Just about every business or organisation has a web presence nowadays. That’s an awful lot of websites. Each site exists solely in order to inform existing and prospective customers about a particular product or service and to achieve the holy grail of making a sale.
Most business owners and managers understand that the website is a shop front, but far too few really understand how quickly you need to make an impact upon the visitor before he or she goes clicking away to your competitors. The unpalatable truth is that you probably have between ten and twenty seconds to lure the visitor in. If your visitor has not been hooked within those first crucial seconds then, you have almost certainly lost them, possibly forever.
First Impressions Count
We humans are impulsive creatures, driven by primitive urges and emotions that we are often not even aware of. We make snap judgements about people, places and products based on first impressions, and these impressions – good or bad – can be hard to alter.
We may dislike someone at first sight based on their physical appearance or form judgements based on the clothes they wear and the accessories they have. Within a few minutes, we may have begun to alter our opinions, but if we had walked away as soon as our opinion had begun to form, then we would have missed out on finding out more about the person and overturning our original point of view.
Similarly, if we walk into a shop and decide that the goods on display are not to our liking, there is still the possibility that an item might catch our eye as we leave, drawing us back into the store to spend some of our precious cash.
In the world of virtual reality, there are no second chances. A negative opinion leads to the visitor leaving your website, with no second chances to catch the eye or win the potential customer over.
Why Fonts and Colours Matter
The first thing your visitor sees when he or she clicks onto your site is the colour scheme. Psychologists have long been aware of the power of colours and the hold they have on us. Think of our reaction to red as a universal sign of danger, yellow as a cautionary warning and green as a go-ahead colour. These colours have found their way into our traffic light system and into road signs and public information signage.
Pink is associated with girls, whilst blue is traditionally used as a colour for baby boys. We identify a particular shade of purple with a well-known chocolate manufacturer, while the popular red and white colours and logo of a fizzy drink are known throughout the world.
So colours can have a profound effect on our mood. This can be an important point to consider, depending on the product or service you are hoping to sell. A dynamic and forward-thinking company selling cutting-edge products is unlikely to tempt prospective purchasers in with soothing, dreamy colours, for example. Equally, a holistic spa or treatment centre would be sending out very mixed messages by incorporating a lot of black, white and silver into the design of the website.
Obviously, you will be keen to incorporate your company’s existing colour scheme and branding into your website, but this is probably a good time to call in a professional web design team for an unbiased view on how this will translate into digital media. Colours on a screen are more vibrant than those on the printed page, and this needs to be taken into consideration when planning a website. It may even be an appropriate time to consider a complete rebranding of your company in order to tie in printed and digital elements.
You should also consider the way that text will appear against your background colour. Being creative is all very well, but some colours work better than others when it comes to text. Black text against a yellow background is uncomfortable for the eyes after a while, and text and background colours that are too similar may look arty but could have visitors giving up within those first vital seconds. Readability is of prime importance when it comes to your content.
Fonts also have a profound impact upon us, although most of us are completely unaware of their impact. Generally fonts can be divided into two main types: sans-serif and serif. Serif fonts have traditionally been used for printed material such as books. With their tiny embellishments at the top and bottom of letters, they convey a sense of intellectualism, intelligence and trustworthiness, and are particularly easy to read. Serif fonts are always a good idea where material is required to be printed or copied and pasted.
Sans-serif fonts lack the little embellishments of serifs and convey a more modern and technical air. Although they can be easier to read on the computer screen, they lack the finesse of serif fonts when printed.
Within these main divisions there are literally hundreds of font styles, each conveying a slightly different message. In recent years there has been a huge online movement to ban the popular Comic Sans Serif font, which was devised by a Microsoft engineer to mimic the style of comic books. It’s widely considered to be a childlike and lightweight style of font, and there has been uproar over its use in government pamphlets and other ‘serious’ applications.
The message is clear for website owners: make sure that your site captures the imagination of visitors from the second that they arrive. Appealing and appropriate colour schemes set the mood and need to be backed up by clear, easily distinguishable content in a font that is easy to read.
For more on the psychology of colour please click the link.