How to make a great home page

Apple website home page

A focused, compelling home page: the Apple home page

The home page is generally a website’s most visible page.

Often, a company will load the home page with too much information. The sad result is that the page feels cluttered and fails to help site visitors know how to do business with the company.

Here are five prime tips for making your home page effective.

1. Focus on what you offer.

If you’re selling products, show the products along with their most compelling benefits and a link to find out more and buy. If you’re selling services, you have a trickier task: how to depict a service? If there’s an easy way to picture it — like a personal trainer helping a client — use that. Or show the end result of using the service.

What not to do: Don’t waste space with company history and background; save that for an inside page of the site.

2. Make the most likely and important tasks super easy to accomplish.

Think through the tasks that a site visitor would want to do when visiting your site, and make it easy to see how to accomplish those tasks from the home page.

For example, if you have a restaurant, figure that a site visitor is most likely looking for a menu, location, hours when you’re open, and how to make a reservation. Make the menu very easy to find (and don’t require the site visitor to download a PDF — put the information right into a page of the site).

On the other hand, if you offer custom portraits, a site visitor is likely to want to see a portfolio and some information about fees. Feature a portrait on the home page, or maybe a selection of portraits, and make the link to see the full gallery prominent.

What not to do: Don’t fill the home page with every bit of information about your company. Keep the page simple, to focus attention on the high priority items.

If you find it hard to limit the page to just one focal point, consider either using a slide show to rotate through the top five items. Or be like Apple and pick one major campaign to promote at a time, but change the top promotion from week to week so there’s coverage over time of everything you want to feature.

3. Offer a compelling call to action.

Once someone has visited your site, what’s the next step? Make an appointment, stop by your location, place an order online? Make a big button they can use to take action, and label it with words they’ll recognize (“Buy Now” or “Compare Plans and Prices”).

What not to do: Don’t use unusual or nonstandard wording on your call to action. It’s great to show a unique point of view throughout your site, including a sense of humor and an original perspective. But take care not to confuse your prospect, particularly when she’s ready to make a decision. For example, use a straightforward “Buy Now” rather than a unique but obscure phrasing like “Make It So.”

4. Keep it fresh.

The home page isn’t a “set it and forget it” page; it’s worthy of frequent updates. Update your site as often as you hope people will visit. If you want people to visit your site every day, you’ll need to post something new every day, or have others post new content daily. If visiting once a month is fine, you can update less often — but you may need to send out an email reminder to let folks know that new content is available.

Some ideas: If your site includes a News section or Blog, include a list of the most recent posts with links to the full entry. If you run a series of promotional campaigns, feature the current campaign on the home page, with a link to details, and make sure to update the page when the feature changes.

5. Make it easy to contact you.

A visitor to your site may need to ask a question, place an order, or report a problem. Offer a means for him to get in touch. You might want to offer multiple ways to contact you, so each person can choose the method they most prefer; consider including phone numbers, email addresses, contact forms, online chats, support forums, Twitter accounts.

Looking for more ideas?

Here are some other useful tips from other sites for designing great website home pages:

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