Designing a homepage for your website seems easy enough – throw your contact details up there with a few links and hours of operation and you’re done, right? Wrong. Most businesses struggle with their websites for the first few years, or they suffer at the hands of a “creative” web designer.
If you don’t have enough useful information on your homepage, it won’t attract any visitors. At the same time, fancy design gimmicks only annoy users, causing them to bounce. Here’s how to create an unforgettable home page using proven usability best practices.
Have A Design Plan, Lead With Content:
Most businesses try to lead with a fancy website design. This is bad for any numbers of reasons, the most important being that websites are not design-driven marketing tools, your web designer’s opinion notwithstanding. They’re content-driven marketing tool, and so you must lead with content.
Have a plan for what will go on your homepage, bring forth your most important and relevant content, and make it easily accessible. Design around the content, and design will pretty much solve itself. In most cases, simplicity is always better than having a complex layout.
And, whatever you do, do not, under any circumstances, use dated designs that incorporate flash, “3D graphics,” and blocky table-based layouts. No flashing banners either. Nothing turns users away faster than a virtual Las Vegas strip of banner ads.
Include Your Company Name And Logo In A Reasonable Size And Noticeable Location:
People shouldn’t have to guess who you are. Make your company name and logo prominent, but not overbearing. Put them in a noticeable location that isn’t distracting. Make them a reasonable size. This usually means that they will not take up more than 1/4 of the total page real estate. Ideally, they will occupy less than 1/6th of the page.
What if you have an oversized logo? Have your developer help you. But, don’t give the web dev team total control over your logo design, either. This company, that makes custom church websites, is an example of a company that does it right.
Your developer needs to work with you instead of going rogue on your site design (a lot of them do, unfortunately).
Emphasize The Highest Priority For Your Web Visitors:
When users land on your site, they’re ultimately looking for something. Maybe they typed something into a search engine and are looking to solve a problem. Maybe they want to learn about something new.
Whatever the reason for their visit, you should make it clear what you offer, and put your best foot forward. “Best foot forward,” in this context, means providing users with your very best content either directly on the homepage or linked from the homepage.
Don’t Use The Word “Website”:
Don’t use the word “website” on your homepage. First, users know they’re on a website, so it’s a little redundant. Secondly, it’s a subtly confusing signal that other pages on your site are actually part of a different website – you don’t want to confuse users like that.
The word “website” divides or separates, rather than unites, your company. Some users will take the word “website” to mean that, when they click on navigation links, they’ll be redirected to a different company altogether. Not good.
Have A Unique Page, Distinct And Separate From Other Pages On Your Site:
Your homepage should be unique and designed a bit differently from your other pages. People expect this, and it sets the “tone” of your company. Professional websites have a unique homepage. It’s like the front facing side of a home. It looks different from the other sides and from the interior.
Having a different design on the homepage, that still ties into the theme of the site as a whole, also creates a visual and conceptual “starting point” for users. It lets them know that this is where your virtual presence “begins” on the web. When they return later, they have a reference point for moving forward.
Have A Tagline That Explicitly Outlines What Your Company Does:
This is something that should be obvious, but isn’t. A lot of businesses have “cute” names and catch phrases. But, most people won’t get references to your favorite T.V. show, your dog, or some play on words that you think is clever. Be clear and direct about what you do.
So, for example, if you’re a carpet cleaner, don’t use something like:
“We put the ‘C’ in Cleaning.”
It sounds clever, but analyze the statement as an ignorant observer. Does the message really say anything about the company? No, not really. How about this one:
“We’ll Remove 99.9 Percent Of Dirt From Your Carpets, Guaranteed.”
Do you see how much clearer that is? If you want to go for the gold, use something even more specific and unusual:
“We Will Remove 99.9 Percent Of Dirt From Your Carpets, And We’ll Prove It When We’re Done.”
That’s a very clear message, and one that will resonate with people who are desperate to have their carpets cleaned. Having a tagline cuts through the clutter that’s so prevalent on the web these days. It provides a clear, no-nonsense, message that users will connect with. And, when people connect with your brand, they’re more willing to give you money, which is ultimately what you want, right?