Yesterday, I had a fantastic conversation with Gregory Noack. The topic of the conversation was simple but essential to every company… home pages. Your home page is the primary landing page for visitors to your site, so it's critical that you design it well.
We're currently implementing a new site for our agency and Greg brought up some great points that are making us adjust some of our copy and elements. I don't think writing out a priority list of instructions for home page design is appropriate so I've written out some questions that may lead you to the right answers. Greg deserves much of the credit here and I've thrown in a few of my own.
Your home page may require elements that are much different than ours given our audience and the response we're seeking from visitors.
- When do people visit your home page? Is it before they meet you? After they meet you? How would you adjust the information for someone who already knew you versus those who don't? How can you speak to both effectively?
- What's the first impression? If you've spent less money on your home page than your nicest business outfit, or the lobby of your company, or the car you're driving up to meet your prospect with… why? Impressions don't just come from the suit, the lobby or the car… your home page meets and greets many more visitors than you do.
- What's the experience for a mobile visitor? Perhaps your visitor is about to call you or visit your office… so they visit your home page on a mobile device. Will they find you?
- Would your visitors be compelled with stock photography or custom photography? – when we transitioned the website of the largest data center in the midwest to custom photos by Paul D'Andrea, it transformed the web experience and drove many more visitors into tours. Tours lead to customers.
- Are your visitors impressed with your personal achievements or those of your company? – An MBA or professional certification can absolutely provide a visitor with proof of your credibility… but is it necessary to put it on the home page? Use that real estate to speak about the achievements of your company on behalf of your clients.
- What does a 1-800 number versus a mobile phone number tell you about the company? – Most of us err on the safety of a corporate main phone line… but imagine seeing the private mobile phone number of the person you're wishing to really connect with. isn't that much more compelling?
- Which is more powerful – testimonials or features? – again… this is your home page. It's your first opportunity to gain the trust of a visitor. Blathering on about your features or comparing them to your competitors pales in comparison of leaders at major companies sharing their customer testimonials with your new visitor.
- Are your home page elements organized to match your visitor's reading behavior? Visitor attention starts at the top left, then the top right, then down the page. A key title to the left, key contact information to the right… and then content that pulls your visitor in.
- In 2 seconds, what does a visitor know about you? Are the key headlines there? Do they know what your business does? This is a great one to test. Open your laptop to a few folks who haven't seen the site, close it after 2 seconds, ask them what you do.
- If you like to work with certain types and sizes of clients, are there examples of clients like that listed? Burying a client page or mentioning you work with Fortune 500 businesses doesn't have as big an impact as listing the logos of those companies on your home page. Visitors can instantly evaluate whether or not you work with companies like theirs by viewing the companies you work with… get some logos up!
- What do you want the visitor to do next? They landed… they found you… now what? You need to tell your visitor what you want them to do and ask them to immediately do it.
- What other options are there? Ok… they're not ready to pick up the phone, but they're intrigued. Can they sign up for a newsletter? Download an ebook? Read your blog? Follow you on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Google+? Are you providing other options based on the intent of the visitor?
NOTE: Greg credits Seth Godin for insight on home pages… but I believe Greg's insight into storytelling adds much more detail to the conversation.