In the past, the shop window was critical in capturing the attention of consumers walking by. Now, that job falls to your home page, says DesignCrowd’s Jo Sabin.
Stores would present their current sales, top-selling products, and their logo and store name in the display window to help draw passers-by in the door.
Today, the homepage of a website works in just the same way.
A lot of companies, especially in their start-up stage, make small mistakes when building their online store. A common one is long, ambiguous descriptions that leave a user lost and likely to leave. Users don’t have time to figure out what you do.
Take a look at the list below, and tick off how many are on your website’s landing page. If you’re missing some, start making some changes:
- Business name
- Where to go to purchase your goods/service
- Your web page leads with short, punchy headings supported by a strong calls to action.
- Links to – About us, contact us, blog, newsletter signup
- Links to specials and promotions in the form of badges and buttons featuring strong calls to actions and special offer. Prompt your visitors to sign up to receive offers and build your own mailing list!
- Your unique selling proposition (USP)
- No broken links
Make it very clear what your company does or sells – and don’t forget that simple, short descriptions or phrases work best. Your customer needs to know what you sell and do in the first few seconds of viewing the homepage. Test this by inviting a stranger to look at it for five seconds and then tell you what they think you sell.
Create a Navigable and Unique Design
Navigation is paramount – if you have links to other parts of your website that are clearly signposted then people will be able to get around the shop (to continue the analogy) so much easier. If necessary, use a drop down menu style in the navigation bar to keep multiple pages organised.
Branding is key – who you are as a brand needs to shine through the design of your homepage primarily, but also across every section of your website. Here is a chance to be creative – look at your language, colours and designs and keep it on message. Is your logo located in the header of the homepage? Make sure the entire layout, colours, font styles, and other design aspects remain cohesive throughout the page.
Demand action – you need a strong focus on what it is that you actually want to happen. Make sure the ‘button graphics’ that are designed to attract the eye of the user and the click of their mouse to ‘buy’, ‘book’, ‘order’, ‘start now’, ‘Find Out More’ are all commonly used calls to action displayed as links or bright, eye-catching buttons.
Set a Clear Objective, Test Everything
The key to a successful website is ongoing improvement. You’ll never get the website perfect the first time. You should always be looking to improve the web design over time by testing new designs, new copy, new images. Having a beautiful and effective web design is key to maximising the success of your website and your business. Having up-to-date content, contact information and ensuring there are no broken links or errors will also help get the most out of your website and the traffic you’re getting. Content is an important way to drive visits to your website whether from Google or from returning users.
The biggest mistake people make is designing a website based on how they feel about the design rather than how well the website works. The bottom line is, the best website design is the design that converts the greatest proportion of traffic to sales or enquiries or donations (whatever it is you are targeting).
Choose the Right Designer
Creating your homepage does not have to break the bank. If you plan on hiring a designer to design or redesign your website, use these tips to direct them.
Graphic designers are everywhere and they’re great at what they do. Hiring a freelancer or using crowdsourcing marketplaces is especially good for those just starting up, because it offers the chance to get a volume of creative ideas to test and review before making a selection. It also means you don’t need to hire a graphic designer, you just hire when you need the work done.
If you’re involving a designer, remember the more they know about your business, the better they can create something to meet your needs. Send the designer information about what you do, who your target market is, the colours you wish to use, and anything else worth getting across. The more involved they are in your business, the better the design they will be able to create.
Your website will and should change over the years as your business develops. What won’t change are the structural elements that make a great website. Making these changes will be investments in the future for your business.
Jo Sabin is community manager at DesignCrowd, an online graphic design marketplace.