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First impressions

When a new prospect arrives at our website, the first thing they want to know is: “Does this company supply what I need?”

Answering this is the first thing we need to get over to them. But incredibly, many business websites mess this up.

There are probably up to five things they’ll see in the first couple of seconds.

Firstly, there’s the company logo and perhaps some sort of slogan top left or top centre. It might not be possible for these to convey what the company does, but at least if there’s a slogan, we need to ensure it’s working as hard as it can to be informative. “We’re great” or “We sell solutions” is a waste of space and a waste of the visitor’s time.

Below this will probably be some sort of site navigation. The opportunity is wasted here if this is just a set of generic labels, such as “Products” and “Services”. The company sells products and services? You don’t say. If clicking on “Products” leads to “Blue Widgets” and “Red Widgets”, and clicking on “Services” leads to “Maintenance Plans” and “Consultancy”, why aren’t the navigation labels “Blue Widgets” and “Red Widgets”, each leading to “Products”, “Maintenance Plans” and “Consultancy”? Or at least replace “Products” with “Our Widget Range”.

Then there’ll be some sort of large image, most likely. Again, if this isn’t working hard, why is it there? A photo of an application (rather than the products), or people in an office, tells us nothing. Over (or under) this will be some sort of headline, slogan or offer – again, is this informative? Or just some vague generalisation that dozens of other companies could equally well be using?

Finally, there will be panels or paragraphs underneath this, with their own titles or subheadings. Does a scan of these satisfy us that we’ve come to the right place?

All this is of course common sense, but the state of many corporate home pages, often over-designed by far too big a committee, can be one of the great examples of not seeing the wood for the trees.