People make a split-second judgment of your website. Is it “talking to them?” Is it worth their time to continue reading it? Are you getting the traffic you want? Are visitors converting to customers?
Having reviewed hundreds of websites I wanted to share some rules to help improve your home page:
- Who’s the audience? Your home page must clearly identify who you’re talking to. This allows the reader to quickly pre-qualify them self.
- What’s the point? Every page in your website should have a primary goal – an action you want the reader to take. Do you want them to sign up for your newsletter? Buy something new? Create a “call to action” to encourage them to do what you want (“Get your copy of ‘Top 10 insider secrets’ by clicking here”).
- Title. The title is used for the window’s title as well as in the name of your site in search engines. Your home page title should at least contain your business name.
- Menu structure. Menus are generally horizontal (underneath the banner/logo) or vertical (left side). Having multiple ways to navigate is confusing. Put your menus in places where people look. Make sure to have a “Contact” and “About” page.
- Footer. Make sure your contact information is on every page. You don’t want your potential customer to have to work to find you.
- Scan-ability. People don’t read websites like they read books. Their eyes bounce around looking for “landmarks” to help them evaluate the site. Therefore, clearly use headings and subheadings to make it easy to find sections. Don’t write long paragraphs. Have lots of white space.
- Fonts. This is related to scan-ability – you want to create a natural scanning sequence. Use one (or two) font families (for example, Arial) at most. Make your general text easy to read for your demographic (for example, make it 14pt for older eyes) and headings at least 14pt. Use bold and italics to help draw the eye to specific words. Don’t use animated text. Use colors only for very important thoughts.
- Graphics & alt tags. Make sure your graphics reinforce your “message” and “look”. Graphics also can act like whitespace if used properly. Don’t forget that all your graphics should have alt-tags (it helps the search engines “read” your site).
- Columns (1 vs 2 vs 3). The more information you present, the harder it is to figure out what to read. For that reason, I prefer one-column or two-column (with special offers/information in the right column).
- Keywords. Use the right keywords to make it easy for people to find you using the search engines. What are the right keywords? The ones people use (for example, using Adwords).
Make sure that when you change your home page you measure its effectiveness. Are you getting more traffic with the new look/text? Are you getting less traffic but more sales? The best solution to effective home pages is the one that works for your business.
In addition to a careful eye, there are many free tools that can help analyze your website. Here’s one: Website Grader