What Does Your Website Say About You?

Immediate opinions and impressions are formed the moment a new visitor arrives at your website. Even though the first impression comes within just a few seconds, it can take a very long time to reverse a negative first impression, if you’re given the chance at all. In a competitive marketplace a bad first impression is likely to be the last encounter that visitor has with your website, as they’re unlikely to return.

In order to create a positive first impression, you have to know specifically what your goals are for the first few seconds of a new visit. It may sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself about the first impressions that are being created by your website.

1 – Are You Professional?

Most of my readers are online for business or money-making purposes. If the industry you are competing in is professional in nature, your website should live up to the expectations of new visitors. While there is no exact definition of what a professional website looks like, I think we all know the unprofessional ones when we see them. And when you come across one of these websites, what is your first impression? Personal websites and blogs have more freedom in how they can present themselves since they have different agendas.

2 – What is Your Purpose?

What are you trying to accomplish with your website? Product sales? Gain subscribers? Draw clicks to PPC ads? Whatever your purpose is, it should be clear to visitors within seconds on your website, and you should make it easy for visitors to take the action that you want them to take. If your goal is to sell products you certainly don’t want to make it difficult for visitors to find what they want.

3 – Are You Giving a Consistent Message?


The message that visitors see when they arrive at your website should be consistent with whatever promotional efforts you use. If you use online advertisements and a visitor clicks through on a banner ad they will have a certain expectation about what they will find at your website based on the message that they received from your advertisement. Consistent messages are especially important if you’re using several different forms of marketing.

4 – Are Visitors Comfortable with You?

Doing business online brings some unique challenges that may not exist in face-to-face relationships. New visitors are likely to be skeptical of your credibility. You can help to put people at ease by including:

  • An “about” page with information about you or your company.
  • Contact information, and an easy way for visitors to email you.
  • A privacy policy (if appropriate).
  • Security information (if you are asking for payment online).

5 – Are Advertisements More Important than Your Readers?

While ads are obviously very common online, you don’t want visitors to feel like they are less valuable to you than your advertisers. Placing ads in subtle locations that will not distract or annoy readers is a good way to avoid negative first impressions. Some visitors will leave right away if they spot excessive advertising.

If you are unsure about the answers to any of these questions seek the advice of others. Ask friends, people in your network, or visit an online forum for advice. That should help you to get a few outside opinions that are likely to be reflective of the opinions of your visitors.

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21 Responses

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  • Karen Zara, October 17, 2007

    I believe the hardest part of it all is asking your friends/peers/forum members what they think of your site. Some may not be totally sincere. Others may be too sincere, if you know what I mean. And unless you receive positive feedback for the most part, you risk being disappointed at yourself when you realise mistakes that you’ve been making unconsciously. But I understand that this is a necessary step in order to improve one’s site or blog.

  • TyCat, October 17, 2007

    Great read, Ill look into this for my site. The one thing I kinda regret is not having my own design up yet. Its taking longer than I expected. This would say a few things, lazy,cant design,dont care. These arent good reputation points.

  • Vandelay Design, October 17, 2007

    Hi Karen,
    Yes, it’s always hard to take criticism, but sometimes it can help. Maybe part of it is finding the right people to ask. Some people can find polite ways to make constructive suggestions without making you feel bad. In the end though, I’d rather know now what people think and be able to fix it than not know and keep making the same mistakes.

    TyCat,
    If you’re in a transitional stage then things are probably a little bit different for you. But those first impressions will be better once you’ve got everything how you want it :)

  • Acopic - Web Designers, October 18, 2007

    it’s always worthwhile getting the opinions of others. When you’ve looked at something so much you get to the point where you’re not really seeing it (if you know what I mean). A fresh pair of eyes is a must.

  • Sofna, October 18, 2007

    I guess the best way to do this would be to look at your website and say to yourself “What would I want to see if i was a consumer looking for xxxxx”? And your blog post pretty much describes that in detail.

  • MultiZ, October 18, 2007

    I don’t even use advertisements — which I wouldn’t like to view, anyway. Using relevant affiliate marketing is (and can be) very helpful if you promote it correctly.

  • TyCat, October 18, 2007

    @Acopic,
    That is a very good point. When designing you view your project as “oh I can put that there” and “that needs tweaking”. as you said, a fresh set of eyes is a must.

  • Scott, October 18, 2007

    Great post, thanks for the suggestions. I do think if you are in the business of business you should present your site, actions, and service, as professional as you possibly can.

    Feedback from others is something I have found hard to find sometimes depending on how connected or new to a topic you are… thanks again for a great post.

  • Vandelay Design, October 18, 2007

    Scott,
    Thanks for your feedback. You’re right, it can be difficult in some situations, but hopefully you’ve got someone who can look at it from the perspective of your target audience.

  • Tay - Make Money Blogging, October 18, 2007

    Another great post, Steven, with some good information and advice. Some of these things I often overlook or don’t think about making that essential good first impression. I’ll be including this one in my next roundup. Keep up the great work. :D

  • Da-Photographer, October 22, 2007

    Great man,you got a good point.

  • Robberto, October 24, 2007

    I appreciate the very help information on your blog.

    There’s one thing that could be improved: in Firefox & Safari (Mac OSX 10.4.10) I see a lot of –

    E.g. in “You certainly don’t want”…
    In lists it appears all the time: “1 – Are You Professional?”, 2 – What is Your Purpose?”, etc.

  • Vandelay Design, October 24, 2007

    Robberto,
    I switched hosting companies today and when the database migrated it created some problems with some of the characters. I’ve been going back through old posts and correcting that, but still a long way to go. Thanks for reading!

  • Toronto SEO, October 30, 2007

    You got a point. Thanks for the advices.

  • Weddinga, March 13, 2008

    Great post, thanks for the suggestions.

  • Toronto Limo, March 14, 2008

    wow great