What to Include on Your Home Page
One of our subscribers wrote in with this question about page layout:
“We are at the early stages of building a new site. Of course, we’ve looked at all our possible competitors’ sites. It seems like most companies follow the same plan. There’s a marquee/banner across the top. Then, there’s another block immediately below running across, usually with some Flash that highlights what they think is most important. Below that in the remaining 2/3 to 1/2 of the home page are 3-4 columns that divide information into things like white papers and case studies, product info. teasers, news, and company info.
The result to my thinking has always been that:
1. They all look pretty much the same
2. Too much information jumbled together on one page.
Have you all done any research on this? Is it on the MEC site and I just missed it?”
Yes, we do have some figures in this. You’ll find some data and analysis in our A/B Split Testing brief.
You observation is correct – many site home pages are cluttered with too many competing elements.
There are likely two principal reasons for this.
1. In the case of very large companies and organizations, there are too many stakeholders involved, all insisting on space on the home page, regardless of the impact on readers and general usability.
2. In the case of smaller companies with cluttered home pages, the cause is usually either a lack of a clear value proposition or a loss of nerve. (You can listen to our recent teleconference clinic on Value Propositions here…)
Here is an approach that might help.
First, figure out your value proposition. What is it you offer that is valuable to your readers, and different in some way?
Express that in 10 to 20 words, and place the text square and central on your first screen.
Do that, and every visitor will know exactly what you offer, and whether they want or need it, within the first few seconds.
To determine what else to place on the home page, you need to balance your visitors’ needs with your business needs.
First, your visitors’ needs: It is likely that 80% of your visitors are hoping to achieve one of two or three things on your site. Figure out what these two or three things are, and give them plenty of space. As for the 20% you won’t please, don’t stress about it. Pleasing 80% is pretty good.
Second, address you own business needs: What is your priority when someone comes to your site for the first time? You need to be clear about this. Is it to collect their email address? Is it to have them register for something? Is it to make an immediate sale?
Now you need to make sure that these three elements are in alignment.
Look at your value proposition…look at what you show to your readers…and look at what you are asking from your readers.
Make sure there is a natural fit and flow between all three.
As for all the “clutter”, put it on second level pages and make sure your principal navigation links make it clear where it can be found.
Then build the page.
Then test. And test again.