In my previous post, I covered the three most common traps most homepage designs fall into that are hurting their effectiveness. In this post we will cover what to do about it - the right way to design your homepage to make an impact.
The 4 Steps
There are 4 steps to an effective homepage:
- Connect - Create a favorable emotional connection with your visitors
- Be relevant - Provide hints of what you offer
- Help - Direct people where they want to go
- Rank – Optimize for search
Humans are programmed to make quick assessments of new situations. When a person comes to your website, they form their initial assessment based on non-textual information. The first impression will be based on the look of your site and use of friendly, familiar cues.
You have six seconds to convince them to stay or click away.
A clean, professional look and feel is important. More important is making an emotional connection. The look of your homepage should communicate, “we get you, welcome, come on in”.
After a new visitor has formed their judgment of your site based on visual ascetics, they will look for cues of relevancy. They came to your website looking for something. Can they easily see clues that they will find what they are looking for on your site?
If you pass the first two qualifiers, your visitors will want to move to a deeper level of understanding. The details they are looking for are rarely on your homepage; they will need to navigate somewhere else. Can they quickly find what they are looking for? Your content needs to be organized and architected around the way people think. Proper navigational aids such as search boxes need to be implemented. Confuse your visitor and you lose them.
The remaining vital component is to optimize your homepage for the search engines. We list this last to emphasize that your homepage should be designed to appeal to humans first, search robots second. However, without traffic, there will be no audience to witness the great user experience you have crafted.
You can start by following a few essential best practices to help to drive search traffic. Design your layout to integrate at least 200 words of text into your homepage. Then optimize the page title and body copy for high value keywords.
- Develop personas for your site visitors. Focus your homepage through the eyes of your most important users.
- Develop a look and feel that emotionally resonates.
- Provide the essential information they want to see.
- Provide intuitive navigational aids to help them get to more in-depth information quickly.
- Limit the number of choices the visitor must make.
- If you offer 25 services, put those 25 under 4 overarching umbrella services so consumers will not be overwhelmed.
- Determine the most important keywords with which you want your website to be found.
- Optimize your homepage copy around those keywords.
- Show the human and goodwill side of your organization by integrating social media links, blog posts and other social content into your homepage layout.
Does your homepage pass the test?
This post is an excerpt from the Website Redesign Success ebook. The ebook walks you through 8 simple steps to building a results-oriented website.
Photo credit: Axion23 (it was hard to the image research for this post. So many Ferraries that had to be thoroughly vetted)