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3 Reasons Your Website Design Leaves a Bad First Impression

by Brooke Christensen

Bad breath. A weak handshake. The wrong outfit. We all know first impressions are important. It’s not only simple wisdom handed down to us from our parents; research tells us that humans are hard-wired to make quick judgements. What does that mean for the internet and websites? It means your website will be judged by its cover. A website has 50 milliseconds to make a first impression. In that tiny amount of time a user will decide if they will stay and engage with you or head somewhere else. In a world wide web of choices, it’s now a challenge for everyone to attract and keep users.

Website design is the number one factor in making a good first impression. In a study where participants looked at health websites and reported on their first impression, 94% of the factors for rejecting a website were design related and only 6% were content related. While quality content is a necessity to bring visitors to your site, if that content isn’t housed in good design you will lose visitors before they even begin to read.

The bottom line is that visual appeal matters. Spending time on design is important. Here are three common reasons that your website may be leaving a bad first impression and how to fix it.

  1. Design is complex and unfamiliarGone are the days of fancy flash animations and elaborate designs. Users want sites that load quickly, look beautiful, and are familiar. A study that investigated the role of visual complexity and pro-totypicality (familiarity) as design factors of websites found that websites with low visual complexity and high familiarity attracted more users. So keep it simple and fulfill user expectations. If your website is an e-commerce site, make sure it looks like other e-commerce websites. While a site can introduce some new and unique design elements, make sure it fits the basic user expectations for your business type. A user should land on your site and know what your website offers in only a few seconds.
  2. Not planned with the user in mindToo often web designs are cool looking but forget how the user will navigate the site. Design your website with user experience in mind. A study conducted by the Missouri University of Science and Technology found that users scan a web page for an average of 2.6 seconds before they find what they are looking for. Make your navigation and page layout easy for a user to find the call to action, search bar, and contact form. Make forms as short and simple as possible. A user entering your site immediately knows where to go and how to get there. Many modern websites have removed content from above the fold, opting for one large image and buttons that create clearly defined paths (i.e. I’m a Teacher, I’m a Student). Keep the most relevant information in the header and relegate the rest of the sitemap to the footer.
  3. Low-quality photographyUsing visually appealing photography (or graphics with typography) is an important tool and visual stimulant to making a good impression. A study of tourism websites found that visual inspiration was the number one way a site made a favorable impression with participants. People buy or browse often for emotional reasons. The images on your site are drawing in your users.

    Take real photos rather than using stock images. Five years ago you could get away with buying $15 stock photos and putting them on your site. Users today want authenticity and can tell when an image is a stock photo.

In short, your web design does not have to be a “10” to attract users. It does need a professional and quality design to pull in users who will probably bounce if it’s a “4”. Make sure the first 50 milliseconds on your website count.

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