When I was young, I had a love/hate relationship with going to work with my dad. I loved the idea of going to work, spending quality time with my father, and of course, the soda and snacks from the break room. What I didn’t like so much was walking around the office and having to talk to everyone. Of the many lessons that he has taught me time and time again, there are 3 that always stick out:
- Always tuck in your shirt.
- When meeting someone for the first time, always look them in the eyes and give a firm handshake.
- When you speak to people, always be confident and engaging.
Sound simple? Well, that’s because it is, and looking back now, there are a lot of ways that these same “guidelines” can and should be used for your website.
Tuck in your shirt
Honestly, I didn’t understand this one at first and always disliked it, at the age of six, I wanted to take off my shirt rather than tuck it into my pants, but this was the easiest and most important step of all. It showed that I was in control of the way I looked and respected myself. To my dad, presenting yourself in a positive manner showed that discipline and details were important.
The same goes for your website. You are in control of how your website looks, and having a site that is sloppy of unkempt gives the viewer the same feeling about your organization. How does your website reflect your company? Does it give off the look and feeling that you are going for? Does it give a strong idea of the quality of the work or services that you provide?
Look the person in the eye, give them firm hand shake and friendly greeting
It was important to my dad that when he introduced me to someone, I knew how to handle myself. I was to look them in the eye and greet them with a firm handshake, letting them know it was nice to meet them. Being shy and hiding behind him, as I always wanted to do, was not an option. He taught me to be assertive and make the best of these introductions.
From a web perspective, this can be compared to the time after the visitor has passed judgment on the look and feel of your site, and they are now measuring up the entire website. Relevancy for web users can take many different forms, but the main idea is that when they visit your site, they are provided with relevant material and calls to action for why they are there in the first place. The content on your homepage will determine how the rest of “conversation” will go. Does your website greet and engage your visitors, showing them that your company is happy they are on your site and they are in the right place to find what they need?
Speak to the person and be confident and engaging
Now comes the hard part, and my dad never let me off the hook on this one. “Can’t I just say hi and then move on to the next person?” I would plea to him. Not a chance. I wasn’t going to get away with looking down at my shuffling feet, mumbling simple yes or no answers, either. When talking to someone, I was to look at them and be engaged.
Websites have the unique advantage that the user views your site for a specific reason, whether though a search or directly typing in the URL, so all you need to do is “speak” to their needs to keep them engaged. This is done through the content of the site, and a well-designed website gives you the ability to engage all types of visitors and steer the “conversation”. Don’t make the common mistake of dumping tons of information on the viewer, hoping that they find something they like. Instead, address your targets and strategize your content placement to be what they want. Just like talking to someone, there is a clear difference between a meaningful exchange and just going through the motions.
I have learned and continue to learn lessons from my dad, but knowing that I’m in control of how others view me and that first impressions last translate in many areas of my life, including a career in website design.
“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
-- Will Rogers