We’re all aware of the importance of first impressions because more than likely you’ve encountered someone who’s made a not-so-good first impression with you. Sometimes it’s as basic as a personality quirk or social awkwardness that leaves you wondering about your new acquaintance. They’re loud, they cuss in professional circles, or they might even be gossips with their foot in their mouth on a regular basis. Not a pretty sight or sound; a lot like television static or fingernails on a chalk board. Just plain annoying.
From personal experience, we can relate to the importance of first impressions especially when it comes to job interviews or first dates. Literally it is about impressing our potential employer or mate. We concern ourselves with how we dress, what we say, and sneak that breath mint before that very first encounter.
In business, we need to think about matters in exactly the same way. When a customer walks in, are they being served promptly? Is the restaurant clean and is the menu easy to locate?
But the question of first impressions should be considered with your corporate identity. Logos, business cards, and websites should accurately portray who you are and what you do. But it should also do it within the range of contemporary design techniques, not the dated tools that utilize clip art and crazy fonts.
1. Are you writing on your business card on a regular basis to add information that didn’t get printed? Stop! Business cards are cheap so re-order them. The business cards with all the scribbles scream “unprofessional” and “unorganized.” Don’t mess up a first impression smeared ink on an incomplete card.
2. The brochure you’re using has pixelated clip art and fonts that should be wiped from face of the planet. Don’t ever use Lucinda Handwriting, Monotype Coriva, or Comic Sans and expect to be taken seriously by anyone. In fact, you deserve to be charged double if you’re going to print materials with lousy graphics and cheezy fonts. Don’t do it! Choose clean fonts like Arial, Century Gothic, Tahoma, or Verdana. Don’t use more than 2 fonts in a document, and if you must use a script font, limit its use to the title or main section headings. Script fonts have the psychological intention of a graphic, so minimal use will deliver the message while not causing the entire document to be difficult to read. Bad impressions are made with poor layout choices, don’t mess up your professional image with a bad font choice.
3. Website navigation isn’t just about cool buttons that change colors, but about having information organized in such a way that it is easily located. That negates the need to say absolutely everything on the home page. As soon as you start thinking of ways to say everything on one page, you’ve eliminated the need for the rest of the website. Step away! You really don’t need to do that. One way to resolve the issue is to plan content to be “above the fold.” Printed newspapers may be losing an audience, but there is much to learn if we think about what one accomplishes–it communicates important information above the fold and below the title. It provides enough information to keep you reading and tells you where to go for the rest of what you’re looking for. Likewise, a website needs to have important information “above the fold.” If you expect your site visitors to scroll to find out what’s below the gigantic graphic on the home page or confuse them with an intro flash page where they can’t find the darn exit button, you’ve risked losing your audience. Keep the information where it can be seen immediately, don’t make them look for it.
Don’t make your first impression your last opportunity. Your communications are the primary tool for lasting success in whatever sphere you’re in. But sometimes its more than what you say, but how you say it. Make sure your business card, promo materials, website, and everything other tool you use communicates your message well. Don’t be reduced to television static because your materials are unbearable to look at.