Visiting a company’s website for the first time is much like a job interview. You have a short amount of time to make a good impression on visitors and then convert them to paying customers. To do that, your business needs a truly magnificent website.

Here are a few simple, yet effective rules to keep in mind when designing or redesigning your website.

Obey the seven-second rule. It takes just seven seconds to make a first impression. Customers should be able to understand the purpose of your website and the navigation of it within the first seven seconds of their visit. If this takes more than seven seconds, it’s quite likely they’ll be confused enough to leave your website and go to your competition.

Be consistent. Consistency is important because it helps people feel comfortable as they navigate your site and it reinforces familiarity with your business and branding. Give all the pages on your site a homogenous feel. That includes your design, colors, font style, headers, images, and basic layout.

Use images. Using pictures and images is an effective way of draw your audience into your site. They show the personality of your brand and make your visitors feel welcome.

If you’re selling water slides, then have a bunch of pictures with kids playing in the water and enjoying your product. If you’re selling travel packages, then have pictures showing all of the amazing places people can go to.

Plus, wall-to-wall text can be intimidating and boring. Images help break up text into more manageable pieces of information.

Pay attention to color themes. This is related to the previous rule, but more focused. The website’s color palate represents your product and brand, so it should be aesthetically pleasing and used throughout your website (see rule #2 re consistency).

Use three main colors and then, if you must branch out, only use shades of those same colors. Make sure your colors either complement or contrast each other, never both at the same time.
Customers will judge your website in the same way they judge a stranger’s appearance. Make sure you’re proud of the message you’re sending.

Ensure readability. This can be more difficult than it sounds. Your customers might not know what is making your content difficult to read, but they also won’t stick around long enough to find out.

Did you know that underlining text actually makes them more difficult to read, not easier? If you want to add emphasis to something on your site, use italics or bold, don’t underline, and definitely don’t underline large blocks of text. In addition, use a simple font that doesn’t strain the eyes and is big enough to be seen and read easily.

Most visitors will only skim the content, so be sure the most important content is emphasized in order to draw the eye there quickly.

Your website may be the only opportunity you have to get in front of those customers, so take the time and effort to make the first impression a very positive one!