We’d like people to get to know us before they pass judgment.
Or we’d like them to not pass judgment at all.
But in the real world and in the business world judgment is passed often at the first impression or even before the first impression.
Humans have been making snap judgments since the beginning. It seems to be a requirement from our early days of living in the wild.
See a threat, judge the threat and quickly take action.
If you’re not making snap judgments you’re dead. That’s a big incentive to make a judgment as fast as possible whether it’s right or wrong.
And maybe a little surprising is the fact that snap judgments are often correct.
In business, people make snap judgments all the time. When it comes to your website the first impression is often everything.
If you’re not thinking about the perception people have right away you’re likely losing customers…
1. First Visit (Point Of Entry)
The home page is usually one of the main first points of entry to a website.
One thing that amazes me when I visit business websites is how long it takes for me to figure out what the business does or offers.
It could be somewhat my own fault, but I’m a believer that any visitor should almost instantly know what the business does and sells immediately upon landing on the home page.
I like a simple heading that stands out without distraction. One that states plainly what the business does. Down to the core.
A website design company, for example, could simply say:
We design websites
That’s it. No fancy images. No awkward stock photography. No cutesy or clever headings that are more confusing than informational.
Other Points Of Entry
Another point to consider is that your visitors perhaps aren’t always coming to your home page first.
If you have a blog there is a very good chance that one of your posts is the first visit for a reader.
Their experience with that post is everything. It’ll be how they think of your brand from that point forward.
You can dig into analytics to see where people first enter your site. In Google Analytics it’s called Entrance Paths or (entrances).
2. More Than Design (Functionality & Experience)
Design and text are two very important things when it comes to first impressions and perceptions.
But there is more.
Functionality and experience.
For example, nobody likes a slow website. Bounce rates start increasing dramatically once things begin taking longer than one second.
The experience also matters. Remember that people often visit your site for the first time by reading a blog post.
They came to your blog post because they were looking for information. If you immediately throw a popup in their face or do something else with an ad or something you’re interrupting their flow and likely frustrating them.
Signup for your newsletter? This is the first time they’ve been on your site. They just want to get to the information as soon as possible.
What does that popup say about your brand?
And a little bit more on design – it really does matter a whole lot. I agree with Derek Halpern that Design Is King.
You certainly need the content before and after to win, but the design needs to set the right perception. That will differ for every brand, but it’s not something that should be overlooked.
3. Brand Reputation
And the design and content may not even matter.
Your brand reputation will give people a perception before they ever visit your website.
Obviously the big one is how good your business is. How you treat your customers. How satisfied they are with your products and service. That takes time to build.
But it also matters how much people know about you. In the online world you want to have some control over your reputation. You can do that by contributing content in other locations. Guest posts or being a guest on podcasts or giving interviews or creating your own content that you distribute regularly.
Social media is also an area where you can build a reputation. It can be as simple as following certain keywords and phrases or hashtags on Twitter and providing answers to the questions people are asking in your industry.
If your brand reputation is that you’re kind, helpful and useful then you can win even before people visit your website.
We’d like to think that people will take the time to get to know us. But the real world doesn’t work that way. Humans are wired to make snap decisions. And that’s not going to change because we’re usually right with our snap decisions. Well, we’re right often enough that it’s not worth investing more time to get more details.
That’s the reality. It’s up to you to make sure that the perceptions of your business are positive and working in your favor.