The homepage of a website is one of the most important pages of your website. It’s the first page a majority of your visitors will see and it needs to tick a few crucial boxes to be the best it can be. When planning or thinking about a website, the homepage is often a hard page to understand what should go on it, as it doesn’t have a clear universal purpose.
A homepage isn’t a book cover, magazine cover or brochure cover. But in the past that has been a key influence for website designs. Whilst some points still apply, there is a lot more a website homepage can achieve for you.
You can compare a website homepage to a shop front, or the first salesperson you meet face-to-face. To get the best outcome from that meeting, your homepage need to:
- clearly show what the business is
- explain a problem, want or need your potential customers are experiencing
- provide a solution that you can offer to address their problem
- explain who you are and why you’re the right people to provide this for them
- provide social proof to give confidence that you can do what you say
- then finally ask them to do something.
Your homepage is a pitch for business
This structure has been around for a long time in various types of marketing, and how I came to work it into websites was by looking at startup pitches. In the case of a startup pitch, you are trying to sell yourself and your business in a way that communicates value and builds confidence so investors will buy into your ideas. While a normal business doesn’t operate on the same scale, a similar logic applies. People need to be sold on your services and trust you before they can be asked for some action to become a customer for your business.
There isn’t a universal structure of a homepage that will make every business successful. The actual needs of a business for their homepage depends on:
- the type of business
- what they offer
- how competitive the market is
- if they have something to offer
- barrier of entry for customers, and more.
Understanding the purpose
To get the best results from your homepage, you need to understand why your homepage exists and what you need to achieve from it for your business to be successful.
For service businesses: your homepage could be setup to show your capability and ask customers to contact you about a quote.
For consulting businesses: your homepage could be setup to show your expertise and ask the client to book a consultation.
For ecommerce businesses: your homepage could be setup to entice people into browsing your store.
For single product ecommerce businesses: your homepage could be setup to introduce the product and ask for a sale or sign up for a trial.
For blogs: your homepage could be set up to introduce your topic(s) of interest and ask people to subscribe to your email list.
For non-profits: your homepage could be setup to educate about your cause and ask people to get involved.
While people might not get enough information just from your homepage to make a decision to take action, your aim should be to entice them to dive into your business or come back when they are ready to take an action.
Elements of your homepage
With that in mind let’s dive into some common elements you might consider.
Logo and tagline
A logo and tagline is one of the first things people will look for on a site to identify the site they are on. A well designed logo will communicate about the business and give the user an idea of where they are and what they can expect. When teamed with a descriptive tagline this can make it more powerful.
Marie Forleo’s B-School has a simple logo in the top right to prepare you for what the sites about: “Make Money, Change the world” – maybe vague but who doesn’t want to do that?
Navigation is an important element on your website and sets the scene for what is immediately available if you want to dive in.
For a majority of businesses, it’s a good idea to have a contact us menu item and a large phone number to help clearly direct people if the aim is to get in touch. Alternatively, if the phone is not the preferred way to interact with your business you can bury it within the site (bleh, think banking websites…)
Can you spot the phone number?
Banner and Value Proposition
Generally this is the largest element and more prominent when you first visit a website. A nice image is used to set the atmosphere on the site, or present a key idea supported by a headline.
The headline should clearly identify your key value to your customers and potentially have more detailed information.
Copywriting is very important here and you need to understand your business and your customers to make this as effective as possible
Super simple but effective. There’s no marketing jargon or self promotion, just what their customers are looking for: “send better email”
The visual design of a homepage is also a key thing people notice straight away. Potentially not noticeably but it helps them form an idea about the business from how it looks. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but we all know we do. It’s the same with physical store fronts, we can tell the type of business it is by it’s architecture (think Bunnings) or how its setup (cafe with outdoor tables). While websites are slightly different, the visual will definitely help tell the story of what your business is, why it matters and how trustworthy or professional you come across.
The bunnings website definitely supports the branding of their physical stores.
Imagery is a key part of any website and getting the right imagery for your business will make a huge impact. It helps people to see the story you are creating and invites them to be part of it.
Content is the king of your site and needs to clearly speak to your potential customers.
Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting. – Content is Kind – Bill Gates (1/3/1996) – http://www.craigbailey.net/content-is-king-by-bill-gates/
Social proof or trust signals
It’s all well and good to toot your own trumpet but people visiting your site don’t know you from a bar of soap, so why should they trust what you promise? In business, testimonials have been used for ages and they help to show that you are able to provide what you offer and people are happy with the result.
Testimonials are just one tool you have. Other tools might be clients you service, awards you’ve won, user reviews, FAQs, social media followers or share counts, a secure website, industry association logos or licence numbers.
Call to action
This is probably the most underused element on a website homepage. Without direction people won’t complete the action you want them to take. On the other hand, with too many options people may miss the key action you want them to take and end up at a dead end on your website.
The call to action needs to be at the right place at the right time. If you’re selling valuable consulting advice, asking for a sale right at the top of the page is like asking someone to marry you on the first date – it’s not going to happen (well…). The higher the value you are selling, the more confidence the buyer will need before they make a decision. This is where the rest of your website comes in to support the key claims you make on your homepage.
On the other hand, if your product or service has a low point of entry, asking for the sale at the top of the page could be the right decision. You know your customer doesn’t need a lot of information, or you offer a free trial so they can dive in and learn about the finer details later on.
A software as a service business, Shopify, asks people straight up: “Start your free 14-day trial today!”
The homepage is an area where you can push the boundaries to create a narrative more similar to a sales process. While visually and structurally it can be different and creative, it should still feel like part of your website.
The homepage should be tailored to provide a user the understanding of what the website is about and give clear entries pointing towards information and pages that assist in converting that user into a customer, through a clear action of your choice.
Have a look over your homepage:
- What action are you asking for and when?
- Do you think your visitors have enough information and confidence to take the action you want?