How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your business's website? There are lots of factors, but it's a safe bet to focus on the customer's impression of your site, especially of those visiting it for the very first time.
"A user's first impressions of a website can determine whether he or she forms a favorable or unfavorable view of that organization," said Hong Sheng, an assistant professor and associate chair, department of business and information technology, at Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T).
In 2012, Sheng and Sirjana Dahal, another researcher at Missouri S&T, used an infrared camera and eye-tracking software to monitor the eye movements of student participants as they scanned law school websites. The researchers then analyzed the data to determine how long students focused on specific page sections, such as the menu, logo and main image, before they moved on to others. The following website sections drew the most attention from the participants:
- Logo (6.48 seconds)
- Main navigation menu (6.44 seconds)
- Search box (6 seconds)
- Social media icons (5.95 seconds)
- Main image (5.94 seconds)
- Written content (5.59 seconds)
- Bottom of the website (5.25 seconds)
To help you improve your own website's design, Business News Daily consulted experts on how to make the absolute best first impression possible on your visitors.
[Editor's Note: Building a business website? Check out Business News Daily's step-by-step guide here.]
1. Engage your audience immediately
Jessica Humphrey, a visual designer and marketing consultant of Monarch Visual, urges businesses to concentrate on audience engagement before anything else. An easy solution is creating engaging textual and visual content.
"Think about what 'voice' your content (should have) and think about how you can make that voice heard while still staying within your brand's guidelines," she said. "Finding that harmony is the key to being successful. If you have a great brand but present your content in a boring way, it's no good. If you have great and engaging content but a weak and forgettable brand, that's no good either."
2. Provide easy access to contact information
A good business website should drive calls and sales leads, but it can't do that if potential customers can't reach you, said David Brown, CEO, chairman and president of Web.com.
"Your contact information should be visible, preferably at the top of the home page so that visitors don't have to search for a phone number or address if they want to contact the business," Brown told Business News Daily.
Dan Veltri, co-founder and chief product officer at Weebly (a website builder and hosting service), agreed, noting that having a contact form accessible through the main navigation menu is the best strategy. Additionally, including your social links in the header and footer of your site will serve as both an attention grabber and a way to keep in touch.
3. Take advantage of SEO
A picture may be worth a thousand words, especially on a website. But that picture needs to be SEO-friendly in order for customers to find your business.
"SEO is another critical factor of website design," Brown said. "Search engines will analyze your website from the top to bottom, left to right. Pictures will not be picked up by search engines, so be sure to include keywords that will enable your site to appear in results."
Humphrey mentioned adding not only relevant keywords but key phrases to describe your business. For example, instead of just "shoe repair," add "shoe repair near me."
4. Make your website mobile optimized
As consumers increasingly use smartphones and tablets to browse the web, it's more important than ever to make sure that your business website can smoothly transition from desktop to mobile views.
"Consumers already demand a desktop experience when browsing on a mobile device or tablet, and mobile-optimized websites will be the key ingredient to delivering on that demand," Brown said.
5. Play it safe and invest in an expert
A bad design will cost you more in the long run if you dismiss the idea of hiring a web designer.
"There is a science to good design, and a good designer is worth the cost and will make sure to explain every part of their reasoning to you during the process so that you understand how and why things will work or won't work," Humphrey added.
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks and Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.