Good Home Page Design: Why is it so Hard to Get it Right?

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Good Home Page Design: Why is it so Hard to Get it Right?

You know the stats, 97% of visitors to your home page leave without clicking or buying; so if your home page is the most important page on your website, then why are so many laid out so poorly?

For many companies their website is the first point of contact that their customers have with their brand. Websites don’t sleep, they are international and they don’t have sick days. These days it’s not just about having a web presence, it’s about having a website that performs better than your top salesman, and if it’s not doing its job, it needs to be performance managed!

Helicopter View

Let’s face it, you are too close to your own brand. The best way to get some perspective on your brand is to bring in a reputable third party who will help you distil the essence of your brand. Once you have this you should have a clearer view of what is important to your customers and that is the first step in determining what should go onto your website.

We recently conducted a brand audit for a national company where it emerged that their pricing wasn’t their key benefit (as they had long imagined), but in fact service and relationships was why their customers used them. This information was imperative when it came to rebranding their business and representing what they stood for on their website.

First Five Seconds

Within the first few seconds your visitor has rated your website, decided whether there’s anything in it for them and either left or clicked for more information. The book Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug outlines a few of the questions your website needs to answer within this time:

  1. Where am I?
  2. What is this website about?
  3. What’s in it for me?
  4. What do you want me to do?

It’s not just about what you’re selling, it’s about the customer’s needs and the reason they’re on the site. If you keep that in mind at all times you should have a home page that does the trick.

It’s about reducing the 97% to something lower, and it’s about converting more of the people who stay on your site into customers.

Above the Fold

The ‘fold’ is the bottom of your computer screen where the website disappears behind your desktop icons. It’s important that the four questions mentioned above are answered immediately as a user opens your site, and before they scroll or click. This way you’ll reduce the number of bounces from your home page.

Summary of the Site

Your home page should be a summary of the entire website: don’t force your users to use your navigation menu at the top to find pages, give them short cuts via your home page to deeper content. I’m a big fan of giving customers two or three ways of getting to the same page so don’t feel you’re duplicating things.

This won’t work if your business model promotes a single call to action such as ‘download now’ or ‘sign up now’ like where too many options end up distracting users and reducing your sales conversions.

Everybody’s Different

Remember that every user is different, some are visual and some prefer to read text; you have to cater to every type of user to your site. I recently met a client who had designed a site that was totally visual with no navigation and limited text. Not only was this bad for Google SEO but he had only catered for users who were visual. I encouraged him to use stacks of links in the footer and add options to him main navigation menu for users who don’t want to wade through images to find what they’re looking for.

Do some research and find out why your customers use you. Find out the different characteristics and profiles of your various users, and make sure you cater to all parties cohesively.

Don’t Make Me Click

Your average user fears clicking. They think to themselves:

‘Where will this link take me?’

‘What if I click here and money comes off my bank account?’

‘What if I get lost on another page and can’t find my way back?’

I am a huge fan of what I call ‘infinite scroll’ which is when a page is allowed to go on forever and loads new content when you reach the end. Websites like Pinterest, Etsy and LinkedIn do this brilliantly, allowing users to never have the uncertainty of ‘where will this click take me’ as they only have to leave the home page once they’ve found something they’re interested in.

Remember that a brilliantly designed website removes all the effort from the customer by not making them search for what they need. It should be an intuitive and painless process. See my previous article on ‘Are you Torturing your Customer’ about how web pages tend to lose more customers than convert them into sales.

eCommerce Websites

It amazes me how some of the biggest websites in South Africa get this wrong. Remember your home page is effectively the shop front of your retail business; if you were on a retail high street your shop would display its wares in the window to lure buyers in. Your eCommerce home page needs to perform the same function as a store window.

I like to encourage my eCommerce clients to display as many of their wares on their home page as they possibly can. Even better, cluster them by type, remember it’s about not making the customer click or search and about making their lives easier by saving them time.

Usability Testing

Once you’ve designed the website, whether in wireframe, pdf, jpeg or draft web layout, make sure you get at least 5 surrogate or real customers to test the website.

Only a very arrogant web development company or design house will tell you their website is fail-and fool-proof and doesn’t need testing. I’ve done hundreds of hours of user testing and things I thought were ‘no brainers’ turned out to stump the most technologically proficient users.

User testing will save you thousands if not hundreds of thousands of rands and it’s not expensive for us to do.

Don’t Break the Rules

When all else fails, have a look at what the industry leaders like Amazon and Ebay are doing and copy them; they’ve spent millions on AB testing and multivariate testing so they know which versions and wording works best.

That being said don’t get too hung up on what your competitors are doing; by all means familiarize yourself with their work, but make sure you focus more energy on your customers and their needs as you can become too obsessed with your competitors are lose focus with what’s important.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Some graphic designers get carried away and want to move logos around or menus or make the website circular or introduce a loading page…simply put: don’t.

Users have learned through repeated use how websites work, and if you break the rules you forced them to learn how to navigate your website from scratch, which is not something you want to do if you’re already losing up to 97% of web visitors!


Responsive Design: Your website has to be in responsive design (mobile device friendly), it’s not even negotiable. And having two websites (.mobi and is completely redundant and a waste of time and money. Responsive is the only way to go.

SEO: Your website has to rank in Google, it’s also not negotiable! Unless you’re in a massively competitive industry like car insurance you should find yourself on page one for critical short and long tail terms.

Take a bit longer to plan your home page scientifically, you won’t regret it.

Let us know if we can assist you in the design of your homepage.


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