurance” by the logo, as his keyword, as that is the market they specialize in. If your site specializes in marketing X10 products, you can use a keyword such as X10 Store or X10 Supplier to get your point across.

He also covers in the article what I was hoping he would touch upon: content, layout and organization; that is, avoiding clutter that detracts from the visitor's ability to quickly perceive the site's purpose and offerings (2005).

I feel that the main thing that can make or break your site is site appearance. If a site seems too busy it may detract from it’s real intention. If it lacks organization, it gives off a sense of lacking credibility. But everything depends on an important point: In order to keep your visitors you must properly set it up to what your market dictates.

There are many factors to consider such as “who are my primary customers?” and “what things appeal to them?” Are my primary customers male or female? What age group are they? Is culture a factor? Afterall, first impressions differ from group to group. However, knowing how to properly set up your site can leave the lasting impression that you hope to achieve, not to mention help retain your visitors.

Tomorrow's blog post focuses on using online polls to your advantage.


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