Every single business is touched by the internet. Thanks to changing consumer behavior and our electronic infrastructure, even the most quiet hot dog stand could have a Yelp review within just a couple weeks.
As such, resourceful freelancers, entrepreneurs, and artists can use it to make a good first impression. After all, even if a visitor isn’t ready to buy, they’re at your site for a reason.
Unless a visitor found a specific page of yours through an outside link, they are most likely to see your home page first — either through a link, a friend’s recommendation, or some other reference. That makes your home page your greatest asset, or (if you don't know how to use it properly) your greatest liability. Remember, home pages are not designed to sell someone on the spot the way landing pages are.
In exploring the art of the home page, we’ll take you through the key components that will help you write your own. You want one that will appeal to your visitors, and make them stick around for more.
Show Your Visitor the Things They Care About
As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to know what matters to your customers before you've gotten to this stage of the game. The key to your sales, through your website or otherwise, is to know and understand what they consider valuable.
Since it’s hard enough to capture people’s attention, you also want to make sure you're giving them the most important information when you do.
A study in 2008 showed that users have time to read 28 percent of a page at most, but it’s usually more like 20 percent, on an average visit. A more recent study on eye tracking said users consume the information on a web page that is relevant to their own goals.
The test photo below from that same study indicates the first few places testers glanced, such as the first photo, and the first price displayed in a large font.
To make sure they are consuming valuable information, even while scanning, make sure you’re showing your potential customers what they’re trying to find. As a business, they want to make sure you’re credible and can provide them the services they need.
If you have products, they will want to see pictures of them, what they cost, and read reviews. Proof of your capabilities, like samples of your work, details of what your services will include, and testimonials from other customers can all help bolster their confidence in you.
Make Them Laugh or Cry
You may not often think of examples of good home pages and wonder how they made you feel, but that’s not a bad place to start. Did a store website make you want to try on clothes or punch up your wardrobe? Did a service website make you want to hire them before someone else did? Did a restaurant’s home page make you wish you were literally there, enjoying that delicious burger?
Focus on your target audience, and how you want them to feel. This copywriter’s website shows off his own skills by offering a pitch for every type of customer. It starts off with a slider in the middle of the dial, but when you drag it to one extreme, here’s what you see:
But on the other side of the dial on the “Hard Sell” side, he uses everything in his bag of tricks (awards, calls to action, dancing cats) to convince a prospective client of his worth.
It’s cheeky, and it’s effective. You can see his imagination and writing versatility. It also got him featured at AdWeek.
Whether your business allows for a little more fun or is maintaining a more a more professional vibe, you’ve got to make your audience curious. If nothing interests them about your home page, why are they going to stick around and explore?
Dress Up and Make a Good Impression
Every visitor will have different preferences for how they like their websites to look, especially within different demographics. Focusing on using your site’s look to represent your business and make a great visual first impression is key.
Beautiful design is not necessarily going to appeal to every customer base. In fact, a deliberately ugly design worked for Snapchat.
But beautiful or not, site design should establish your business’s identity and show what you’ve got to offer. Good design rules still apply, like keeping it clean, not too many different colours or fonts, and strong image choices.
These shots of financial planning site Mint’s home page show a combination of sleek design, attractive photos and graphics, and strong display copy, such as promising, attention-grabbing headlines and subheads that will slow down a scrolling reader. You might also consider how your site can be shared, how it looks on tablets or cellphones, and whether to include video or moving graphics.
Match Your Audience’s Buying Temperature
You need to decide how aggressive you want your home page to be. From knowing what turns your customers on and off design-wise, you can also intuit what might would work for them sales-wise.
Some audiences may enjoy a little more color, like background stories or persuasive opening spiels. But remember, your home page is not the same as a landing page. While some people might expect to get right down to business, others just want to see what you’re about.
Some readers, maybe those who are already fans or returning customers, may have more of an attention span for reading long copy. On the other hand, others may be more visual and quicker to dismiss too much text. There are also users who don’t mind pop-ups or overlays but others can’t stand them.
Make a Strong Call-to-Action for Those Ready
There’s got to be a functionality to your website, and a call-to-action will encourage your home page viewers to make a move that either kickstarts your relationship with them, or even just lets you keep in touch.
It can be a trial version, or a free consultation of your service. You can encourage them to sign up for email updates or gated content, which are good leads for retargeting potential customers, and starting future conversations. It can even be a prompt for an actual purchase, but that’s a big commitment for a first-time visitor.
There are an endless number of ways to optimize after, but you must test out which of these offers your visitors will feel compelled to try, and how you can build your trust with them. Make sure you’re delivering on what you’ve promised, from your hyperlinks to your main sales pitch.
Writing a home page that will get you customers is ultimately about writing one for your customers. And in order to write for them, you must know them very well. It’s part of your job.
And even though we wrote this piece for entrepreneurs, that goes double for people who are happily or unhappily employed at this moment — your customers are your potential employers, and people who can support you in your career.
By focusing on who you are catering to, and even getting their feedback on certain aspects when they start to visit, you can continue to adjust your home page to make sure it keeps getting visitors to hang around, come back, and eventually give your service or product a shot.