The home page is the most important page on your site. The majority of your new visitors will enter your site via the home page. Your top priority for the home page is to make sure it gives new visitors a good first impression of your site. If you fail, a lot of visitors will leave, probably never to return. We cannot stress how important this is!
Here are some tips on how to make a good first impression with your home page.
First Three Seconds are the Most Important
You only have a few seconds to give your new visitors a good first impression of your site.
If the visitor is not impressed, they may leave your site, never to return.
We all know first impressions matter. Be it with a magazine cover, book cover, car, house, person or Web site.
Studies of human behavior have revealed that we decide if we like or not like something, or someone, in the first few seconds we are presented with it.
Your home page must get across quickly and clearly its identity.
It's not unusual for me to visit hundreds of Web site a month. Quite often I wouldn't be able to work out what the site is about from the home page alone. So I have to resort to finding out from the "About Us" or "Mission Statement" page. Make sure your home page doesn't make the same mistake.
Your home page must clearly state the benefits of exploring your site further. It is recommended that you display a concise, benefits driven statement in a prominent position near the top of the home page to sell the benefits of your site.
Make sure you only state the benefits the user will receive by using your site. Don't make the mistake of listing features. Remember, people only care about the benefits they will gain from using your site. They don't necessarily care about the cool funky feature you designed.
The primary navigational cues on a site are usually the links at the top of each page. They give a very quick overview of the site's content. The links should link to the main categories of your site and be worded in such a way that they are all self-explanatory.
Don't confuse the primary navigational links with the local navigation links. Local navigation links are links to pages within a category and are usually displayed on the left side of sub-pages
Direct Links to the Content Advertised
Display direct links to the content you're promoting. This could be Internet, magazine, book, radio, or television advertising.
Often, I have seen a magazine or television advert, have visited the Web site for more information, and yet when I get there, I can't find a single link or even a hint as to where I should go to find more information about the promotion I saw. What a way to waste your advertising budget!
So make sure your marketing department informs the webmaster of any promotions. Your IT department should also be informed to make sure your servers can handle any anticipated surges in your site's traffic.
Feature and Content Teasers or Promotions
In the real world, a storefront is designed to entice people passing by to walk into the store. On the Internet, a home page is like the storefront in the real world. The home page is used to entice visitors to explore the site.
Promote special features and popular content areas with short teaser ad copy and graphics. On e-commerce sites, promote the most attractive sale and special offer items.
You should offer fresh content on your site at a regular interval, ideally every single day, or at the very least, every week or month. This will encourage people to return on a regular basis.
New content should always be promoted on the home page. But don't forget to also promote new content on the main category pages, otherwise when users visit a category, they may think there's nothing new in it.
Links to the Most Popular Content
Make it easy to find the most popular content on your site by providing links to the most popular content areas directly from the home page.
Links to the slightly less popular content areas should be located on the second level of your site. This way, links to most of your popular content areas are within two clicks of your home page, and are easier to find.
Make it easy for new visitors to explore your site by providing obvious starting points.
Make sure you include the following common starting points on your home page:
Here are some other less common, but recommended, home page starting points (some may not be appropriate for your site):
A search engine is one of the most popular functions on any Web site and every home page should include a basic search form. A site search engine should only search the site the visitor is on, not other Web sites around the Web, unless that is exactly the service you're providing your users.
Some Web designers have often thought that it would be best to provide users with an advanced search form straight away, instead of making them go to another page to use it. This isn't such a good idea. Most users do not understand how to use advanced search forms, and simply want to type a couple of words into a box!
As such, make sure that the primary search feature on your site is a simple affair with a single text box and a submit button. You can provide a link to an advanced search system below this, for expert users to click.
Registration or Log-In
Display the registration or sign-in form prominently above-the-fold of the home page, if you require users to register for access to your site. Don't forget to include a link to a page where users can ask for lost passwords to be emailed to them.
Web sites that rely on advertising to generate revenue need to have prime space set aside for its sponsors. Without doubt, the best real estate is usually on the home page and "above-the-fold" (visible without having to scroll down the page).
Even though you may need to show ads, the home page has to still download as quickly as possible. To help achieve this, try to minimize: