Designing the perfect home page.

April 24, 2015

The problem with most home pages

Most home pages for any website, are an absolute mess.  The home page is the most over designed and underutilized area on most websites.

The problem is that people feel they need to get everything they can on an index page.  We all hear about search engine optimisation (SEO), ‘the fold’, sliders, hero images and load times.

We all want our home page to make first time visitors say “Wow!  That is a beautiful and well-designed site.”

There’s an element of snobbery with homepages.  With most of us feeling that we need to make a great first impression.  We think we need to have fancy sliders, the ability to reach every page, all the information and links about the company.

Because we’re so confused and in a mess about our home page, it tries to do too many things, and doesn’t do any of them very well.

Where more businesses go wrong

Search engine optimisation

Some websites will go crazy on the keywords and try to stuff as many relevant words and terms into their home page, in order to climb the rankings.

We’ve seen examples so bad that the text reads like that of a babbling mental patient.  For example-

“Plus size prom dress with sash in back

If you’re a plus size girl and want a plus size prom dress, we have a lot of plus size prom dresses. We have blue plus size prom dresses, black plus size prom dresses, yellow plus size prom dresses, green plus size prom dresses, white plus size prom dresses, aqua plus size prom dresses, mint green plus size prom dresses and many more plus size prom dresses for plus size girls. This particular plus size prom dress is sleeveless and has a pretty sash in the back.”

https://webpractices.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/keyword-stuffing-when-good-seo-copywriting-turns-bad/

As you can see.  When we keyword stuff, we sound unhuman.  Realistically, Google wants us to communicate naturally, as if we’re talking to another person.  When you write for SEO, the best practice is to write something cohesive and to back it up with more relevant content.

Google is smarter than you or I (as much as it pains me to admit).  Writing a short paragraph about your business, with a couple of links to blog posts, is WAY more effective.

Sliders

Sliders are the bane of my life.  Lots of customers ask for them, and I’m always having to explain why they’re no good.

I don’t want to repeat myself, you can check out my video and post about why you shouldn’t use sliders here.

But to sum up

  • Sliders negatively affect your SEO ranking. Google doesn’t like them
  • They look pretty, but have a VERY low click through rate. Less than 1%
  • FOMO (fear of missing out) ‘my competitors have one! So I need to have one!’

In short, please don’t use sliders.  Have a paragraph of text and a call to action button.  I’ll even let you have one over a nice big image.

Products

Businesses feel that they need to have as many products or at least categories as they can on their front page.

In an earlier post here, we talked about identifying your idea customer.  This is the customer that is more likely to buy from you.  Take a look at that who that customers is, and put the top 3 products in front of them.

The top 3 product that are easiest to sell.  If your ideal customer has those in front of them, the sales process is shorter and more efficient.

Don’t crowd the page with tons of products, pick the three that are most likely to get people interested.

The fold

‘The fold’ is a hangover from print and weighted graphic products.  Newspapers, letters, leaflets etc all had a physical ‘fold line’ where the user folded the page over.

That way, certain items would be lost unless the reader turned it over.

When email blasted onto the business networking scene, it was swiftly followed by the first websites.

At the time, 99% of monitors were the same size.  This meant that websites and emails often displayed the same date above the bottom edge of the screen.  Or…above the fold.

Businesses today believe the same rule applies to websites today.  Emails too.

The fact is that people know how to scroll.  It’s an instinctual habit that most website users are comfortable with.  Also, screen sizes vary so much that it’s impossible to predict exactly what each user will see.

Tablets, phones, 4K monitors, HD screens, laptops, the list goes on.  There’s no way to 100% guarantee ‘above the fold content’.

Now, in truth, Google probably does weigh some significance on how quickly a user can see content on their screen.  It’s logical to assume that Google would place more importance on content further up the screen.

For example, page titles, headings sub titles and introductions are all the first things at the top of the page.

But frankly, you needed worry about trying to cram ALL your information at the top.

Be smart.  The best SEO advice I can give, is write as if you were talking to someone.  Make the information clear and easy to understand.

Too much information, not enough insight

Finally, the most common sin that website owners inflict upon their audience, is bombarding them with information.

Again, most businesses make the mistake that if they don’t get every single item of information out on the page, their customers will leave.

In truth, you should be able sum up what your business does and how you help your customers within one paragraph.  The longer I’ve been doing this, the more I’m sure this is true.

I have loads of customers reply with “we’ll its complicated, I do so much!” when I ask “what do you do?”

If you can’t tell me what you do, if you help me understand how you can help, how do you expect your customers to understand?

Customers need to understand what you do WAY before anything else.  Way before price and way before they trust you.  We call it the FLUTTBRR method and it explains exactly why understanding is so important.

Don’t overload people with information. Provide insight.  Provide a single useful point that helps them gain clarity on what you do.

You don’t need to tell people how to do stuff, or the type of tools you use.  People don’t care about that.  What people want is a fast understanding, and results.

What you need to do instead is provide a value statement.  Something like-

“We work with X type of customers to help them solve Y kind of problem.  When they work with us, they achieve Z”

Just fill in the blanks.  If it sounds obvious, then that’s good.  It’s probably what your customers want to hear.  Finally, pick 2 or 3 results that you’ve got for your customers and put them front and centre.  People understand results much faster than complicated sales summaries.

What a home page should achieve

A home page should do 3 things.

  • Move people to the right page
  • Help first time visitors understand exactly what you do
  • Increase the chance that someone will give their email address to you to follow up

This is all we need to worry about when we create a homepage, or any content for a home page.

Does any content we create, help users do any of the above?

In fact, if we can focus on JUST ONE of the goals, which would be your priority?

Personally I’d rather be successful at just one of these than try to do all of them.  But all three tend to go hand in hand.

The truth, is that if you’re doing things correctly, your index page should have the lowest level of traffic.  We want people going to landing pages, product pages and to talk to you via email.

“BUT WHAT ABOUT MY SEARCH ENGINE RANKING!”  I hear you scream.

Your content, throughout the site, will affect your overall search ranking.

So if you’re constantly talking about red pre 1960 Ferraris, then Google will push your home page and entire website, to the top of Google searches for ‘Red pre 1960 Ferraris’.

Yes, typically it will be your home page at the top.  But if you’re REALLY doing things properly, when someone searches for ‘red pre-1960 Ferraris’, a specific LANDING page on your website will come up first.

The template

So without any further ado, I present the ultimate homepage template.  Pop your email in the box below and we’ll send your homepage template over.

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Michael

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