I wrote my first ever website in 1995. Back then, it didn’t serve any purpose. Unless someone was interested in guitars or heavy metal music, then a visitor wouldn’t hang around very long. My second ever website was just as woeful, but looked a little nicer. Its purpose was to have people email me wanting my skills. Funnily enough, the phone never rang.
What did these early websites teach me about home pages?
An Internet marketing guru once explained that your home page is like the cover of a magazine. You know those magazines they display at the checkout when you’re buying your groceries? The ones that have really catchy headlines that “force” you to pick them up and start reading?
In this article, I’m going to share a few tricks that will help people open the cover of your website and peer into what’s inside. We’re going to cover strategies to get the wording correct, design / layout of your home page and what to do if people do “open the magazine cover”.
I’ve designed and come across a lot of different home pages in my day. Here’s a quick summary of what’s out there right now:
- Buy my stuff – it’s really good!!!
- Here’s a whole lot of lengthy text that you’ll probably never read
- I’ve just learned how to make my own website so I’ve got a form, flashy text, lots of fonts, a few videos and lots of photos, with lots of links, parallax mania…
- And finally, “if you’ve got this challenge right now, then click to button to help solve it”
It’s the last type of home page that is normally the most engaging and has people click for more information – so let’s concentrate on one that’s going to get you results.
Strategies to get the text right
When I started making commercial websites it was a rule that you had 3-5 seconds to gain someone’s attention. Back in the day, that seemed really quick. But, alas, this number has dramatically reduced to less than a second these days.
When your ideal client gets to your home page they’re going to be asking themselves one question – “is this what I’m looking for?” Most people are going to make that decision really really fast and if your competition has their wording clearer than yours then guess who the client’s going to pick?
So, how do you know what words to put on your home page?
A few tips:
- Make it as short as possible. My website has “I need a new website [right now]” – the right now is the text on the button that clicks them through to information about what websites we offer.
- Use words that they use. There’s no point me using technical jargon if my client base has no clue about what that means. When I use language – or phrases – that they use, then they feel like “you’re speaking their language” and they feel comfortable working with you.- Read our article about 15 ways to learn more about your target market
- Include a Call To Action (CTA). Give them an easy way to click through to your web page. People are usually in a state of trance when they’re navigating the internet. Hand hold them and tell them what to do to take the next step, e.g. “Enter your email for instant access”
Strategies to get the layout right
When you have a magazine cover that looks nice, is easy to read and easy to access you’re more likely to pick it up and start reading it. The same goes with websites, whether they’re on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop their experience must be easy and resistance free.
A few tips:
- Eliminate scrolling. The technical term for this is “keep it above the fold”. When you view your website on any device, the CTA text should be fully readable when the user first sees the web page – i.e. they don’t need to scroll to view any of it.
- No distractions. Ideally, the top of your home page should be a welcome image that represents your brand, with the call to action text on top of it. Everything else should be in the area below where the visitor needs to scroll down to see it.
- Keep it simple. If the magazine cover was hard to read would you bother reading the magazine? Keep the colours, font type and colours easy to read. If the text sees to blend in with your background image then give your image a colour wash or put a semi-transparent box behind the text.
Do people look inside your website?
Google Analytics will tell you everything you need to know about what happens when people visit your home page. You should be looking for your “bounce rate” and the length of time that people spend on the home page.
Our article “How to know if your website is performing” explains how to set this up.
What should I do when people look inside?
So if people do take a look inside your website then what should happen next? It’s a bit like starting a business and asking “what happens when you get your first phone call?” What do you say to them?
Ideally your website should be setup the same as your sales funnel. As an example, if your sales funnel looks like this:
Initial Contact -> Filter out non-buyers -> Educate them with your best content -> Give them an amazing offer
Your home page should be like a magazine cover with a catchy headline. This headline should be the number one thing that they want, that you can help with right now.
People who open your “magazine” should be given amazing content. Once you’ve established rapport then give them an amazing offer.