First Impressions Count Just as Much Online

Make a memorable impact on new visitors to your website. You've got just seconds to hook them. Here's our checklist.
First Impressions Count Just as Much Online
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There's a lot of analysis and science that goes into wowing a digital audience. But despite the numerable studies indicating best practices, most website owners just tend to wing it. Not following best practices leads to a loss of traffic and conversion because the harsh truth is that, on average, more than half of your visitors will spend less than 15 seconds on your website

Let’s break down the things that can be done to compel them to stay a little longer.

Be visual. 

Rich, evocative, beautiful, and professional-quality images are the cornerstone of the modern web. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that businesses can increase sales by increasing product image size. Video also has a massive impact on visitors. Adding a video to a landing page can increase conversion rates by 80 percent.

Related: 7 Sources of Free High Quality Stock Images

Be usable.

While visual content like images and video are critical, none of these tactics work without a fluid web design. Visitors should find it easy to navigate across multiple pages. It should require almost no effort for them to identify and locate what they need. 

Be human. 

The copy used on a website can have an immediate effect on a visitors’ perception. Writing that is clinical, stoic, or “salesy” will tune readers out. In the book Web Copy That Sells, author Maria Veloso described research done on 20,000 pieces of copy that concluded that "editorial-style web copy outpulled sales letter-style web copy every single time." 

Copy that appeals to users' needs, emotions, and sensibilities will be significantly more effective in captivating them. Instead of riddling a site with jargon, corporate speak and pitches, it's best just to be human. Showcase value proposition by being personable. 

As an example, Crowdsourcia’s website introduces itself to visitors by using the pictures and names of their team members. This complements copy that is natural, welcoming and friendly.

Be valuable.

Exciting, valuable and helpful content can keep visitors engaged. Using best practices such as having engaging calls-to-action, encouraging social sharing and facilitating discourse can rapidly convert a stranger on the information superhighway into a brand advocate.

Be technical. 

Digital entrepreneurs put up websites and casually forget that their entire business is being facilitated by technology. They focus on great images, perfect SEO and killer content, but their sites are not secure. They’re also not cross-browser compatible or optimized for mobile, and loading a page takes a million years to complete.

Related: 7 Tips for Feeding Your Website's Need for Speed

Be mobile.

Impressing visitors isn't just about what's on the page, it's also how much care is put into its delivery. Back in 2014, it was estimated that 60 percent of all online traffic came from mobile devices. Half of all emails are opened on mobile devices. With mobile continuing to charge past desktop website access, it’s critical to design a site that is perfect for the small screen.

Be secure. 

If a website sells merchandise or requires visitors to share sensitive information, much care should be taken to protect their data. Professional grade sites with expired certificates, security warnings when posting data to a server, and lack of password complexity rules, all can quickly turn a prospective buyer into a ghost. Ensuring a website has undergone a thorough security audit and reinforced its walls can help solidify its professionalism to visitors. 

Be compatible. 

Cross-browser compatibility is the bane of most web designer’s existence. That’s because every browser implements a web page slightly differently. There is a standard protocol but small variations in implementation can mean the difference between a stellar layout in Chrome and what looks like stitched tiles in Internet Explorer.

Related: How Chrome Won the War of the Browsers

Chrome has the largest global market share of all browsers, but the second largest, Internet Explorer, implements an identical website differently. At the very least, these two differing browsers should be fully supported.

Be fast.

Forty percent of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. That's not a lot of time. Speed ensures a smooth experience. The key is that the technical frameworks that enable websites should be nearly unnoticeable, allowing visitors to focus on an organization's story, value proposition, and content.