Your First — and Only — Chance to Make Your Website's Visitors Feel at Home
As the name implies, a "home" page should make your visitor feel at home on your website. Because visitors access so many sites, a home page shouldn't try to be all things to all people. Your home page should establish you as the Internet resource for your particular niche topic or product.
Visitors should get the idea that if they want to know more about communications — or cuckoo clocks, index funds, or whatever your specialty — your site is the premier source of ideas and information for that topic on the Web.
One can argue that the home page is the most important page of your website. Why? Because it's often the first thing the user sees when she visits your site.
There's an old saying, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Well, your home page — like the cover of a book or CD, the theme song to a TV sitcom, or the headline of an ad — is the first impression your visitors get. If it repulses them instead of attracts them, you may never get a second chance, period.
Because your home page represents the first — and sometimes only — chance you have to make a good impression and ensure that your readers will spend a lot of time at your website, we make sure our clients consider the following key issues before creating a home page:
- Who are your key target audiences? Isolate each key group. Don't forget about journalists, investors, and other important secondary audiences, too.
- Which types of content are of primary interest to each of your key online audiences? Should you target certain sections of your site (or even certain e-mail newsletters) to cater to specific audience segments?
- What channels or formats does each key audience segment prefer and use? Do they prefer text only e-mail? Do they welcome and use access to downloadable files, searchable databases, or multimedia? Make sure you offer content options and channels that make sense for your audience. Also, make sure you understand what the most appropriate least common denominator for content delivery should be across all of your audience segments.
- What is the "mindset" of each of your audiences? Do they want details? Are they skeptical? Can you assume that they know anything about your organization, what you do, and how you do it? Are they experts who would understand a lot of the jargon of your field?
- Which tone is the most appropriate for each of your key online audiences? Do they prefer a strictly business approach, or will a more chatty or casual tone succeed? Can you employ sarcasm or humor at all? What would likely offend or alienate the groups you wish to attract?
A Solid Foundation — What Your Home Must Have
Many home pages sabotage the website they introduce because the text and graphic elements are too large and they look like splash pages. On a home page, large is bad because the larger the size of the objects occupying the screen, the fewer the number of objects that can fit into the space.
The more options you offer, the more likely visitors are to click one of your links. Accordingly, as many links as possible should appear on your home page without causing unnecessary clutter.
Your home page, at a minimum, should contain the following eight elements:
- A strong headline. The headline can welcome visitors to your site, reinforce your company's positioning, or state a benefit.
- A site introduction. Two to three paragraphs directly under your headline should explain your site's reason for being, who can benefit, and what those benefits are. The introduction should orient the reader to where she is on the Internet (your site) and why she came (the information or help you offer).
- A site menu. Provide a series of links the reader can use to access the various sections or pages of your website. These should remain at the sides, top, or bottom of the screen as the user navigates.
- What's new? Internet users are always looking for what's new, so highlight news and new features on your home page, either with a "What's New?" button or a banner advertising special offers and new information.
- Contact information. Make it easy for the visitor to find your Internet, snail mail, and e-mail addresses, as well as your phone and fax numbers. You never know when or how a potential customer may want to contact you. A buyer with an immediate need may want to speak with a live person on the spot and not wait for an e-mail reply.
- Instant e-mail reply. On the home page and elsewhere display a click-on button that lets visitors instantly send e-mail to you. Be sure someone in your office reads the incoming e-mails at least daily.
- Privacy statement. Show visitors that you respect their electronic privacy by posting a privacy statement on your home page.
- Copyright notice. Your home page should contain a copyright notice along these lines: "Copyright © 2010 XYZ Company. All Rights Reserved." Also, the name that you give your site is technically a service mark, which means it can and should be trademarked if it is available and not used by someone else.
Beyond these "must-haves," a well-designed home page tells a lot about your business and should have six essential characteristics. It should:
- Introduce your business
- Describe the products or services your offer
- Share your firms philosophy or positioning, i.e., the customer benefits or unique selling propositions that set your firm apart from the competition
- Project an appropriate image through your choice of words, colors, typeface, and layout
- Start a relationship (which, you hope, will become a sale) by capturing the visitor's e-mail address and offering visitors reasons to spend time at your site and return frequently
- Communicate urgency by offering fresh information and meaningful reasons for visitors to act now
Your website's home page sets up an expectation on the part of the visitor as to what he will get when he goes deeper into your site.
The tone and style of your site's home page should, to a reasonable degree, be carried out throughout the other pages on your website.
What matters most is how you shape and deliver your messages!
Your website's home page is arguably the most important page of your website, and it is often the most difficult to create. But you don't have to do it alone!
Kethyr Solutions can help make your home page a true home for your visitors on the Internet, one they'll look forward to returning to again and again.
Contact Kethyr Solutions today for more information or call us toll-free at 888-538-4971.
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