6 Things Your Home Page Must Do (to Keep from Sucking)

6-things-home-page-must-do

Home pages. If you have a website, you have one of these bad boys. And no matter whether you’re selling real estate or masturbation devices (that’s really the entire spectrum there, right?) there are certain things that your home page MUST do if you hope to sell your product or service.

Let’s break it down.

The 6 Things Your Home Page Must Do

  1. Needs to speak the users language
  2. Needs to communicate who the customer is
  3. Needs to communicate the core benefits
  4. Needs to show passion for the product
  5. Needs to build trust
  6. Needs to push user into the sales funnel

1. Needs to speak the users language

This is really the whole ball of wax. We want to use plain language that doesn’t sound puffy. The #1 way to relate is to put things in terms your average person can understand. At the same time, we want the language to be generally positive. We want to associate positive terms with the product. And when possible we want the design to indicate that the positive traits are baked in… that it’s more than just lip service.

Ur Doin’ it Wrong: Webtrends

Who are they talking to with a phrase like “We enable you to deliver the most relevant messages and experiences that drive remarkable results across your mobile, social, and web efforts.”? This is so wide open that it could apply to anybody who wants to communicate online. Presumably what they do is more narrow than they’ve indicated. But to a larger point: WTF do they do, exactly? Because I can’t tell.

Ur doin’ it Right: WordTracker

WordTracker speaks to me from the get go. “Find the best keywords for your business.” As Newman might say, bing-bong-boom. Put it on the board! We have a winner.

They go even further by using language that points out why I should use them: Save time, Attract more traffic, Rocket to the top of search engine results.

I’m in. Why? Because they spoke my language clearly enough for me to understand how they can help me. (This also means they did a good job communicating their core benefits, #3.)

2. Needs to communicate who the customer is and then speak directly to them

One of the first things people do when they get on a page is they try to figure out if they’re in the right place. If a user can identify that he’s the target market, then right off the bat he knows whether he’s in the right place. It’s also true that you can define a product by its market. By speaking directly to the market, we are much more likely to say the things that will make them buy.

Research also shows that prominent use of smiling faces and testimonials ranks right at the top of list of things that users like to see when evaluating a product. The quotes are short and meaningful, the faces are bright and cheerful.

Ur Doin’ it Wrong: Pinterest

This is a controversial choice but let me ask you this: How’d you get started using it? And are you completely sure that it’s for you? All I’ve seen are people wondering what all the fuss is about. Why is this the case? It’s because the site sucks at telling you who its for. And its behavior is unique enough that unless you’re attracted to the technology and layout, it’s confusing as hell.

Ur doin’ it Right: ThinkGeek

ThinkGeek has been selling geeky items to nerds for years. They know their audience and do an excellent job of catering to them. From their choice of items on their website to their layout, to their text – everything is in service of communicating to the visitor that they are the go-to place for nerd culture.

3. Needs to communicate the core benefits

For some reason, this can be difficult for sites to do. Maybe it’s because it’s easy to get confused between features and benefits.

Features are the equivalent of a technical line item. You see this all the time in the automotive industry.

“It’s got a 264 hp 6-cylinder engine.”

Uh. Wut?

“The engine is so responsive that it’ll get you down the road or out of a jam with minimal effort or lag.”

Ohh…. right. So I can go fast and avoid collisions. See? A feature is a lifeless specification. A benefit is what that spec enables you to do.

Ur Doin’ it Wrong: MySpace

Shit, remember MySpace? Who uses it anymore and why? Look at their home page… you won’t find the answers there. But, hey! T-Mobile (and music history!).

It also has to be embarrassing that you can login with your FB account. Seriously, is MySpace supposed to be a media hub now? I can’t tell but it sure seems like it.

Ur doin’ it Right: CallRail

CallRail is a website you’ve probably never heard of before. Instead of saying anything about them let me show you their front page. Try to figure out what the core benefit is to your business. If you can figure it out in under 3 seconds, I’d say they did a good job.

Good job!

4. Needs to show passion for the product

Compare the ThinkGeek and MySpace images above. ThinkGeek clearly has a passion for what they do. It’s evident in the design. And if you were to navigate to any product description page, you’ll see that their passion is baked into every page of that website. It’s obvious that it’s stuff for nerds by nerds. The passion is clearly there.

Now look at MySpace. We can’t even tell what they are anymore. Maybe they’re still a social network. Maybe they’re trying to be the entertainment social network. Maybe they want to be an entertainment hub only. But one thing is for sure: we can tell they’re not really that into it. Everything about this page screams “I give up!” Maybe it’s the fact that the primary screen real estate has been sold to advertisers. Maybe it’s the fact that you can login via Facebook. Or maybe it’s the fact that the main content couldn’t be more utterly boring and Who-Gives-A-Flying-Fuck if you tried.

Are they really convinced that people care about (a) the 100th anniversary of Oreos and (b) music history? Or do they just not care?

Your website needs to show that it cares. But SHOW it don’t SAY it. If I catch you saying “We’re passionate about our [insert your product/service here]” on your website I will go Jay & Silent Bob on your ass.

Are we good?

5. Needs to build trust

Users want to know two things: (1) that they can trust you and (2) that you’ve taken adequate precautions with their personal data.

The first is built through the use of:

  • personal testimonials
  • recognized company logos
  • recognized media logos

The second is built through:

  • technical attributes (SSL/Verisign/HackerSafe (or McAffe Secure if you think that’s a better name))
  • explanation

The #1 thing you can do to improve your level of trust is to get a great, very short, testimonial from somebody who has a great smile and to put it prominently on your front page. Research indicates people LOVE THAT. Something like 86% of people polled said that customer testimonials were the #1 thing they used when decided whether or not to try a new product online.

If you’re in the business of taking people’s personal data, security imagery is likewise very important.

Ur Doin’ it Wrong: Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo doesn’t ooze security in any way shape or form on their website with the exception of the fact that they are WELLS FARGO. You just kind of have to believe that their website isn’t caviler with your data. They do nothing to convince you.

For instance, Wells Fargo does encrypt their entire site with SSL but they don’t use 256-bit encryption. They use 128-bit encryption. As a result, modern web browsers don’t show the green security link.

 

 

Their design is cluttered and none of it is spent on convincing us that our data is safe.

Ur Doin’ it Right: Mint.com

Mint’s whole design is based on simplicity and security. For one thing, they encrypt their entire website with 256-bit SSL encryption. In modern browsers, this translates into a big green security notice next to the address bar:

 

 

Besides that there’s a big picture of a lock, popular media logos, and three more security logos (Verisign, TRUSTe, and McAffe Secure).

If you know one thing about Mint, it’s that they care about keeping your data secure.

As a result, more than 7 million people use Mint. Security matters.

6. Needs to push user into the sales funnel

A home page’s responsibility ultimately is to provide users a clear way to find what they are looking for on the website. It’s a filter, not a destination.

On websites that sell, the majority of links need to push a user further into the sales funnel.

It’s important to think like this because a funnel indicates that there’s a purpose… a goal… and a flow to reach that goal. If your home page isn’t pushing people into the various flows on your website, and your flows don’t lead to the goals you’ve set for the website, then there’s a big problem.

A sales funnel is obvious on an e-commerce website. Let’s look at a business that sells, but feels guilty about it: psychotherapy.

All counseling/therapy websites do basically the same thing: solicit new business. And the overwhelming majority of them are terrible.

The only reason I can think that this is the case is because psychologists don’t think of what they’re doing as selling. They think of it as helping. And as such they suffer from Nice Guy Syndrome. (Nice Guy Syndrome is what guys who are bad at dating women but good at being their friends suffer from. This happens because they are not interesting enough or aggressive enough to make her want to like you.) And like dudes who suffer from Nice Guy Syndrome and can’t get dates, it’s hard to find a therapy website that makes you want to go to therapy.

They need to realize that they need to create a sales funnel.

I know it sounds bad to say that we need a sales funnel to help somebody figure out how to get therapy for postpartum depression or some other form of counseling but it’s true. It just means that users want to go through the process of being wooed.

Here’s a small example of what happens.

Ur Doin’ it Wrong: Sussman Counseling

This website isn’t half bad, as far as counseling websites go. The design is a little weird for me, but to each his own.

Ideally, this page would push me into a sales funnel. This funnel will be really easy. It should push me into either Individual Therapy or Couples Counseling.

The next page should give me more information about what I clicked on and then give me the opportunity to reach out to Rachel Sussman. But instead all we get is the info. There is no call to action. And since there’s no call to action, there’s no ACTION and therefore no funnel.

It’s important to move somebody from the home page into a funnel and not just not into another page on your site.

Ur Doin’ it Right: TimeWarner Cable

Ah yes, the cable company. Why is it that they are so perfectly hateable? I’ve never known anybody who didn’t hate their cable company. Maybe it’s because they’re a bunch of bastards. I don’t know if that’s true. I’m just throwing it out there.

But for once, I’m going to say something good about them.

Their website does a bang-up job of pushing you into a flow/funnel of some kind. Take a look.

I count 6 possible flows on that page.

  1. Get new service
  2. Buy pay-per-view
  3. Buy On Demand
  4. Manage your services/pay your bill
  5. Schedule a move
  6. Become a friend on FB (it’s not clear but that’s what the John Carter bit goes to)

Because all of these flows are concrete, the home page does a great job of pushing people further into the website and moves the user closer to a goal.

This is the primary purpose of a website: to move users efficiently deeper into your content in a way that gets users closer to your/their goal.

Conclusions

These six attributes:

  1. Needs to speak the users language
  2. Needs to communicate who the customer is
  3. Needs to communicate the core benefits
  4. Needs to show passion for the product
  5. Needs to build trust
  6. Needs to push user into the sales funnel

Are crucial to feature on your home page if you ever hope to have a website that is effective at selling.

These are all ways to bump up the signal and reduce the noise (and you know how we feel about that). They form the basis for success on your website and set your site’s users up to have a better user experience.

29 comments on “6 Things Your Home Page Must Do (to Keep from Sucking)

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  4. Aww guys – Show some data. We can speak first hand that these recommendations work like crazy and we loved this article but would have liked more data verifying conversions from the “must do” list. We follow these recommendations and see them work amazingly well. Without data to support it, it’s difficult to keep this from being a theoretical conversation.

    Conversions and retention are all that matter. We publicly show our data to anyone that asks because we’ve optimized conversions and retention from our site to be over 35% and over 30% respectively using these recommendations. I say that just because that’s data that would help this article be more compelling to someone who’s skeptic. Great work though, still cool article.

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  16. Thanks for the tips. So many people over-look homepage content in favor of working on other pages of their site. A large percentage of traffic hits the homepage, so I would optimize the hell out of it. These six tips certainly help!

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    • Matt, once you make your changes, I’d love to know how that improves your SEO – since that’s your business. Also curious if you guys focus on rankings or, in light of UX principles, if you focus on conversions. Good luck on the redesign!

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  21. Love this article. Just want to say thanks for all your great articles- it’s like one-stop- shopping for info with character and no fluff.
    I’m a Web- designer artist and wanna be js programming hack. You’re bound to hear hoorays from me in the future as I start to sift through all the wonderful content. Thanks for all you do.
    James 721

  22. Love this. Some great points highlighting fundamental errors that a lot of brands and web designers make. It would be great if the ‘doin’ it wrong’ guys provided some insight into why they went with the layout the use, but I’m guessing this won’t happen….

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