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posted on November 23th, 2012

10 Things Your Home Page Must Have

BY Jason Howard in Web design ,

thingsImagine visiting a home page, looking around, and having no idea what the website is about or what you’re supposed to do next. Unfortunately, this describes the user experience that far too many home pages offer. The average home page lacks substance, confuses visitors, and fails to draw people in. And websites that have a poorly designed home page end up losing traffic and sales to the competition.

 

Your website’s home page is the most important page of your website because it is often the first and only chance you get to make an impression on your target audience. In a matter of seconds, visitors will decide whether or not they want to explore your site further. That’s why you need to communicate what your website is about as quickly and clearly as possible on your home page.

 

Your home page establishes trust and credibility. It also shows visitors how to get where they want to go and exposes them to all of the wonderful things your website has to offer, even if they’re not currently looking for them. The following are 10 elements every home page needs.

01. Branding elements

Your home page gets the main point of your website across. It tells people what your site is about and why they should be there and not on another website. That’s why it’s important to display branding elements that reflect your site’s identity and mission. While every aspect of a home page contributes to explaining what a site is about, the two most important branding elements on a home page are the site ID and tagline. Your site ID tells people who you are, while your tagline describes the purpose of your website and expresses your unique selling proposition.

You can also display a welcome burb next to the site ID on your home page. A welcome blurb is a concise description of your website’s mission. Make your welcome blurb long enough to get the point across but no longer. You don’t have to mention every great feature of your website – describing the most important features of your website is sufficient.

02. Website hierarchy/navigation

When people visit your website, the first questions that typically come to their minds are, “What can I do here?” and “What do they have here?” To enable visitors to answer these questions quickly, you need to provide them with a site hierarchy or navigation menu that outlines your website’s content and features. A site hierarchy also shows users how your website is organized.

03. Search box

Some users won’t be able to find what they’re looking for in your website’s navigation menu or can’t be bothered to look for it, so be sure to include a search box on your home page. The search box should be prominently displayed and easy to find, so people don’t get frustrated and leave your site because they couldn’t find what they were looking for.

04. Content promos

Put your best or most popular content in the spotlight on your home page. Content promos encourage people to visit additional pages of your website.

05. Clearly labeled entry points

There’s nothing more frustrating than visiting a website and having no idea where to start. If your website is based on a step-by-step process, such as getting quotes from different car insurance providers, make the first step of the process leap out to visitors. In addition, clearly label all entry points on your website, such as “Search”, “Browse by Category”, and “Log In”, so visitors can figure out how to perform their desired action.

06. Shortcuts to frequently requested content

Are there pages of your website that people visit frequently? If so, include links to those pages on your home page, so people don’t have to scour your website in order to find them. For example, if many visitors to your website seek out your product literature, feature a prominent link to it on your home page, so they can get to it easily.

07. Latest content

If your website’s success depends on your ability to get people to come back again and again, display your latest content on your home page. Even if you don’t depend on regular visitors, it’s important to keep the content on your home page fresh because it signals that your site hasn’t been abandoned and that you’re still in business. Some content you can share with users includes your latest press releases and blog posts.

08. Deals

Allocate some space on your home page to ads, promotions, and deals. Anything that’s promoted on your home page will get more traffic, but you have to be cautious about cluttering your home page with too many ads because the more things you promote, the less effective your home page will be overall.

09. Let registered users know they’re signed in

Does your website have a members’ area? If so, your home page should feature a link to a page where new users can register and a link to a page where existing users can sign in. If an existing user visits your website, the home page should display a message like, “Welcome back, John Doe.”

10. Teases

Entice visitors by hinting at all of the good stuff that’s inside of your website. Teases are like the lines on a cover of a magazine that encourage people to pick it up off of the shelf and start reading it.

To determine whether your home page is effective and equipped to reach your online marketing goals, ask someone outside of your organization to take a look at it and try to find their way around. This is the easiest way to determine where your home page falls short. People within your organization probably won’t notice what’s missing.

If your home page frustrates users, it will limit your website’s performance and hurt your business. But if your home page succeeds at conveying the big picture and is easy to navigate, people are more likely to have a satisfying experience on your website. Be sure to include these 10 things on your home page to give visitors a taste of what your website offers and encourage them to explore more pages of your site.

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