What is the purpose of your website’s homepage?
In recent years the home page was much like the front door to your website. Users would type in your domain name or URL, and then they would scan your homepage. But, with social media, blogs and search engines, many users are arriving on your website through on of your many side doors via a search result or social media link.
In fact, so far in 2016, the Element 74 homepage accounts for 66% of our website entrances, followed by our blog, which collectively adds up to about 22% of all entrances across our dozens of blog posts.
So, what does this mean for your homepage?
That’s simple. In her article “Planning for Homepage Content“, Georgy Cohen says the homepage should be “a brand-supported gateway to get them [users] to the information they seek.” Think of it this way: your home page is like a hotel lobby and visitors want to get passed the lobby and into their room or the hotel bar.
The main purpose of the homepage is not to cause users to linger, but to help them find to the information they seek.
Here are just a few key guidelines to follow:
1. Grab the User’s Attention
Did you know that once a user lands on your homepage you have about 3 seconds to capture their attention before they move on? In that 3 seconds, there are 2 places the user might go: back to the search engine or deeper into your site.
You need to quickly tell the users exactly what you do and highlight your key products and services, deals and offers, and your call to actions. You might feel like the homepage is a great spot for you companies story, but leave that for the “About Us” section. Once users are sold on what you offer, then they can explore more about your company.
One of our clients, Chateau Girardeau, gives visitors an automatic feeling of positivity and trust through imagery and straight-to-the-point text. They then point site visitors to the most important pages on their site with CTA’s.
2. Focus on the User’s Needs
Catering content to the user’s needs can be as easy as imagining you are the user and asking “What’s in it for me?” The homepage shouldn’t be a collection of all of the information on your site (that’s what secondary pages are for) and it shouldn’t be a constant declaration of “We’re the best in the business.”
Ask yourself this question: “If a user landed on my homepage, would they be able to find the content that they need?” If the answer is “no”, some redesigning might be in order. You may have too much content on your homepage and you may need to work on improving your whitespace.
In 2010, Gerry McGovern wrote a great article called “The decline of the homepage“. In his article he says:
“Your customers don’t want to get to your homepage. At best, the homepage is merely a series of signposts that will help them head in the right direction. Unfortunately, too many marketers and communicators are destroying whatever credibility their homepages have left with customers by filling them with useless graphics and meaningless words.”
3. Layout a Direct Path
A homepage isn’t where you want users to linger. You want them to move on, deeper into your site. To do that, you need to layout a direct path for them. This doesn’t just mean a list of links or a wordy navigation bar. In her article, Georgy goes on to say “A homepage link may feel like a shiny, easy solution to achieve “visibility,” but true visibility is actually site-wide findability.”
To do this, all of your pages should work together. Find 3 things on your site that potential customers might enjoy and highlight them on the homepage. Then, on those 3 pages, highlight other relevant pages that potential customers might enjoy. Tie it all together and let it work together.
Use your Google Analyitcs to track the effectiveness. It may shed some light on where users are bouncing off of your site.
Another client of ours, Fox Family Dental, make the pages of their site that people search for most (bill pay, forms, appointments) the easiest pages to find. That way, clients or new visitors easily and quickly find what they need.
Bonus Tip: Write Good Content, Not Just Keywords
Since we covered the user’s needs, let’s talk about good content over keyword rich content. Too many website owners have been convinced that keyword rich text is the best way to show up in the search engines. While this holds some truth, content that repeats keywords over and over again will leave your users agitated and annoyed. That repetitive text may have landed them there, but it certainly didn’t help keep them there.
The key to a good homepage is short and sweet content. Get to the point fast, before it’s too late.
Remember, users are landing on homepages less and less often. “People don’t vaguely browse on the Web,” McGovern wrote, “As Web usage matures, it becomes more specific.”
How effective is your homepage? Tell us in the comments below.