You have just a very few seconds to get a new customer to make the decision that he or she likes what they see on your home page and wants to stay a while.
Time-out then for anyone with a slow loading home page , brand puffing flash intro or over wordy introductory text. Timeout. Really. The bird has flown before you even knew it had landed.
If that hasn't already put you in a panic, once you get past the first few second test, you have another few seconds for your visitor to decide if you have what they're looking for. Just a few seconds is all it takes in this fast moving, product searching, instant gratificiation age we live in. Don't kid yourself you have any longer, because you don't.
Most websites fail on the basics, they're slow to load, wordy, un-entertaining and difficult to navigate. Major sites frequently assume that you have time and patience to let them get the message to you, rather than attracting you, informing you, amusing you and enticing you to stay longer.
They don't realise that the customer is the only person that matters, that the only business they're in (as an online retailer or service provider) is to make sales, and no matter how much they've invested in their brand new flash heavy 'product enhancing site (whose designer cared less about sales but was probably be trying to win a design award) that if they can't get you clicking past the home page in just those few seconds you will be gone and they will fail.
I've reviewed thousands of websites, both good and bad, and I'm constantly amazed by the simple things that people can get wrong.
Here are the Top Ten rules for a great Homepage
- Firstly assume your visitors know nothing about your site. You need an attractive, consistent and easy to follow design which shows in an instant, through keyword rich text and category linked photographs who you are, what you do, what makes you special and different and therefore why people should buy for you.
- Ditch the slogan - who cares? At the top of your content box you need to state clearly who you are. It's you're title, your mission statement and should sum you up in just a few words.
- People love to click on pictures - use pictures as well as your text menu on your home page to link people through to the most important areas of your site. Make sure that your pictures are clean and clear - there are far too many horrible ones out there. They are hugely important.
- Have a search box marked by the word 'search'. Forget 'What are you looking for?' or any other term. The word is Search, so use it.
- Have a Contact Us link on your homepage, and every other page of your site. Who exactly are you trying to hide from? Your customers? Forget it - be open about how people can contact you.
- Establish immediate trust by showing how people can contact you, signing up to a retailer accrediation scheme such as IMRG's ISIS, and offering customer reviews. Neither of these are big investments and they're both extremely important. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like more information.
- Terms & Conditions/Privacy/Delivery/Returns/About Us/Contact
Show these as 'utilities' on your homepage (and every single page of your site) so that your most important information is obvious. Don't hide your delivery and returns information in Terms & Conditions (and yes, vast numbers of people do).
- Invite visitors and customers to sign up with a clear sign-up box on your home page. Invite them to refer their friends to your site also - goodwill recommendation are the best kind so ask for them. If you don't, you won't get them.
- Highlight links so that visitors can see immediately that the words and phrases are links.
- Keep content paragraphs short, interesting to the point. Remember that you only have a limited amount of the most important 'above the fold' page area to use so don't be tempted to waffle.