Practical Help for your Homepage
The homepage is one of the most important pages on a website. As the default page for any domain, is it the portal through which many visitors will get their first glimpse of what is on offer. It is the shop window, billboard, welcome message and routemap all in a single page the size of a computer screen.
If you advertise your site, this is the page all respondents to that advert will see first. It follows therefore that for a commercial enterprise, the homepage is vital to the success of a site. Why then do so many of them get it wrong? Therein lies a sorry tale which concludes that many websites are driven by the corporate image and desire of the designer to show off how clever they are. None of which is particularly usable as you will soon realize.
Any page can be a homepage
The use of search engines means that many visitors may not reach the homepage on their first visit. Many searches will result in a link to a webpage somewhere deep within a site. I know for example that most visitors to this site never even go to the homepage. This is not a problem as the guidance given here can be applied to any part of a website. If they do however click on the ‘HOME’ link make sure what they see provides enough of a hook to keep them there.
Click here to enter
Do not ever use an opening page that begins with an animated graphic followed by a ‘click here to enter’ link. Even worse – do not require the visitor to head off somewhere else to load an application that will make the site work. It’s a bit like someone preventing you from entering a shop until they have shown you a picture of their cat. These splash pages were popular a thousand years ago but now all they do is keep your visitor away from your content.
What am I looking at?
You only have a couple of seconds to get the attention of your visitors. If you can’t wow them in that time their interest starts to wane and the chances of a conversion disappear. So make sure that you provide a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that stands out and attracts my attention. Once you have caught my eye you can go about the task of drawing me in.
The site or company logo is not important at this point, nor is your subtle use of colours and shades. I may take note of your tagline but only if it is relevant to my needs. If I’m looking for software then a tagline of ”where do you want to go today’ means zero.
Blink then Think advice from: smmbc.ca.
Is it relevant?
Keep all company, personal and technical information off the homepage. Most visitors do not really want to know about your personal habits or the name of the software you used to develop the site. They want to know what you can offer them – what your site can provide. If they want to find out more about you then give them a link – but not in the primary navigation. Find out more on these guidelines for effective navigation.
A picture can paint a thousand words
Use graphics intelligently. Whilst graphics can be a powerful tool in promoting a product or service, most visitors scan a webpage looking for familiar clues – graphics can be associated with advertising and are often overlooked. Placing a large image across the screen and hiding the links below is not good practice.
Image sliders or carousels are popular at the moment. They may look pretty but are almost totally ineffective. Here’s some reasons why. Be brutal – if the graphic adds nothing to the site then get rid of it.
Where is it?
If the site is big enough, provide a search facility. Although part of site navigation, a search facility on the home page is commonly the first port of call for many visitors (try to use www.amazon.com without it). Do not, however, use a search box to the exclusion of all other navigation tools (unless you are www.google.com).
The need for speed
Complicated and slow loading homepages are unlikely to convince a visitor that it is worth staying. If it takes 45 seconds to get your home page up and running your visitors will get bored and head off somewhere a bit more rapid. It used to be that you should aim to have something on screen within 15 seconds however the increase in mobile usage means you now only get a few seconds. The key to a fast download: send less data.
You may also find that using free webspace or shared servers can really grind things to a halt.
KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid
Keep your homepage simple. An uncluttered and clear homepage means the visitors is more likely to find what they want quickly which means they are more likely to dive inside.