Your homepage is typically the first place you send potential customers. Your URL is probably on your business card, letterhead, corporate vehicle, signage, t-shirts, etc.
It stands to reason that you should understand what’s essential for a great home page that can drive traffic and convert that traffic into new sales or clients.
Developing a website may be one of the most important things you can do to increase sales, so to help you along with the planning process, I’ve compiled a list (in no particular order) of what I recommend as essential elements to be implemented throughout your homepage.
1. Always Implement User Friendly Navigation
Confuse your visitors with mysterious or strange navigation and forget the sales. They’ll just click away to your competitor’s site.
Your navigation should be located in a standard area on your home page (ie. above the fold, either horizontally or vertically). It should use good link styles so that the font color/weight/size/spacing of your links will stand out.
Using graphics for your menu isn’t out of the question. Each graphic should be meaningful to the link it’s representing, and alt/title tags should always be attached to the graphics to address accessibility/SEO requirements. Sometimes a graphics menu works best – I use a combination of graphics and link text in my navigation.
2. Develop Your Home Page As An Effective Communication Tool
Crafting just the right call to action can take time and will differ, depending on what you are offering clients or customers.
As an example, suppose you are selling high end carpentry services to local clients; combining a slide show of your best work, a truthful statement about how awesome your work would look in the client’s home and a contact button might be an effective call to action for the home page. A visitor finds your business card in a local depot shop, goes home and types in your URL, sees your slide show, reads your pitch and clicks the contact button – a best case scenario!
But crafting an effective call to action may not be this straight forward. It may require combining techniques, like using short but compelling testimonials, a video message and a link to your twitter page or facebook group. Or you may need to offer a freebie or discount, especially if you are selling a service and not a physical product.
As a final point, using action words to encourage visitors to “buy”, “sign up”, “join”, “download”, “call” or “request” may be your most effective call to action strategy.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Use White Space
There’s nothing worse than a cluttered homepage (except perhaps a homepage from the 90s using animated gifs). Keep the main elements of your homepage – your navigation, content and call to action – orderly, positioned properly and with appropriate margins and areas of white space around them. Visitors will appreciate that your homepage is easy to navigate, read and understand. They’ll enjoy reading it rather than be in a hurry to click away.
4. Tell What Your Business Is Offering
Bottom line is, tell your visitors what benefits they can expect to get from your products and/or services as quickly and as effectively as you can. If they like what you have to tell them, they’ll delve further. On the other hand, if they have to guess at what your business is all about, you need to rethink some of your home page content or risk losing your visitors to another, more succinctly written competitor’s site.
5. Show Samples Of Your Work And/Or Provide A Link To Testimonials
Chances are, anyone looking for a website designer, a finish carpenter, a motivational speaker, or just about any other professional will want to know you’ve done this before and that you have satisfied clients who are willing to vouch for you. Include a link to your portfolio and/or testimonials on your home page. Better yet, if space allows and you don’t risk overcrowding, include one of your best testimonials and a couple of thumbnails from your portfolio right on your home page with links to view more.
6. Include Essential Information
Visitors will expect to find certain information on your home page including an about link (so people can get to know you), contact link (to a page containing a telephone number and email form or link), and in today’s media savvy world applicable social media links like twitter, facebook, rss, etc. can be useful on the home page.
7. Visual Appeal
Your home page shouldn’t just be all words, links and forms. Don’t be afraid to use some design imagination. This may be where an experienced professional (like me) comes into the picture. Harness the power of graphics and images when paired with compelling text to really reach your visitors. Develop a design strategy that relates to your business and your audience.