News & Blog

18 Sep 2012
Shop window graphic design

Website check list

We might have moved to a digital world, but the basics of business are just the same, and a first impression matters now as much as ever.

One of your most important opportunities to provide a positive and productive first impression is via your website. Think of it as your virtual shop window: as such, your website must abide by the 'three-second rule' - give or take a few moments, it has just a matter of seconds to convince a visitor that a) you provide the service or product they're looking for and b) you are the sort of business they would like to do business with.

Try our quick checklist to help you assess your website's 'three-second street appeal':

  • Does your website clearly show - at a glance, through design, imagery, headlines and key content boxes - what your business or organisation provides?
  • Does this imagery/web design also convey your corporate culture; is it consistent with the 'look' of your other marketing communications items? And will this look appeal to your target visitor?
  • Is it easy to read on-screen?
    • Does it use simple language, narrow columns, good grammar, perfect spelling, sufficiently big/clear font at 100% viewing?
    • Does is suit the 'F' eye-tracking pattern? Enduring research findings by Jakob Nielsen suggest that website visitors scan rather than read in depth, and do so in an 'F' shaped pattern from left to right. The implications for your website copywriting are:
      • dense copy will be a waste of time or a turn-off
      • the first two words of sub-headings, paragraphs and bullet points will be the most noticed
      • your most critical messages should go into the first paragraph, and the top of the second
      • animated columns will help draw visitors to the right hand side of your page (good place to put video/news/Twitter feed, etc).
  • Does the terminology used represent your corporate culture and promote your key messages/Unique Selling Points, etc? NB: this might well require different messages to those needed for effective search engine optimisation (SEO).
  • Are your contact/how-to-find details easy to spot?
  • Is your site intuitive to navigate: ie layered effectively to display the most popular or important information 'up front', with deeper levels of detail easily 'discoverable' for those who are interested? Take care not to clutter your pages, particularly your home page.
  • Is your site structured to prioritise its main function? Ie if the main job you want your site to perform is online sales, then don't put unnecessary or insufficiently incentivised 'barriers' in the way of your e-commerce system, such as lengthy data collection forms: allow a visitor to start shopping immediately (you can ask for information later, once they're committed to the process).
  • Is your site responsive to any technology likely to be used by your target visitor to access your site - eg smart phone, tablet or PC - thereby ensuring a consistent visitor experience?

That's an awful lot to achieve in three seconds.

But, as the game-changing window dressers of the nineteenth century recognised: get this 'first impression' right and you'll not only stop passers-by, but encourage them through your (virtual) door, where they're more likely to linger, engage and transact with you.

Tags: Jakob Nielsen, SEO, Twitter, Video, Web design