If you’ve ever been horrified by the design of a business website, you’re not alone. There are many aesthetic travesties out there, and worse, many small businesses still don’t even have a website. One recent study concluded that only 54% of small businesses maintain a home on the web.

What does your website design say about your business and your brand?

Researchers found that the brain makes decisions in just a 20th of a second of viewing a webpage. All too often the impression you think you’re giving is very different to the one you actually are. For this reason, it is important to seek out feedback and professional advice.

Take a moment and think of just three words or traits you want to exude when people see your website — words such as Professional, Clean, Corporate, Fun. With those traits in mind, now take a good look at your website homepage. Is it an adequate reflection of your brand personality, your business acumen and skills?

Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University in Ottawa believes that a users quickly formed first impressions last because of what is known to psychologists as the “halo effect”. If people believe a website looks good, then this positive quality will spread to other areas, such as the website’s content.

Since people like to be right, they will continue to use the website that made a good first impression, as this will further confirm that their initial decision was a good one. As websites increasingly jostle for business, Dr Lindgaard added that companies should take note.

“Unless the first impression is favourable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors,”

Your homepage is similar to a book’s front cover,  often considered the first impression and should be well considered — albeit unlike a book, many of your site’s visitors do not always see your site’s homepage first. Due to the non-linear nature of the web, and the way search engines work, the very first page for many visitors is not the homepage. Rather, it may be an internal page found through a search, or that was targeted from a link. Not only should you be thinking of the first impression on your homepage, you need to stop and think about any random sub-page and the impression it would give if it were a visitor’s first point of entry. Has the page been well-considered? Does it stand on its own merits? Does it have anything to say for itself?

…is your website projecting the image and personality you want it to?

Learn More about Straydog’s Vancouver Branding Studio [+]

By Rob Barnett