Your homepage! It is one of the most important pages on your site and often the first glimpse visitors and potential customers or clients have with your brand, yet, for some reason or another, it isn’t given the attention it deserves. With much more attention dedicated to interior, big-ticket and big-money pages like your Products and Features pages, your typical site homepage ends up being either too cluttered with junk content to be effective or too barren and empty for a customer to know exactly what you actually do.
What does this mean for you? It means a weakened conversion pathway, increased visitor frustration and likely higher bounce rates. But do not fear, MarketingModo is here with some best practices on what to include on your website’s homepage, as well as what to leave off.
Include on Homepage: Who You Are & Why You’re Trustworthy
A good way to look at your homepage is to treat it as kind of like a first date or even better yet, speed dating. This is your one, and often brief, chance to quickly get across exactly who you are and show that other people on the Web like doing business with you and trust your brand. Your homepage lays the foundation for the rest of your site, conveying brand messaging, core values, and showing people not only what you do, but also how you do business. Now that doesn’t mean to throw your entire work process right there in your homepage slider (some do quite successful but that depends on the nature of your business), but the words and images that you use should be very deliberate to paint a precise picture of who you are. If your homepage is all a visitor sees, and you’d be surprised how often this is the case, would they know what you’re about in less than 10-20 seconds without reading all the details? If not, your homepage isn’t working as it should.
Another important way to use your homepage is to build trust with your visitors. Again, a brand-spanking new visitor that is a stranger to your business, landing on your website for the first time is looking for cues that you’re reputable, trustworthy, and that you’ll be around for them when they need you. That is just the nature of the modern Web. Unfortunately too man fly by night operations have made life difficult for all of us so we must go out of our way to make sure we establish trust with our visitors. These trust signals can be developed in a number of ways including sharing client testimonials for clients that you’ve worked with, places or periodicals your brand or product has been featured, your satisfaction or money-back guarantee, your social media profiles, etc. Let new visitors see that you’ve been around awhile and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and you’ll have their trust.
Leave Off Homepage-Maybe? The Homepage Slideshow
Now this is a very sensitive subject around today’s web design table. The homepage slideshow or carousel has become a common trend in web design – with many sites now having a fully functional homepage slideshow. That is no surprise and I am actually a big fan of them myself. They do serve a purpose. They allow you to show off three, four or more different products or services without taking up a huge amount of real estate. This is great for web. Now you are probably asking, Tom if you like homepage slideshows why would you suggest we leave them off the homepage. I said maybe. There may be nothing wrong with your slideshow. It may be working perfectly. I know I’ve created some great ones for clients and they certainly can make all the difference. But one thing about me is that I am very numbers driven, just because I like something doesn’t mean it is right for every business so take another look at it. Ask yourself (or maybe someone without a vested interest in your website, a neutral third-party) whether your homepage slideshow works for you, or whether it’s just an added bit of annoying functionality that isn’t needed and takes away from the online experience. Is your slideshow converting and taking visitors to deep pages or is banner blindness taking over instead with the slideshow just being ignored? If you don’t know, check your analytics. The answer is already there, then make your decision.
Include On Homepage: Your Benefits and USP
Many websites are pretty good about loading their homepage with the many features of their product or service. They do this or they do that. They hit us over the head with the speed, the technical ability, and the pretty and shiny things that make up what they’re selling. But that’s not what people are after. People want to know the benefits of your product or service. They want to know what is in it for them, how will they benefit and what will it do for them? Don’t list off the technical mumbo jumbo of that new product that no one understands. Instead, talk about what problems the product solves for the consumer. It’s not the composition of the stuffing of a mattress that matters, it’s the perfect night’s sleep that matters.
The story you need to focus on is in the benefits, not in the features.
Leave Off Homepage: Anything That Auto-Plays.
Auto-play is intrusive, annoying and nothing frustrates visitors more than going to a site only to be immediately assaulted by an auto-playing video, sales pitch or music. For the sake of all that is good and holy. Leave it anything that auto-plays off your site unless you are Rick-Rolling.
Include: Clear CTAs (Call to Actions)
The moment that someone lands on your homepage, they are trying to get off your homepage as quickly as they can. They came looking for a new fish bowl, and your site sells pet fish equipment, so where do they go? What is their next step? Having a clear and easy navigation structure will help them complete their task, but a successful homepage will also provide a necessary roadmap for the rest of the site interaction.
Know what you want your visitors to do when they land on your site, and then give them a clear map of how to get to where they want to from your homepage in as few a number of clicks as possible. This includes using primary calls to action, as well as secondary ones, to get them into a conversion funnel and on their happy way to checkout.
Leave Off Homepage: The Kitchen Sink
Unless you sell kitchen sinks than this is perfectly fine. Remember, the purpose of your homepage is to get people into the rest of your site doing the things you want them to do. In most cases this is getting them to purchase something. It can also be getting them to read your blog, to download a resource, or to watch the videos on your product pages. These should be the primary calls to action on your homepage.
Your homepage should give visitors what they need, and nothing else, absolutely nothing else. Don’t bog the page down with useless crap. Presenting too many options may paralyze customers or send them confusingly down the wrong site path. Put your most popular products on your homepage, not every product but your big ones. If they like what they see initially, they can look around. By limiting the calls to action and information, you make it easier for customers to understand what comes next.
Include On Homepage: An Immediate Offer
Whether it’s a newsletter that they can subscribe to (good for email collection and organic list building), an e-book they can download, or a social community they can join, your homepage should provide an immediate way for your visitors to begin a relationship with your brand. Give them something that they can trade an email for to begin growing a powerful email list and keep your brand top of mind for that new visitor.
Is your homepage doing what it’s supposed to do? Is it answering the necessary questions and putting customers on the path to conversion? If you haven’t taken a look at it, now’s the time. And, for the love of God please quit it with the auto-play!