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.