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How to design your web site home page

Your site home page is the most important page on your website, so you need to make it efficient in directing your visitors to the what they need for them to do what you both need. Let's find out how best to do that.

Basics

Before we dive into various aspects of creating an efficient homepage, let's recall the basics. A homepage needs to do the following:

  • show your visitors who you are
  • show what your visitors can find useful on your site
  • inspire your visitors to read more on your site or to buy your product
  • allow your visitors navigate to other sections of your site easily
  • provide information where you are located and what countries you serve (if applicable)
  • inspire credibility to your visitors with real people photos, contact information, etc

This can be done by creating a well-crafted logo, top navigation, listing the most important site sections and various information blocks. That's where we need to decide what we need to actually put on the home page and how to structure the information.

Page layout

The main aspect that influences how information is available on the homepage is page layout. Is it in one column or two columns? Is there any information below the fold (the lower visible page part)?

The main principle here would be to make as much valuable information available and as easily comprehensible as possible. First of all, the information and links have to be put into meaningful groups, which relate to how your visitors of what they are seeking. Be it news, featured items, most popular items or general information. Each type of information should have its own block.

The amount of blocks (one, two or three column layout) depends on how much information you have. If you don't have much information, a single-column layout will work best. Just make sure to put the most valuable information higher on the page.

If you have some news or want to feature some products on the homepage, you'll need to create a separate block just for that. If you have all kinds of information: featured products, recently added products, most popular items, how-to guides, reference manuals, articles, etc, you'll need to have a three column layout to be able to present all this information on your home page.

Another thing to remember is to make as much information visible as possible. This probably eliminates any need for a lot of graphical elements, because text can convey information as well as graphics and occupy much less home page real estate. You'll need to place as many links as necessary to show your visitors what you have. Probably having 3-5 links in each information block should be sufficient.

Yet another thing to remember is how the information is presented. Just links with one or two keyword phrases won't just do it. You'll need to add a snippet of text close to the link, explaining what awaits for the visitor beyond.

Most important information

On any site, there has to be the most important information you want to show your visitors. Most likely, it has to be your unique benefit(s). You'll need to address how your customers will benefit from your product in a short paragraph (with a list, perhaps). If your site has other important information, feel free to highlight it instead.

Of course, your vital message should be better visible than the other. This means that you'll need to show what they can get from your site right away, along with some featured or most popular items. Lower on the page you can tell about your company, where it is located, why you have started the business and list your contact information.

If you have a lot of information to place on the homepage, you can use two or three column layouts. The more important information you need to show, the farther to the left it will be located (because people scan from left to right).

What else?

Simply formatting your home page is only a good start. When you are done, you'll need to track how your visitor behaviour changed: which pages started getting more views, which less. Do your visitors see what is below the fold? You'll probably need to improve your conversions (or simply internal page views) by tweaking your homepage later, anyway, too.

You can also enhance your home page with text formatting. This should make it more readable and might even allow you to add more information above the fold.

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