As the saying goes, first impressions are everything.
If you’re on a blind date and you trip and fall within the first 10 minutes of the evening, you’re probably going to seem like a klutz for the rest of the night. If you spend the entirety of a job interview complaining about the bosses at your last gig, you probably can’t count on starting at that company anytime soon.
The same thing goes for running your own web-based business. If your site looks like it was designed all the way back in 1995, your potential customers are likely going to doubt your company’s credibility -- not to mention your choice of outdated gifs and word art.
So why give them the opportunity to second-guess your service at all? It’s 2014 now, and more than ever, successful and strategic web design has become paramount to a website’s general success. Studies estimate that 94% of a web visitor’s first impression of a site he or she has never clicked on before is related to the overall design. In other words, if the average web surfer thinks your site could use a few tweaks to better improve its functionality, it probably could.
And you should get on those sooner rather than later.
This list should help you keep your priorities in mind as you either design the site yourself or hire an outside agency to handle it for you. First, the stuff you should already be working with:
At the risk of turning this into a you-oughta-know blog post, let’s delve into the topic of contact information just for a second. You want your users to be able to get in touch with you from their first visit to the site, so why would you hide your phone number and email address? You wouldn’t, and that’s why you should feature it prominently but also in a way that doesn’t intrude on any of the main facets of the design. Keep the contact info consistent at the bottom of every page, neatly tucked in the corner or simply even with the border. But come on, you <em>really</em> oughta know all that by now.
Simple, Professional Interface
Take note of that word “simple” and realize that it’s markedly different from the word “simplistic.” Simple is good; simplistic is bad. You want your site to be easy to navigate and not cluttered with unnecessary information and images. You want your site to look polished and professional with a color scheme that’s not too overwhelming on the eyes. But you also don’t want your site to look like it was designed by a seventh-grader. Keep in mind how less can be more, especially when it comes to building an online identity.
And now, the more advanced design trends you should keep in mind:
Most indicators are pointing toward mobile web use overtaking desktop and laptop use in the very near future. That means fewer websites will be able to format themselves properly on mobile devices, thus boxing out more potential customers. Remember: web users don’t want to wait, and that’s doubly true for mobile sites. Long page loading times can spell disaster for a company looking for long-term users. So, optimize your site now and make it more responsive to smartphone and tablet browsing. In doing so, you’ll be exactly where you need to be -- three years in advance.
Customer Chat Capabilities
Adding advanced features like live chat messaging and customer service windows can be a costly enterprise, but it might be best to view them as investments. Chances are, web users have come across your page in the past and had questions regarding some aspect of your service. They didn’t want to email or call, but there was no customer support window available for them to pitch a quick question. Had there been, you might have been looking at a new customer instead of just a web passerby. Live chat and messaging capabilities allow you more direct access to your web’s unique visitors.
Video, Video, Video
This isn’t a particularly new revelation either, but web users love to be stimulated at all times. If a web page features too much text and no images, it’s bound to lose a reader’s interest. The same thing can now be said for video. If you have some business aspect that’s better explained by a video, go for it! Not only are videos generally more informative, but studies are showing now that consumers are preferring them to standard text in larger percentages.
In an ever-changing industry like the web, it always pays to look good right from the beginning. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression.