When it comes to website design, there are tons of online builders that will help you get started. But just because someone gives you a hammer doesn’t mean you can build a functional rocking chair! While sites like Wix and Weebly provide tools for website design, most people won’t know how to use them effectively. That’s why we’re here to offer some design advice on how to build an effective homepage.
While sites like Wix and Weebly provide tools for website design, most people won’t know how to use them effectively.
Start by understanding what a homepage does.
If you ask most people this question, you’ll get surface answers like:
- It’s the front page of your website
- It says the most about your business
- It’s where other pages link back to for navigation
And all of that is true! That’s what a homepage is, but what is the actual purpose of a homepage? Good website design is about catering to what the people using your site are looking for. Your homepage is your very first—and frequently only—chance to do that.
So it is crucial that your homepage not only look good but follow these three basic steps to be effective:
- Catch attention immediately
- Tell the user who you are and why they need you
- Direct the user to the information they want in as few clicks as possible
If your homepage can do this, then you’re sure to capture more traffic and leads than any site that simply looks nice.
1 | How to catch attention immediately
In the early days of the internet, people thought that color, motion, and sound was the go-to way to set their site apart. A lot has changed in 30 years (thankfully!) and the new normal is to be sparse and simplistic in order to deliver your message clearly.
Start with a bold background image or color block.
If you’ve ever heard the term “Hero Image” talked about, this is it. A hero image is typically a bold, fullwidth graphic that is the first thing people see when visiting your homepage. It can be a photograph, illustration, sometimes even an interesting field of color, but its main purpose is to create visual interest and get the user’s attention the second they land on your page.
A hero image typically serves as a background to your site’s headline statement in order to reinforce what you’re communicating about your business. This is a popular and effective way to fill space, create interest, and command attention on a homepage.
A bold, fullwidth graphic that is the first thing people see when visiting your homepage.
Include a call to action
Your goal is to guide users to a destination, not lay everything out at once and let them decide what they think is helpful. A call to action makes it clear what step you’re offering them next, and it will help users decide if that’s where they want to go.
Calls to action are typically shown in the form of buttons that link to other pages. They state clearly what you’ll expect to do when you get there. For example: “See more services” “See our projects gallery” “Get a quote.”
People skimming your page will see these more easily than a link buried in body text and it will help them move around faster. In your header, include a CTA that makes the most sense for what people are likely to need.
Call to Action.
A clearly visible button or prompt that asks the user to do something specific.
2 | How to write a compelling hook for your homepage
If you’re running a full scale business, you likely have a lot of information to tell people! The trick is getting them to care. Your homepage should start off with a clear headline statement—two sentences or less!—that says exactly what you do and why they should stick around to learn more.
Write about how your service benefits the user
Business owners know their companies best, so it can be tempting to use your headline to highlight the achievement or service you’re most proud of. But while it’s good to share credibility-boosting information like reviews and awards, your headline is not the place to do it.
Users come to your homepage with a goal in mind. They need something, and you may or may not have it. They don’t want to know how great you are, only whether you can fulfill whatever need they have at the moment. A well-written headline should communicate just enough value to keep them interested, so always write your copy with a bent toward what customers will see as useful.
Consider these two headline options for a company that installs floors.
From a customer standpoint, what sounds more appealing at first glance?
“DFW’s number one flooring installation service”
“Get your dream floor. Wood, tile, carpet from cloud 9…we install it all.”
The first is a claim anyone can make. It highlights words like “service” which can make people think of money. It’s pretty boring and only says who you are, not why the customer cares.
The second option focuses on the customer’s end goal. They don’t want to hire an installer, they want a beautiful floor. Leading with that helps connect with why they came to you. Following up by affirming you do multiple types of flooring casts a wide net and says that you are useful for many different needs. Viewers will be more likely to seek more info on your site for their specific project.
Keep SEO in mind
Search engines find your website based on links and keywords. One aspect of optimizing your site to rank high in Google results means including keywords in whatever copy you write. So the one advantage that headline number 1 has is that it’s more likely to match customer search terms: “Flooring installation service DFW” for example.
But getting traffic to your site is one thing, keeping it there is another. If lots of people find your site but click away quickly because they don’t think you’re what they need, you’re not making sales. Heading text and subheads matter most, but you can also work keywords in throughout body copy on your page. So try to find a balance between writing an appealing headline for your viewers and including words that Google needs for SEO to help you show up in results. Learn more about SEO here.
Search engine optimization. The practice of optimizing your website to rank better in searches in order to become more visible to users.
3 | How to organize information on your homepage
So, you started off with a hero image and a strong headline. For most pages and screen sizes, those items will fill all the space “above the fold.” Most of us know that term from newspapers which rely on the same principles to entice people to read more. Bold headline, compelling image, then an indication of where to keep reading. That’s the other goal of your homepage.
Once you’ve got their attention, start funneling traffic into other pages on your site. Different users have different needs, so make it as easy as possible to get to their end destination.
Start general and funnel down.
When people first land on your homepage, you have a whole kettle of fish. Most of them will want to know the same basic things about you, so after you have them hooked, start filtering them through general information: do you offer x service, do you operate in my area, are clients happy with your work, etc.
Highlight your main services – What you have to offer.
A good homepage typically highlights your top services or offerings next. Consider using an image or icon to highlight each service, with a brief headline and description included for keywords. You may want to show off 3 or so of these and include a call to action to visit your services page to see more.
Establish credibility—Your company and your expertise.
If people don’t peel off to services at the first opportunity, they may want to know more about your company before they dive into your work. Consider a blurb here with a picture of your team, facilities, or products. Talk about the areas you service, how long you’ve been in business, or anything that’s relevant to how your company operates and fills a need in your industry. Client reviews go a long way to establishing credibility as well. Consider including a testimonial blurb with 3-ish top reviews from your clients.
At the end, try to secure leads with a prompt to contact your company. If you sell services, this may be a quick contact form with an option to call instantly instead. Or it may be a banner that encourages users to get a quote by linking to a more detailed request form. If you sell products, consider promoting an offer that customers can benefit from (like a % off coupon good in-store only, if the goal is to drive traffic to your location). Maybe you’re a restaurant and a simple “Get directions now!” link to Google maps is all you need. Choose what makes the most sense for you, but never let someone get to the end of your homepage without a clear next step to lead them. Otherwise their next step will likely be to go back to search results and find someone else.
Above the fold.
The area that is immediately visible on a webpage when users first view it. It changes according to screen size.
Every business is different, and every homepage should flex to support your company’s brand and target audience. But the general tips above will help you build a better structure, so whatever style you bring to it only adds to the effectiveness of your page. At the end of the day, a good homepage will capture attention and guide users through your website all the way to making a conversion. Good luck designing!
And as a small aside, if you’re only designing your own website because you think professional design is out of your budget, you might be surprised. Many local marketing agencies—us included!—work with businesses of all sizes. It’s always worth calling or emailing to discuss your needs and get a web design quote.
That’s it for this week’s Red Arrow Blog. If you found these resources useful, let us know below! And be sure to follow our social media for weekly articles to help you make the most of your business.