Ever notice that in some friendships, when you really get to know someone, you tend to stop paying attention to or caring about those minor outward traits like what they are wearing or how they styled their hair? When you might have seen someone who was “sloppy” or “nerdy” or “loose,” or even “polished” or “trendy” or “classy” – all you now see and care about is that they are a real person to you, your friend.
In my own friendships, I try to get there are quickly as I can, to dig beneath the surface, asking good questions to really get to know them. And I try to discard all the properness or formality to visits or dinners, in order to diminish any friction that would keep us from just being able to get together at a moment’s notice.
It’s interesting that I have a similar attitude online. I know that people tend to show their “good side” online as much as they can – because they can, and because in many ways if they are in business, they should. But I also really try to get to know the person behind the brand, the story that explains the reasons why, the words that others share about the difference they’ve made. I appreciate sites that make it easy for me to do that.
And so in creating website systems for others, that’s how I try to steer people as well. Be real. Be clear. Make a great first impression. But know that you are in it for the long haul.
People tend to be aware of a lot more in the very beginning, just like they are in person – what you are wearing and how you stand, speak, smile, make eye contact, use gestures, listen, or care. It’s usually subconscious, but they make judgments based on those inputs and make a decision if they want to get to know you more.
So online, you also want to make sure the first impression “hooks” someone well. Make it aesthetically appealing. Make it easy for visitors to know who you are and what you do. Make it simple and easy to navigate. Don’t let ads or pop-ups distract and make it harder to find what visitors are looking for.
But after those first impressions, the outward design really won’t matter much anymore. They will keep reading your articles that look similar to most other emails in their inbox. But they will open and read because your content has become important to them. It’s what you believe and say that matters most – not necessarily how it looks. Sure, you might surprise them one day with a “new outfit” or “great news,” but mostly they will stay engaged because you connected in a way that was real and meaningful to them, and they care enough about you or your content to keep the relationship going.