Your homepage is some of the most important real estate on your entire website.
17 Sep, 2017FORBES.COM
Your homepage is some of the most important real estate on your entire website. While it’s true that many of your website visitors probably enter through landing pages or direct links to products or services, a huge number of them still come through the homepage. And, for many, this will be the first time they encounter your brand.
The takeaway? The stakes are high for your homepage design. Brands have a very limited amount of time to convey their value to users and to convince them to take a desired action, such as browsing deeper into the site, learning more about a product, or signing up for a trial or demo. The homepage design can make or break the user’s experience with your website, so it’s important to optimize it as thoroughly as you can.
At our digital agency, we have experience designing homepages for clients across many different industries. Whether it’s a new business whose website we’re designing from scratch or an established company with a website that needs overhauling, our team of strategists and designers work together to come up with an effective homepage design for each client.
Especially when redesigning a homepage, there are a handful of aspects we pay particularly close attention to, optimizations that can make a huge difference in the way users interact with the site. Below, we outline 5 key areas of homepage optimization.
The homepage’s main message is one of the most important elements of the entire website. If there’s any single line of text you can count on users reading, it’s the main message. Because the main message is only a single sentence long, and due to its importance, it can be a difficult thing to get just right. Many companies make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people and end up diluting the meaning of their main message as a result. Still, others rely too heavily on convoluted jargon and marketing lingo that makes it difficult for users to understand.
Truly effective main messaging should tell users who your brand is, what you do, and/or what your value proposition is. Your copy should be original (ie; unique to you and captivating in some way) and approachable (ie; easily understood by the average user). The main messaging copy is always something that should be tested because a website element this important shouldn’t be determined based on gut feelings or guesswork. Test ways that your language can be more precise, or try different approaches to conveying the value of your products or services to the user. Always put users first -- look for ways to emphasize what you can do for them.
The reason for making sure your site has an intuitive navigation should be obvious: the number one priority of the user is to find what he or she is looking for as fast as possible. The goal of anyone who runs a website should be to satisfy that users desire for a quick, easy browsing process, and navigation is a major component of that.
Website navigation can easily become needlessly complicated, especially for sites with huge product inventories. Strive to avoid unnecessary complexity through the use of a flat architecture, which puts most content within reach in only one or two clicks.
From a visual perspective, the navigation should be readily identifiable and located in a logical position on the homepage. Language is also important. Cute or quirky names for menu items might be on brand for your company, but will users know what you mean, or will your offbeat wording cause uncertainty? Stick to language that is clear, concise, and universal.
Homepages can quickly become cluttered with too many competing messages, images, and marketing priorities, and this has the risk of diminishing its effectiveness. People are only able to take in so much information at once, and inundating users with too much information can cause them to feel overwhelmed, which will likely lead them to abandon the site.
The better strategy is to develop a tight focus for your homepage. Consider what information is most important to convey to users in order to get them interested and encourage further exploration. Most of the content on your homepage should be directed towards this focus. Alternative pathways and calls-to-action can be present, but they should be secondary to the focal content of your homepage.
It’s not uncommon to hear people reference the Apple website as one of the best on the web. But what makes the Apple site so enjoyable to engage with? A huge part of it is the site’s skilled use of imagery. Photography is big, bold, and bountiful. The Apple site puts high-quality imagery front and center on every page of the site, allowing the products to speak for themselves.
Every homepage needs to include strong visual stimulation. Visuals capture the user’s attention even before he or she has a chance to read the site’s message, and captivating imagery has the power to engage the user long enough to encourage further browsing. Whether you use bold typography, custom illustration, or high-quality photography or cinemagraphs, make sure your homepage has a strong visual element that will grab the user’s attention.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the small but mighty call-to-action. The CTA is one of the most important website elements because it quite literally tells the user what to do next. CTA language, design, and placement all matter. A CTA with confusing wording, or one that fades into the background of the homepage, will not entice users to click.
If you want to improve your CTAs, look for ways to make your language more precise so users have a better idea of what will happen once they click. If possible, try to find ways to incentivize action through CTA language (eg; “join for free”). Make sure your CTAs are visually distinct and easily differentiated from the rest of the content on your site.
Your website’s homepage is the face of your brand online, so you can’t afford to jeopardize its performance. Make homepage optimization an ongoing priority and you’ll see the results of your efforts borne out in stronger performance and higher conversion rates.