If you’ve ever tried to sell a house, you know the critical importance of curb appeal. Regardless of how good its “bones” are, people judge the house from the curb. Fresh paint and expert landscaping go a long way. Even more important, you want people to know the house is for sale and to be able to find it! You also want to make sure potential buyers can clearly read the name of the realtor, a phone number, and “open house” hours. Simply, you want to make it as easy as possible for the shopper to come inside and see the rest. If you never get them through the door, they’ll never buy.
For a website, an awesome homepage works the same way. The goal of the homepage is not to tell the user everything. It’s to move them to the next step on their way to a purchase. You might make the best widgets on Earth, but if no one can tell that when they land your site, they may never find out. Keep five things in mind as you design your homepage, and you’ll see increased traffic, leading to more conversions.
An awesome homepage should:
- Reflect your brand.
- Keep things simple.
- Work well on all devices.
- Provide search and contact information.
Reflect Your Brand
Yes, your awesome homepage should include your logo and brand color palette. But that’s not enough. Does its style support your brand image? Is it easy to use for your target audience? (Remember not all demographics are as tech savvy as others.) Consider all of the elements of a brand [link], including tone of voice and imagery. Make your words, graphics, and other elements work together to form a cohesive whole. If you’ve done the prerequisite work of developing your brand identity, this should come easily. As you think through branding your homepage, remember to…
Keep It Simple
Following the branding advice above, choose the simplest range of elements that fully accomplish the goal of the homepage. Remember, that goal is to move the user to the next stage, whether it’s directly to make a purchase or through a series of other pages.
As HelpScout puts it, “Tell potential customers, immediately, what problem you will solve in their lives.” They offer an example of how Airbnb simplified their homepage tagline over the course of their first year in business. They went from “AirBed & Breakfast is the fun, affordable alternative to hotels for your favorite events,” to “Find a place to stay.” Testing showed Airbnb that getting right to the point was effective.
Now, on to graphics. Single, full-screen images are the trend right now, and for good reason. They catch attention, and they can be seen even on small screens. Too many images can confuse the viewer or distract from your message. Try to choose one engaging image that speaks those important 1,000 words.
Simplicity is key for navigation, too. Make your homepage easy to navigate. What does that mean? Finding out may take some trial and error. You will want to limit the number of links on the homepage, but make them the ones most sought by users. However, make it obvious how to get to the more granular information. Customer Journey Mapping [include link] can help you figure out how to structure it.
Design for All Devices
By now, this may sound like obvious advice. But nowhere is it more important to test multiple devices than with your homepage. Today there is more variety than ever in how people access the web. Speeds vary considerably, screen sizes range from wristwatches to flat screen televisions, and many devices employ touchscreen technology.
Google acknowledges that more searches now take place on mobile devices than traditional computers, and their algorithm reflects this shift. Remember, just like a home buyer needs to find your house for sale before they can tour it, a web user needs to find your site before they can browse it.
By designing for all possible devices, you’ll give your users a better experience and increase their odds of finding you in the first place. A number of applications are available to help you test cross-device functionality, like Browsersync, BrowserStack, and MobileTest.
Provide Search and Contact Information
Kissmetrics says, “The search function may be the most important aspect of your site.” People are accustomed to seeing a search field on most sites, usually near the upper right-hand corner. If a user wants to find something quickly, they should have this option.
Remember how we discussed keeping things simple? This goes for contact information, too. Give one or two methods, which people can use for general inquiries. Save more specific contact details for specific product or service pages. Remember, however, some users are rushed, so you may try linking to a “contact us” form or live chat function. Including links to your social media accounts might meet this need, too. (If you send people to your social media accounts, make sure you’re monitoring those and answer inquiries promptly.)
Help Scout advises, “Stay flexible. Make changes to stay fresh and current.” Why is it important to keep your homepage evolving? As with designing for multiple devices, the effort pays off for both users and search engines. People will return to your site again and again if they trust that they’ll keep learning new things or discovering new products. You can evolve naturally as your product line changes, or you can experiment with something quirkier, like a quote-of-the-day or joke-of-the-day.
It’s no secret that Google looks for the freshest content. You may achieve your “freshness” goals with a blog or other regularly updated content. However, keeping your homepage updated helps, too, and can take less person-power to maintain. The more you update, the more frequently search engines will index your site. SEO Site Checkup recommends, “a site that is updated once a day, or at least two to three times a week, is considered a frequently updated site.”
Even if you update less frequently, ALWAYS remove outdated content right away. Never list expired sales or holidays that have passed. If a contact email address has changed, or you’ve taken a break from social media, remove those links. Never send people to dead ends.
A Work in Progress
Treat your awesome homepage as a work in progress. You’ll continuously improve it but it’s never “finished.” Help Scout says, “When you first launch, you’re really just testing a hypothesis: that you’ve created a product the market wants, and you’ve presented it in a manner compelling enough to convince visitors to try or purchase it.”
Here’s a fun experiment. Use The Wayback Machine to look up archived versions of major companies’ websites. Notice how design and language evolved over time as each company learned more and the world around them changed.
Still want to know more about creating an awesome homepage? Hubspot offers this infographic of 12 Critical Elements of a Home Page.