Many service businesses traditionally generate much of their business from referrals, word of mouth and offline activities. However, there is a growing shift towards digital, notably accelerated during the pandemic.
With more and more searches for service providers conducted online, potential clients are sure to visit your website during their decision-making process. So let’s look at how you can make a great first impression.
Jakub is a full-stack developer with nearly a decade of experience in designing and building web assets. With a good understanding of the marketing landscape in addition to his development skills, Jakub helps our clients grow their businesses online.
Regardless of whether your prospects find you by searching for a service, searching for your name, or accessing your website directly by typing in your domain name, what comes next matters a lot.
A 2011 study found users form an opinion about your website within 50ms (check it out). In other words, your website has just a fraction of a second after the page loads before a user decides if they trust and like your site, and whether they want to continue browsing. This is no different to how we behave face to face either, humans can form first impressions of new people in 1/10th of a second.
The digital equivalent of a first impression is the above the fold section of your website. Everything in this section is immediately visible to the user, and it’s therefore what the visitor will use to form an opinion. In this post, we offer three practical tips to improve your website’s first impression, helping you to:
Retain and engage more visitors
Increase conversion rate
What does “above the fold” mean?
Historically, above the fold was the most crucial part of a newspaper, the one you’d see in newsstands. It was just above where the newspaper literally folded in half, and so the phrase “above the fold” was coined. Lead stories and headlines placed above the fold intended to attract passersby, and they featured top stories and attention-grabbing titles to draw the reader.
The move to digital brought a new definition to the phrase. We use it today when referring to the part of a website that visitors first see after it loads on their screen. Just like newspapers, a well written, nicely designed section above the fold attracts user attention. Do it poorly though, and they’re off to the next website instead (i.e. your competitor).
So, all we need is a punchy title to grab the reader’s attention?
This is where websites are a little different.
Newspapers are generally trusted sources of information. A user coming to your website for the first time has no idea if they can trust what you say.
Plus, with a newspaper, readers didn’t have to wait for the content to load – it was just there! Now, the speed and performance of your website are just as crucial as picking an enticing headline and presenting it in a user-friendly, beautiful design.
And finally, newspapers report the news. Their aim is to educate and inform. A website’s purpose, generally speaking, is different. It aims to persuade the user to perform an action, like buying a product, submitting an enquiry, or subscribing to a service).
If you’re looking to strike a good first impression, you need to consider all of this.
And with that in mind, here are our three tips…
Combine what you do and why the client should care into a strong primary message
Your visitor first and foremost cares about why they are on your website. Firstly, ask yourself why someone seeks your services. What are they thinking and how are they feeling? The best above-the-fold content connects what you offer with what the visitor seeks – helping to reassure the user they’re in the right place.
We’ll use the legal industry as an example. We’ve worked with several law firms, and it’s common to see messaging along these lines:
We’re an award-winning international law firm
Great, but can you help me?
It’s not clear what the firm does or who it works with. Consider how much more informative and appealing this is:
Clients rest assured with the expert representation of our world-class family law solicitors.
It’s an easier task for specialised law firms as you can likely pinpoint how your potential client feels. For firms that offer a more comprehensive range of services, this may be harder to get right on your home page.
In cases where you can’t appeal to all visitors with a single, concise service focussed message, look at the shared benefits or value your company offers instead. There are things that everyone wants, like peace of mind, reassurance, confidence, and success.
“Specialist Intellectual Property Lawyers
No suits and ties. No stuffy corporate vibe.
Just exceptional service from the leading intellectual property lawyers in the UK to protect and enforce your IP rights.“
Briffa speaks directly to their typical client, and they connect through a shared understanding of the type of legal support they need, the type of people they like to work with and finish up with a clear value proposition (protect and enforce your IP rights.).
Using the right tone and language for your business is crucial, Briffa has done this exceptionally well. Good work, Briffa!
Reviews and testimonials speak a thousand words
Okay, I read your headline and now know you offer the services I need. Next, I want to make sure I can trust you. That is where social validation comes in, and there is no better way than showing off your reviews and accreditations. Ideally, in the form of a rating alongside the total number of reviews, this conveys that you’re good and experienced.
Quotes from your clients work well, too, but we suggest using reviews first because you can present the information in a very concise and visual way. A testimonial will either take up too much real estate above the fold, or not be descriptive enough to outweigh the power of reviews.
You can include customer quotes further down the page, in a panel where you can use a slightly longer copy to showcase your client’s positive feedback without worrying how much space it takes up.
Another positive indicator is using a third party, a neutral platform such as Trustpilot. Visitors associate these platforms with more honest feedback from genuine clients than a ‘self-made’ approach. Whether you use Google Reviews, Trustpilot or another provider, using their logo and brand transfers a few positive points over your brand by association.
Tell me what you want me to do next
Great work! Your visitors feel reassured you can help them and that they can likely trust you; this is no small feat. The next step to the perfect above the fold structure is a well thought out “call to action”. A call to action encourages a user to perform a desired action on the site, but try to offer a couple of options as not everyone may wish to enquire right away.
Of course though, your primary call to action should be a variation of ‘Enquire/Order/Subscribe’. Ultimately, generating leads or sales is the whole point of your website.
But offering a secondary call to action offers an alternative path for the visitor. A primary-secondary duo can work great together, clearly pushing one action while providing a fallback for a part of your audience that’d like to learn more.
The secondary call to action could be a link to your about page, case studies or list of services. It could even be a free trial, demo or, video. If you’re stuck for ideas, take a look at how visitors use your website and link to the area they most often navigate to from your homepage. You can use a tool like Hotjar or Clarity to record user sessions and see how you can improve their experience. A link to your services page is a good starting point when in doubt.
By the way, this approach can be applied across the whole website and not just the homepage. Each panel of content across your site can be viewed as a short story that must end with a decision – to either continue exploring or get in touch.
For example, let’s say you have a panel with a testimonial. To some users, a single testimonial will be enough to persuade them of your credentials and they now may be ready to enquire. Others may want to read a few more testimonials first, just to make sure. So what should be at the end of this panel? That’s right, two options: “Get in touch” and “View all reviews”.
In the end, delivering a great above-the-fold experience and generating positive first impressions of your business isn’t hard. It just requires a little careful planning. You have a limited amount of space to play with, and you need to consider exactly what message you’ll deliver, how you’ll convince users to trust you, and push the reader towards the next step of their journey. The three tips above are a good starting point, but they’re not a complete list.
Our team provides conversion-focused web design for SMEs across the UK. If you’re looking for further support, we’d love to discuss your website together and offer some advice. Don’t hesitate to get in touch and see how we can help.
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