A home page is the official entry point of a website, and it’s one the most important pages. Its efficiency directly affects the efficiency of a whole website. Some designers overlook its significant role or fail to take advantage of its potential to enhance their designs. They should learn how to leverage a home page’s power to make websites user-friendly as well as efficient. We’ll explore this in detail in this article.
Home pages are all about first impressions. They should captivate and attract attention from both regular visitors and new ones. The home page is the first and last chance we have to convince visitors to stay and to return.
Generally, users see the home page after entering a website, and a remarkable number of users enter from lists of search results provided by search engines or from bookmarked links; in fact, from there they often go straight to internal pages—but they’ll eventually get back to the home page. So it can be seen from various perspectives, and each should be carefully considered when designing.
The home page, among others on a website, has some features that make it prominent, and thus it sometimes needs to be elaborate. Before getting into details, let’s take a look at one of the design trends that relies completely on the home page’s power and capabilities. It should prove that home pages deserve our attention.
Single-page website design is a trend that, in recent years, has become popular and acceptable. As its name implies, websites of this sort only involve one page. In other words, all the content is compressed. As a matter of fact, single-page websites take full advantage of home pages, for that’s what they are! What can we learn from that? Put important information on the home page; it’s a convenient location, and it’s easy to find.
There are several strategies to employ if you want to design an attractive, effective home page.
Some features are essential when designing a home page, and some are optional. Include those that increase efficiency.
The home page presents information about the website’s owners (usually people, organizations or companies) and should also indicate the goals and priorities of the entity it represents. It should answer questions like: what is this? Why is it here? What can this person or company do for me? Put those pieces of information above the fold so they’re immediately visible.
Conciseness, clarity and readability are essential to high-quality introductions.
After presenting basic information, the main purpose of the home page is to persuade users to engage in a community or to purchase services or products. This is usually done with call-to-action buttons.
The ideal home page does all these things—it’s the golden triple: introduce, engage, provide.
FileShareHQ has a good introduction that precedes the call-to-action button.
Wufoo’s home page is almost entirely devoted to introduction. It’s a beauty, but it could be more efficient.
Another key task is branding, which makes websites memorable and encourages return visits. Branding involves designing and consistently using slogans, logos, typefaces, illustrations, or graphics (or combinations thereof) to create unique and identifiable packaging and lines of products or services.
Branding, in fact, is the warranty of long-term success. It is social bookmarking. A side effect of branding is reduced need for introductory content; well-known companies and organizations introduce themselves in a snap with their logos and slogans (take the Google typeface and colors, for example).
Michael J. Fox’s website uses specific colors, and this color scheme serves to brand the website and its associated organization (in this case, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research). Colors have been selected and used well.
Here’s an example of a good combination; a unique logo with a unique typeface and illustrations makes this design stand out.
This beautiful example uses the home page for branding by using the illustration of the octopus as the focal point.
The home page, because it’s the entry point, can work like a table of contents (TOC). Visitors should get an overview of what information exists on the website, and a well-organized home page tells users where to look for various things. Use, ideally in both the header and the footer, a well-structured, extensive and visible navigation system. Place the sitemap in the footer instead of on its own page.
Over the years, Amazon has had one of the best-designed and well-organized navigation systems. Users have easy access to all sections of the website.
Mozilla, for instance, has placed its sitemap in the footer of its website.
Tag-based navigation became popular several years ago. With it, users guide themselves. Train-ee selected this method for its footer navigation.
The most appropriate place for informing users about new things is the home page. It serves as a showcase or billboard. New or special offers, news, important events and other such announcements can be placed in it.
Apple announces its new products in the most visible area of its home page, and white space makes its announcements prominent.
Symantec took advantage of visibility and prominence to declare this special offer.
Searching is easier to do from the home page than from a distinct page. A well-positioned and clear search box—often in the top-left corner—could be very useful, especially for large-scale commercial websites. It also increases functionality.
The “Contact” page is a common web page that includes contact information (email address, phone number, mailing address) for the company, organization, or person. It can also provide contact information about the website administrator if desirable.
Some contact information, though, could be included on the home page for fewer page loads and accessibility. It doesn’t occupy much space. Social-network icons can also be used on the home page in appropriate locations.
Toasted Digital presents all of its contact information (phone number, mailing address, email address, and social-networking icons) together in the footer (a good place) with an appealing look.
We used to redirect users to a separate page for logging in or signing up, but those days seem to have disappeared. A number of websites still use this conventional method, but many modern ones include those functions on the home page. It’s a new trend to follow.
To log in to Boxee, users don’t need to endure further page loads; the log-in box is accessible and convenient in its top-of-the-home-page location.
A rule of thumb: don’t abandon potential users. Send users news and other useful information; be in touch with them and persuade them to visit again and again. Regular users will feel satisfied and new users will become informed. Newsletters are effective, despite users who don’t subscribe for fear of spam.
Subscribing to a newsletter or something like it should be easy and quick, so don’t ask users to fill in several fields.
The features reviewed in last section are standards that home pages ought to have, but not every website should use them in the same way. Sometimes, depending on the website’s purpose, the home page has to provide some functional features like detailed forms, options and so on. In such a situation, the main focus should be the features; that’s what users come for and need.
On the United website, visitors want to do specific actions, like booking flights.
On Facebook, everything begins after logging in (or signing up); it’s the focus of the home page because all of the website’s services require it.
Don’t use deficient design trends; it’s just bad form. For example, consider minimalism as a design trend. It has pros and cons, but the fact is that extreme use of minimalism has drawbacks: essential information might be excluded, and functionality could suffer. Before diving in, then, we should think about how ideas and trends can suit our needs.
The urge to be creative can also jeopardize websites; they can become unusable if the creative designer has been immoderate. A simple, traditional design is better than an innovative design that is not user-friendly.
Post Typography has an interesting look, but it’s a bit mystifying for ordinary visitors. It distracts rather than helps.
Danviv’s home page, unlike the previous example, is minimalist and without vivid navigation—but both are difficult to use.
The home page is the first page, and don’t you forget it! Don’t welcome visitors or introduce content on pages that precede it. You’ll trigger search-engine optimization (SEO) problems, and it will be inconvenient for visitors.
Here’s an introductory home page that doesn’t provide any useful information. It just wastes users’ time.
There are many good home pages out there. I’ll show a few here and mention their best attributes.
This home page both looks and feels functional. It has almost all of the earlier-mentioned factors that an ideal home page should have. Its only drawback is lack of search ability.
This is another well-designed home page that strikes the balance between appearance and efficiency, but its length exceeds standard size.
Nature.org has a complete home page with plenty of applied features. Everything is in its place and the design is user-friendly. Again, the only drawback is length, but it’s better than the previous example.
Since home pages can significantly impact a website’s prosperity, designers should pay attention when crafting them. I’ve tried to review some essential features that could make home pages efficient, but you don’t have to include all of them in your design. Set goals and understand your website’s purpose, then target audiences and tailor your information to them.
While writing this article, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other great “Homepage” features. Feel free to share it with us.