Deciding what you want your potential customer to see first when they arrive on your business website can be tricky. Too much and you risk overwhelming them, too little information, you risk them not finding what they are looking for. Either way they are going to leave your website before you’ve had a chance to show what you and your business can do.
This episode gives you a breakdown of the most important elements needed for a homepage and offers some real-life website examples as inspiration.
The homepage brings together all the pages on your website and so, in order to create it and for it to be effective, you need a well-thought out plan that is then subsequently well-executed. It’s all in the detail!
INTRO: This is the Help! My Website Sucks podcast – your bitesize guide to web design. I’m Amy Gumbrell, a freelance WordPress web designer and when I’m not building udderly functional and beautiful websites, I love talking about them. In fact I’m on a mission to make websites next level easy and to make sure that your website doesn’t suck.
This is the final episode in series 2. Everything you need to build a business website. This is the big one. Out of all the pages you choose to have on your website, everyone is going to have a homepage whether they are a one person business or a multinational agency – you can’t create a website without a homepage. Think of it as the digital face of your business – it needs to speak to the most diverse group of website visitors and quickly tell people what you do and how you can solve a unique problem for them. In short it’s the most important page on your website – hands down it’s going to get the most website traffic – yet it’s the most difficult to get right. That being said there are many things we can do to make it work effectively for you and your business. I could talk for hours on this topic – I love to spend as much time as I can working on homepages for my clients – but as this is a bitesize guide to web design, I’m going to give you the shorter-ish version. You are welcome!
Before we rush into the things that make up a great homepage – let’s talk goals. What does your homepage need to do? It needs to engage new visitors quickly – the average person stays on a website for about 50 seconds. This is not very long and for that reason visitors need a reason to stay. A homepage should also move visitors along to the right content. I’ve already mentioned that it must speak to the most diverse group of visitors and so therefore it must offer a variety of places to visit elsewhere on your website. For example some people will want to know about what services are available – send them to your services page. Some will want to read articles around your industry and so sending them to your latest post on your blog page is the obvious thing to do. Another thing that your homepage should do is give people the opportunity to purchase straight away. There are people that arrive at your website knowing they want to make a purchase or sign up straight away to your services and they want to do this quickly. They want zero hassle as they’ve already made their mind up so it’s important to include elements that allow them to do this with ease.
So now I’m going to talk you through 7 different key elements that I think create the strongest homepages. And by strongest I mean most effective in my humble opinion.
In at number 1 is the headline – bam – your website needs to tell visitors what your business has to offer in as few as 6 to 10 words. This is micro elevator pitch time – you don’t have long but it is perhaps the most important piece of copy you can write on your website. Take the Woocommerce.com website – their headline is ‘The ecommerce platform that grows with you’ Bam! There’s no mistaking what they offer and they’ve managed to do it in only 7 words.
Number 2 is your sub-headline or a brief summary of a common issue that you deal with. Here you have the opportunity to expand on your headline and further clarify what your business offers. Siteground – a hosting provider I love to talk about -is very clever about the way they move their visitor along using the sub-header – ‘Elevate your online presence with a hosting partner that has your back – with superb security, ultrafast speed and 24/7 friendly support.’ In only a short space of time, I have many more reasons to stay on their website.
However it’s no good having a succinct headline and a clear brief description of the business if you don’t compel the visitor to want to delve deeper into your website. Welcome to element number 3 – here having two to three maybe even four well-positioned call to action buttons on your homepage is super important. Usually you’ll have one at the top of the homepage with your headline, and sub-headline, you’ll have one at the bottom of your homepage and then one or two more partway down the page. You’ll recognise these buttons as often the copy will be short and snappy and say things like Find Out More, Learn More, Read More, Get in touch and so on. Make sure the button stands out from the rest of the content – many use a contrasting colour to do this. I quite like how Beaver Builder a popular page builder-uses colour on their homepage – in fact you’ll see that they use the two call to action button method – giving people a choice is an alternative way of compelling the visitor to do something further on the website. In this example they use the contrasting colours of orange and green for the hover. In fact I love the look of these buttons too – yep, you guessed it I could talk about button design too for hours! So much web design to talk about and so little time!
The 4th element of a great homepage is the visual. The hero section is directly underneath your navigation menu and is where we will find your headline, sub-headline and first call to action button. Using an image as a background here or hero image further helps to clarify what you offer and as it will be the biggest visual element on your website, it needs to be well-thought out. It goes without saying that it should be relevant to your business but you’d be surprised the number of people I speak to who don’t give this image a second thought. If you sell products, make sure you show the product in action. Much more interesting for the visitor. In fact the use of video in the hero section is becoming more and more widely used. A short looping video is the best option but be careful – a video that distracts too much or isn’t well-shot or seemingly has nothing to do with the service can have an adverse effect on your visitors. Remember too that some browsers and mobile devices don’t like autoplay when they arrive at a website so some people may never see your wonderful video. Whilst looking for some examples to share for this episode, I came across the Dyson website – I like how slick the video hero is and how although, it is really well integrated into the homepage, I don’t feel too distracted from the copy. Bravo Dyson! It definitely kept me engaged and on the website longer than I need to be.
Element number 5 is social proof. Remember I spoke about testimonials back in episode 8? Well, this is where you can use them to add some value to your website. If you work with well-known brands, a section with the logos of those companies is a great way to show how you’ve already built trust with other companies. Another way I’ve seen people use social proof is with stats. People love to quantify everything so why not mention some of the results you’ve achieved for your customer – you could include the number of years you’ve been helping your clients, hours you have saved your clients or awards you’ve won. I’ve seen lots of ways of doing this but one that springs to mind is on Learndash’s website where they use the words ‘Learndash is trusted by brands including‘ in their logo section.
Next up is element number 6 – links to other parts of the website. As important as your homepage is, there are other pages that will help to convince the visitor that you are the business for them. For example many websites have a section with a summary of their 3 main services laid out next to each other each with an eye-catching visual element such as an icon or photo. This section also includes a call to action button taking the website visitor to a dedicated page all about that service. In fact this is how I lay out my own services – practising exactly what I podcast. Another example is to include a section showing off your latest projects with a link sending them to your full portfolio to see more examples of your work. Again I’m a big fan of this approach.
Finally in at number 7 we have faces or show the team! A quick hello with a who you are and what you are about goes a long way in building up trust with your potential customers. A high quality photo of you and/or your team is also key. It’s digital eye contact that people crave and will really help your website visitors connect with you and your business. Don’t forget to include that all important call to action button to your about page so they can find more.
That was my top 7 elements for a homepage. There are other things you can include such as describing benefits of your service/product and offering resources for free such as a free PDF or ebook but as I promised at the start, I’m supposed to be keeping this episode to a bitesize length and I like to keep my promises. What I will say is that if I have missed anything out, please do drop me a message and let me know.
OUTRO: If you’re hearing this message, you’ve reached the end of another Help! My Website Sucks podcast episode. Thank you so much for listening – I really appreciate it. If you need help with your website, get in touch at twocowsweb.co.uk and until next time bye bye for now!