We like to believe that we don’t judge books by their covers and that everyone should be allowed a second chance, but the truth is that when it comes to consumer behavior, nothing replaces the first impression. 

We all know that if a website is clunky and slow, people aren’t going to like it. But just having an updated, fast-loading website is not enough to increase your engagement. It reportedly takes only 0.05 seconds for users to form an opinion about your website. In the blink of an eye, they're deciding if your business is worth exploring further or whether to click away. To combat this, design your website to reflect your business’s entire brand and message at that fateful first glance. Here are some things to consider when giving your website a design overhaul and a few tips on where to start.

It’s All About Your Target Audience

Before you begin designing your website, logo, or any collateral, identify your target audience. If you mockup designs before clarifying who you’re trying reach, you risk accidentally alienating your entire client pool. For example, if you are targeting leaders and business professionals, you may use straight-edged shapes in your design, as they evoke strength and trustworthiness. If your company calls out to creatives, you may feature the color purple or orange in your logo, as they signify vitality, playfulness, and creativity. But a bright purple website with lots of rounded shapes and patterns might not appeal to a business person the same way it would an artist. It varies from brand to brand, but regardless of your business, all facets of your design strategy should be strategically directed at grabbing the attention of your target audience.

Defining Your Company Values

After defining your target audience, it’s important to clarify your company’s mission and vision. You may think you’re operating on the same general understanding of your company’s purpose, but getting the verbiage straight is a key step towards visualizing your design. Your mission and core value statements should inform your logo and web layout in order for you to quickly communicate your company to an audience. A “value” words-and-phrases brainstorm might help you to narrow down which colors, shapes, fonts, and images evoke those key terms.

What Are Your Competitors Doing?

 It’s not beneath you to spy on your competitors’ websites to better understand both prevailing design choices in your industry and how to differentiate your work. If all of your competitors are using custom photography on their websites in lieu of stock images or designs, you might consider the same. The key is to stay in the same overall tone while also featuring unique and memorable images, copy, or features.

Fitting in while standing out is a design challenge, no doubt.  Start with a concise site outline that you can then personalize and improve upon while still aligning with other competitive companies in your space.

Consistency is Key Across Platforms

Once you’ve created designs that you’re happy with and that represent your business, spread those design elements into all of your marketing collateral. Whether it’s proposal letters, newsletters, or web copy, it’s important to define your design style and stick to it. This means choosing primary and secondary color schemes and font lists and documenting when and where they should be used. Choose a design that varies appropriately across different mediums but is clearly part of an overarching theme. Unified design conveys harmony and professionalism, and stands a better chance of holding a client’s attention.

In a study done by Adobe in 2015, 38% of people stopped engaging with a website with unattractive content or layout. That’s 38% of people who could be potential customers but turn away due to poor website design. 

It’s also estimated that approximately 65% of the population are visual learners. Images and designs stick out to us and cause us to stop on a page or remember it and return. So as you build your online presence to bring in new leads, it’s more important than ever to ensure your design is optimized. Do competitor research, clarify your audience and brand vision, and overhaul your design to increase your website’s levels of engagement and effectiveness to boost your pipeline.