Your website home page is likely to be the first thing somebody sees when they reach your site – your shop window, if you like. You need to create a good first impression, give people a reason to ‘come in’ and help them get to where they need to go. That’s a lot to ask for one page. That’s why as a website content writer I often find that home pages take the longest to produce.
Poorly executed home pages are really setting your site up to fail at the first challenge so, if you’ve never given that much thought to yours, try these questions:
1. Does your home page make it clear what you do?
Sorry if this sounds a bit obvious but it’s amazing how often you have to wade through loads of website content about awards, history and other things that don’t matter that much to get to a simple, straightforward statement of what a company actually does. Take an honest look at yours – if you were an outsider reading the page for the first time, would you be able to grasp what you do immediately you land on the page?
2. Is it welcoming?
Department stores spend a lot of time and money on window displays – because they know this makes a difference to the number of people who decide to enter the shop. I’m the world’s worst ‘head down get it over with’ shopper, but even I get distracted by a creatively dressed shop window. If your home page is your shop window, would I stop or would I keep charging past? If your page is no more than a header image, some navigation buttons and a slab of text, is that really going to engage anyone? But don’t be tempted to be too clever or gimmicky. Rotating header images and Flash animations popping off all over the place may look clever, but are fundamentally just a distraction and, in my view, have no place in good website content.
3. Does it ‘explain the difference’?
Unless you’re very lucky there are other people who do what you do. But they won’t do it exactly the same way and there will be unique and compelling features of how you do business. Again, is the difference immediately apparent in your home page content – or do you just sound like all of your competitors?
4. Do people know where to find what they want?
Are you expecting people to work out for themselves which of the navigation buttons they need to click? Or do you make it blindingly obvious where people need to go to find the information that interests them? This is also an issue for the overall structure of your site and for planning your website content. If you have a diverse offering and work in different sectors, people need to be directed to their specific content without having to think too much about where it is. Plan your industry or service-specific pages carefully and provide easy to find links from the home page. Industry-specific images with the link can help people find their way around and give an instant visual clue that they are on a site that is relevant to them.
5. When they’ve finished reading the page, what next?
In planning your website content you should be clear about the actions you want people to take. Just make it clear what you expect. Keep your calls to action simple and super-easy to find. Bold buttons that say: ‘Click here for your on-line demo’; ‘Get a quote’; etc are hard to miss and impossible to misunderstand.
A lot of website content still seems to see the home page as ‘something that has to be there’ rather than a critical stage in the process of engaging customers. All the effort seems to go into the pages describing products and services. Not much point if nobody ever gets that far.
Richard Hussey, Owner, RSH Copywriting
Based in the South West I help smaller businesses achieve more from on-line marketing through engaging content and intelligent use of on-line publishing. See more: copywriter South Westby