People make up their mind about you within minutes of meeting you, this judgement is based on all sorts of things from the type of cloths you have on to the sound of your voice. The same thing is true of a website, people will look at and evaluate the website but instead of having a few minutes websites get a few seconds at most – if that! (BBC news)
This first impression is vital because it can be the difference between someone staying on your website or simply pressing back and looking at the next website in the list, this will affect the conversion rate and at the end of the day the profitability / effectiveness of the website. Turning this on its head a website that makes a good first impression will increase the likelihood of keeping the visitors attention and making a sale, it also goes a long way to attracting repeat business and recommendations from your visitors which can be a very lucrative revenue stream.
Now we know how important it is to make a good first impression lets look at some of the key areas that affect this
Pop ups / Auto Sound
Filling your users screen full of intrusive pop ups is one of the fastest ways to make a poor impression, its the same as getting a bunch of junk mail through the post – people don’t read them and hate getting it the difference between getting this junk in the mail and on the internet is we cant to anything about it in the post but can online by not visiting your website again! Its just rude and the benefits are rarely worth irritating your visitor.
The only thing worse then pop ups is automatically playing sound – well maybe pop ups that automatically play sound but that’s just asking for trouble! Assuming you can play sounds automatically and without the users permission is not a popular move, the fist thing people will do is press back leaving your site and going onto a competitors site.
The solutions to this are easy, to start with don’t use pop ups unless you absolutely have to and then have them appear in the same window as the website and not in a location that stops the visitor from seeing your logo, navigation or content areas. With audio and video do not have them automatically playing, draw users attention to them and give them controls for starting and stopping the media. A popular method is to have a video that auto plays but is muted and will only play sound when the user instructs the website to.
Website speed has a massive impact on the impression people get from a website, a slow website will mean people will have to wait and that’s never a good thing for a website – it will discourage people from exploring the rest of your website including your product and information pages!
A slow website will also send people back to the search result so they can try another result to get the information they are after without having ot wait for the page to finish loading.
There are several things that will affect the websites speed from the server it is hosted on (learn more about types of website hosting here) to how it has been built but there are some basic tips that all websites can use to help increase the speed of the site:
- Compress images before uploading them (more on compressing images for use on the web)
- Use external CSS style sheets to remove duplicated content
- Use a content delivery network
- Host video files with services such as YouTube
- Compress / minimise website code
- Update CMS (what is a CMS?)
Adverts on your website can say allot about you and can really discourage some users from staying on your website – some of the points cross over to those already mentioned for example adverts with sound or pop ups are a no no but these adverts also add to the loading time of your site so careful thought is needed to implement adverts successfully on your website. Overly intrusive adverts can also put people off your website – for example full page adverts that users need to press a button to ‘continue to content’ will simply get in the way of a good user experience and send people away from your website – these are even worse when you are expected to wait for a timer to run down before you can continue.
Adverts in the middle of the content can also take away from the user experience as your users are busy reading your content and do not want to have to skip over advertisements – if you really must use adverts keep them above or below the content or even better to the side bar on the right and as unobtrusive as possible.
It is also worth reviewing how effective the adverts are – especially those generated by automated advertising networks because the money they bring in might not be worth the poor user experience, you may be better off removing them or handling your advertisements manually and getting relevant suppliers that link in with your websites content.
Poor / hidden navigation
Navigation is one of the most important areas of your website design, you need to ensure its easy to find and use or you will end up with users who either cant or do not want to explore the rest of your website and will not go any further then the first page!
Good navigation should go across the top of the website near the top of the page or down the right hand side – this is because people are used to looking here for website navigation so expect it to be there. Your navigation should also use relevant and descriptive words to explain what each link does to enable visitors to find what they are looking for quickly and easily – splitting large sections of the website up by using drop down menus is a good idea but make sure they are easy to use.
Alternative navigation features such as ‘fat footers’ or secondary menus in the side bar are also a good idea to help people find other sections of your site after they have finished looking at the current page, another option would be to add a ‘you may also like’ section to the bottom of each post directing users to posts on similar topics that they may be interested in.