Your First Impression Online — Three Steps You Can Take Right NOW To Improve Yours 💎
First impressions are a big deal. So much that a team of researchers from Cornell University recently dedicated some of their valuable time to conduct a study on just how impactful a first impression can be:
In the study, subjects were shown photos of people with a variety of expressions, and then, one month later, the same subject met the person of whom they were shown a picture. Subjects who viewed images of a happy, smiling person, behaved warmly towards their opposing party upon meeting them. However, despite only being shown a picture, and waiting a month, the subjects who were shown photos of people with negative expressions were notably less warm in interactions.
At the end of the study, both parties were asked to rate the likability of the person they met, and the results were as you’d expect — the negative impression from briefly viewing a photo had stuck.
You can see how that split second bad impression became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Meaning that a single, fleeting negative experience can cause someone to view you in an altered light in all future interactions, or until you prove them wrong.
Let’s use a simple example to frame this and help us understand:
If a friend came over to your house for the first time, and your place was dirty, untidy and had a shrine to Cthulhu in the corner, it wouldn’t leave much in terms of a great first impression, right? That friend would now probably think you’re insane and never want to visit again. So you make sure to tidy up, clean and put anything too crazy away in a wardrobe before someone shows up. To save you looking fucking nuts.
Great, I agree. But, it begs the question:
Why are you not following the same etiquette for your users when they encounter you for the first time online?
A report published in 2010 by Gomez on web performance found that 88% of online consumers are unlikely to return to a site after a bad experience. So, a poor first impression on your website basically guarantees nearly 9/10 of people learning about your company for the very first time will never be coming back.
So it’s clear that how you handle that very first page someone sees when they find your business (be it your homepage, or a specific landing page) is super important. It will have a notable impact on how you get customers, and ultimately, the survival of your company. One bad impression from a poorly designed, or unrelatable experience isn’t just going to lose you that one person either, it could have a considerable knock-on effect — Losing only one user could also mean you miss out on the entire network of that person too. A single bad experience could cost hundreds of potential customers. Fuck!
But it’s okay, we can work on it.
Let’s first understand just how long we have to make that stellar first impression. Thankfully, the expert humans at the Human-Oriented Technology Lab in Carleton University confirmed in 2011 the true speed of the snap judgments made every day online, following several studies:
“Visual appeal can be assessed within 50 ms, suggesting that web designers have about 50 ms to make a good first impression.”
With this in mind, your first impression needs to show your value as quickly as possible, and in a manner that users will find familiar and easy to understand. This, combined with a great, relevant design is how you make it through this “50-millisecond bullshit check”.
Making it to this stage means you’re past the very first snap judgement on closing your tab or not. Now you can look at how to best share your vision with the human who has happened upon your company online — You’ve got the use the time you’ve been granted to explain how you’ll help them solve their problems, make them a better version of themselves.
To help you to get that window of opportunity, here’s a couple of essential things that all great landing pages and homepages have in common we can reference to make sure our experience is up to par. Let’s touch on three of the most critical actions you can take right now to polish things up for your users.
1: Tidy Up
Try and ensure there’s no more than one action on the screen at once, it will make things look cluttered and turn your user away. Giving someone too many things to pay attention to at once will never lead to a positive result. So tidy up, get rid of those annoying popups and modals some growth hacker recommended you add in 2017. Instead, focus on good, clean, consistent design. Neglecting to keep things tidy is a slippery slope, and way too many websites online look like Frankenstein’s Monster — A collection of creative directions, tones of voice, and constant interruptions. Take an objective eye to your own homepage and see if there’s anything that needs to be cleaned up, better targeted, or even straight up removed to make things a better, more enjoyable experience when that potential customer finds you online.
2: Be Clear & Honest
Attention is fleeting. More so on the web (as we touched upon in the 0.05-second bullshit test above) — So it’s vital that you identify and surface the critical information that will allow someone to judge if you’re the right person to help them solve their problems. You must not be afraid to share your “secrets” here, sharing your best knowledge will position you as an authority and make someone all the more likely to establish that connection to you, sign up, and tell all their friends!
3: Use Their Language
A great way of showing you understand someone is to mimic their communication style. By finding the places your audience hang out online, and carefully researching how they speak, what they like and dislike — you are able to build trust and present a personality that they will feel more comfortable with, as it is familiar. Research is often overlooked, but it is absolutely critical in the success of your product or offering. It provides you with the guiding light you need to continue improving the lives of your audience.
These are just three steps you can take, there are many more that you’ll learn as you gain more knowledge and what your users want. Since you’ll always be gaining experience, your homepage should constantly be evolving and adapting to fit your users’ needs better. If you hit a wall or have any doubts. Ask them! — Make a few best guesses from your research, then you can ask questions and test to learn the best path to humanising your experiences — This is important.
The world at present is far too focused on hustle and automated processes. People seem to forget they are speaking to other humans and have ignored something absolutely essential — a connection. By showing your understanding, and sharing your vision in a manner that speaks to the humans you want it to. Actually taking the time to look into the people you’re trying to assist, will mean you’re already a step ahead of everyone else and showing why you’re different.
By making sure your first impression is excellent, and your offering stands out from the crowd, you make your potential users want to not only sign up but become champions for your brand too.
Want to learn more about landing pages? I wrote a free book on it! Check it out.
Your First Impression Online — Three Steps You Can Take Right NOW To Improve Yours 💎 was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.