In another lifetime I worked at a small business that didn’t think it was important to invest in web design. They asked their go-to in-house IT guy to install a newer template to make their site appear only five years out of date instead of the previous fifteen. Sure, the menu layout resembled recent trends a bit more, but when they pasted their logo at the top and changed the header to a similar but different shade of the logo color… It resulted in a mess that no amount of amateur tweaking could salvage.
It was definitely an improvement. It didn’t even look terrible; it was just clearly nothing a design professional had anything to do with. And that’s all it took for it to be an embarrassment to anyone who understood much about perception. They claimed to be keeping their focus on the quality of their product/service, something that had kept them afloat for over three decades. Now if technology and design trends hadn’t changed in that time span, business as usual might suffice. Perhaps they felt they wanted to transfer the savings from avoiding quality web design directly to the consumer.
However, when it came time to network for new business, attract worthy sales talent, and find publishers for our press releases, I became acutely aware of the reason a thirty-odd year business was enjoying the reputation of a confused and lonely start-up. We weren’t being taken seriously by what seemed to be anyone that wasn’t trying to sell us something. If only a web designer had made a solicitation!
According to a study from Stanford, nearly half (46.1%) of consumers judge a website by its appearance rather than thinking hard, being tough integrators of information and comparing sources. You get about one second during which a consumer decides if you’re credible. If not, they leave, and there is no second test. A website is the first impression in many cases. People use heuristics to make snap judgments when they don’t have time for an exhaustive analysis. We do it a hundred times a day, and your website might not always be an exception.
The story of the small business with the poorly designed website doesn’t have a happy ending. For the sake of full disclosure, web design wasn’t the only problem that led to this outcome. I couldn’t convey the importance of online perception to them, and they never recovered from their sales slump. There are some areas in business where trying to save money could cost you everything. From web design to social media marketing and search engine optimization, it never pays to be stubborn about adapting to the current climate for business and technology.
- Joe Chilson
- February 14, 2014