First impressions have always mattered, and a website is no different. Just as people make snap judgements about others in person, they will also judge the credibility of a business based on the look and feel of its website.

Seven seconds is often touted as the length of time you have to make a positive first impression in person. In the digital world, research suggests that it only takes 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for users to start forming an opinion. 

So, how do you build a website that will excite and inspire in less than a second? By focussing on great design and avoiding these common website mistakes!

Poor visual appeal

Visual appeal is the main driver of first impressions. If your website has been described as busy, boring, complex, cluttered or corporate, it’s time to rethink your website strategy. Dated is also a word you want to avoid. 

Of course, there is more to a successful website than an attractive interface, but visual appeal has the biggest impact on first impressions. If a user does not like what they see, they are unlikely to explore further. 

A good website designer will be able to communicate your brand’s core message through a combination of layout, typography, font size, colour schemes and image selection, helping to differentiate your business and encourage user interaction. 

Top tip: Don’t forget your favicon.

A favicon is a small graphic (16×16 pixels) that appears next to your website title in browser tabs, bookmark lists, search results, search history and search ads. Favicons are a visual representation of your brand and give your website credibility. Don’t overlook them! 

Confusing website navigation 

Now that you’ve captured your user’s attention for more than 0.05 seconds with amazing visuals, your website needs to actually work. Users will abandon a website that isn’t easy to use just as quickly as they abandon an unattractive one. 

Website visitors want to be able to find the information they need at a glance. They may want to contact you, they may be looking for an answer to a question or they may just want to know more about your company. Whatever it is, your navigation needs to be organised, readable and clickable with the most important pages in your main navigation.

Top tip: avoid burger menus on desktop.

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A hamburger menu as the only source of navigation on a website is confusing and frustrating. Hiding menu items helps no one. Find out what YOUR customers are looking for and put it within their reach the second they land on the site.

Lacklustre content

What is the purpose of your website? If you don’t know, you have a problem. Fortunately, that problem can easily be solved by developing a solid content strategy. While content can include everything from videos to blog posts, infographics and social media posts, its purpose is always the same: to drive traffic back to your website. Therefore, before you focus on a broader content plan, you need to make sure your website is speaking to your target audience.

Once you have a clear idea of who you are trying to reach, ask yourself: 

  • What is the key message you want to communicate to your customers?
  • What problem will you be solving for your customers? 
  • What action do you want your customers to take when they visit your website?
  • What is your USP (unique selling point)?

High-quality, useful content is not only essential to attract and retain users, but it will also improve your search engine rankings. Note: dumping a chunk of text on the page is not a solution! You need:

  • strong, client-focussed CTA’s (call to actions) to give meaning to your content
  • headings to break up the text and signal what your content is about 
  • bullet points to help visitors scan the text and identify key areas of information.

Top tip: Don’t get too creative with your fonts.

Cursive fonts may look good, but they are difficult to read, and that is not good when you only have a few seconds to get your message across to your audience. Stick with fonts that are legible in a variety of sizes, colours and compositions.

Not prioritising SEO 

Your website may look the part and be easy to navigate, but if no one can find it, you aren’t going to get very far. Google prioritises sites that are fast loading, have high-quality content, return minimal errors and are trustworthy.  So, to improve your rankings, your website needs a foundation of technical SEO in combination with a robust content strategy. Some of your top SEO priorities should be:

  • checking your H1 and other header tags
  • reducing large media files and images and optimising for site speed
  • ensuring your site has no dead links
  • including an XML sitemap
  • minimising annoying and intrusive pop-us
  • creating user-centred content that addresses the needs, questions or concerns of your audience
  • making your content clear, easy to understand and completely original
  • updating your content regularly by adding blogs, news articles or refreshing existing content

Using image carousels and sliders

Image carousels and sliders are conversion killers. Why? Because they hide content and are generally ignored. Yet, they are ubiquitous in the web design world. Some might think that sliders look cool and are an easy solution for getting several messages across on a single page, but this logic is flawed. 

Too many messages equal no message. Users skip over sliders because they look like adverts, they have terrible usability, and they don’t work well on mobile. Anything beyond the initial view is likely to be ignored. Don’t use them. Ever. Focus on a single primary message instead.

Trusting your website to an amateur (including DIY)

Clients come to us all the time after attempting to build their own website (or hiring an overseas contractor to do it for them) and running into trouble. Often, the website looks nothing like they envisioned and/or it doesn’t work on a mobile device. Other common complaints include a slow loading website and one that isn’t being indexed by Google. 

Creating and maintaining a successful website takes more than slapping some images and text into a CMS, sending it live and forgetting about it. Your website is an online representation of your business and to get a professional result, you need to invest in working with an established web design agency. We’ve seen time and time again how good design can generate more traffic, significantly increase conversions and improve brand awareness. 

Final thoughts…

Investing in your website is one of the best business decisions you can make if you want to get to the top of your industry and stay there. Sometimes, a bad website can be more damaging to your business than no website at all. 

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