Online visitors form a first impression of a website quicker than the blink of an eye -- literally. It typically takes humans 300 to 400 milliseconds to blink. Meanwhile, scientific research led by Dr. Gitte Lindgaard at Carleton University in Ontario reveals websites have as little as 50 milliseconds to establish a first impression -- a mere 1/20th of a second. That’s it!

This is crucial information for any business because once a visitor forms an impression on a subconscious level, he or she will selectively search for information confirming that impression. People do this because we all want to prove we have good judgement. So, if our first impression of a website is negative, we have a tendency to mainly seek and see the negatives, regardless how good a business’ products and services might actually be. Alternatively, if we immediately like what we see, we’ll look for positive information to reinforce that impression.

So how do you avoid making a bad first impression on the Web? Easy. Get a good designer.

Poor Design Sets the Stage For Failure

DIY website design might seem like a good idea at the get-go. Not only can you avoid spending wads of money on eccentric creative types, but only you know how you really want your business branded. No one loves your business like you do! Plus, throwing together a layout with some colours, images and buttons while sipping on a Caramel Macchiato on a spare Sunday afternoon would be easy, right?

Wrong. Based on 20-plus years of communications experience, speaking at Web-related events, and teaching web writing courses to small business owners, our copywriters have come to recognize a common cycle:

  1. The do-it-yourselfer spends several hours to a few weeks building a website.
  2. The website is launched.
  3. The website is live, but there are few visitors that trickle in, if any at all. The few who arrive don’t stick around.
  4. Typically, 12 to 24 months later, if they’re still in business, they reach out to specialists to improve their SEO. If they get rankings, they wonder why the emails and calls still aren’t arriving.
  5. Another six to 12 months later, they start to realize the website isn’t working, and it’s not going to fix itself. Then comes the sobering realization that in addition to wasting a few hundred dollars and countless hours, and enduring unnecessary stress, they missed out on about three years of opportunities, revenues and growth.

Looking at the ROI

Before making the decision to do things on the cheap or go the do-it-yourself route, it’s important to consider the bottom line. Let’s say a professional website costs Dean the Mover $7,500. That’s a lot of pocket change. But, if it generates just four sales a month at an average of $300 a pop, that’s $14,400 worth of business in the first year alone.

Those are conservative numbers, but regardless, the site’s paid for in about six months. And the business can continue to benefit from the website with minimum costs for several years. That’s an outstanding marketing investment and ROI. Our copywriting firm has teamed up with designers to create websites that paid for themselves in as little as three months.

Learning Opportunities

So, while many business owners view design as a fluffy, abstract, let’s-play-with-colours-and-move-the-logo-around activity, they’re missing the point. Design is not art that merely exists. Design serves a specific purpose, forming a connection and relationship, as award-winning designer Gonzalo Alatorre says, “between object, business, and consumer.” A good designer can solve complex problems and create a wealth of opportunities with direct, measurable impact on a business’ bottom line.

Meanwhile, a $500 website that doesn’t generate business and merely shows up on sites like will only hurt a brand and business.

Good Design Gains Importance With Information Overload

More than 75% of North Americans are using the Internet, and more consumers are seeking products and services, and spending more money online. As a result, businesses are swiftly transferring their marketing dollars online, and delivering more content to consumers at an explosive, unprecedented rate. As people are bombarded with information overload, and have limited time to observe, orient, decide and act, they may increasingly rely on instinct and intuition.

Living in a world where we assume the quality of a decision has direct relation to the time and effort that went into making it, it can be difficult to trust our primitive ‘gut feelings’. But consider the fact that we don’t need to understand mass x velocity to leap out of the way of an oncoming car. It just “feels right” and ultimately results in a decision with an optimal outcome. The old adage that you should always trust your instincts is supported by scientific studies.