As search engines get better at connecting consumers' questions to companies with answers, it’s up to businesses to create the kinds of websites web-savvy consumers want to explore.
For most traffic coming to your website - especially new visitors - the homepage is your site’s front door, the gateway to the network of “rooms” that makes up your website.
Just like in the real world, no one arrives at your house only to admire the door - they want to go inside. The same is true for websites.
When you ask businesses what the “goal” of their homepage is, people tend to stumble trying to come up with a clear answer. This confusion over the homepage’s purpose is one of the main reasons so many company homepages are so poorly executed.
The truth is, customers want to find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible, whether it’s a product, a piece of information, or anything else your website offers of real value to them.
With that in mind, the one and only purpose of your homepage becomes clear:
Compel the visitor to move to page two.
If you implement a homepage that can’t do this, you’ve essentially sabotaged your own success by making visitors work harder to find what they’re looking for. No matter how nice your house is on the inside, don’t expect people to appreciate it if you hide the doorknob on the front door.
Alright, enough with the analogies, I think I’ve made my point. Now let’s discuss some of the most common homepage flaws that are keeping your customers from all the great content your site has to offer:
1. Overwhelming people with choices
Visitors don’t want to “read” your homepage. If you force them to, they'll go elsewhere.
We’ve trained ourselves to scan through web pages to find exactly what we’re looking for. When we’re online, our attention spans shrink to almost nothing, so naturally, your design should reflect this everywhere on the website.
Build your homepage to guide your visitors’ eyes where you want the visitor to go next. This means simple homepage navigation using dropdown lists to organize your pages in a way that makes sense to someone even if they don’t know what they’re looking for quite yet.
Here's an example of a homepage that can't decide what exactly it wants you to do:
This company is urging visitors to call them three times on the homepage before they've gotten a chance to actually find out what kind of work they do. There's just too much going on here.
The homepage should only direct people toward places they can go to dive deeper into your products and information.
2. Flashy copy that takes the emphasis off the customer
We care about businesses because of what they can do for us, not because of who they are.
As much as some companies like to think, people aren’t making their way to your site to “interact with your brand.” They’re coming there to find a solution to a problem. Solve that problem, and they’ll trust your brand a little more. It’s as simple as that.
Effective homepage headers speak to the problems your company solves for people, not your products and all the reasons they’re the best.
Say you’re a B2B offering security software. If you’re thinking about the product before the customer, your header might read:
"A cost-effective suite of global security solutions you can trust."
Possibly the most generic, uninspired tagline you can think of, right? Does that compel you at all?
Now let’s try creating the copy that speaks to the customer’s problem:
"Protect your company’s data with a system designed to deter today’s most sophisticated online threats in one affordable suite of security tools."
Notice the difference?
Evernote's homepage is spot-on and they've crafted a simple message that gets right to the point:
3. Distractions when conversion is the goal
Depending on your company, compelling the visitor to get to page two might be as simple as shooting them to a landing page for a downloadable content piece or a free trial.
Like I said earlier, the definition of a great web experience is increasingly becoming one that lets the user find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
When you don’t need pages and pages of content to compel those visitors to convert, cramming pages with unneeded copy, videos, links, ads, and buttons will only deter people from that conversion goal.
Strip down these pages so the offer is front-and-center. If you give people ample opportunities to leave the page you want them to convert on, don't be surprised when people take you up on it.
4. Not showcasing your blog as a resource
Besides news and PR, a company blog is essentially the only thing that makes a company website dynamic and fresh rather than static and stale.
Dynamic websites offer content that changes on a regular basis—something that keeps readers coming back to see what’s new.
Even more importantly, it tells Google your site isn’t just a rock floating in space. Google promotes websites that stay active and prove themselves a resource to people who use their search engine to find answers. The better you are at doing that, the more people Google will show your site to.
Adding snippets from your most recent blog posts gives people an easy way to make their way to this content-rich part of your site - a great way to snag the attention of newcomers using headlines that take on the problems they need solved.