Is Your Homepage Doing What It Should?
The homepage is the most important page on a web site, yet it's content is often neglected or even worse, non-existent. There are a few reasons why the homepage is vital to the overall success of a website:
- Within seconds after the homepage is loaded, first impressions of the company are being formed.
- The homepage gets more page views than any other page on your site.
- It's the starting point (barrier) for most visitors to your site.
A homepage should always act as the gateway to the most imperative information on your site. A nice large graphic with little to no copy on the homepage is not going to help the user figure out what your site is about or where they can or should go next.
The homepage is prime real estate for displaying the top tasks that you want your user to complete. You should always use the homepage to tease your users with what's inside. You don't want to give them too much information right away, just enough for them to be intrigued to want to learn more. You need to tempt your users to take a closer look.
The copy for a web site's homepage should always be...
Don't rely solely on your navigation to explain what is on your site. Your navigation labels are dependent on being clear, concise, intuitive and unambiguous; which is usually very challenging. Even if your labels are perfect they are still dependent on correct interpretation by the user. It should be up to the homepage copy to reveal what the site is about and what the user can do on the site.
Users like to interact with web sites. Unlike the offline world users won't sit and read 5 long paragraphs online (unless it's an article or story). Users want to be able to take action on your web site. Instead of telling an entire story, you should give them a few lines and then let the user make the decision to "read more". The copy on the homepage should always be sending your users further into the site.
Give the user what they expect to find on your site. It's important to second-guess what you're putting on the homepage. Although you may think it's nice to have the local weather on your homepage it's most likely not a main reason why the user is visiting your site. Every marketer knows the top reasons why users are visiting their site and they should address those reasons on the homepage.
The homepage needs to reflect your web site's top tasks and goals that you want the user to complete. Always keep in mind the reason why you have a web site in the first place and base your copy on that.
The presentation of your copy is just as important as the copy itself. The different information you present on your homepage should be divided into digestible chunks. It's much easier for a user to scan your homepage when various areas of copy are clearly labeled and defined.
I don't believe in having a homepage that is 3+ page views long. Users will never read that much information. It's best to keep each area of information as brief as possible. Remember, as I stated previously, it's all about deep linking. The goal of the homepage is to get your users to take that next step to get deeper into your site. Keep the copy concise; instead of a paragraph maybe a bulleted list would work better. Everyone knows by now that users don't read online; they scan. Keep this in mind when you are writing your copy.
Homepage copy needs to be kept current and should change as often as needed. It doesn't look good when you are highlighting something that happened over a year ago. If it's not current news then don't put it on your homepage (unless you're presenting a news archive). It should go without saying that if a product or service isn't offered anymore it needs to be immediately taken off the homepage. It's a good practice not to let your copy go stale.
I can't stress this enough. The homepage should be the fastest loading page on your web site. You should strive for your homepage to have a max file size of 30-40KB (approx. 4-6 seconds on a dial-up connection).