Finding balance with design is difficult. Each page on the web typically has at least one conversion goal. It is the job of the design team (client included) to determine what the goal of each page is, and to make sure that goal is achieved. A difficult thing most designers and clients struggle with, though, is the homepage.
Most folks can come up with many different conversion goals for a homepage. When a new visitor lands on the homepage there are a variety of different actions they can take. A visitor could go straight to the contact page or look for the search bar to start digging for information. If you are having this issue with a homepage design you’re not alone. Here are some tips to understand when your homepage is overcrowded and what you can do about it.
Homepages need some improvement. There are too many out there that are overcrowded and difficult to understand. They are leaving new visitors confused and looking for another answer to their problem.
I’m a believer that each page on a site should have a goal. For an effective homepage, that goal is really the goal of the entire site. Let’s dig deeper into that idea.
Establishing the Goal
The Issue: The homepage doesn’t have a consistent goal or message. There is no effective brand. As a result, the homepage is left trying to accomplish too much. The result is the homepage accomplishes nothing.
The Fix: Sit down with your client and ask them the reason they are having a website developed. You can still ask this question for a redesign. Figure out what the client is trying to accomplish. Maybe they are looking for more sales. Maybe they are looking for more leads.
Once you understand what the goal of the website is you can better understand what the homepage is about. Instead of putting a short description, an excerpt of services, excerpts from the blog, and multiple other elements, you can put a clear headline that lets new visitors know what this website and business does for them.
Here is an example: SEOmoz
First things first. Within the first moment of opening the SEOmoz homepage I have a pretty good understanding of the service they provide. The company offers SEO and Social Monitoring.
Now, it’s also obvious the company has the goal of converting new visitors into subscribers. The way they promote this first step is by offering a free trial. New customers get the first 30 days for free. Again, this fact is obvious within a few moments of arriving on the site.
The next question I have as a visitor is:
Why should I subscribe?
I realize I have an issue with SEO and social monitoring (otherwise I’d leave the site), but I’m curious to learn more about why SEOmoz offers the best solution. The rest of the homepage works to answer this important question. There are logos from popular companies that use the software. This is important for decision makers. It’s good to see that others have had success. This lowers the risk as opposed to working with a completely new company or product.
The goal of this site is clear in the design. As a visitor, I can work my way through the decision process effectively. I’m not confused. Everything gets off to a great start on the homepage.
Few Calls to Action
The Issue: With too many options, the visitor can’t decide.
The Fix: There isn’t really a hard-set optimum number of calls to action, but keep it to a small number. There is a danger in having too many calls to action on the homepage. It’s dangerous to have too many calls to action on any page. The homepage, though, is make-or-break for many websites. If the homepage is confusing, new visitors will leave before they waste their time trying to figure things out.
Sometimes when I visit newspaper sites I get really confused. There are too many options on the homepage that I don’t really know where to begin. It drives me crazy.
The same thing happens on ecommerce sites. Most people simply ignore the links and images that take over the page and go straight for the search bar. People seem to generally have an idea of what they should search for and they’ll type that query into the search bar while completely ignoring everything else on the page.
Ecommerce sites are like a merchandise catalog that gets sent in the mail. Typically, the best catalog covers offer one or maybe a few suggestions for products. From there, the viewer knows to begin their search by turning the page. Good homepage designs take into account the goal of the page. From there they have one main call to action along with a couple secondary calls to action. The idea is to get each visitor started on the desired journey through the site.
Here is an example: 37signals
I love the headline 37signals starts out with on their page. It gets to the point of what they do as a company. The headline gives a good introduction to the value the company promises. From there, the visitor will be able to choose the product that might fit their specific needs best. They click on the corresponding button and dig deeper into the features and benefits.
There are a few smaller calls to action on the page as there are on most pages. The top navigation gives me options to read about the company. If I scroll down there is some selling information to help back up my decision process. There are also more links for legal items and a general 'contact us' page.
The trick with homepages is to try to figure out the state of mind each visitor your site is in. You want to focus on the biggest target visitor. Cater the main call to action for them and base that call to action on the goal of the site. Leave all other possible visitors and their calls to action for smaller areas of the page.
The Issue: Most websites sell something. Your site doesn’t accomplish this simple goal.
The Fix: If you’re working with a project manager or the owner of the business, make sure you discuss their selling techniques.
The goal of most websites is to sell something. It could be a product or a service. It could be sold to consumers or other businesses. If something needs to be sold on the site then the entire website will act as the online salesperson. The website is the salesperson available when the owner of the real salespeople are not. It’s an important job.
Make it part of your pre-design discussion to consider selling techniques. Ask the client how they go through the sale with a customer in person. If the project manager is not a salesperson then ask to have a salesperson involved during the process. Make sure to capture all the details.
Let’s look at a common example: Apple
Most salespeople start by showing their product to the customer. You can even think about the door to door salesman for example. As soon as the door is open they are ready to show their product. They have all the information ready to go to move the potential customer through the decision process, but it starts with the product or the service.
Apple does this well with their page. They are selling iPads and that is the only focus on the page. Well, it’s not the only focus. There are a few small links in the top navigation for those that are not interested in the iPad, but are looking for other areas of the site.
A good salesperson will not overwhelm the potential customer with too many options up front. They will use their knowledge to sell the product being offered. The iPad is what Apple wants to promote. They show it and get rid of the rest of the clutter.
We’ve reviewed three key concepts for homepage design:
- Establish The Goal
- Few Calls to Action
- Online Salesperson
Each of these concepts should provide a starting point for better homepage design. It will take collaboration with your client. You’ll need to get their input on what is really the goal and the priority of the site. Some tough decisions will need to be made.
In order for a homepage to remain uncluttered and free of overcrowding, you’ll need to focus only on what’s most important. Focus on the goals of the business and then consider the actions each new visitor will need to take as they work to make a decision.
- Websites are about conversions. The conversion can be anything, but the goal of each page is to work toward the conversion.
- Most homepages are overcrowded these days. It results in lost conversions and lost sales.
- Make your client happy and deliver a better home page design by using the insight above.
These are 10 more homepage examples I feel have great design.
Hopefully you can see from this article the great importance of keeping your homepage clutter-free and bringing the most important and required elements to prominence according to the requirements of the majority of viewers.
Have you come across any excellent examples of effective homepage design? Or even any dreadful examples? Please share your opinions and links with us in the comments section below.