First impressions are important - when you first see a city you've never been before, what do you notice? That's right, the skyline. Similarly, the first thing you see in the newspaper is the headline, and whenever you think of a TV show, you most likely think of the opening credits.
People tend to assess things based on these first impressions of them. Your website is treated just as anything else people see, they will tend to make a judgment based on the header at the top of your page. If your visitors see a header which has a professional appearance, they will assume that the content of your site is also of high quality.
Though it isn't usually a functional part of the site, the header of a web page is one of the most important parts. With a professional and engaging header on a web page, visitors to that site will want to stay, because they will have been assured that if the header is up to a certain level of excellence, then the content they'll read there will be too.
While this may, or may not be true, it is what the reader will assume from seeing a well designed header. This reassurance will benefit you, in that the visitors to your site will not only stay to read your content during that initial visit, but will also return for future visits, and hopefully recommend you to others, and possibly link to you as well.
The header performs two basic functions on your website. It gives the viewer a quick overview of what your website is about, and it also provides an idea of the quality of your site.
Each of these functions are greatly important, but the second may be even more important than the first. There are millions of websites out there, and possibly hundreds or thousands compete with yours. If the style, or make-up of your header gives your website the look that it lacks quality or professionalism, your traffic will go to your competitors instead.
You may not realize exactly what is getting more traffic to your site, and increasing the length of the stays of visitors to your site.
Keeping visitors coming back, and staying on your site longer, is something which you can ascribe to many factors: content, better search engine rankings, new features and the like. However, in many cases it is your header which is doing all of this work: out in the open, yet behind the scenes.
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