The purpose of a website homepage

If more than 12% of the visitors to your homepage leave right away, you may need to read a bit more.

We’ll show you how to make your new homepage, or change your homepage, depending what stage you are at. This is not technical, this is what you need to do as a business, then hand off to whoever is “technically” taking care of your site, if not you.

A homepage isn’t what it used to be. It used to be the single entry point for a website, a place where you dazzled all visitors with what your business and mission was. Well, that was the 90’s, if ever at all.

A good homepage is a popular entry point, and likely the place most visitors arrive. In fact, it may be just the way you imagine it, or it could be far more people enter from sources like search engines and other sites to the places on your site where they actually want to go. It could be that they have bookmarked another page on your site, making them the biggest potential customers you’ll ever get.

Regardless of how people enter into your site, your homepage is the convention for visitors to orient themselves to your business, and navigate to where they want to go. This means that your site is one part sitemap, and one part branding message.

Site Transparency

A homepage needs to offer transparency to a site. A site visitor, regardless of how they enter a site, should be able to arrive at the homepage and know three things.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. What does it mean for them?

Site Transparency also means visitors should know what is on the inside of a site, by looking at its homepage. Is your website transparent from the homepage?  Let’s talk about how to get it there.

Other Must Haves

  1. Hours of operation
  2. How to contact the business
  3. Steams into site (sSee below)

Streaming Visitors

Not all visitors are the same. Your site likely serves more than one audience. Your homepage design needs to handle each audience in a clear concise fashion.  Each audience needs to know where to go, and what areas of your site are useful and intended for them. There’s a reason conversion optimization used to be synonymous with path analysis (I’m dating myself to other analysts here).

Consider the Best First

Every page needs a primary audience. If you are a new business, when you create the homepage, design it for your ideal customer. If your business is established, the homepage should be designed for your best customer. Other audiences you serve will have their place, but you don’t want to risk the experience of the audience that brings in 60% of your business revenue for the audience that brings in 15% either.

Local Businesses

If your business’ clientele is locally based, then your website homepage needs to have certain information on it. You should have the following on your homepage:

  1. The area you serve
  2. Address (include street, city, postal code & neighborhood if applicable)
  3. Location Map (crossroads version will suffice)
  4. Phone number
  5. Email

For a local business, this information should be available on EVERY page, not just the homepage. This is why I suggest placing it on the top right of the header. It is easily placed on every page but is also quite visible for the way people scan a page (top to the right). There might be a bit of “banner blindness” to this position, but when someone is looking for something on a site, they most often return to the top right of the page.

Might Have’s

  1. Special Promotions – If so, make it clear which of audiences it is for to avoid confusing the others
  2. Newsletter/email sign up – See the Quadrant below to see where to put this – hint: You want them to do this
  3. Most common tasks or popular pages
  4. Search – nine out of 10 people will try to navigate from the homepage – if you have heavy search usage then you likely have a poor homepage
  5. News – If you really have to, remember this is most likely you wanting visitors to know your news, not vice versa (consider using a link to news instead)
  6. Trust or Policy Info – Letting them know you ship and how their information is protected

User Experience – Give ’em What They Want

Your website, especially your homepage will be more successful the more you organize information from the perspective of your site visitors. Basically, you give people what they want before you try to present them with what you want them to know or do. We call this user-centric design, and it is important to remember who the site is really for.

Summary

What you read is more than a philosophy of page design. It is based on best practices, common sense, experience and long term strategy. If you organize your homepage as suggested, covering the key points mentioned here, your homepage will be what is supposed to be, and what your customers need. I suggest finding out your current bounce rate, the percentage of people immediately leaving your homepage, and compare it after you reorganize your page. If is not cut in half, I would be surprised.

If you have a homepage you would like to have feedback on, please leave a comment and I will take a look it and give my two sense, as will (I hope) other readers.