Much has been said about the first impression that users get from visiting a site. Studies have shown that users from a quick opinion in as little as two-tenths of a second, and just 2.6 seconds to zoom in on the thing that has most grabbed their attention. Often this is where they either decide whether to go on with exploring the site, or to leave altogether.
Winning the first impression
In a 2012 study, Google found two key factors that informed a user’s first impression of websites, namely visual complexity, and prototypically. Put simply, users generally find simple (low visual complexity) and familiar (high prototypically) more appealing. This really surprised me as well, as I’ve always thought that novel ideas would be interesting to visitors.
On top of that, these two factors affect each other as well. Simple websites that are unfamiliar and complex websites that are familiar do not enjoy a perception boost when compared with an unfamiliar complex website.
So here is how you can create websites that keep your visitors.
Keep it familiar
When a visitors arrive on your site, he/she usually has a preconceived notion of web conventions. This puts them at ease, at least initially and not trigger the warning bells that using your site might be a laborious effort.
This also plays to the Category Size bias, giving the visitor a feeling of comfort that your site is within the expected ‘industry standard’.
Which is perhaps why many modern startups have sites that look alarmingly similar.
The purpose of the first screen of your website is simple – keep the visitor there long enough for them to take the next step. Having a singular visual focal point and succinct copy on your first screen gives your visitor everything he/she needs to know to proceed.
Have a clear next step
The next thing to do is to have a clear next step for your page. Now that the user is engaged enough to find out what to do next, you want to help guide them along that path. If the first screen in question is the main page of your site, perhaps it could be to find out more about your brand/product? If it is a landing page from a banner, then perhaps it is to direct them to sign up for a newsletter or to a buy page.
Keep it on brand
While familiarity is important, the way the copy is crafted or color scheme helps a visitor connect your site to your brand and what it stands for. People often browse a site a few times before making a purchase. Furthermore, your brand legitimizes your site, making it more credible and ‘real’ to visitors, building trust.
Your first screen is undoubtedly an important one and is a key place you win or lose visitors to your site. By following the tips above, it gives you the best shot at converting them into fans.