We’ve learned a lot about homepage design over the years, and only one thing is certain: change is inevitable. Design from a few years ago no longer meets the needs of today’s visitors, but many sites either haven’t updated their look or have updated using outdated ideas.
Let’s take a quick look at how homepage design worked in “the old days” (just a couple of years ago)!
Keyword stuffing: Before Google’s algorithm was updated to recognize (and shun) keyword stuffing, homepages were designed to include all the keywords a company wanted to rank. They would include headers or footers that contained a massive list of keywords, and most of the content would be text so that the search engines could find even more keywords on the page.
Above the fold: Web users used to interact with sites as if they were newspapers. If your important content didn’t appear at the top of the page, you could expect users to click away before scrolling down to find it.
Universal messaging: Homepage messaging was designed to reach a variety of potential audiences in order to attract every possible type of client. The idea was to serve many visitor types equally.
While these sound like good ideas in theory, they just don’t work for today’s savvy web users. An increase in mobile searches and drastic changes in Google’s algorithm mean that today’s homepage experience requires a lot more streamlining and a lot less text overall.
Here’s what we like to see on a homepage today:
Branding: Get your logo up there! A good logo that represents your business will stick in customers’ minds long after they leave your page. Make sure the rest of your page has a coordinated style with fonts and a color scheme.
Easy navigation: You don’t need to promote every section of your site on your homepage. What you do need to do is make sure that your site is easy to navigate. Make your most critical information the centerpiece, while still making sure that less popular resources are easily accessible.
Visual illustrations: No longer should your homepage be a wall of text. You don’t need it for SEO (save the text for internal pages and Google will drive targeted traffic there), and it certainly isn’t going to enhance your user experience. Instead, create compelling visual content so that users know exactly what they can expect to find on your site. Answer their questions before they have a chance to act: what does this company have to offer and how can it benefit me?
Targeted messaging: Similarly, think about your most critical visitors. What do they need? Your homepage messaging should reach these visitors first, since users who are looking for something else are likely to find your site via a social media link or a Google search that brings them to the specific content they need. Social sharing combined with Google’s advanced algorithms mean that it’s easy to promote individual articles, products, services, or other media.
Storytelling: Incorporate aspects of storytelling into your homepage. Share your unique value proposition and a bit of the story behind your company or your products. A good story will draw your visitors in and stick with them even after they click away to visit other sites.
Calls to action: What do you want visitors to do? Make sure to present clear calls to action so that they know what steps to take. The action depends on your business and your goals, but the need for the message to be clear and direct is something that applies to every site.
Social signals: Today’s web users spend the majority of their time on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Let them know that your company is social, too. Include links to your social profiles to increase your credibility.
Limited keywords: It’s still important to research and evaluate keywords to promote on your site, but the last thing you want to do is stuff them all onto your homepage. Be very selective about the homepage keywords you choose to use; some experts even recommend focusing only on brand names on the homepage. You have plenty of other, product-specific pages on which you can promote a wider array of keywords, and you don’t want Google to penalize you for stuffing your homepage. Avoid sticking blocks of keywords in your header or footer; incorporate them into your page title, alternate image text, and H1 structure instead.
Content beyond the fold: Don’t cram all of your important information into the top section of your website. Create a page that compels users to scroll to find more of what they need. Users in today’s mobile-driven world aren’t afraid to scroll. In fact, they expect it. Just keep things interesting, and they’ll keep going!
Do you think it’s time to reevaluate your homepage design? Set up a meeting with the ImageWorks Creative team today, and we’ll get you up to speed in no time!
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