Web-Design 101: First Impressions Are Everything! (Part 2)

Problem Areas: Room For Improvement…

I’ve targeted a list that looks at 21 factors that influence your visitors decision to continue browsing or bounce.(4)

1. Load Time – Most of us are very impatient and slow loading pages will not make us want to return. On the other hand, pages that load quickly will encourage visitors to navigate through your site knowing that they won’t have to wait very long for each page to load.

2. Error Messages – If new visitors to your site are getting error messages and are unable to access your site, they’re not going to be impressed and they won’t be back. There are a number of different errors that can occur.

3. Colors – The look of your site will obviously be a factor in your visitors’ first impressions. The colors of your website can have a huge impact on the overall attractiveness of the site. Choosing the right color combinations can be difficult, but fortunately there are a number of online tools that can help.

4. Logo/Branding – Another factor in the overall look of your website is the logo and branding. Most importantly, the logo should help to brand your business in the way that you want visitors and customers to think of you.

5. Header Images – Dominant header images are often used and they can have a strong effect on first impressions. Personally, I’m not a big fan of large header images for blogs, but some blog designers use them with great success. I like to see the content start higher on the page, but many visitors don’t share my opinion (I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments below).

6. Typography – A somewhat subtle influence is the typography and fonts. A change in the typography may not be a drastic change, but it can make all the difference.

7. Layout – One of the most important design elements is the layout. Whatever layout you use should draw the reader’s attention to those items that are most important. Layout can be used not only to create an attractive design, but also to make the site easy for visitors to use. While most websites use a fairly standard design, a good way to make your site stand out is to use a more creative layout. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that your creative layout adds to the effectiveness of the website rather than detracting from it.

8. Advertisements – One of the easiest ways to make a bad first impression is to have a website that is full of advertisements. Most of today’s internet users have come to expect advertisements to be present on most websites, but too many ads, the wrong type of ads, and poor ad placement can be a big turn off for visitors.

As a general rule you should avoid placing ads in places that will interfere with visitors being able to read your content, unless the goal of your site is to make money through ad clicks. Animated ads are also a touchy subject as they can also easily distract and annoy readers.

If you use advertisements that are relevant to visitors and are kept out of the flow of your content, visitors generally will not mind.

9. Your Reputation – Some of your first-time visitors will be familiar with you or your website before they even visit. In many cases they may have read about you on another website that links to you. This is especially common for bloggers. If that visitor has read a positive recommendation of you before visiting your site, you will have already developed a little bit of a reputation in the mind of that visitor that may affect the first impression. This can also work the opposite way if they have heard or read negative things before visiting.

10. Ease of Navigation
– We’ve probably all been at websites that looked like they had great content that we wanted to read, but just couldn’t find what we wanted. I’m not sure if there is anything more frustrating on a website than poor navigation. On the other hand, well-constructed navigation can help visitors to have a very positive experience on the site.

11. Clarity of Purpose
– New visitors should be able to very quickly determine the purpose of a website. Many sites effectively incorporate this into their branding by using a descriptive tag line that sums up the site’s purpose. About Us pages are also helpful for communicating purpose.

12. Unprofessional Items – Some items like low-quality animated GIFs and hit counters can give a negative first impression. Generally anything that makes your site look like it was designed 10 years ago should be avoided.

13. Quality of Images and Photos – It’s amazing how much impact a high-quality photo or graphic can have on a design. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources online for getting high-quality, low-cost photos, and some are even free. Searching for a good free picture may not be worth the time it takes when you can find one faster and pay $1 or $2.

14. Accessibility – Accessibility is a big buzzword in web design. The reality is that not all of your visitors will fall into the mould of the average visitor. Some will have handicaps, some will use older browsers, some will have slower connections, etc. If your website is not accessible to a visitor it’s almost guaranteed to create a bad impression.

15. Popups and Pop-unders – Most internet surfers now have some sort of popup blocker, but some websites are still using them. Most visitors don’t appreciate popups that aren’t blocked, and this can create a bad impression. Some sites, however, still use popups effectively, so it’s something that you will have to weigh the pros and cons.

16. Video and Audio – As more and more internet users have high speed connections, audio and video will continue to become more common. Some visitors appreciate these elements and it’s evident by the success of such sites as YouTube. A general rule with both audio and video is that it should not start automatically without the user choosing to have it start.

17. Associations – Visitors may be new to your website, but they may be impressed with associations to someone or something they know and respect. An example of this is web hosting provider Media Temple. Visitors to Media Temple’s website will see testimonials on the homepage from Nike, Sony, and Starbucks. If that visitor is wondering about the competence and capability of Media Temple, associations with these large, well-known companies will have a huge impact on the first impression. Another example is a website displaying a badge that shows membership in the Better Business Bureau.

18. Quality of Content – Of course quality content cannot be left off this list. While content may not have an instant impact like some of the factors that relate to the design of the site, it will have a significant impact on visitors that stick around for a minute or so. This is a big factor especially for blogs. A first-time visitor that finds really great content will remember their visit in a positive light.

19. Tone – In addition to the actual content, the tone of the content can also have an impact on first impressions. I’ve been on a few blogs that have strong content, but an unnecessarily negative tone by the blogger created a poor first impression.

20. Number of Comments and Trackbacks – New visitors to blogs will often notice the number of comments on posts. A lot of comments and trackbacks show that other readers are involved, and it indicates that this is likely a valuable resource. On the other hand, seeing no comments often causes the visitor to wonder how many other people are reading.

21. Flash Intros – Positive or negative, flash intros will impact the first impression of visitors. I’m not a fan of flash intros on most websites. I think they have their place on websites in certain industries, such as websites for movies or rock bands. Unless visitors will expect a website in your industry to have a flash intro, I would avoid it.

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Article By: Joshua Russak | FirstTimeOnline, LLC.

With over 2 years of Web Development and Online Marketing experince, Joshua finds himself very passionate about the interactive space. Due to high levels of demand, he founded First Time Online LLC, a Web Design/Marketing agency helping Small Business break into the online space. Joshua is also a passionate blogger, writing for MarketingBlog.NET, providing Tips, News & Entertainment covering the Online Space.

Posted under Online Marketing, web design

This post was written by Joshua Russak on January 7, 2010

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Web-Design 101: First Impressions Are Everything! (Part 1)

Remember that old saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover!” Well you can forget about it! I regret to inform the world that when it comes to business, first impressions are everything.

First Impression: In the Blink Of An Eye!

First time visitors to your website have very little time to spare. The initial impression will be formed in the span of 2-5 seconds. According to Canadian Researchers, “Web users form first impressions of web pages in as little as 50 milliseconds (1/20th of a second).” (1) Don’t believe me? This theory was tested by Dr. Gitte Lindgaard at Carleton University in Ontario. Their conclusion supported the following:

“Even though your site may have superior products, services, or usability, an initial negative impression from a poor or slow design can steer customers towards your competition. You only get one chance to create a good first impression, make it count. A clean, professional, and fast-loading site can ensure that your first impression will be a good one.” (2)

If you’ve managed to make it past the 1 second mark, congratulations! You have now entered the “pitch” zone. Comparable to a sales call, you have about 5-10 seconds to make your initial impression to gain their interest.

Make Their First Time Online A Memorable One

Assume, for a minute, that your website visitors have never used the internet before. They come to your website and immediately, they are presented with flashing images, endless menu’s, buttons, content and more. It’s like driving cross country without a map – you’ll get lost and even worse, won’t ever bother making the trip.

Many web development companies pride themselves on flashy, colorful websites…but remember, your visitor came to the site for a reason and it’s your job to make it as easy as possible for them. Web presence doesn’t have to be expensive in order to be effective. Millions of small businesses are getting ripped off by expensive agencies that don’t even deliver effective results.

The best way to get results is to simply ask friends and family for their opinion. Want a specific demographic to test it out? Put up an ad in Craig’s List and if need be, offer an incentive. 2009-2010 is all about gaining the user’s opinion and putting it in to play. Once you get enough feedback, use that information to implement the necessary changes. Now it’s time to sit back and wait. Your visitor will either stick around or bounce…

The “EVIL” Bounce Rate

Bounce rate simply represents the average percentage of initial visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site. “Use this metric to measure visit quality – a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors.” (3) Relevant…or attractive! If you operate a site where users can find what they want immediately on the entry page, then this doesn’t apply. To find you’re bounce-rate, contact your web-master or consider using free analytics software, Google Analytics.

Google.com analytics specialist Avinash Kaushik has stated: “It is really hard to get a bounce rate under 20%, anything over 35% is cause for concern, 50% (above) is worrying.” If you’re above 50%, then chances are, your first impression could use a make-over.

80% of Your Sales Come From 20% of Your Clients

YES, first impressions are everything, BUT…how you follow up with your first impression is just as, (if not more) important….and To best illustrate what I mean, let me refer you over to Timothy Ferriss’s “The 4- Hour Workweek“. In this book, he refers to the Pareto Principle, aka: The 80/20 rule.  This rule states that “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”. Among the many ways Tim applies this rule, he refers to a common rule of thumb in business: “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.” In most cases, this is due to either big sales or residual/repeat customers. See what I’m getting at?

Customer Service is key. The businesses that spend millions on marketing, but lack customer service are comparable to Bug Zapper. They draw in their customers and immediately burn them. (It may be a weak comparison…but I like how it sounds!) The best way for you to figure out what your customers want is…yep, you guessed it…ASK THEM! Surveys, questionnaire’s, poll’s, website comments, etc. Give them what they want and they’ll keep coming back for more.

This article continues here: Problem Areas: Room For Improvement…

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Article By: Joshua Russak | FirstTimeOnline, LLC.

With over 2 years of Web Development and Online Marketing experince, Joshua finds himself very passionate about the interactive space. Due to high levels of demand, he founded First Time Online LLC, a Web Design/Marketing agency helping Small Business break into the online space. Joshua is also a passionate blogger, writing for MarketingBlog.NET, providing Tips, News & Entertainment covering the Online Space.

Posted under Online Marketing, web design

This post was written by Joshua Russak on January 7, 2010

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Featured in HP Newsletter: Free Website Essentials 101

I recently started web design/online marketing agency First Time Online, LLC. Our 1st motto is It’s Time to Get Online. Assuming that you’ve arrived at that same conclusion refer to our 2nd motto, It Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive In Order To Be Effective. Once you’ve made the decision to create a website, there are essential tasks that will define the overall success of your site. The best part is most of those things can be done for free!

The only reason this article exists is because of another article I wrote for HP back in January (Using WordPress To Grow Your Business). Interestingly enough, I received great visitor feedback which ultimately led me to start First Time Online, LLC. Based on popular demand, I was approached to write another article for their newsletter (which has a distribution of about 80,000+). You can also check it out on the HP Logoworks Small Business site,“Free Website Essentials 101?.

GETTING STARTED

Before you build a site, you need to register a domain name (i.e. www.MyBusiness.com) which also means the use of a personalized e-mail address. I would suggest using GoDaddy.com. It’s a tough economy which means “Coupons” and “Promo Codes” are 100% necessary. It’s easy to find coupon codes that will save you money. I found a pretty good list on FatWallet.com. Half the codes go inactive very quickly, but the forum is constantly being updated. Once you have a website name, you need to consider hosting your site securely. GoDaddy provides those services, but if you want to get a better deal I would suggest the use Blue Host, as they are affordable and you get a free domain name when you sign up with them. The key here is saving money and nothing is better than free.

SEARCH ENGINE FRIENDLY FORMAT

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the amount and quality of traffic to your site from organic searches within search engines. There’s no cost to get listed naturally in Google, Yahoo and MSN…your job is to try and rank correctly for any given search. For example, if you sell Shoes online, then when someone searches for Shoes in Google, your website would hopefully pop-up. In order for search engines to do this, they use crawlers to find pages to feed out as search results. If those crawlers have a hard time reading your websites code, then your chances of getting listed are decreased. There are free tools out there to help you optimize your website and I would highly suggest the use of Google Webmaster as a starter. I can’t stress this enough so I’ll repeat it one more time: Without good SEO, you’ll have to pay for people to find you. Your chance of selling a product to someone who is looking for you is higher than someone who is not.

UNDERSTAND YOUR TRAFFIC

Without a question, analytics is the double-edged sword of Online Marketing. The information you can collect about your visitors is extremely valuable, but the amount of information can be overwhelming. Set a benchmark for yourself and use analytics software to help define whether or not you’re reaching pre-assigned goals. Google Analytics has an internal feature to help track visitors and goal reaching. By understanding such things as, source of traffic and content-overview, you’ll be able to help your site evolve into a stronger source of business…and again, this software free.

BE CONTACT FRIENDLY

A business without a website is like an individual without a cell phone, they’re impossible to reach. If you’re a business with a website, then you should be very easy to reach. Unfortunately, that’s not always the cases. In order to increase visibility, a company should register for local listings on the major search engines. For Google, go to www.google.com/local/add and for Yahoo!, check out http://listings.local.yahoo.com/. When an individual searches for your company, your contact information will come up in the search, making it easier for them to reach you.

On another related topic, a few of my clients have expressed the fear of “e-mail spam” and have refused to lend out their contact information. There’s a very easy way around this: A “Contact-Us” page with a contact form and spam protection methods including a visual based key code that must be entered in order to send. Ask your web developer to put something like this together for you, or refer to free contact form services such as FreeContactForm.com. (Notice how it’s FREE!)

REMEMBER: EFFECTIVE ISN’T EPENSIVE

It doesn’t have to expensive in order to be effective. Your main objective is to stay focused on your goals, which by now, you should have an idea of what they are. If you’re trying to sell a product, then your goal is to direct traffic as far down the purchase process as possible. If you’re selling a service, then your goal is to get visitors to contact you. Want examples of what I mean? Take a look at Craigslist. The site serves over twenty billion page views per month, putting it in 28th place overall among web sites world-wide, and analysts value the site to be worth over $150 million. The best part is…their interface is simplistic and commonly referred to as “ugly”, BUT it’s effective.

SIMPLE METHODS TO INCREASE TRAFFIC

If you’re looking to bump up your traffic, then consider adopting some of the following trends: Company Newsletters, Blogging, Social Networking, Videos on your website and finding sponsors to host local events. Your goal is to create buzz, drive traffic and create loyal customers.

If you manage to do all of this, there’s no doubt that success will follow. Somehow “free” just smells, looks and tastes better!

Posted under Blogs, E-Mail, Online Marketing, Online Video, SEO/SEM, Social Networks, Viral Marketing

This post was written by Joshua Russak on June 16, 2009

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