I don’t start with a design objective, I start with a communication objective. I feel my project is successful if it communicates what it is supposed to communicate.
Your website homepage is the “first impression” people will get from your business online. So of course you want it to look great. But there is so much more to consider on your homepage than just the design. As Steve Jobs once said, design is not just how it looks, it’s also how it works.
A beautiful website is great, but as with all forms of marketing, you need to take a strategy-first approach and make sure that your website is helping you achieve your marketing goals.
Here are several mistakes I see businesses making on their website homepage that are preventing their sites from “working” as well as they should and are likely even driving their visitors away.
If a user arrives at your site and sees a huge menu or list of options, it usually leads to “analysis paralysis”. In the case of navigation, less really is more and you want to make the choice simple for your user. Rather than take the time to read each option and decide, that user will be gone and onto the next website before you can say “bad user experience”.
Ask yourself how you can simplify your menu. What are the top 5 or so options that your visitors really need to see? Keep those and the rest you can remove from the main navigation and put in a less noticeable menu in the footer or sidebar.
Image sliders were a big trend for a while and were on almost every website. Thankfully, I think this trend is on the way out, but I still see too many websites with image carousels. Countless research and usability studies have proven that image carousels are most often ignored by users and frustrating to use. To read more about the ineffectiveness of image carousels, see this article, or this one.
Don’t let an image carousel take up that valuable retail space on your homepage and instead replace them with something static that entices your reader to head further into your site.
Which brings me to my next point…
As Marcus Sheridan says, “the purpose of your homepage is to get the visitor to page 2 of your site”. Without any calls to action on your homepage, you are not really encouraging your user to visit any more pages. It would be like if someone came to your door and you didn’t even invite them in. (How rude!)
Invite your visitor in to take the next step. What is the most important page for your visitors to see after arriving at your homepage? Direct them there. Maybe that is your about page so they can read more about you, or your latest products page so they can browse what’s new.
Adding a call to action (or a couple) on your homepage will nudge your visitor on to take the next step and browse more of your site.
Your website needs to do more than just look beautiful. Someone with only knowledge of design alone will not be able to create a website for you that helps you achieve your marketing goals. And isn’t that the whole reason you have a website?