Website First Impressions: 2 Questions to Answer in Half a Second

In less than half a second, your website can form a lasting impression to a visitor. They can choose to remain on your site or click that big “Back” button on their web browser. In today’s blog, I would like to share with you two of the most important things that visitors want to know about a site when they first arrive and a few tips on how to answer those questions quickly.

“Where Am I?”

The first question a visitor asks is fairly simple and often may seem a bit “dumb”. The first question is “Where Am I?” You as a web master should make it easy for visitors to see whose site they are on and how to maneuver around the site.

First, it is always a good rule of thumb to include your organization’s name and logo at the top of the page, on every page in your site. It will be the first thing that visitors will see, so they know whose site they are on. From a marketing standpoint, it embeds your name and logo into their brain so that they will remember who you are. From a design standpoint, it will keep your site uniform, so visitors know that they haven’t left your site.

As a rule of thumb, I recommend that you do not use Flash or a splash page. These kind of features are neat and impressive, if done correctly, but can slow down the load time of a website. Also, try to keep any logo images small enough so it does not slow those visitors that maybe on a dial-up connection. You have to remember that first impressions happen very quickly, so a fast load time is crucial!

Secondly, you’ll want your links to other pages on your site to be near the top of the page. These links should be uniform across the site so that each portion of your site can be reached by one click of the mouse button.

If you have several pages on your site, you may consider using two menus to navigate. The first should point to the main areas of you site and appear on every page. The second can appear when accessing the main area of the site to show other pages within that same area. If you visit the OurChurch.Com page (http://www.ourchurch.com), you’ll notice that when you click on certain menu items, such as “Web Hosting Services”, “Custom web Design”, and “Website Marketing”, another menu appears below that menu item. Sub-menus are very helpful and, when done correctly, can impress visitors enough to stay on the site to check out the rest of it.

These two things can easily answer the question, “Where Am I?”

“What Does This Site Do?”

This question is another that may seem obvious, but several sites tend not to answer it. Within this question may hide other questions, such as “What does this organization offer?” or “Where is the information I was looking for?” Here are a couple of different ways to answer.

Other than your company name and logo, you might include a short slogan or tag line that explains what type of service, product, or ministry your organization offers. This can quickly tell visitors that they are on the right track to answer any questions they have. This slogan can change from page to page depending on what that portion of your site is about. For example, OurChurch.com has several areas of service. Our main areas are web hosting, web marketing, online advertising, and (most importantly) web design. If you visited our main web hosting page (http://www.ourchurch.com/hosting), you will notice a graphic at the top of the page that says, “Website Hosting from OurChurch.Com”. Each link you click on within the “Web Hosting Services” menu will have the same slogan at the top of their page. If you visit the main web design page (http://www.ourchurch.com/design), each page will say “Custom Web Design from OurChurch.Com”. These tell the visitor in that they are in the right department.

A great addition to the content of your site is the use of header codes (,, etc.) Adding these will separate your content into smaller sections so the visitor can quickly find what he/she was looking for. Nowadays, people want information as fast as they can think of it. If they see a page full of text, they will likely tell themselves that they do not have the time to read through everything. Instead, separate your content by using headers that explain certain subjects within your content. You can even bold certain phrases or colorize your text to highlight the main points on your page: anything to emphasize your message and make things easy to find!

You need to remember that first impressions happen only once and they happen fast. Try to apply some of these principles to ensure that your first impression will be a good one.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s blog articles on web design. Please post any comments or feedback below. And don’t forget to vote on Blogs4God and Gospel Shout.

Mike joined OurChurch.com as Web Designer/Developer in September, 2006. Born and raised in Houston, TX, he is now married and has 3 adorable children. In his spare time he enjoys playing piano/keys and singing throughout the local area as well as at church. You may also see him acting in church dramas as well as a local Improv Comedy Troupe!

7 Responses to “Website First Impressions: 2 Questions to Answer in Half a Second”

  1. THANKS I APPRECIATE WHAT YOU ARE DOING GOD BLESS YOU REAL GOOD.

  2. Bless you! Great ideas! We just made our main headings in our navigation menu “BOLD,” and we added our logo to all our main heading pages. We like it!

    Mike, you are so right in this following quote. We still have a dial-up connection, and are fairly patient, but will not wait even several minutes for a page to load. Then, if it has lots of flashing, jumping, moving items, unless we are highly interested we may not stay-too confusing.

    Quote: “As a rule of thumb, I recommend that you do not use Flash or a splash page. These kind of features are neat and impressive, if done correctly, but can slow down the load time of a website. Also, try to keep any logo images small enough so it does not slow those visitors that maybe on a dial-up connection. You have to remember that first impressions happen very quickly, so a fast load time is crucial!”

    We’ve testified previously that we used OCC 12 Steps to a Successful Website and we highly recommend working through them. HarvestMinistry.us is, we think, very attractive and user-friendly; people stay and read what God has shown us and what He has said to us, by His grace.

  3. You are so right, Mike!

    Sometimes, I arrive at sites not knowing what to expect and when I leave, I still don’t know what I was supposed to expect! To use your words, I leave without having learned where I was or what that site could do.

    That’s one of my biggest pet peeves: how rarely websites tell what they do. My second pet peeve is not being able to find where they are or any way to contact them so that I CAN learn more! When I do find anything, it is usually only an email address and it’s justy not worth the time to write them and wait around for a response so I just go quietly away.

    If I can add one more suggestion for websites, it is to think about what to put in the title bar. Some sites forget to change it and/or keep all pages the same. Others only use their meta tags. What they don’t think of is that when people choose to bookmark their page, the title bar’s verbiage is what is saved and all that will remind them of where they were before and want to go back to. Most web surfers don’t know how to change it or even that it can be changed so web designers should be sure that it doesn’t just say, “Welcome!” or “About Us” or even worse, “Index”! Eeek!

    I enjoy your blogs and appreciate the chance to give you feedback, too! I only have a free website with the accompanying restrictions right now. My target audience is new and inexperienced computer users. I’m mostly a wanna-be web designer who can’t figure out what software she wants to use and therefore, which online class to take.

    The ourchurch.com website I created was for a little church in my town that doesn’t even have a regular phone number. I had such a hard time finding them and even though I don’t attend there, I decided to create a page for them. They are a good church with nice people and I wanted to help others who, like myself, might try to find them online. In order to create their site, I used the information from their Sunday bulletin and visitors packet.

  4. Good to see great minds think alike.

    I wrote a 2-part on this very topic back in 2002 and ‘Where Am I’ and ‘What does this site do’ definately on my list.

    Of course while I’m glad to see I’m in good company, I’m sad to see that 5 years later, the Church online still hasn’t fully realized the message.

  5. I visit many sites and I offer advise on site design at some forums. The one biggest mistake web designers (DIY’ers) make is not telling what their site does on the home page. Its got to easy to see and easy to understand. Often much work goes into flash pages, audio, and other candy, but not much effort into a purpose statement, content, and logo.

  6. Linda Hillman Aug 20, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Hi. I found you today doing a google search for “christian internet business blogs”. Your site is wonderful. I am presently taking a course in e-commerce and even though the information is extensive I found your information on websites designs easier to understand and it cleared up some confusion.
    Thank you so much!
    May the Lord bless you and keep you and may HIS countanance shine upon you>

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  1. www.gospelshout.com - Jul 26, 2007

    » Website First Impressions: 2 Questions to Answer in Half a Second

    In less than half a second, your website can form a lasting impression to a visitor. They can choose to remain on your site or click that big “Back” button on their web browser. In today’s blog, I would like to share with you two of the most impo…