The reality of first impressions

Posted by Dave CollinsWebsite Usability

How much of an impact does the first impression have on a website? We already know that visitors don’t really spend any time in deciding – they make snap judgments. So why do so many websites fail to deliver?

Transcript of video:

Hi this is Dave Collins from SoftwarePromotions. Today I’m going to be talking about how long visitors to your website spend there before they make up their mind: Do you actually have what they are looking for? Should they click on one of your links, should they read more content, or should they go back to Google and click on the next link?

The fact is we already know that visitors don’t really spend any time at all. They make snap judgments. Most visitors to most websites are very fickle. So if we know that to be the case, why do so many of our websites fail to communicate exactly what it is that we’re selling the moment that a visitor arrives there?

Today, we’re going to take a quick look at three quite different searches that I carry out on Google. We’re going to have a look at the websites that show up in the top results, and we’re going to compare each of them from the point of view of the visitor who’s just arrived there and is looking for what they offer.

Example 1: legal advice small business UK

So I’m going to Google, and I’m carrying out a search for “legal advice small business UK.” The first site doesn’t seem to be pushing much more than the merits of having a domain. So whether they have got anything of interest or not, it doesn’t matter. I’m out of there.

The second site, online legal advice from the FSB, what we cover. This is the Federation of Small Businesses, and it could well be a very worthwhile move. But the fact is that I’m looking for legal advice, not to join an organisation. So I’m out of there too.

The third site, Advice Line, well this is an interesting one because actually it doesn’t do a bad job at all. There is a phone number, there’s “immediate and affordable legal advice”, which is really nice. It’s got opening hours, and the fact that it is closed right now, that doesn’t put me off. That’s better than me getting through to voicemail. The site looks very dated, and it looks quite ugly. But the fact is that it’s actually not bad. It gives me what I’m looking for.

The other results… need free legal advice for a UK small business, no I don’t want free legal advice because it’s probably not worth very much. Then it talks about “legal advice doesn’t come cheap”. The whole let me do that for you… yeah not interested in that one.

The next result, oh brilliant, a genie saying “can we help you”? We’re here to help you with any of your questions. Just click Yes below, no cost or obligations. Well, actually I haven’t been helped by your website genie. I’ve been put off by it, so I’m gone.

And the last one is small business heroes, free legal help for small businesses, a very useful guide to what’s on offer. I’m not sure. I’m not looking for free, but let’s have a quick look. It’s easy to put your head in the sand, what’s more hard to find, blah, blah, blah. Fear not, comrades, fear not comrades, really? Okay, I’m out of there.

So that’s it. The one that won was this one. Very dated looking, quite an ugly looking website, but actually it doesn’t do a bad job of communicating.

Example 2: emergency dental service UK

For the next example I did a search for “emergency dental service UK.” The first result, how can I access an NHS dentist emergency? Not really what I’m looking for. Potentially useful, but I’m in pain here.

So I jump to the next one, NHS Direct. If you need a dentist over the bank holiday, you should call your dental practice if you have one. Brilliant, fantastic, goodbye NHS Direct.

Urgent dental care at Kings, I don’t know where Kings is, and there is a limited walk-in service during normal work hours, Monday through Friday. Potentially, limited puts me off, what does limited mean? Normal working hours, I’m actually searching for an emergency dental service, so again I’m out of there.

Dental advice from Leeds? Leeds student medical practice, dentist NHS 24 hour, be aware may have to travel up to 50 miles for treatment. Oh, good grief.

Next one, NHS Medway, I don’t know where Medway is. I’ve got no idea, and I really don’t want to find an NHS dentist in Medway.

Dental emergencies, what to do in a dental emergency, blah, blah, blah, in the UK. Possible contact your normal dentist. Epic fail. At this point, I’m just going to have to take it on the chin and accept that I’m going to be in a great deal of pain.

Example 3: next day building supplies UK

So for the next example I am searching for “next day building supplies UK.” The first example takes me to here, BSO. Bearing in mind what I’ve searched for, next day building supplies UK, clearly they have building supplies. Is there anything about next day? Oh, next day delivery if you order before 12:00 p.m. I would actually highlight that. I missed that when I looked at these before, but okay, that’s giving me what I’m looking for.

Next one, Lawsons, family values, professional service, largest independent suppler. I can see various things that they offer. As far as I can see, nothing here about next day delivery, so I’m gone.

“Builing Merchants”, that looks like a typo, brilliant.

Kent Supplies, feature page title, perfect for all timber. Here at Kent Supplies, supply a few range of products for the building trade, interesting. To find out more about our full range of products, please click the Read More button. Thank you. What? All right, good-bye.

And the final one,, buy energy efficient building materials online for the next working day delivery, very basic, slightly ugly, but it jumps out what it actually does. They have what I’m looking for.

Could you do better?

The fact is that most of us could probably do a little better when it comes to optimising our website’s content, and at retaining new visitors the moment they arrive.

Our own website, this is very much ongoing work in progress, and we’re constantly trying out new ideas and measuring what works and what doesn’t. Logging into your Google Analytics account, having a look at the main landing page is a good idea, just to see how these are performing in terms of identifying which pages should be optimised.

If you’re not sure quite what to do and where to start, I highly recommend the CopyHackers books at Really, really good, easy to read, easy to digest, and very actionable. And if you’re looking for ideas at retaining your visitors with better copy, this is a really excellent starting point.

The fact is that we work hard at bringing qualified visitors to our websites, so it’s probably a good idea to work that little bit harder at retaining them. Be seen, be sold.

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