First Impressions Reduce Exit Clicks
You’ve done it all right content, title tags, descriptions, keywords, advertisers, link partners and Google has approved you as an AdSense publisher!
You’ve done your homework, read the advice of SEO professionals, applied that advice diligently and have a good stats program in place to track your traffic. You’re on your way!
It takes a while but eventually you see your page hits start to climb higher and higher, and this brings a big smile to your face until you notice that you’re not getting conversions, and when you check your stats you see that the average visitor stays a few seconds or less! What could be wrong? How can you sell something if visitors arrive at your store but don’t really come in?
The answer to that is very likely the absence of visual glue’. Now there’s a term you likely haven’t heard before there’s a good reason for that I just wrote it! “Visual glue” is that which makes a visitor’s eyes stick to your page. It’s the visual impression that says, before even a word has been read, that they have arrived at a credible web site. It’s a little thing called a first impression’, and that’s the impression you won’t have a second chance to make.
However unfortunate it is, people do judge books by covers. Therefore your well thought out and constructed site needs a good cover’ as well that refers to your graphics. Everything from your logo to your page and table backgrounds, and everything in between. If your site looks like it was built by your teenage daughter after school, you’ll immediately be assumed as an amateur and your offerings will suffer the same fate. It is vitally important that your visuals (the visual glue) imply business-like credibility.
How many sites have you landed on that looked like either black & green video arcades? On the other hand, how many looked like bland report pages from some musty archive? How long did you stay? likely not long because there was nothing to imply that you’d arrived at a professional, up-to-date web site.
This is the first impressions’ response in action! Its quite possible that either of the above examples may very well have had just the information you were looking for but you didn’t stay because your eyes told you’ there was likely no reason to.
It is for this reason that you must pay as much attention to the packaging’ of your web site as you do to its contents. Here is a list of things you should pay particular attention to:
1. Images, such as logos, that have a transparent background should be saved against the same background used on the page or table. This will eliminate colored halos’ around those images that make them look as though they were stuck on the page as an after-thought.
2. Image size and resolution is vitally important for two reasons clarity and load time. Clarity comes form an image that is saved from its original format to the precise size needed for the page. Web images are bitmaps’ (a collection of colored dots) and when you stretch them in size, particularly up, they lose quality and look rough and shabby. Your image resolution should be at 96 dpi (dots per inch) to display cleanly on modern monitors. The image, if it’s a jpeg, can be safely compressed down to about 80% when saving without a visible loss of clarity. This will also reduce the overall file size of the image and therefore improve loading time.
3. Image format affects image clarity too. As a general rule of thumb, JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is ideal for photos and art, whereas GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is best for line art and graphics where colors don’t blend into each other a lot. Using these simple guidelines will ensure your graphic components are as visually pleasing as possible to your viewer.
4. Backgrounds should be subtle for the most part unless you’re site is centered around an event or toward a particularly young audience. Generally speaking your background should provide a visually comfortable contrast to your text. Just think of red text on a black background as an extreme example of what not to do!
5. Over-use of graphics can hurt your results as well for two reasons. One is that it overwhelms the viewer’s eyes. This is subtly uncomfortable and therefore will make the visitor want to navigate away from your site. The other problem with many graphics is the load time of the page. People are impatient, and a slow loading page is a sure way to send them elsewhere. If your site is graphics-driven, use thumbnails that link to larger, clearer images. An example of this exists on my logo samples page.
6. Your logo is your very first statement. If there is nothing else you out-source at least do so with your logo. With a moderate amount of skill you can use a program such as PaintShop Pro to manage the images for your site following the above guidelines. Your logo, however needs to be designed, especially if you want a “simple” logo. This may seem like a contradiction in terms at first but the bottom line is that the fewer the elements, the more important each element becomes in both its choice as well as its use and inclusion into a logo. For more on this concept I have an article about the Illogical Truth About Logo Design that you can read.
The above points will provide you with the basics of making your site visually appealing, therefore giving it some of that visual glue’. If you are artistically inclined and would like to do all or some of your own graphic design, I recommend a program called Xara X as a powerful, yet relatively inexpensive means to create your graphic content (with both vector and bitmap graphics.) The program has the ability to save your files in a wide variety of formats, and it comes with tutorials. There is a fantastic users group at the XaraXone where you can learn from the experience of others, and download a variety of plug-ins for Xara.
Just remember people judge visually. Its not fair but there is something you can do and that is to take as much care with the container’ as you do with the content of your web site.
Paul Jacobsen is a professional graphic designer who has been providing technical and artistic graphics for print and web globally for 25 years. He has tackled projects such as marine engineering diagrams, government crests and artistic promotional projects such as event posters and CD covers. For more information about his products and services see Tactical Graphic Design.