How credible is your website? Because lets face it, we’re all superficial jerks.

Do you know how fast (or slow) 50 milliseconds is? Let me show you.

It’s that fast!

That’s how long it takes for you, your adoring baby-boomer mother and I to decide your website sucks. Now before you start belting, “Should I stay or should I go” by the Clash, the reason we all formulate an opinion so fast needs to be understood.

Growing up with semi-conservative parents, the hallmarks needed to make a first impression were ingrained into me. Smile politely, speak clearly, provide a firm handshake, practice your manners, and never, ever slouch. It’s no surprise that there are also definitive hallmarks for a website to make a good first impression as well.

Can you guess what the number one factor influencing your customers opinion about your website is?

Design

Let me say that again.

Fucking Design

According to a study done by B.J Fogg at Stanford University, 46.1% of users admit to making judgements about the design.

So, that means, half of your customers are judgemental bastards who just don’t understand YOUR design aesthetic.

The participants made comments about the layout, typography, white space, images, colour and sense of professionalism it exuded.

Want to know the second most important factor in influencing your customers opinion?
28.5% mentioned information architecture and 25.1% commented on information focus. So, when you get comments like:

“Horrible site, information badly presented. They try to put everything on the front page, instead of having multiple layers of navigation. This to me suggests that they developed this thing on a whim.” —M, 42, Canada

“This Web site is filled with too much crap. I feel as though part of the reason it seems less credible is the fact that the crap they fill it with is taking attention away from their own Web site.” —F, 23, Chicago

You get one word folks. Crap.
Bad architecture, bad & irrelevant content = crap
So when 58% of Americans (this can apply to us Canadians as well) are searching online and 85% of B2B customers are doing the same thing, you better be sure your first impression does not suck!

Even if they don’t plan on buying online, they will want to research the product. My partner loathes my decision making process sometimes, because I’m researching, making product comparisons and reading reviews before buying something as simple as a t-shirt.

Design is a primary driver for a good first impression.

Plan and Design for an Holistic Positive Experience

With Yelp, the Apple iTunes App Store ratings and posted comments in general, a good review can have a significant positive impact on any future interactions with your product or service.

It’s been shown that when a user has read a positive review of a device, even if the user failed to accomplish a difficult task, they still gave a positive review. That’s pretty mind-blowing to me. Will people believe everything they read? Oh wait, it’s that first impression thing again!

Here’s a free tip: If you’ve noticed a slump in sales or traffic, make sure you’re paying attention to the reviews users have about you.

What can you do about a negative review? Jason Fell writes about dealing with a negative Yelp Review on Entrepreneur.com. Read it for a more educated answer. He simply breaks it down into 3 steps:

  • Keep your cool.
  • Respond diplomatically.
  • Be consistent.

In my opinion, you can backpedal all you want, but if you screw up that first impression with your customers, you have an almost ZERO chance of changing that customers perception. A study done way back in 95′, proved that basketball players drafted first, had a longer career in the NBA, including more time on the court.

Sounds pretty dismal I know, but the analogy works. With so much noise coming from the web, whether it be from our laptop or mobile phones, you have to put more focus on the overall picture.

Here are some easy wins for anyone planning to overhaul an existing web presence or launching a fresh new one:

  1. Don’t skimp on the design. Please. If you don’t have design chops, that’s ok, use a Squarespace or PixelUnion template and just paste in the content you have.
  2. Make sure the content you’re pasting in, is relevant and reads like a pro. Even if you can’t write, give it out to colleagues, friends and family. It’s your free editor-in-chief.
  3. Organize and make it DEAD SIMPLE to find, buy or download whatever you’re putting out.
  4. Get social. It doesn’t matter how much you hate social media channels like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If your competitors are you using them, you better be using it too. Embrace it enough to be available to your customers if they ever need you to answer a question or solve a problem.

Design will pay off. It establishes credibility and even if you don’t get the customers you want, you can steal them back when your competitors, (who haven’t read this article), fuck it up.