There are two, totally different, 5-second rules. One applies to dropping food on the floor and the other is the most time a visitor will stay on a bad website homepage.
We always ask our new website clients this question. “If you only had 5 seconds to grab someone’s attention on your website homepage before they click back, what would you want them to see… and do next.”
This question stumps them every time. Please reread it to see if it stumps you.
Modesty aside, we usually know within 15 minutes of speaking with a new client what’s needed to improve their homepage’s visitor retention. Here’s our own current checklist in case you want to make sure your homepage has chops.
Your Brand Identity: A Website Homepage Essential
We recommend a high-res, up-to-date logo or font-treatment to identify your brand right at the top. Crisp and sharp. A well designed logo is obviously important but so many of them are over-designed, left over from the 70’s or both. And don’t display a blurry, repurposed version of your logo and expect your business to be perceived as cutting edge.
A Phone Number
If you want people to call you, this obvious feature should be prominently displayed and have easy-to-read numbers. This is especially important on mobile devices, where the phone number is linked so visitors can click-to-call instantly.
Navigation is not the place to be super creative. It should be clean, functional and highly visible at the top of the home page. Keep your navigation organized in a way that people normally think and really makes sense for visitors in a hurry. Trying to find elusive information that you have cleverly hidden on your website will make visitors bounce from your homepage faster than a hungry kangaroo.
A Hero of a Headline
Your website needs to tell visitors what your business offer is all about and needs to do this in a few, very well-chosen, words. Easier said than done. Simple wording will do the trick, but it’s incredibly important that your words are descriptive, relatable and say exactly what you are selling or offering. If possible, touch a pain point or hint at an emotional desire. Put your headline in a nice BIG font that fits your brand and is easy to read. Designers call it an H1 and it should be at least twice as big as normal text. If necessary, hire a professional copy writer.
You can’t please everyone but research shows that if you know your target audience and can come up with a headline that pleases a mere 30% of your website visitors, you just may end up with some solid sales!
Sub-heads with Oomph
Your sub-head should complement your headline with a few words of highly-descriptive copy. Don’t go off on tangents trying to explain everything. Focus on telling them why your offer solves their problem. They are the only ones still listening to you… so speak to them with honesty and integrity!
Make your sub-heads just a little bit smaller than your main headline. We designers call them H2s or H3s. These larger fonts work well on mobile devices because those tiny screens are hard to read!
The First Call-to-Action
Think of your website as a funnel that you want visitors to dive into head-first. You’ve already gotten them past the headline and sub-headings. Now you need a few, above-the-fold CTAs (Calls-to-Action).
Why? Because easy-to-see CTAs are like GPS directions to the rest of your website. You’ve invited them on this trip and if don’t tell them where to go, they won’t show up at your door wanting to be your next customer.
All your CTAs should be noticeable, attractive and contrast with the rest of your page. It’s a very fine line between noticeable and a screaming. A clashing color might frighten away your precious visitor.
Keep it simple. Only a couple of words are needed. “Call for a consult”, “Get a free ebook”, “Sign Up Now”. That sort of thing.
And be kind to your mobile users. Make your CTA button just big enough to tap with an index finger. Keep the button far from anything else so fat-fingered visitors don’t push the wrong button, get frustrated… and leave.
Research says that most people are visual thinkers.
It’s true. Many of us, me included, relate better to images than we do with words. Photography and videos that explain an offer are ideal. Stock photos are good too (they’re way better and cheaper than they used to be), but there’s still a lot of cheese out there, so stay away from those generic ones. If you can afford to hire a photographer or videographer, go for it, but be sure to choose someone who understands your goals, has a reputation for being easy to work with and has a portfolio you like.
Only use high-quality images and be sure to reduce their file size or else mobile users will be crawling through your website. Also, make sure you add alt text to all your images which is imperative for good SEO.
Okay, so your site visitors have passed some tests. They like your headline, they relate emotionally to your sub-head, understand your description and are madly in love with your visuals.
Obviously. they did not click on your first CTA because they wanted to keep reading. Now they are confident they are on the right website homepage and are ready to engage with you. It’s time to give them a second chance to win! They may not become a direct sale immediately, but if they provide you with their personal information in exchange for tailored answers to their questions, then you have a real lead.
The Features, Finally
The benefits of your business certainly come with features, but all of your features don’t need to be on the homepage. Some website homepage designers use a features button to lead an interested visitor deeper into the website, but a few of your most desirable features, below the fold on your website homepage, can spark some major interest. Keep the words simple, and use graphics, as usual.
Boast Your Success
You are a winner and your customers love you. Make sure you show credentials and awards if you have them, but showing off how your customers think of you is way more powerful. Link to reviews, ratings sites and include relevant testimonials wherever you can. Prospective customers will imagine themselves as one of your happy customers and, as an added bonus, your existing customers will love that you published their words on your site.
In addition to well-written content that outlines and touts the benefits that your business can provide to new customers, making sure you include these elements can lead to a beautiful, functional and effective new website homepage.