7 Things You Really Need On Your Website's Homepage.
Critical Elements For Your Website Homepage
If you own a business, then you probably have a website. Some businesses have little use for anything other than basic contact information on their site, but most want the website to be something more than just a basic brochure; the website exists to help further your business goals. There are a few things that you really need to include on your website homepage which really will help further your objectives without a big investment in time or money. While this list isn’t exhaustive, if you can check off the boxes, you’ll put yourself in a better position to generate sales, leads, donations, awareness, or whatever else it is that you’re looking for.
I’m going to start out with what should be really obvious, but with a caveat. You need a logo yes, but that logo is not the focal point of the page. You want a logo (almost universally in the top-left corner of your page) that identifies who you are, but small enough that it is not a distraction from other elements.
A good exercise is to go out to the websites of a half a dozen or so recognizable national brands and take a look at the size of the logo on their homepage. Even brands who have achieved such recognition that they don’t need to put the name of their company in their logo (think Nike, Starbucks, Apple, etc) don’t splash a huge logo on the screen. You may, in fact, be surprised to realize that they almost all have much smaller logos than what you typically see. Most are under 100 pixels wide.
2. A Value Proposition
So you managed to get me to the homepage of your website. Before my ADHD kicks in and I bounce after some other shiny object, are you able to communicate to me why I should stick around? If you sell a product or service, chances are that there are other companies that sell that same product or service. I want you to tell me, as the visitor, why I shouldn’t go to your competitor. Do you offer the product at a better price point? Do you provide a higher quality product, or better customer service? Do you have a unique approach to whatever it is that you do? Tell me why I should stick around.
The value proposition, unlike your logo, should draw attention. If you look at the classic sales funnel model, awareness is the top of the funnel. You’re going to tell me what value you provide, what question you are going to answer, what desire you will fulfill, or what pain point you can help solve. If you do that well, your user will have a much higher chance of sticking around to hear more.
3. A Clear Call to Action
Let’s say you nailed your value proposition. The question you need to ask yourself is, “what do you want me to do about that?” If you offer unbeatable products, I want to buy those products. Make it easy to just click a button and start shopping. If you provide some service that I cannot live without, make it easy for me to get a quote, or book an appointment. Tell the user exactly what you want them to do, and make it naturally intuitive to do. Buttons are the most common element for a call to action. The buttons are usually highly visible, and tell you exactly what you’re doing. You wouldn’t have a button that says SUBMIT as your call to action. Something like REQUEST A QUOTE, or BOOK AN APPOINTMENT are much clearer and more compelling.
You may need multiple buttons. Firstly ask yourself if you really do need more than one. If you do, you might want to employ a visual hierarchy to emphasize your primary call to action. You might want to make the secondary CTA a more muted color, or even an outlined button, rather than a solid color.
If you have the CTA in multiple places on the page, try and keep visual consistency between them, and avoid having other buttons on the page with the same styling. We want our most important conversion action to stand out, and not be confused with a secondary or tertiary objective.
4. Compelling Copy
You may have nailed the value prop and the CTA, but your user may not yet be ready to part with their hard-earned without a little more information. You want to create simple descriptive copy which reinforces the value proposition with more detail… to a point. You don’t want to write a novel. Nothing says, “don’t read me” like a dense block of text.
Our home page is also very important for our organic search rankings. Search engines need to see a minimum amount of text on a page to consider it relevant to anything. That number is somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 words. You might be able to communicate all the secrets to life in the form of a haiku, but Google’s not going to recognize it. Also, a picture may be worth a thousand words to us, but also not to a search engine crawler.
In summary, have enough copy to be relevant to search engines, but not so much that you couldn’t get the gist of the site if there were a casual conversation going on in the background and you really needed another cup of coffee.
We are visual people. Visuals communicate a lot to us and give us context to help us better understand written content. Visual elements catch our attention and break up what could be otherwise monotonous blocks of text. Like many of the other elements we have discussed, there is a right and wrong way to do images and videos. You need to ask yourself if the element clarifies or competes with the other content on the page. If you’re trying to sell me on the idea of buying a car, a picture of a beautiful night sky may not be very helpful, even if it is gorgeous.
6. Social Proof
We’re all convinced that marketing people are incapable of telling us the truth. Anyone can say they are an industry leader in this or that, or that their products are revolutionary, whether they are or are not. Having social proof in the form of reviews or customer testimonials is a good way of highlighting that people not working for your company do actually feel the same way about your products and services. Having live links to things like Google Reviews is great (so long as you do a good job of monitoring and managing your reviews) because people know that you’re not cherry picking the few customers who like you. If you get bad reviews, it can be an opportunity to “get caught” going the extra mile to make your undersatisfied customers happy.
Don’t go nuts with reviews and testimonials. The reality is that people may read a couple, but no one is going to scan through a dozen or more of them. Past a handful of reviews, they may actually take away from what you’re trying to accomplish.
7. White Space
Web is a visual medium. If we try to crowd too many elements into too small a space, none of them will do a good job in cutting through the noise of everyday life. Large blocks of text, busy layouts, and elements crammed together increase the stress level of those who are reading them. Don’t be afraid to let your design breathe a little. The temptation can be to try and get as much as possible “above the fold”, when you should really just do a better job of prioritizing what does make it into that most viewed location of the most viewed page on your website.
BONUS: 3 Things You Should Leave off Your Website's Homepage
There are a few things that you should leave off your home page as well. I will touch on them briefly here as well
When I started building WordPress websites back in 2011, sliders were all the rage. Every WordPress theme included a slideshow at the top of the page. Some of these slide shows had nothing but interesting images in them, while others had a series of value propositions and calls to action. Neither approach is particularly effective. If you just have images, the question you should ask yourself is if you want something taking up this prominent space with no call to action. Sites that included calls to action usually realized that the conversion percentage of the first slide in the slide show was pretty bad, and the conversion percentage for the slides that followed were virtually nonexistent. The slideshow was just something to be skipped, like those pesky ads in the middle of YouTube videos.
2. Social Feeds
Social feeds are bad for your home page for two reasons.
Firstly they are drawing traffic from your website, which makes you money, to your social media profiles, which do not. You want traffic to flow in the other direction.
Secondly, social media feeds on your webpages are usually very slow. They are going to pull large image files which may be postage stamp sized on the screen, and they increase the number of database queries that the page needs to do dramatically. In short, they slow down the page load of your site substantially, which translates into a poor user experience and lower search engine rankings.
3. Email Subscription Popups
Email opt-in forms have their place, but not as a popup on your home page. You might try using them on marketing pages, or on your blog content, but those popups, placed on a home page, don’t convert well, and can get really annoying, especially if the cookie duration (the time after you clear the form before it will pop up again) is too short. If you met someone and 3 seconds later, they wanted your phone number, would you feel a little creeped out? If you told them no, and they asked you every time they saw you thereafter, would you feel more or less creeped out? Put the opt-in form at a place where someone has a little more invested in the relationship, or has shown some interest in what you have to say.
If you follow the instructions here, it won’t guarantee you overnight success, but even if it marginally increases the number of leads or sales you get, you’ll find it well worth the effort.