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Are You Making the Right First Impression Online?

"The Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960" by scriptingnews is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Mom always told you not to judge a book by its cover, and odds are you’ve told your kids the same thing. Unfortunately, that advice is easier said than done. In reality, your brain is hardwired to make judgments, especially when we first meet people. We call these initial judgments “first impressions” and we all know how much they matter.

When you meet with candidates or clients, you (and they) jump to conclusions based on limited data (how they look, how they sound on the phone, or their resume) and decide if they’re confident or cocky, professional or unprofessional. This initial conclusion stays with you and affects how you perceive them in the future.

So, what’s in a first impression and how can you be sure you’re making a good first impression online?

What Nixon Taught Us

In September 1960, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon faced off in the nation’s first televised presidential debate. This debate would shape the course of not only the 1960 election but every election since. 

That night, Richard Nixon had the flu and had just gotten out of the hospital after suffering a knee injury. He was pale, sweaty and underweight. He refused television makeup and wore a light gray suit, subsequently blending into the background. Kennedy, on the other hand, was well-rested, wore a black suit, had a tan and appeared calm and confident. 

People who listened to the debate on the radio believed Nixon had won the debate, but the 74 million people who watched on television felt Kennedy came out on top. From that day on, Kennedy’s support grew and even though Nixon gained weight and performed better in the debates following, the damage was done. Many believe Nixon’s poor appearance left a bad impression and cost him the election. Realizing the impact the televised debates had, Nixon refused to debate on television when he ran against Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and when he ran for re-election in 1972. The next televised debate wouldn’t happen until 1976. 

The poor first impression Nixon gave to so many Americans almost cost him his career. While you aren't running for President of the United States (at least not in 2020), the lesson is still the same: first impressions matter—make yours count. 

Your Website: The Ultimate First Impression

When you meet someone in person, you have approximately seven seconds to make an impression—online, you have much less time. It takes literally (please pardon my millennial expression) milliseconds for a visitor to form an opinion about your website, but, the better the first impression, the longer they stay on the page. 

When people find a website, the first thing they look at is the design. In fact, 94 percent of website first impressions are design-based. While we know design is subjective, it’s easy to identify what generally makes a good or bad design. 

Websites with busy or complicated layouts, too much color, small or excessive text and poor navigation don’t perform well. In contrast, studies show websites with low visual complexity and high familiarity perform better than others. In other words, a website that is easy to navigate with a simple and recognizable layout will make the best first impression online. 

It’s also important to note what parts of a website people look at the most. Viewers generally tend to focus on the navigation bar, logos and icons, as well as photos and images. Make sure these elements are simple and easy to understand. Images should be striking and relevant to what you do. 

A good first impression means viewers will stay and actually read about your business. When content and design are equally strong, you’re more likely to gain your potential clients’ trust. That’s why it’s important to deliver the one-two punch: great design to draw visitors in, and thoughtful content to deliver your message to the people who need it most.

There are a lot of factors that result in a good website, but if your website has a poor design, it won’t make a good first impression online. For your website, a cluttered layout and images that lack interest can be as damning as Richard Nixon’s light gray suit. Unless you make sure your website fits general good design guidelines, you may find yourself losing potential clients and candidates the same way Nixon lost votes. First impressions matter, so make sure your website makes a good one. 

If you find your recruiting website isn’t making the first impression you’d like, Recruiters Websites is here to help. We specialize in developing beautiful websites that check all of the boxes for good design and make a great first impression. If you’re interested in putting your best digital foot forward, contact us today to see how we can help.

Cole Windler

Cole Windler is a copywriter and SEO expert. He uses his creative writing background to create fresh, compelling and customized content for Recruiters Websites clients.

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