Your Homepage Is Not As Important As You Think
Usability experts have long argued that your homepage is the most valuable real part of your website. As a result, designers and developers put in a lot of efforts on the design of the home page.
Think about your own homepage. Why it’s so valuable?
Your first thought might be “My homepage makes a first impression for visitors”. Yes, there was a time, not too long ago, when a company’s homepage was considered the most important page on their website. This is no longer the case.
Does It Really Make First Impression ?
Yes, according to researchers at the MST it takes less than a second for a user to form a first impression of your company once they’ve entered your company’s website. And the first impressions are 94% design related.
But what if I say that user can start almost everywhere on your site and not on the main page? The starting (or entrance) point for a user could be any page of your site. Today, homepages are increasingly less important, because online behavior has changed. Users now arrive on company websites through various links they find via search engines. And your user is free to use any route that matches her intended goal.
But still it doesn’t mean that you should thrown away your home page. In fact, you should rework homepage and any other page of your site. Take a look on Dropbox’s homepage. It’s the ultimate example of simplicity. It limits its use of copy and visuals, and embraces whitespace. And it has a focus on one primary call-to-action: “Sign up for free”. They follow this basic idea of minimalism in all site’s pages.
- Take the time now to identify the most important things you want visitors to do on your site. Try to understand why users land on your site, and where, so you can provide guidance on taking deeper engagement or deeper relevance to their interests.
- Every page is responsible for communicating the primary goal of the site. And the goal of the homepage is to compel visitors to dig deeper into your website.
- Embrace simplicity. Remove all the unnecessary distractions and focus on a primary goal.
Is It The Most Visited Page?
It’s all about a content. Look at your site’s analytics and you’ll find that people are using search engines, social networks and 3-rd party referrals to find your content. All visitors have different personal goals. You should use analytics data to be able to answer on the question. In fact, you should be interested in three major metrics for each page:
- Total number of visits.
- Average time spent on page.
- Bounce rate (the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page).
Joshua Porter from UIE analyzes their website’s visitor statistics and concludes that lower level articles are far more viewed than the homepage, so optimizing these pages makes more sense than optimizing the homepage. Because it makes sense to spend the most time on things people use.
Understand the goal of your content. If it’s good for your visitors, you should make it good for your business.
Basecamp 3 site is a good example of this strategy. They chose a more blog-like homepage (or single page site approach), which provides much more information on the product. Homepage featured awesome headlines and clever cartoons. Also they have killer feature — Find inspiration section which is a very popular part of the site. In fact, part of the Basecamp clients are subscribers of the Find inspiration.
- After all, content is king. Understand the goal of your content and plan accordingly. If it’s good for users, you should make it good for business.
- Measure. Use metrics to understand what content is the most interested for users. Only after that you will be able to see what actually retains your users’ attention.
Should It be the Most Creative Part of Your Site?
Definitely not! By focusing only on the homepage, it’s easy to ignore how these design decisions affect the rest of the site. This usually happens when designers think about separate pages rather than a entire design system. But your site’s pages are building blocks of the consistent system.
Mint corporate website is good example of the solid structure in web design. Their homepage gives off a secure but easy-going vibe, which is important for a product that handles financial information. Other Mint’s site pages completely follow this super simple design.
Takeaway: Don’t expect to win people over just on the homepage. The entire site is consistent system, not single page.
Do You Need to Show Everything You Offer on Homepage?
No. Your homepage isn’t the place to talk about you at all — homepage is the place to talk about your customers. Highlight the primary message so it embraces users needs and interests, and clearly communicates how your product or service will improve their lives or help to solve their problems.
Apple site has an easy to consume homepage. Apple really knows how to speak their audience’s language! That’s why it’s so clear what the company wants you to see when you arrive by focusing only on the latest product.
- Focus on your personas (customer’s goals and desires).
- Sometimes the best approach is to focus on less to get more out of each site visit.
Content is a key. Today, the old methods of disruptive advertising and cold homepages simply don’t work. You have to earn users attention and provide something valuable for your visitors — not just say common sentences like “We serve” or “Buy it”. And yes, this rule works for your company’s homepage too.