While some internet browsers may end up to a linked page on a website, more often than not they will either start at the homepage or end up their eventually. A homepage that is not easy to navigate, or is overcrowded, can turn viewers away in frustration.
What Makes an Effective Homepage
According to Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think, the following are a few necessities that a homepage must incorporate:
- Search Box
- Teases (Promising More For the Site User)
- Registration, and
- The Tagline
This article will deal with each of these in turn.
Making the Search Box User Friendly
For an effective homepage, the search box should be easy to locate as well as easy to use. A simple text box, that allows the user to type in a keyword, with a search button (labeled Search or Go) next to it is the simplest, most effective way to provide users with an uncomplicated way to search their site.
Sites that offer drop down menus, followed by a text box requiring the user to narrow down the general term, is usually more frustrating for the average site navigator. The search button is most effective if the user can see it immediately when entering the homepage, usually in the top right hand corner.
Teases That Promise More for the Site User
According to Krug, a good feature like personalization or email newsletters is a good way to tease the site user. A simple, clear, explanation of what the user is signing up for in a convenient and easy to find location on the site is the best way to tease a site user. A text box that allows the user to enter an email address is a good way to draw a user beyond the homepage.
Friendly, specific, keywords such as Sign up Now, rather that Get Started, allows the user to feel more confidence during the entire sign up process.
Deals for Retail or Service Sites
In any economy, searching for deals is notorious online. With a wide range of competition, retail sites cannot afford to hide their ability to give a deal; they must showcase their best deals right up front. For sites selling retail or services, keywords such as Featured Values, Clearance, Weekly Sales, Daily Deals as well as other vague, more generalized terms should be incorporated into the homepage.
More specific terms, such as 20% off all Blue Shirts, should be used sparingly, and in conjunction with more generalized terms. If a more specific term is appropriate, then a link should bring the user directly to the specific deal.
Making Registration Simple
Most website creators dream of compiling a faithful following, which can be accomplished more easily by allowing a quick, convenient way to register. Make a registration link available near the top of the home page, and label it with simplistic terminology, such as Sign In or Create An Account (add in a phrase such as “to take advantage of great membership benefits”).
The Tagline: Catching the User’s Attention
The tagline is the (hopefully) catchy phrase seen under the site’s name. For example, Wal-Mart’s tagline is Save Money. Live Better.
A good tagline is clear and informative, just the right length, and able to convey differentiation and a clear benefit. It’s also personal, lively, and sometimes clever. A bad tagline is vague, generic sounding, or non-existent. Krug says that some sites can get by without a tagline, such as large chain department stores that are already known for their offline sites. In general, though, a tagline helps users relate to the site they are visiting.
While an attractive website needs to incorporate many facets, the initial building of a homepage needs to be user-friendly in order to keep a site user from leaving out of frustration. Incorporating these five steps into the design of a homepage, as recommended by Steve Krug, will provide a solid foundation.