The other week, I wrote about the layers of user experience, and how each layer, however seemingly small, contributed towards a truly great overall user experience.
I've been watching the current series of BBC 2's "Masterchef: The Professionals" in which chefs are invited to compete for the largely-honorific title of Masterchef. In this particular variant, contestants - all professional chefs - are taken through a series of rounds where they are required to demonstrate their skills to the highest level.
Their judges include restaurant critics from some of Britain's best known newspapers, as well as Michel Roux Jr, of Le Gavroche in London. With 2 Michelin stars, Michel Jr clearly knows great food, as well as the importance of of the attention to details beyond the taste of the food itself.
On a number of occasions, Michel Jr has commented on the appearance of the contestants' food before he tasted it, saying that it was poorly prepared, or not well presented ("elegant" seems to be a word that comes up quite frequently). But when the food has delivered on taste, has been deep and full of flavour, he has responded positively. The taste has, in effect, compensated for the initial reaction generated by the appearance of the food on the plate.
The same is true of websites. Yes, first impressions are important. But sufficiently compelling content can win through, can override those first impressions. Users will look beyond your presentation if your content - or product or service - is compelling enough. But users have got to stick around long enough to realise how great your website is; they must stay beyond the first contact.
Masterchef's judges are committed to the programme; they will taste the food whatever their initial impressions of it. The users of your websites are not so committed; they are likely to be fleeting visitors. In order to ensure those visits convert to sales, to repeat customers, or whatever your website's strategy is, you need to ensure that their user experience is maximised on as many fronts as possible; give your users as smooth an experience as possible, little to complain about, few barriers to interacting with you through your website.
As the BBC's own style guide notes, there are many people that will be offended by poor presentation; there is no one that will be offended by good, correct presentation.
What is it about your content that is compelling enough that your users will forget their negative first impressions? How could you make your presentation better, more likely that users will stay beyond first contact to discover how great the content is? Share your thoughts in the comments.