When a potential customer lands on your homepage, you have at most a few seconds to catch their attention. If your website doesn’t make a strong first impression, you may not get a second chance.
But what exactly makes a good homepage? Over the years we’ve spent studying and designing websites at Sparktank Creative, we’ve noticed certain differentiators that make effective homepages stand out from the crowd.
Here are four qualities that top-notch website homepages have in common:
1. Clear Messaging
With such a short window of opportunity to make an impression, your messaging must be clear and concise. If possible, condense your company description into a single phrase that tells people who you are, and what you do.
We’re fans of MailChimp, a user-friendly email campaign program. MailChimp’s website greets you with one pithy invitation: Send Better Email. Below that they give you even more reason to consider them: “Join more than 8 million people who use MailChimp to design and send 600 million emails every day.”
They tell you what they do (send email), how it benefits you (your emails are way better), and why you should go with them (they’re trusted by millions of other people).
2. Visually Attractive
When it comes to websites, looks matter. Of course content is extremely important too, especially for SEO (see the next point). But a visually attractive website tells visitors that your company is professional and trustworthy.
With so many options to surf on the web, a poorly designed site can be enough to cause visitors to reject the website and move on to something else. And don’t forget to make your website responsive, so it looks amazing whether it’s being viewed on a phone, tablet, or desktop screen.
Zipcar’s website is not quite what you expect. Instead of a photo of say, a car, you’re greeted with a picture of hikers high in the mountains, and an intriguing suggestion: “Upload yourself to the cloud.” The website conveys a sense of adventure and makes you want to be part of an elite group (the cloud of online Zipcar users). Beneath that splash they clarify how Zipcar works.
3. Draws Visitors In
So you’ve got an attractive website with clear messaging. Great! Next you want to engage visitors to draw them further into your website.
Creating a Call to Action is one way to engage customers. What is your ultimate goal of getting visitors? Is it to get them to sign up for your program, or to contact you to discuss working together, or to make a purchase? Make sure this is easy for a customer to find.
And substance matters as well as good looks! We highly recommend a blog, or at least crafting valuable, intriguing content that engages customers. Offering useful content also improves your website SEO and is a way of demonstrating that your company is the expert in your industry.
NatureBox has a clean landing page with a clear call to action: Start your free trial. They give potential customers an incentive to sign up by offering a free trial. Other incentives could be a free e-book for joining your newsletter, a discount on a customer’s first order, or a free 30-minute consultation for joining your online training program.
4. Speaks to Your Audience
Learn as much as possible about your target customer. What are their needs? What questions and concerns will they have when they visit your site?
Try this exercise: Create a persona for your target customer. Describe in detail their age, gender, background, and other demographics. Get really detailed. Some companies even give this target customer a name. What are their goals? What are their primary needs and pain points? What are their main questions and concerns?
Make sure that your website copy addresses these needs and goals. The more you speak directly and anticipate their needs, the more likely you are to attract your ideal customer.
Dove made headlines with its “Real Beauty” campaign in 2004, which celebrates different body types and showcasing real women rather than models in their advertisements. Today Dove’s website still features real women who are confident with their bodies. Their homepage also highlights their Self Esteem Project dedicated to helping girls overcome beauty-related anxieties. These campaigns speak directly to their target audience: women account for 85% of all consumer purchases in the U.S., and 75% consider themselves the primary shoppers for their households.
It’s a Win-Win
By crafting a clear message that is visually attractive and engages visitors, your website homepage will be a positive and memorable experience. And if you speak directly your target audience, you’ll be able to connect with your ideal customers.
This is a win-win: customers enjoy their visit to your website and feel connected to a brand that speaks to them, while you are able to engage with customers and make a strong first impression.
What sort of impression does your homepage make?