First Impressions Must Impress

Image of Hand ShakeA few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday. It was a great time and I thank you all who wished me well.

But along with birthdays come obligations. One such pain in the rear end is car inspection and registration here in my State.

If you’ve been a reader for a bit, then you may remember that I go to the same mechanic, Ed, every time.

He’s a great down-to-earth guy. He understands that things come up, money isn’t an unlimited resource for me, and he doesn’t try to upsell me into junk I don’t need.

Great service and his honesty benefits the both of us.

However, it used to be that his shop needed some help. You walked in through a flimsy, oil smeared front door and made your way through a dim-lit hallway leading to his main desk. The hallway was lined on either side with parts that were meant for return to vendors and cases of oil.

The windshield wipers on display and hanging on the wall for sale had an obstructed path to them making it near impossible for an interested customer to pull down a set.

His main waiting area was small with an employee fridge sitting atop a rickety cabinet. There were random posters and manufacturer signs and decals scattered on all walls and every surface had the remnants from hard-working mechanic hands.

It wasn’t welcoming.

First impressions

The initial feelings you get about a place say a lot. They dictate whether you’ll stick around and wait or head running for the hills. Ed’s wife remodeled the main office and hallway area so that it’s open, clean, and complete with a new coat of paint. It’s pleasant.

But what of the people who may have been scared off when they arrived pre-remodel?

Your website or business

What first impressions are people getting from your website design? Is it sloppy and hastily pieced together? Are there random signs and posters (widgets and ads) cluttering up your content making it unwelcoming?

When people walk into your store or visit your website do you think they’ll want to come back? Give them reason to return by welcoming them in. Make sure your links work, your navigation is clear, your site header is clean and complete with a tagline that makes your offer clear.

Spruce up that about page as well to show people what you’re about and what’s in it for them in terms of doing business with you.

Ask for help

Solicit a friend or family member to look at your site (or store) with a fresh set of eyes. Be bold and ask them to truthfully share their thoughts with you about their initial reaction. You want to know if you’re scaring people off or inviting them in.

This is especially important online as you and I know we’re critical at times. We don’t want to hunt around for the info we want or need. Plus, visually accosting websites will have us clicking “Back” on our browsers faster than that widget loads in the sidebar.

Get to work

Look at your site and see for yourself. Try hard, right now, to place yourself in the shoes of a newcomer to your site.

What is your gut reaction?

First impressions can only be made once so work hard not to blow your chance. Let’s hear a story about the feelings you get from your favorite stores (clothing, food shopping, etc) or websites (favorite blogs, news sites, video sites, etc).

Please share a story in the comments.

Photo: kheelcenter

9 Responses to First Impressions Must Impress
  1. Sarah Russell
    June 10, 2011 | 9:49 am

    Jon – You’re absolutely right; first impressions matter!

    I like your idea of soliciting feedback, but be careful what you wish for. I once had a guy email me – totally imprompted – email me a page long email listing everything he thought was wrong with my site. Ouch, to say the least!

    But thanks for the list of things to look for. I’m planning a complete redesign in July, and that’s a great list of things to think about.

    • Jon
      June 10, 2011 | 4:20 pm

      Sarah, I can definitely relate. Been there before with a few slams and hey, it happens. There are a lot of moving parts to this space but as long as you know how to harness useful criticism and implement positive change – you’re good. I’m looking forward to checking out your redesign!

  2. Eugene
    June 10, 2011 | 10:14 am

    I’ve thought about soliciting feedback from people before but stacked it away in the back of my mind somewhere. Thanks for reminding me!

    I’m also going to do it with my sales letters as soon as I get those done, just to see how I can optimize them for non-internet-savvy people before I send them out.

    • Jon
      June 10, 2011 | 4:22 pm


      Good plan. Writing sales letters is an art and science. Definitely read other sales letters and pick them apart and asking around for input is certainly useful. Best of luck with your sales.

  3. Extreme John
    June 11, 2011 | 3:34 pm

    I totally agree with this post Jon, from the headline itself. First impression must indeed make a good impression. One of the first few things that customers would usually notice is how it looks–whether it’s a site or a shop.

    I once accompanied my daughter to buy a Sunday’s best dress and we got into a shop where every dress was really pretty but it’s just that the shop itself wasn’t so welcoming. This also applies to any website. What’s having great and high quality content when the design is totally disastrous?

    • Jon
      June 12, 2011 | 1:58 pm

      Great points, John. You know it’s funny that you mention the unwelcoming shop. When I find places like that, it feels like I’ve uncovered a gem. I find deals and neat things at a place that others may not frequent because it’s so, “Blah.” But, they’re certainly not doing themselves a favor by looking sub-par because of the business they’re pushing away.

  4. Lynne Quintana
    June 23, 2011 | 12:50 am

    Great post! First impressions matter in the day to day real life relationships that we all have. Like it or not, people are making decisions about who you are in the first few seconds that they meet you.


    • Jon
      June 24, 2011 | 6:09 pm

      Welcome, Lynne. So true, we can be shameful sometimes with the way we instantly label and judge. We do, unfortunately, make up our minds fairly quickly about a business or person and it takes time to “undo” negative perceptions/impressions.

  5. Terje Sannarnes
    June 27, 2011 | 8:50 am

    It is very important both for an entrepreneur and an employee to be able to make a good impression on people. Acting in such a way, an entrepreneur can get more clients for his/her business. By making a good impression on an employer an entrepreneur can apply for a job easily.

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