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8 Critical Ingredients to a Website’s Homepage Design

Your homepage should be deliberate about its architecture, copy, conversion strategy and SEO choices — regardless of company type, industry or offering.

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by Eric Sharp

Your homepage might generate more views and links than any other page of your website.

It could also be the starting point for many of your visitors. It’s a very unique page deserving of careful planning, research and design.

So, how exactly do you design a homepage?

Are there critical ingredients, regardless of business type, industry, service and product offering?

Website Homepage Design

I believe there are. In fact, studies back up the theory that a website's homepage design should be deliberate about its architecture, copy, conversion strategy and SEO choices. Here’s my case for 8 critical ingredients.

Give me 6 minutes and I'll walk you through these 8 ingredients in the video below.

Video Transcript

Hi everybody. This is Eric from ProtoFuse.

Today I'm going to walk you through eight critical ingredients to a homepage design.

Now, a homepage brings a lot of paralysis through analysis. A lot of companies kind of treat it as bit of a smorgasbord, where they can...opportunity to throw anything and everything on their homepage. But we feel like through the last couple of years we've found some critical elements that really apply to any industry, whether you're a product-based company or a service-based company, that you can use a bit of a formula to ensure that your homepage is articulating clearly, that impresses Google. It's good for SEO, It's good for conversion and just overall a pleasant experience. So let's just dive into those elements.

Number one, very simple, clear navigation. Is it concise? Do your menu items avoid jargon? Is it visible? There seems to be a bit of a trend these days with the homepage design, where the menu is hidden. Maybe it's below the fold. You need to scroll, and the menu shows. Or it's in a very small menu system, as we call kind of the hamburger menu, the three little lines. Sometimes it's tucked up in the top right hand corner, and it's hard to access, and people are looking for the different pages and getting a sense of your hierarchy, and they can't find it. So clear navigation, number one on my list.

Number two, and this is right up there with number one is the value proposition. The value proposition is what you do, who you do it for and why you do it distinctly better than your competition. There's a bit of formula that you can follow here. You can follow a headline, sub-headline with three benefits statements. You can weave that into your design. This formula I learned from a conversion specialist, conversionxl.com. Really, really smart people over there. That's when I first heard of it. I've learned that since reading that blog and I apply it to all my clients.

Number three, content and links. If your homepage doesn't have more than 300 words of content, you're missing out in a lot of opportunity. Links to key pages, content that's going to hopefully compel and inspire people to crawl your website deeper. Very critical. And I also strongly recommend a very big generic slideshow. I'm kidding. Of course I'm kidding. No, stay away from that generic slide show. That is not good for your user. It's not good for your conversion. It's not good for SEO. It's highly abused. I would definitely not recommend the slideshow. Alright, so let's keep moving along here.

Number four, recent content. Don't just put a link to read our blogs. Why don't you actually bring in your recent blogs and display them as a bit of the headline and maybe a caption or a snippet in an image. Show people that your website is being updated regularly. That's only not only good for the user, but it's also good for SEO. Keeps your homepage relevant, keeps the bots happy that things are changing. So whatever it may be. It could be blogs. It could be news. Whatever new content you are adding on your website, try to aggregate that out to show that it's being updated regularly.

Number five, call-to-action. You definitely can't miss that. Ideally it should be in the header. Your most wanted call-to-action should be in the header, but you can also reiterate a secondary call-to-action, whether it appeals to top of the funnel. Just as long as that makes it to your homepage, I think that is a good strategy to take. Make sure it's visible on the page. It's not tucked way below. You want to ensure, you want to explain to users what you want them to do in a very clear and concise manner.

Number six, search. Very clear, especially if you are a product-based company that has products. If you don't have a search right on your homepage, I think you're missing out. There's going to be both active and passive users. Active users are looking for something very specific. So they're going to want to use a search bar. So make sure that's incorporated into your homepage.

Number seven, social proof. Have people used your product? Have people used your service? Have they enjoyed your service? Social proof, testimonials, reviews, those things build trust with the user. You can even use social plugins. But the key is to show that other people have used your product or service, and they're happy with it, and there is proof there. And by the way, don't ever fabricate this. Don't ever make up testimonials. That is never a good thing. I think people can sniff that out pretty quickly. So if you don't have testimonials, then just wait on this element. No need to rush it. Wait until you get that great testimonial.

And the last piece is contact information. I know that may seem pretty simple, but you'd be surprised of the number of homepages that I go to, I can't find contact information. And this can be easily dropped into the footer of your site, which is actually really good, from a search engine optimization perspective because you want to put, if you might have heard, NAP, N-A-P, Name Address Phone Number. That's really good for a local search. But you know, also having a contact link maybe in your menu, like we had talked about in number one with clear navigation. Having a contact section is nice and clear. People know what that is. It's there and available if they need to address it. That's about it for the contact information.

So those are the eight critical elements. Like I said, I think it applies to any industry. It applies to whether you're a product-based company or a service-based company. There's a lot of opportunity to throw a lot of stuff on your homepage. But if you can focus on these eight elements, I think you will be, your homepage will be designed a lot better than most websites out there.

So hopefully that was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for joining. Talk to you next time.

1 - Clear Navigation

Aiming to frustrate your visitors within a few seconds? Design your website without a clear or easy to use navigation and you’ll nail it. Unintuitive menus and odd jargon will create more problems than they’ll solve.

Your homepage along with all pages, should avoid clever labels or internal nomenclature (which forces people to translate your creative vocabulary).

The Sanctuary” might be meaningful for someone who works at the organization and meaningless to someone who does not. (image & caption credit: nngroup.com)

Navigation is the gateway to experiencing your website’s full experience. Always side with simple menu naming and layouts.

2 - Value Proposition, Positioning Statement

A clear value proposition and positioning statement (a subset of a value proposition) are common missing ingredients on homepages. That's a shame because a value proposition is the #1 most important element of your home page design.

  • Value Proposition: explains how your product/service solves problems through benefits & differentiation

  • Positioning Statement: what you do, who you do it for

This copy should be written concisely — ideally in a headline, sub-headline, bullet format. To hit a home run, make this message visually appealing to fit your brand's personality (you can use web design mood boards to experiment).

DTx has clearly woven their positioning statement (“We are a systems integrator...”) and value proposition (“We...”) into a unique design layout.

3 - Content & Links for Search Engine Indexing, Ranking

Many people believe that a large, auto-rotating image carousel with generic stock photography is sufficient for your homepage. This design decision unfortunately comes laced with negative repercussions. They shortchange your SEO opportunities, spawn accessibility issues, and usability studies show they annoy users.

A homepage provides a canvas to display indexable content and internal links — inspiring users to explore your site deeper. However, avoid copy that is self-oriented and filled with jargon. Valuable content and carefully placed links in the body of your homepage will help search engines understand, index, rank and grant authority.

4 - Recent Content

Have a blog, newsletter, webinar or event information that generates new content on your site periodically? Are you automatically pulling in a link and teaser to this fresh content on your homepage?

Showing examples of real site content (e.g. link to a new blog post accompanied by a short abstract) rather than simply saying Click Here to Read Our Blog will always win out because specifics beat abstractions.

Don’t be afraid to show some of that recent content on your homepage design!

Export Solutions automatically pulls in their last 6 blog posts to their homepage

5 - Most Wanted Call to Action

Your most wanted call to action should be placed above the fold on your homepage. Don’t create more ambiguity with a hidden CTA. Inspiring and building trust on your homepage is challenging enough! Be upfront about what specific action you’re trying to encourage.

Ensure your call to action follows the 4 C’s and remember that action is the true measure of success for today’s website.

6 - Search

When a visitor arrives on your homepage, they’ll either be in one of two modes when it comes to information consumption.

  • Active: Looking to find, do, or read something very specific

  • Passive: Browsing casually (maybe for the first time) and taking in what you have to offer

Displaying a clear search field — above the fold and preferably in the header — is beneficial to both active and passive visitors, but certainly to active ones. As with most items on this list, be sure a search feature is available site-wide and not just on your homepage.

7 - Social Proof for Credibility

Establishing credibility on your homepage is certainly a critical ingredient in developing trust. In fact, that’s the psychological phenomenon behind social proof (when a person is unsure of the correct way to behave, they look to others for cues on correct behavior).

Social proof says, “Hey, others have used this service/product and vouch for it!” 70% of Americans say they look at product reviews before making a purchase.

Reviews, ratings, customer testimonials, or incorporating social media plug-ins (e.g. Facebook’s “Recommended/Like”) are all influential pieces to the social proof puzzle.

Dr Venessa’s homepage places a customer testimonial right below their three features products

8 - Contact Information

The most straightforward ingredient to your website’s homepage design is your contact information. A few lines of text can have a huge impact.

Generally speaking, ensure the basics (Company Name, Phone, Email) are easily viewable within the footer so you’re not forcing a user to drill down into a back page to retrieve. This doesn’t mean remove your “Contact Us” section. Keep that section accessible in your navigation as most people look for those trigger words.

If your business relies on incoming calls, it may make sense to place your phone number above the fold in your header.

OCCC’s homepage clearly lists contact information in their footer. Also notice a direct link to their “Contact Us” section.

Further Resources around How to Design a Homepage

The #1 Most Important Element to Your Home Page Design
How to Design a Home Page that Converts (conversion optimization specific)
What Should I Put on the Homepage? - Whiteboard Friday (SEO specific)

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