The Power of Presentation and the Value of the First Impression
How you can empower your brand and your story with strong online presentation
First impressions are a big deal. This is no less true of websites or emails as it is for people. In fact, for the startup with one chance to get attention from your prospects, they are even more important because you’ll never get a chance to repair that relationship before the visitor clicks away. For web designers, you have a scant 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) to make a good first impression, so you’d better make it count.
This isn’t about pulling people in with clickbait or flashy images, but instead about always presenting quality content in an engaging way. You might get more traffic if you go with the first option, but it doesn’t have any real value and people can recognize when they are being sold to. When you present something genuine and compelling, they will recognize and appreciate the effort it took to build that. That’s the kind of response you want. If you’ve built something that people care about and present it in a powerful way that they can relate to, then you have your brand and your story. That translates to leads, sales, and loyal customers.
A distinct presentation doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to design in a way that no one else has before. Google’s own research on the value of the first impression actually found that users tend to respond better to low complexity and high prototypicality (how consistent a design is with a specific category of websites). Simple with a clear theme that people can recognize is the name of the game. Overwhelming or cluttered designs quickly lead to lost interest.
The Blog Post
More often than not the blog post is the kind of content you’re going to be pushing as your bread and butter. In terms of the first impression, the headline and feature image are most important. A majority of visitors will only read the headline before clicking away. Kevan Lee of BufferApp believes in a “6 words that count” policy. People scan headlines just as much as the actual body of a post so you need to be able to present something compelling in a few words.
Feature images are important because good visual content is vibrant and aesthetically appealing, but also because from a formatting standpoint it cuts down on the number of characters per line. This is important for readability, but it also just looks way better. Again, this isn’t about snaring people with clickbait or eye-catching fluff, but about having a strong sense of what your audience cares about presented in a way that isn’t boring.
You can’t talk about first impressions in a startup context without giving landing pages some thought. There’s a wealth of advice out there in terms of what to do and what not to do when it comes to landing pages. So much so that it can be overwhelming, unnecessarily restrictive, and occasionally contradictory.
While it’s impossible to take in all the advice out there, for most designs it pays to heed a few key rules of thumb. First, don’t distract people with information that doesn’t matter to them. Be clear about what you’re offering, how it will help them, and why signing up will get them one step closer to getting that help. This can all be achieved with a strong call-to-action and clearly defined benefits for signing-up. Cut back on buzzwords and highlight the most important information so that it sticks out. Detail is fine if it’s not overwhelming, but always make sure that the core, engaging elements are front and center.
What about social media? There’s no doubt that in the process of building your identity online, you’ll have to get on sites like Twitter and Facebook at some point, but there’s a right and wrong way to go about it. The name of the game here is engagement. A Twitter page with sporadic updates and links to your website won’t do much for you in the grand scheme. A social media outlet that interacts, builds interesting conversations, and centralizes all the information that your audience would want to hear will generate positive buzz, word of mouth advertising, and solidify your brand identity.
Your exact social media strategy will depend mainly on your particular audience. Targeting what your audience is interested in is best accomplished by taking a close look at metrics (keywords, follower profiles, competitors) and trial runs of different tactics. Does your audience respond better to giveaways or compelling links to relevant content? These are the things you should be trying to figure out and the best way to do that is to try everything, analyze, and react accordingly. This process of finding yourself on social media will not only build your following, but also help you better understand and then present your brand and story.
This can all seem like a confused balancing act, but at the end of the day, you’re just trying to find the best way to reach people. Make something that looks impressive and people will think your product or service is impressive. Strong presentation in every aspect of your business is just one more part of your effort to build a great brand and story. A confident story that isn’t trying to misdirect or bury details has a clear identity. If you portray yourself confidently then your prospects will be confident in you and believe in your ability to deliver whatever you’re promising. They will also recognize your honesty: that you believe in them just as much as they believe in you. If that’s the kind of story you want to tell and the kind of business you want to be then let it show. Your audience will take note.