UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 35 February 17, 2006

All First Impressions Count

The always great 37Signals Blog points to an interview with John Gruber. In it, Mr. Gruber mentions the importance that Apple’s Steve Jobs places on the first start up experience a user has with their operating system.

While the entire interview is a must-read, this struck me in particular: your first-run experience: the experience you encounter the first time you boot the machine after taking it out of the box – therefore constitutes about one – thousandth of your entire experience with the machine. I think that’s the sort of logic that has driven most companies not to put that much effort into designing the first-run UI – it’s only going to happen once, and if it isn’t smooth, so what? Whereas I think Jobs looks at the first-run experience and thinks, it may only be one – thousandth of a user’s overall experience with the machine, but it’s the most important one-thousandth, because it’s the first one-thousandth, and it sets their expectations and initial impression.

Exactly! It is also exactly true for:

  • The way your company answers the phone (If they actually answer it)
  • The way your invoices look
  • The quality of your business card
  • The way you (and your team) dress when visiting a client or prospect
  • The first impression of your web site
  • Your office reception area
  • The presentation of your proposal
  • Etc, etc, etc….

Like it or not, fair or not, correct or not… All first impressions matter. You make them about everything and so do your clients and prospects. target="_blank"Malcolm Gladwell sold boatloads of books trying to convince you of it.

Simple? Obvious? If so, why do so many first impressions remain extraordinarily poor.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

User Profile

Howard Mann is the founder of Brickyard Partners, a business strategy agency based in Portland, OR. Prior to founding Brickyard Partners in 2001, Mann owned a premier international logistics company with over 140 Million in revenue, six U.S. offices and a global network of over 40 agents worldwide.

As that business came under severe pressure from the previous economic downturn and industry consolidation, Howard lead the company out from those treacherous times by returning to the basics that make every business great and completing 6 acquisitions that re-imagined the business so it was highly attractive to buyers. Finding that “secret sauce” did not come easily but has fueled his purpose to help other business leaders to never have to go through what he endured. 

Through real world experience and those hard times in the “trenches” of business he has learned that it is not following the latest fad, copying competitors or adding complexity that makes a business truly great. His pragmatic approach and knowing what it feels like to sit in the CEO/Owner chair is what makes his work so different and effective.

In addition to his strategy, marketing and communications work, Mann coaches a select group of entrepreneurs, CEO's and business owners. His highly focused workshops and keynotes help executive teams take aggressive action to unlock the true potential of their organizations and build remarkable businesses that endure. In good times and bad. Online and off.

Howard is a sought after speaker both in the U.S. and around the world. He writes frequently on his blog about the importance of the basics and reconnecting to the passion that too often gets lost as businesses mature.

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Comments

20
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18
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Very true. Moving forward with this arguement, another advantage of a consistent first impression on all fronts is incresed business profitability.

Through making the maximum possible first impression, especially for new clients you (very quickly) increase client confidence and respect.

If a client is confident in your skills and abilities, they place both trust and weight on what you say; Likewise when a client respects you, your business is seen a organized and professional – allowing their eyes not to bulge to much when you present your budget.

17
18

I have a client that is just starting up and she doesn’t know if it will work so is not investing much on her visual image (ID, brochures, website etc). She called it “just testing the waters”.
It is obvious that her business is going to have to work a lot harder at keeping their customers if they miss that profitable, positive first impression. Understandably this first impression will cost money but 1. it doesn’t have to cost the earth and will be a lot better than doing yourself in a text editor, 2. should have been budgeted for in the first place if you’re going into business – you don’t rock up to a meeting dressed in a tracksuit cause a suit was too expensive!

19
17

well, isome my clients just think that way: we must have a site, but we dont want to invest as we owunt have any profit from it. and if i say that web site alone wont make anything and must be developed constantly they say: its not nessesary for us now, we just need a simple website. the same with illustrations. they dont accept many saying that its not like others (companys) style.

one methom works well: if client says i want site pf that style i do everything my way. and when client sees how can the same idea may be expressed thay try to understand the meaning of impressio (as they are impresed theirselves).

and this article is exelent, like it.

18
21

Other impressions are important, too. Such as situations in which one focuses on something that’s supposed to be especially important, or situations where one focuses on the shabby quality that seems to proliferate with others. In a way, such situations are an awful lot like first impressions, because they highlight the same kinds of things one notices in a first impression. This short essay, fits into both of these other two categories where impressions are just as important as first impressions. Which is why I have to wonder, why does the last sentence end with a full stop, rather than a question mark?

20
21

Until very recently, I used to work for clients. Now I’m designing for my own startup Cleartrip.

The end customer’s first impression is incredibly critical. And, to this day, I cannot understand why so many web sites are not concerned about the first impression that they create.

Maybe a lot of web sites here in India are still merely wrappers for offline brands or service delivery components, which are primarily online.

Hopefully this step-motherly treatment of web sites will go away.

What’s also interesting is how few web sites actually, really, differentiate their entry points for a first-time visitor in a MEANINGFUL way. Steve Jobs has it right—it’s the most important experience.

So, what are some of the ways in which a web site designer should think about his first-run experience?

That’s the interesting question.

21
15

I don’t know how many shops I have walked into and walked right back out because it was dirty inside. How many restaurants I have walked into and out quickly because of the bad hostess. How man webhosting company websites I have been in and out of because there template is awful.

Just goes to show, that first-impressions really do matter.

18
20

This is so true. First impressions do count and Steve Jobs has is right. This couldnt ring more true to websites and also the first time a customer calls your company’s office phone.

I recently wrote an article entitled Your Beta Better Be Brilliant on my blog and it relates to these new web2.0 companies creating betas of their software when it really isnt ready for people to be looking at it.

I honestly think first impressions should amaze otherwise forget even bothering.

Good article.

22
20

Although many companies don’t focuse on it many only do focus on the first impression without being able to keep it up. What happens if your first impression is SO great and then you are let down…

I think first impression has to remain honest and constant.

17
19

Although many companies don’t focuse on it many only do focus on the first impression without being able to keep it up. What happens if your first impression is SO great and then you are let down…

I think first impression has to remain honest and constant.

19
21

This is so true. First impressions do count and Steve Jobs has is right. This couldnt ring more true to websites and also the first time a customer calls your company’s office phone.

I recently wrote an article entitled Your Beta Better Be Brilliant on my blog and it relates to these new web2.0 companies creating betas of their software when it really isnt ready for people to be looking at it.

I honestly think first impressions should amaze otherwise forget even bothering.

Good article.

18
19

I don’t know how many shops I have walked into and walked right back out because it was dirty inside. How many restaurants I have walked into and out quickly because of the bad hostess. How man webhosting company websites I have been in and out of because there template is awful.

Just goes to show, that first-impressions really do matter.

20
18

Until very recently, I used to work for clients. Now I’m designing for my own startup Cleartrip.

The end customer’s first impression is incredibly critical. And, to this day, I cannot understand why so many web sites are not concerned about the first impression that they create.

Maybe a lot of web sites here in India are still merely wrappers for offline brands or service delivery components, which are primarily online.

Hopefully this step-motherly treatment of web sites will go away.

What’s also interesting is how few web sites actually, really, differentiate their entry points for a first-time visitor in a MEANINGFUL way. Steve Jobs has it right—it’s the most important experience.

So, what are some of the ways in which a web site designer should think about his first-run experience?

That’s the interesting question.

16
19

Other impressions are important, too. Such as situations in which one focuses on something that’s supposed to be especially important, or situations where one focuses on the shabby quality that seems to proliferate with others. In a way, such situations are an awful lot like first impressions, because they highlight the same kinds of things one notices in a first impression. This short essay, fits into both of these other two categories where impressions are just as important as first impressions. Which is why I have to wonder, why does the last sentence end with a full stop, rather than a question mark?

21
18

well, isome my clients just think that way: we must have a site, but we dont want to invest as we owunt have any profit from it. and if i say that web site alone wont make anything and must be developed constantly they say: its not nessesary for us now, we just need a simple website. the same with illustrations. they dont accept many saying that its not like others (companys) style.

one methom works well: if client says i want site pf that style i do everything my way. and when client sees how can the same idea may be expressed thay try to understand the meaning of impressio (as they are impresed theirselves).

and this article is exelent, like it.

22
19

I have a client that is just starting up and she doesn’t know if it will work so is not investing much on her visual image (ID, brochures, website etc). She called it “just testing the waters”.
It is obvious that her business is going to have to work a lot harder at keeping their customers if they miss that profitable, positive first impression. Understandably this first impression will cost money but 1. it doesn’t have to cost the earth and will be a lot better than doing yourself in a text editor, 2. should have been budgeted for in the first place if you’re going into business – you don’t rock up to a meeting dressed in a tracksuit cause a suit was too expensive!

15
18

Very true. Moving forward with this arguement, another advantage of a consistent first impression on all fronts is incresed business profitability.

Through making the maximum possible first impression, especially for new clients you (very quickly) increase client confidence and respect.

If a client is confident in your skills and abilities, they place both trust and weight on what you say; Likewise when a client respects you, your business is seen a organized and professional – allowing their eyes not to bulge to much when you present your budget.