WATCH THE BOUNCE! 5 STEPS TO AN EFFECTIVE HOMEPAGE
Have you ever walked into a shop, only to quickly turn around and walk out again?
Presumably you read the sign outside and knew what the shop sold, so you must have been in the market to buy – or at least have a serious browse.
Why did you walk out then?
Perhaps you were not made to feel welcome; you might not have liked the décor, or perhaps you've been put off by a store layout that appeared confusing.
Whatever your reasons, you took just a few seconds to decide that the shop was not for you, and took your business elsewhere. For the store owner, it was a lost sales opportunity at best - a lost sale at worst.
Our online behaviour is just the same as it is on the high street – we take hardly any time at all to decide whether we’re going to engage with a website and explore beyond the homepage.
If your website has an unhealthy ‘bounce rate’ – that is a high proportion of visitors go no further than your homepage before clicking off, then you need to find out why and take action.
It’s often said that attention spans are shortening in the digital age, but people have always been swift to decide whether they like something or not – love at first sight and judging books by their covers spring to mind. What is true though – and more relevant as far as website design is concerned, is that the way we consume information online has changed.
This shift is reflected in the evolution of homepages.
A few years ago, it was the 'done thing' to shoehorn in as much information as possible, but more recently this trend has reversed, so that home pages have become far more purposeful and much less content heavy.
The key to keeping your bounce rate to an absolute minimum is to focus your homepage so that visitors are instantly reassured they’re in the right place, and are quickly directed to whatever it is they’re looking for.
Here are 5 essentials for an effective homepage
1. Know your visitors
Knowing as much as you can about the kind of visitor you want to attract is vital to help inform how your homepage – and the rest of your site – looks, sounds and works.
Before the design process gets underway, make sure you have a clear understanding of what your visitor will be looking for when they arrive on your homepage – the critical factors you need to address to make sure they stay long enough to explore.
2. Balance impact and simplicity in design
It’s essential you present visitors with a clean and uncluttered homepage layout. Too much text or lots of images are likely to overwhelm, and if your visitor doesn’t know where to look right away, there’s a good chance they’ll simply go elsewhere.
Less is most definitely more. Keep the layout simple and logical leaving plenty of space around text and images. Use background colours that won’t distract and avoid using fonts in multiple colours or sizes.
3. Use clear signposting
Remember that while your objective is to keep visitors on your website, the homepage is just a virtual meeting point. From the moment they arrive, visitors must feel comfortable with their surroundings and get the impression the site will be easy to navigate.
Make it clear what’s clickable and where links go, and keep options to the minimum. Having text change when a cursor passes over it is a useful tool to communicate another level of information without requiring the visitor to click through. Directions need to be clear and uncomplicated, and visitors need to get to where they want to be with the fewest possible mouse clicks.
4. Make images count
A carefully selected image has the potential to draw in your visitor more than words at this point. Again, don’t bombard them with multiple images which are likely just to confuse. It’s better to have just one or two strong images that provide a visual reference for what you do, while also communicating the values and qualities of your organisation.
Having sliding images is a good way to use several images, while only presenting one at a time (though be sure not to have too fast a transition, or they will just be a distraction).
5. Keep text short and sharp
If having compelling, well drafted copy is important throughout your site, it’s especially so on your homepage – but you should keep text to a minimum here.
Avoid falling into the trap of going into too much detail, there will be plenty of time for that on the relevant pages.
Finally, use clear headings and just give a short, sharp punchy overview that will entice your visitor further in.
So...how’s your bounce rate?