Ah… creating the home page.
Where it all begins.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’d already know I’ve been doing site reviews for a while now.
No, I don’t have a degree in Usability or UX design, and what not.
I have however read Seth Godin’s “The Red Fez”, and Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think”. Between those two books and my personal experience, I have an MBA in Website Reviews.
Today, I want to show you how to set up your Home Page so it’s easy to use. And so I don’t have to go “gangsta” on you in a site review.
Let’s officially begin:
The Sharp Guy Guide To Creating A Home Page
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the course of doing site reviews, it’s this:
Most people don’t put much effort into creating a home page.
Yes, I know.
You’re new to this. Or someone else created it for you.
Bla bla black sheep.
I’m not coming down on you. I’m just stating the facts.
I’ve reviewed certain sites, and had to stop halfway through and be like:
“No, I’m not going to suffer anymore… Fix this, that and that, and then come back for a review.”
Yeah, that happened.
Before we go any further, the most important thing to remember when creating a home page is this – Begin with the visitors in mind, because it’s not about you. It’s about them!
Whenever you want to add or remove a feature, ask yourself if this will help your visitor in any way. If not, then don’t.
Golden Rule of Home Page #1 : In all that thou doest, remember thy site visitor. If it helpeth him not,
exterminate thou it.
Let’s go on.
(i) Your Site Title and domain name should match.
Do your best to match your Site ID with your domain name.
It provides a sense of coherence when a visitor types in a domain name and is directed to a site with exactly that name. Most visitors expect that.
If they don’t, they get confused and confused visitors leave.
You don’t want that, do you?
(ii) Have a short tagline beneath your site title that describes what you do and the benefit to the visitor.
When you don’t have a tagline, here’s what happens most times:
- Visitor arrives at site
- Visitor tries to figure out what your site is about and if you have what he/she is looking for.
- Visitor sees no tagline or site description and gets confused.
- Visitor sticks around trying to figure it out or bounces
- If visitor cannot figure it out, visitor bounces.
If it’s not clear what your site is about, visitors would leave.
I mean, when the “Back” button is in that left top corner of the browser, begging to be clicked.
Which brings us to:
Golden Rule of Home Page #2 : In all that thou doest, thou shalt not confuse thy visitor. If thou confusest thy visitor, he shalt leave thee with immediate alacrity.
You need to have a tagline. And not just any tagline, but one that communicates in roughly 6 words or less, what your site is about and the benefits to the visitor.
If you want to know how to create a tagline, check this post out.
Remember Golden Rule #2. And when in doubt, remember Golden Rule #1.
(iii) A Primary Navigation Menu is very necessary.
What’s a primary navigation menu, you ask?
It’s just like the name sounds.
It is a menu that helps the visitor find their way through your site and is usually located in the header section of your site.
This menu is really important because as internet-savvy as weall have become, we still need certain things to help us understand and use websites.
The primary navigation menu is one of these elements.
Now, what makes up a great navigation menu. 4 Main Things. The answer to this questions:
(i) How do I go back to the Home Page? The Home Tab
(ii) How do I find something on this site?- A Search Field
(iii) What can I find on this site?- Categories
(iv) How do I find out more about this site and how do I contact them?- About Us, Contact Us Pages
Okay, let me break it down. Sure, most people are aware that if you click on the site logo, you’ll go back to the home page, but it’s still necessary to have the home element there just to make it easier for them (Remember Golden Rule #1).
You need to have a Search Field.
There’s an analogy I use to explain why:
When you go to Shoprite, sometimes you’re in the mood to walk around while searching for that powdered Peak Milk packet you came to buy. You check different isles, and stalls. If you can’t find it, then you either ask a sales person or just leave and go elsewhere.
Other times, you’re in a hurry, so you get in and quickly ask a sales person. If they have what you want, you buy. If not, you leave.
Either way, a sales person in Shoprite is essential to helping you find items you want to buy when you don’t know where they are. Your Search Field is the online equivalent of being able to ask a sales person.
Without that, your visitors might never find what they came looking for so they leave and you’d have no idea why.
Having your categories in your primary navigation menu makes it easy for your visitors to identify what section of your content they’re interested in and go there quickly. Trust me, there’s nothing like being able to just go where the content you’re looking for is.
Your visitors will thank you with increased time on site and page views.
You also need to have About Us and Contact pages on your site. Unless you’d rather your visitors not know about you or be able to contact you.
(iii) Your Right Side Bar
A lot of people really eff up the right side bar.
I mean, I go to some sites and the right side bar scares me away faster than the killer from the “Saw ” movies suddenly appearing in my room.
[ Fun fact: I’ve never watched any of the Saw movies completely. Weird, right?]
Many right side bars are just choking to look at. Too many ads, and just basically too much action for a right side bar.
The correct way to use a right side bar consists of having a call to action, promotion of your content and encouraging visitors to promote your site on social media.
For the sake of simplicity, here’s a simple format to go by when adding widgets to you right side bar:
- Subscribe box/ Call to Action
- Search Widget
- Popular Posts
- Social media share/ follow links
After the first two sections, you can put in ads, but make sure you don’t have ads that take up all the space in there, or you’ll end up with way too much ads and no space for your actual content.
IV. Main Content Section
We’ll talk about this with relation to three types of sites;
If you’re running a blog, you can just have your blog posts displayed on your Home Page. But you should display them in a way that makes it easy for the visitor to get a general view of what your site is about.
This means no large images that take up all the space and make your visitors have to scroll down just to see the headline. Having an image is great, but it’s your headline that gets your content read. Don’t let your image screw that up.
If possible, display a thumbnail right next to your headline and post snippet.
This is not a hard and fast rule, so feel free to break it if doing the opposite is working for you.
Try not to display all the posts you have ever written on your home page. Scrolling down is hard work. Keep it around 7-10 posts. And break these up with ads (if you’re into that), or Call to Actions (CTA) in between.
As your visitor scrolls down , those ads and CTAs will grab his attention. Don’t go overboard with this though; use it as a spice, not the main dish.
(b) Company/ Business Site
When you’re building a company site, things are a bit different.
For one, the blog posts shouldn’t be the first thing your visitor sees when they get to your site.
There’s a popular concept known as the “area above the fold”.
It comes from back when people read newspapers (Does anybody still read newspapers?), and they’d fold it in two to make it more portable. When you fold a newspaper in half, there’s a portion of the content that you can see, right above the fold.
This portion is known as the “area above the fold”, and it applies to websites, as well.
When you get to a website, there’s a portion of the site that you can see without having to scroll down. This is the area above the fold.
It’s important because what your visitor sees in this section determines whether they’ll continue with your site or bounce.
This is a great place to put a CTA that links to a landing page with your offers.
That way it is the first thing your visitor sees when they get to your site. With a highly targeted tagline, this could get you both more time spent on site, and actual sales of your product or service.
Golden Rule #3: Thou shalt take heed to thy area above thy fold.
The Area beneath the fold however is where you can give a brief overview of your services, testimonials, your team and you can add another CTA.
Do these and thy site shalt be perfect.
(c) E-commerce Site
For e-commerce sites, you could create your home page like in (b) above, or you could basically display your products on the Home page.
Group them into sections like below, and only display 5-7 products per section.
(i) Featured Products
(ii) New Products
(iii) Promo/ On Sale!
In WordPress, you can get the Woocommerce plugin, use it along with a compatible theme, and you’d be able to create it.
V: Create the Right Footer
When it comes to Footers, I’ve pretty much seen it all.
The two most common issues I see with footers are :
(i) The “Ajegunle” footer:
Overpopulated, with many features that not only are unnecessary, but which worsen the user experience.
(ii) The “Banana-Island” footer:
Almost next to no features on the footer. This makes your visitor have to scroll back to the top just to access simple features on your site.
When making your footer, remember Golden Rule #1 (It’s always about the user).
Create something that looks like a mini secondary menu. Add features that help your user navigate through your site to your most important pages, subscribe to your blog, contact you and find things on your site.
This means your footer should have:
- A Search Field
- Categories list
- About Us and Contact Sections
- Subscribe box
At the very least.
Then you may add in other features, but before you do, ask yourself, ‘Will this make this improve the visitor’s experience, or not?’ and regardless of your answer, come up with a reason for the feature and how it helps your visitor better use your site.
Read this, share it with your friends, follow the Golden Rules and you’ll create a kick ass home page. No doubt.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment.
500 Naira Writer, signing out.
Author: Tomi Joshua
Tomi is a case.
A bit brash, at first blush. But ultimately, he means well. There are very few things he won’t say or do in the presence of tolerant company (especially when it could make for a good story later).
Tomi is a Doctor, writer, certified inbound marketer (Shout Out to HubSpot), Digital Hustler, and online business addict.
He is most likely to be found dancing to the beat of his own drum, even in accapella.