How your website impacts reputation, engagement, and sales

It makes me cringe to write this tired cliché, but you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Yeah, it’s that important.

But why is the first impression so critical? There’s actually a defined reason for this called the “halo effect.” Think of religious art where the subject is bathed in a circle of light, thus implying that everything within this “halo” of light is good and right. Our first impression creates a perception, or halo, whether positive or negative, that leads us to formulate a biased opinion of all other characteristics of a person, business, or place. Essentially, we view everything under this “halo” of our first judgment.

For example, if we speak with a customer service representative and feel we are treated rudely and with disrespect, we are likely to jump to the conclusion that everything about this company is bad. Although there is probably little connection between this particular customer service rep and the product or service we purchased, without an experience that forces us to change our opinion, our future decisions will be influenced by the halo effect. Opinions can change, but not without concerted effort.

What’s your website’s first impression?

Often, the first impression customers have of your company comes from your business website. Does it negatively prejudice the people you are trying to attract? Is keeping it attractive with current content a high priority or just an afterthought? Perhaps it’s time to take inventory and evaluate how your website is (or is not) working for you.

With good design, layout, and management of your business website, you will create positive and long-lasting first impressions that influence attitudes about your work product.

#1 Put your best foot forward

Put your best foot forward

If you are going to a job interview, you prepare to make a good impression by dressing professionally and ensuring you look your best. Your goal is to present the ideal job candidate and avoid negative impressions leading to biases and prejudice. Well, your website is a job interview. It is critical for your business to put its best foot forward, which begins with appearance.

  • Navigation. It must be intuitive. Make sure the information a site visitor is looking for is easy to find (ideally within three clicks). We can recommend intuitive, tried-and-true navigation that has proven to be logical and clear. Be sure the navigation style remains consistent from page to page. Don’t mix things up, even if it seems clever and edgy, or you’ll lose and frustrate users.
  • Layout. Keep your website clean and uncluttered. This means allowing for generous white space (not crowding a page full of text and images by designing enough white space around elements to make reading easy and to keep your brain from exploding). Also, keep your design elements and colors consistent with your brand across the site (white space; visual, consistent brand; cohesive colors/style). Choose and stick with no more than two to four colors.

#2 Be helpful

  • Up-to-date content. This seems like a no-brainer, but how often do you see business websites that are so outdated it’s flat-out embarrassing? Your content needs to be relevant and current. When consumers look for information about your products or services, your website should be their most reliable resource. Relevant and current content will help you earn their trust and keep it.
  • Useful and convenient information. What do your potential customers look for most often? Make that information easy to find. Not sure? Ask your former clients, friends, and potential clients what questions they have, and be sure to answer those needs on your website.
  • Accessible. Having an accessible website means that whatever device they are using to view your website (mobile phone, tablet, desktop computer), it should be easy to see and to navigate. Without question, your website needs to be responsive (mobile-friendly). An ADA accessible site will also ensure you reach the estimated 19% of the population who have some form of disability.

3 Smile and talk about their needs

  • Use content and tone that is inviting and conversational. Make your website a conversation between your company and one site visitor at a time. Make it welcoming. Avoid industry-related jargon (unless it’s necessary to your targeted clientele). Make it engaging. Although your website is about you, it’s for them.
  • Select word choice wisely. Use the right words to deliver the best customer service and to make site visitors feel welcome. Words are powerful, and the wrong ones could repel your potential customers.
  • Provide proof for your claims. This includes testimonials from former clients. You might create videos to share stories and successes that help future customers envision how they can benefit from your goods or services. Share successful statistics that deliver on your promises and goals, and provide photos of successes. Help site visitors believe that you mean what you say.

Manage your website strategically

strategic chess game

The three steps we just discussed should make it pretty obvious that there is no quick and easy shortcut to creating and managing a website that gives visitors a positive first impression while also maintaining relevancy over time. It takes planning and a strategy to support and maintain your company’s mission and goals.

Who is responsible for your company website? Is it bounced around to staff under the “other duties as assigned” catchall? Is it a task given to personnel (such as your IT staff) who are not communications experts? Make sure your website is handled by people with experience in communications, marketing, public relations, and customer service. It just doesn’t make sense to have this important piece of your business’s reputation and development in the hands of staff without the expertise.

Consider the following few steps involved in effective website management strategy:

  • Gather content, information, stories, and successes on a regular basis from those in the trenches who know what is going on—the people who interact daily with clients and the clients themselves. Develop a process that makes these contributions easy.
  • Update your website regularly and consistently. If consumers go to your website and nothing is current, they won’t come back. They may think your product and business practices are as outdated as your website. Create a consistent schedule to keep the information fresh so your site is always current and interesting. If appropriate, use your social media to drive customers to your website for more details and the rest of the story.
  • Follow best practices. The ideals for website best practices include regular quality control checks to remove any broken links and outdated information, update staff contacts, check for website accessibility compliance, correct grammar and spelling mistakes, maintain a consistent tone of voice, and follow a style guide.

Ideally, anyone who updates or contributes content to your website should be fully trained. Not just on the website software, but in each of the areas mentioned above. Just one update completed by someone who isn’t aware of these important areas can not only make a poor impression by introducing errors and creating inconsistency, but it could also take your website out of ADA compliance.

Reconsider your website’s long-term value

Do not underestimate the value of the first impression. The halo effect is real; it can definitely distort reality. With a poorly designed and managed business website, you risk casting a negative halo effect with long-lasting assumptions about the quality of what you have to offer. Taking advantage of the halo effect is a smart move. Take a hard look at your business website and make sure it conveys the impression and image you want it to.

Don’t like what you see? Need help getting and keeping a business site that creates a positive halo effect with all the warm fuzzies? Give Biz Webmasters a call at (888) 750.4556—or request a quote. We’ll help you get exactly what you need.