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Is your home page doing its job properly?

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Nearly every website has a “home” page... but what is its purpose? Here are the different elements your home page needs to convey.

You’re wandering through the mall, in need of a new pair of shoes. Walking around, you check out the shops from the walkway.

Hmmmm, that shop looks like it only has trainers and casual shoes – that’s not what you’re after! That shop looks far too pricey; keep walking, keep walking, don’t get tempted by those expensive shoes! But ewwwww, that shop looks really cheap and nasty. You want better than that.

You keep walking round the mall, and finally you find a shoe shop that looks just right.

Notice what you’ve just done?

You’ve been making judgements on the shops without even setting foot inside them. You were quickly able to guess whether a shop is suitable or not just by looking at their window displays and into their open doorways.

A website home page is like a shop window

One of the most important jobs of the home page is there to entice the right customers to enter.

Think about it in terms of the website user: they’ll be wondering if your business is the right company for them, in terms of products, services, culture, personality, and price.

In short:

  • Can your business fulfil their need?
  • Do you have the right solution?
  • Can they trust you?

The reader’s attention span is short

Not only does your website have to convince the reader – it has to do it very quickly. Website users have short attention spans and make snap decisions. In fact, you have just 5 seconds or less for your website to make a good first impression and to lure the prospect to read on.

It’s a bit like the shoe shop in the mall: you might wander in, thinking the shop is the right one for you. But then you see the prices, and you walk straight out again. Thus your website home page needs to make a good initial impression, and then earn the reader’s eyeballs for the next 50 seconds.

Sounds like the home page needs to do a lot!

Yes, your website home page has to work very hard indeed.

So make sure that it:

  • Clearly identifies who your target customer is.
  • Demonstrates your understanding of your target customer’s key challenges.
  • Begins to hint at your solution... but don’t go into too much detail. (That’s the job of your Products or Services page.)
  • Sums up what’s unique about your business (i.e. why should they choose you, rather than a competitor?)
  • Conveys that your business is trustworthy and reliable.
  • Looks professional; is easy to use; and has an attractive design.

If you manage to do that successfully, you’ll have an attractive shop window that’ll attract your target customers. Leaving you to sit back and admire your new shoes when you’re talking to the new clients your website has attracted.

The home pages on our eCommerce Websites are designed to 'talk' to the agreed target market, and will also allure potential buyers with 'On Sale', 'Featured' and 'Clearance' products (or whatever the client needs). This way the shopper sees instantly the types of products on offer (and instantly knows if they are in the right place or not), the pricing, and that they can grab a potential bargain and hopefully other products whilst they are in your online store.

Home pages and search engines

Another thing worth noting is that Search Engines (like Google, Yahoo and Bing) will put a lot of weighting towards your websites home page. So not only do we need to fulfil the above requirements on the home page - but it also needs to have a good amount of keywords (with links to inner pages if possible) and general content. Generally about 500 words+ is good for a home page - but too many can cause your page to look too text heavy to the potential shopper.

One method we use to ensure there is plenty of text content on a home page for both informational, marketing and search engine purposes - but keep the textual content elegant and uncluttered; is to add 'accordion' style drop-downs lists (see the eCommerce Websites homepage - the 'At a Glance Features'). That way the search engine sees the keyword rich content and customers see bullet type lists that can reveal more information if clicked on (or even rolled over etc).

The home page will often (but not always) be shown in search engines and the homepage 'meta description' will often be used to describe your website to the viewer, yet another important aspect of a homepage.

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