Anatomy of a homepage.

How inviting is your front porch?

This is Part 5 of a 6-part series where we share everything that went into building our product, Crew. Since last year, we’ve gone through this process a full time again for a brand new Crew. You can read all about it here.

It all starts with the homepage.

If we had a dodgy homepage, all the things we are working on for this remake of Crew wouldn’t matter. You would never see it.

But before we touched a pixel on the homepage, we looked at data.

Here’s what an average month looked like for the number of people who visit our site that eventually become customers:

The most telling thing here was the 2% conversion rate from a website visitor to a project submission. Of 50,000 website visitors, 1,000 submit a project. This 2% mark is 10x lower than the conversion percentage from any other step in this flow.

We started thinking,

“Imagine if that 2% conversion rate became 20%?”

This might seem like an incremental change but it’s much more significant than that. If we are able to increase the percentage of website visitors that submit projects from 2% to 20% (while keeping the rest of the percentages in the flow the same) the amount of projects on Crew would increase 10x.

Instead of 1,000 project submissions a month, there would be 10,000.

This would also mean more work for the designers and developers on Crew, so we could release more invites to the members on our waiting list.

This is a big opportunity.

To approach ways we might be able to improve this 2% conversion rate, we first thought of the likely reasons why this 2% isn’t higher:

1. The traffic being driven to Crew is not as targeted as it could be.

2. People who visit Crew might not be ready to submit a project yet.

3. We don’t do a good enough job of communicating the value of Crew on our site.

Traffic coming to Crew is mainly driven by content from our blog and projects like Unsplash and How Much To Make An App. We typically cover a wide range of topics on our blog, so to address number 1, we’re testing to see if covering topics more interesting to people building an online product has an impact on project submissions. This is what our How To Build An Online Business series and tools like are for.

For numbers 2 and 3, there may be design changes we can do to improve the lower conversion percentage. To define what we should design, we thought of a list of questions someone might have once they landed on our homepage:

1. How does what you’re selling help me solve my problem?

2. What makes you different from other ways I could solve my problem?

3. Can I use you?

4. How much does it cost?

5. Who’s had success using you?

There are many different ways we could answer these questions. We could create a text-focused Frequently Asked Questions page. We could create an interactive How It Works section. Our goal was to strike the balance between answering these questions clearly on our homepage while delivering an emotional impact.

Here’s how we plan on doing this:

1. How does what you’re selling help me? We wanted the first thing you see when you land on our homepage to be a clear message of our value. Right now, we have a message that was less direct in saying what we did, ‘The best is all we’ve got.’

Here’s what that looks like now:

‘The best is all we’ve got’ subtly communicates our value but we wanted to try a message that’s more direct. We played around with different taglines and landed on, ‘Work with the best designers and developers without breaking the bank.’

Here’s what this will look like:

This one sentence communicates the value of Crew for people thinking about posting a project. We connect you with handpicked designers and developers that have been pre-vetted to meet a standard of quality. Also, because project management, legal, accounting are all built-in to Crew for free, this helps reduce the cost of running a project.

Our homepage is focused on attracting new projects because we currently have an invite list of 7,000+ designers/developers that aren’t in Crew yet and we want to make sure there’s enough work to go around for each member before releasing more invites.

Once we are able to attract enough projects for the number of designers/developers on our invite list, we may consider switching up the homepage to be more balanced to attract both projects and creative professionals.

This approach would be similar to what we had from our first homepage:

our first homepage — April 2013 (we were called ‘ooomf’ then)

When building a two-sided marketplace, it’s a constant balancing act of supply and demand. By focusing the homepage on attracting members of one side of our business (right now that’s people posting projects), we can try to keep supply aligned with demand. It won’t solve the supply and demand tug-of-war completely but it’s one way to help.

2. Can I use you? The second change to this main section is this interactive ‘I need…’ element.

Buttons that say ‘start’ are scary. You never know what you’re going to get after you click one. You need to be almost 100 percent certain you need a product before you hit ‘start.’ Any doubt makes you shy away.

Our thinking with this part of the homepage is to help you know if Crew is for you before you have to hit a ‘start’ button. This might make hitting the ‘start’ button less scary.

Like most things in design, there’s a tradeoff here too. We want it to be clear what types of projects you can do on Crew but at the same time, we don’t want to make it hard to make a choice by showing you too many different project types. This is why we chose to only offer 3 options for projects here:

  1. website
  2. app
  3. logo/app icon

After selecting one of these project types, you’ll be able to refine what you’re building. For instance, if you select ‘app,’ you’ll be able to select between iOS or Android on the next page. And then on the next page, you can choose your features, building up a complete project summary and estimate.

3. If you’re not ready yet. The next piece of the homepage we’re adding is a link to the latest update from our How To Build An Online Business series.

Our plan is to randomly rotate different posts here each time you visit Crew.

This may seem like an insignificant detail but the goal of placing this link here is to give you something that might be useful to you in case you’re not ready to post a project yet.

Maybe you’re coming to Crew because you want to use it one day but not today. If you find one of the How To Build An Online Business posts helpful, you might recall Crew once you do want to start a project or you might subscribe to our newsletter.

The main goal of our newsletter is to provide value but it also acts as a friendly reminder.

4. What makes you different? Apart from access to a community of pre-vetted designers/developers, there are other things that make Crew different compared to the usual process of finding and working with a designer/developer. These things include our automatic budget estimator and matching system to connect you with the right designer or developer interested in your project and ready to start right away.

We highlighted these key differences in a 3-step illustration:

Another thing that we help with is covering all payment fees and legal documents. These things add security for our members and we think they are valuable enough to warrant a slot on the homepage.

5. How much does it cost? Because pricing of web and mobile projects can vary greatly, we’re giving ballpark budgets next to each type of project. This will be a section of the homepage that highlights the different types of projects you can do on Crew. The budgets aren’t in this mockup design yet because we haven’t worked out how we want to show them in a clear way but that’s part of the plan before we put the homepage live.

6. Who’s had success using you? The last part of the homepage is showing examples of how Crew has worked for other customers. This offers validation that people are seeing results.

The projects we highlight here are important because they will attract more of the same types of projects in the future. So we looked for completed work on Crew that were a good representation of the types of customers that find the most value from us.

Here’s the full homepage redesign:

We feel the homepage is in a good place. And we’ll see how it does compared to what we have now once we put it live.

Then, we’ll change it again to try and make it better.

The major thing we’ll be working on next is what happens once you submit a project from the homepage.

What does the flow look like going from the homepage to talking with a designer or a developer?

One of the challenges of designing this part of Crew is the upfront budget recommendation we offer for each type of project. We need to ask enough questions to come up with an accurate estimate but not too many questions where you feel overwhelmed and don’t want to complete it.

Building Crew in Public

Privacy be damned. Building Crew in Public is a series of 6 short essays on product design philosophy and the struggles we faced designing our own product. You can read the original, On The Road-inspired version on the Crew Backstage blog.

1. We’re all selling experiences

2. Start with problems. Not solutions.

3. Constraints, not barriers

4. Ask lots of questions

5. You Are Here

6. The journey is more important than the destination: Designing the optimal onboarding flow

P.S. The new Crew

We recently went through this process again for a brand new version of our product at Crew. You can read all about it here.