Keep it simple, keep it focused, keep it brief and above all be helpful. Sure, the design and content of your homepage depends a lot on what you do and the various reasons people might be coming to your site. But for our purposes today, let’s generalize a bit:
Think about the various reasons a person might be arriving on your homepage. What will a site visitor typically be wanting to do? Figure out how to clearly present those options. Make it easy for them. That’s just customer service.
At the same time, we need to think about what we want a site visitor to do, because of course we can try to persuade people to do something like: buy a product, sign up for an event, etc. In marketing circles, this is often referred to as a “Call to Action.” You know “Buy now!” — that sort of thing.
Here is a homepage with a strong, clear call to action: dropbox.com (If you have a Dropbox account and stay logged in, you will have to open that link in an “incongnito” or “private” widow or tab to see the general public-facing homepage.) Or you can just look at this image:
It’s pretty clear what they would like you do. Be that clear with your own potential customers.
You will also notice something about the text, what we call the “copy,” on that page. What you see “above the fold” on first view of the page is 25 words (including the text inside the buttons).
Last time we stopped in on the homepage of apple.com, we counted less than 50 words total on the entire homepage (not including navigation in the header and footer). Granted, Apple doesn’t need to explain a lot about who they are. But the point is: Nobody is going to read the entire history of your company. Yes, it’s important to you. We understand that. But you need to get over it. It does not belong on your homepage.
The copy on your homepage should:
Whatever it is you do, you probably live it. You know all about. You want to tell people everything. Don’t. If it seems impossible to write that concisely, get some help. That’s what professional copywriters get paid to do.
Yes, assuming you are not Apple or Dropbox, it’s probably the case that you are in a tooth-and-nail cage-fight with a 100,000 other organizations to get on Page 1 of a Google search.
So you do need to make sure that basic search words that are relevant to you show up in those 50 to 100 words. These have been called “keywords.” Don’t “stuff” your homepage full of them. Google doesn’t like that and could actually punish your site for it if it’s really blatant. Just explain clearly what you do, in a way that is understandable to other human beings. That should naturally include the basic “keywords” anyway. Good human-readable content: That’s what Google likes.
The headline on our homepage, for instance, is simply: “We develop brands and build websites
here in Eugene, Oregon.” Because that’s what we do.
Let people know right away if they are or are not in the right place. You might also frame it in a way that speaks to their needs a bit, like this one, another example of a website that does the homepage thing pretty well:
OK, now go look at your own homepage.
That’s a good sign you need to talk with us.