Posted by Murray Sye
on Mon, Dec 8, 2014 @ 12:04 PM
Where do most of your website visitors enter your site?
Go ahead and guess.
I know what you're going to say, but if you check, it just may not be your homepage.
It seems that the value of the homepage is decreasing. According to Ann Friedman who wrote for Columbia Journalism Review in 2013, "As more and more traffic comes from search and social, the homepage as the entryway into a site's content is on the decline."
"A fraction of visits that begin on the homepage is surprisingly small," Bob Cohn, editor of The Atlantic Digital wrote in 2012. The Atlantic sites that only a third of their readers ever visit the homepage.
But, don't be too quick to give up on your homepage.
- The homepage is the oldest URL on the website and, therefore has the time to accumulate the most inbound links.
- Most direct visits start on the homepage.
- The homepage is the most advertised URL in all the various marketing channels.
Regardless of where your initial web traffic begins, great care should be taken to design and structure your homepage so that readers will digest and act on your business message. Below we've identified certain qualities that compose an effective homepage.
1) The Basics
It doesn't matter what kind of website you visit, you'll notice that nearly all well-designed homepages contain the following elements.
- Logo – Tasteful sizing and placement of a logo is essential for any good homepage. Logos should be able to quickly communicate your company's ethos and personality to users both new and old.
- Navigation – A homepage should function (in part) as a rendezvous point for users who've lost their bearings and can't find what they need. The homepage shouldn't be a sitemap. Rather, it should simply guide the user to the most important sections of your website.
- Search Capabilities – Add search functionality to your site helps to reduce the number of links (and declutter the layout in general). For certain kinds of websites (eCommerce, etc.) the search element may be the most important aspect of your site.
- Copy & Content – While copy shouldn't be the primary focus of the homepage, it can be important for SEO and accessibility reasons. Take this into account when designing your homepage. Try to keep things clean and clutter-free. Consult a SEO professional if necessary.
- Branding considerations – Brand recognition is less important for returning visitors. Some websites (such as Facebook) believe that their members are aware of who they are, so they don't push their branding as powerfully for users who have logged in.
2) The Objectives
What do you want visitors to do when they visit your website? Have you made this clear to them? Take this into consideration when designing your site.
- User Objectives – The elements that go into a homepage (and a website in general) are there primarily to cultivate a good user experience and guide the user to the objectives that they have. Provide a clear and easy route to products that certain users will be more inclined to buy.
- Business Objectives – In addition to catering to user objectives, it's duly important to promote your objectives. Most business objectives aim to promote the items which will make the most profit.
- About Objectives – When designing your homepage (and your website in general), it's important that both user and business objectives be considered (the two objectives can also overlap). If an element on your website doesn't serve one of these objectives, consider removing it.
3) The Purpose
When people visit your site, do they immediately know who you are and what you do? A good business homepage is able to quickly and effectively communicate the purpose of the business.
- Logo – It's often the case that the logo itself does a good job in communicating exactly what the company does. Consider these when designing your logo.
- Imagery – Do the images and photos used on your site effectively communicate what your business does? Your website should include images that align with the message of your business.
- The Fold – Don't make it difficult for the user to find your business. Be sure to communicate what your business does above the "fold" – the visible portion of a webpage that people see immediately upon visiting.
- Value Proposition – Provide a strong, customer-driven value proposition, one tough enough to convince and convert even the most skeptical of buyers.
- Shopping Cart – A shopping cart in your site's header immediately communicates that you sell something. Remember, try to communicate what your business offers as quickly as possible.
- Micro-Copy – Navigation labels and headings are examples of "micro-copy" – the small bits of text that help tie a site together. Micro-copy can play a big part in communicating what your site is about.
- Language – The main purpose of design and imagery is to capture a user's attention so that they will read the content that is presented. Be sure to structure content and engage the user so that they read, digest and act on your message.
Treat every page on your website as a homepage. Regardless, your first page, or homepage on your site must be treated with the respect that it deserves. Take a moment and review the essentials that we're recommending in this post. But, make sure that all your pages are optimized and carry the same kind of value. Because you never know where your visitors will enter from.
Special thanks to @KissMetrics for sharing infographic content on this subject. Cover art: by J.C. Leyendecker
Written by Murray SyeMurray is the CEO and Creative Director with the award-winning
Toronto HubSpot agency partner, WhiteSpace. You can
connect with Murray on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.