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Harness the Halo Effect Before It Kills Your Website

By Erin  |  August 26, 2015  |   Business Website Tips | Website Improvement

Business Man with Halo in Shadow

The Halo Effect

If you’ve never heard of the Halo Effect, you’re not alone.

It’s simple though: it’s a catchy term for the very human tendency to judge a book by its cover.

Quick to judge

All day every day we use single characteristics to make judgments and assumptions.

He was incredibly grumpy and so curt to me—he’s obviously a miserable person.

He’s driving 95mph in the slow lane—what an asshole.

What a strong handshake! He’s obviously a confident business owner.

WOW! The lobby of this hotel is so impressive—this is going to be a spectacular stay.

These examples show how the Halo Effect can guide us without our knowledge.

The Halo Effect is literally why first impressions matter so much, regardless of whether we’re evaluating people, experiences, or things.

Why in the world do we do this?

In a word?—Survival.

The Halo Effect allows us to draw quick, “definitive” conclusions about our surroundings. These conclusions, be they positive or negative, enable us to make “informed” decisions rapidly.

Humans have always benefited from the Halo Effect. The ability to rapidly recognize and categorize someone as a threat, mate, skilled hunter, etc. increased the likelihood of our ancestors’ survival. 

Today, thanks to the Halo Effect, we’re compelled to cross the street when we see a lurching, staggering figure headed toward us on a dark street.  It allows us to quickly trust and help the woman dressed like a paramedic when we’re confused and scared at the scene of an accident.

It’s wired into our brains and likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

Your website and the Halo Effect

The Halo Effect explains why first impressions of your company’s website matter. You get it now.

But what can you do about it?

This is where it gets tricky.

Your team can review your company’s website, and attempt to imagine what prospective customers’ first impressions might be.  The thing is, it’s well known that looking at your own website objectively is exceedingly difficult. (So much so that I’ve given entire talks to wide-eyed, surprised organizations on this topic.)

So really, what can you do about it?

If you have an Ecommerce site, you can try to put yourself in the mindset of a buyer who shows up at your site for the first time and proceeds through the product-selection and checkout process. 

If you have a non-transactional/service-based website you can try to imagine what it’d be like to arrive at your website’s most popular pages for the first time.

If you’re working on a new design for your site, you can hope that what’s appealing to you and your team will appeal to your target audiences.

(Warning: here’s the part you knew was coming.)

You’re not your audience.

You’re biased.

You can’t possibly see your site in a clear, objective way.  After all, it’s YOUR website and you’re beyond familiar with it.

If you’re serious…

If you’re serious about seeing strong results from your company’s website, you need to speak with a web consultancy that can research, test, and provide an objective evaluation that enables smart decisions about how to prevent the Halo Effect from harming your business. A web consultancy that will conduct the right user research. Gather data. Share with you insights and recommendations your team could have never formed alone.

The bottom line

If you’re serious about building good usability and seeing results from your company’s website, you need an expert partner that takes the guesswork out of important website decisions and can help ensure the Halo Effect isn’t destroying the amount of sales or leads your site is capable of generating.

The good news and the bad news

The good news is that now that you’re aware of the Halo Effect and how it can impact your business’s website. You’re a step ahead of the competition.  Excellent.

The bad news is that you also now understand that if you attempt to battle the Halo Effect on your own, you do so at your own risk—and risk harming your business by making the Halo Effect’s impact far, far worse.

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