First Impressions Count

Having been at PRWD for a few months now, something that is still clear to me is the feeling I had as I walked through the door on my very first day. Something as small as a welcome card on my desk from all the team created a reassuring welcome, and as the day progressed, I got to thinking about the power of first impressions and, in particular, the power of first impressions in web design.

Speaking to a good friend of mine about this, I asked him how first impressions have affected his 30+ year design career and he told me they have been the key to his success. Whether it be a meeting or a proposal, the first 10 minutes have always been the make or break. He added that this is not to evaluate the designs that he has produced, but to evaluate him as a person.

Subconsciously, people make a decision about your trustworthiness and ability before thinking about anything else. Think of your website as a person and ask yourself, is it someone you would like to meet?

Offer a ‘welcome card’ to your customers

That first moment a customer loads your website they get a sense of what your brand is about. They instantly form an opinion of your brand and with it only taking 0.05 seconds, it is so important that you get it right. A whopping 94% of that decision is design related and a great website design that’s centred around the user is a powerful tool for any business with an ever-growing presence.

Netflix presented a talk about its own A/B testing methods and added that, “If you don’t capture a member’s attention within 90 seconds, that member will likely lose interest and move onto another activity.”

With this in mind, you need to think about how you will capture your customer’s attention. One way of doing so could be through the use of animated graphics. Animated graphics are unique, memorable and engaging. I came across a great example of this on mobile not long ago. Rather than using a static burger menu which dropped down, the element was animated and changed in size. You can see below how impressive it is for yourself:

hamburger-Animated Gif

This animation straight away captured my attention, leading me to click on the menu and multiple other pages across the site.

Below I have explained some of other the key principles of user centred design that I follow and why they are important in making a fantastic first impression.

Research your competitors

Throughout my career, I have learnt the value of researching your competitors. However, when evaluating their web design, rather than looking at what they are doing, look what they are not doing and this will be a great starting point for developing your unique design idea. What works for their business, won’t necessarily work for yours. That being said, it doesn’t mean to go away and design something which is the complete opposite from everyone else. It is still essential that your design is simple and familiar for it to be user-friendly. For example, moving the top heading links to the bottom of the page will not relate to anyone as it goes against what people are used to.

Website Speed – make the most of your time with the user

Every second counts when it comes to first impressions, making sure the user gets what they expect instantly is vital for online growth. With over 47% of us expecting a web page to load under two seconds, and a 57% abandon rate if your page load time is 3 seconds or more, the bar is set high for websites. The goal for any business or website should be to match and exceed expectations, having a well-performed site in this modern era is crucial. Slow performing sites will simply become extinct.

Don’t overload the page – whitespace is essential

Use the page to showcase your capabilities. White space – or negative space – is simply the surrounding elements on the page. Using this space to your advantage is key for many strategical reasons. If used correctly, using the surrounding space effectively can transform a design providing many advantages to your site. In the case of first impressions, people don’t want to see all the content at once, users need a reason to draw them down the page, delivering a clever layout that is easy on the eyes makes users want to continue reading. Well-built layouts and good colour schemes add to the impression that a website makes, but whitespace shows the user ingenuity, indicating sophistication and worth.

Video content has unlimited potential

The power of video is second to none, with over 40% of people consider a website’s design as the number one factor in deciding the credibility of a business. Therefore, it is important that we get this right and convey the kind of message that helps build trust between customers and the business. Video content is engaging and allows users to see the human element to the business, portraying a desired feeling or emotion about a product or service without the need to read.

Make the most out of engaging content

Make content worth seeing over and over again. People who view the web generally skim the page and don’t always read the content. Having engaging content that allows them to do this will always be a winning formula. “An image can say a thousand words” is a statement that designers should live and breathe. Having powerful content that gives an amazing first impression and shows a meaningful message will inspire and engage audiences across channels. This seems counterproductive, but stop trying to sell. When selling a product or service we need to make sure that we don’t try too hard and with the backing of engaging and meaningful content, a good product will always sell itself. Red Bull don’t sell the product, instead they sell the adventure.

What happens when we consider mobile first?

It’s about time we design for mobile first. Although this process works backwards from the norm for most designers, billions of people use mobile devices to access the web globally and with an increase in mobile device sales, the importance of designing for mobile has never been higher on the to-do list. What we find today is that most people look for (or find) the content they require on mobile first and if they like what they see they then progress to a desktop model. Designing a content rich site for mobile first allows for a more considered approach at the design stage, instead of an afterthought about how we can size certain elements down to mobile.