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June 28, 2016 By Barry Bright

5 Things Your Homepage Must Do

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

That cliche applies to our human interactions, but the principle is just as important in the virtual world.

According to statisticbrain.com, the average person's attention span is only 8.25 seconds. Couple that with the Nielsen Norman Group's finding that users often leave webpages within 10 to 20 seconds, and you'll quickly realize that having a homepage that makes a great first impression is critical.

Psychology Today explains it this way.

"During our initial interactions we form a perception of how costly or rewarding a future relationship with the other person would be. If we form positive judgments, then we will communicate more and seek more information."

While this was written in the context of face-to-face interaction, the fact is that human behavior is universal, whether in person or online. What impression are you making with your homepage? Are visitors motivated to seek more information?

Consider these 5 things your homepage must do.

Use Your Brand to Make a First Impression

You have no doubt worked hard to establish your brand through content marketing, social media, marketing automation or even print marketing materials. Your brand speaks for you. What would happen if you were shopping for a new Mercedes and you landed on a local dealership's homepage that had Mercedes typed across the top, but the recognizable logo was nowhere to be found? You would immediately think you were in the wrong place and look elsewhere.

So your homepage must look the part.

Your website is just one piece of your branding strategy. As soon as a visitor lands on your homepage, he must immediately recognize your brand to know he's in the right place. Your brand already has a reputation. Be sure your website is in line with all other marketing materials, online and offline.

Clearly State What You Do

This is critical when your brand is not easily recognizable. Company names rarely explain exactly what the business does. Don't make visitors dig to find out, or click to the "About" page.

Steven Krugg, author of Don't Make Me Think, said "If visitors can't identify what it is you do within seconds, they won't sick around long." Your explanation doesn't need to be long. Include a headline that is straightforward, clear and uncluttered. A subheadline should be clear and simple, but a little more descriptive.

Syspro's homepage message is clear and to the point! They state exactly what they do, and better yet, who they do if for!

Think beyond "We do this or that." Focus on the problem your customer is trying to solve.

Explain the benefits of what's being offered and motivate visitors to action.

Avoid jargon.

Speak to your target audience.

Don't say too much. Leave some for the call to action.

Take a look at Facebook's homepage as a great example.

Facebook needs no introduction. Yet they make it crystal clear what they do on their homepage.

The headline is simply, "Facebook." The subheadline succinctly reads, "Connect with friends and the world around you on Facebook." Note they addressed the problem visitors are solving. They want to connect with friends. It wasn't a huge explanation of how expansive Facebook's network is or all the capabilities the platform offers. Mimic this clarity in your writing..

Include Only One Call to Action

This is what your headline and subheadline have been leading the visitor to do. It's the action you encouraged in the subheadline. Look back at the Facebook example. The homepage is a simple model, leading the visitor from headline to subheadline to call to action. Figure out what you want visitors to do and stick with just one option. Should they sign up for a trial, contact you for more information or subscribe to your enewsletter?

Netflix keeps it simple with one call to action. Odds are that your business is more complex.
But a primary call to action can help you achieve clarity and simplicity.

The call to action must be clear and stand out. Don't make visitors look for it or question their next step. The purpose of the call to action is to obtain visitor information and give them something in return. Be careful to not have a call to action that seems like a huge commitment. Netflix is a great example of balancing "sign up" messaging without asking for a commitment. Note the call to action reads "Join Free for a Month," and the phrase "cancel anytime" is discreetly, but clearly written above. It's both clear and noncommittal.

Give a Glimpse of What's Inside

Your homepage is like a movie preview. It gives viewers a taste of what's behind your other landing pages without overwhelming them with too much information. Your subpage headings should clearly show visitors where to find answers to questions like "What are the benefits?", "How much does it cost?", "How Does it Work?" or "Can I Trust this Product?".

Dropbox makes it clear what options you have and where to find help via their navigation.

Take a look at Dropbox Business. Not only do they have a great headline, subheadline and call to action, their menu headings provide the pages to answer all other questions, including Product, Pricing, Learn More and Contact Sales.

Tell What You do Through Design

How would you feel about a landscape company that kept its grounds in horrible shape? You would probably think they aren't very good at what they do. Whatever your niche is, look the part through your design.

Case in point, this homepage peel featured an interactive media company that failed to wow its visitors. While a sleek simple design is encouraged, adding video was certainly appropriate for this company since it showed their multimedia capabilities. Anything less and visitors were questioning whether they were very good at their job. If the website of a technology firm is slow to load or lacks tech savvy elements, users will question their qualifications.

A great homepage is about more than artful design.

It involves a strategy and insight into your target audience. What are they looking for? How quickly can you let them know they have found it? Does your design motivate them to action? Include those questions in your strategy and make a great first impression.

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