The True Purpose of the Homepage

In the past, marketing professionals considered first impressions to be a deciding factor in determining the success of any interaction with a brand; these days, they’re absolutely paramount. Thanks to the digital age, we’ve become quite the hasty crowd. It only takes two-tenths of a second for a visitor to form an opinion of your brand from your website. It’s clear that people now have the ability to consume vast amounts of information without much effort at all, which has resulted in a curious habit…

The Instant Generation

When consumers visit a website, they take a cursory scan through the page that they’ve landed on and decide in an instant whether sticking around will be worth their while. This like or flight behaviour has elevated the status of the first impression from a significant factor, to a number one priority when designing and developing a website’s homepage.

Homepage Effectiveness

So what is the purpose of your website’s homepage? Whilst this will depend on your specific company objectives, but one goal is certain above all. Your homepage must establish your brand, encourage visitors to dig deeper into the rest of the site and ultimately – convert them into loyal customers. Companies cannot afford to lag behind on this front, as the modern day user has been internet-active for most of their lives – experiencing an abundance of websites throughout the years. As a result, we’ve become very quick to judge. People will detect anything and everything that is wrong with a page on your website, which will ultimately contribute to their perception of your company as a whole.

Your homepage should encourage visitors to dig deeper and convert users into customers

Fortunately, multiple industry experiments with various websites have identified four of the most important elements of an effective homepage.

You Need a Symbol

There’s little need to explain why the presence of your logo is important not just on the homepage, but on every page throughout your website. Your logo is a symbol of your company. If effective, it represents who you are and communicates exactly what you do – which is why it should be prominently placed throughout your site.

Essentially, the homepage is your company’s face to the online world. If a user fails to notice exactly who you are and what your purpose is as a result of the logo being lost or unnoticeable, you risk falling at the very first step.

Where Does Everyone Go?

One of the biggest reasons that some companies fail to create an effective homepage is because they missed the point of its function. A homepage should engage users’ interest and attention, but not hold on to it. There’s only so much information that can be included within the real estate available on desktop and mobile device screens. Cramming too much in can risk overwhelming the user, or worse – prompt choice paralysis, making them to revert to your competitor’s site for an easier experience.

Users will want somewhere to go once the magic of the homepage wears off, and a good design directs that attention towards the site’s inner pages. Think about your core company objectives. Where do you want your user to go next? Product pages? Your blog? Contact Us? Use the top quarter of your homepage to navigate visitors to the sections of your site that most contribute to business goals. Influencing online user behaviour is a science in itself and a topic that we cover in a little more depth here.

Encourage users to dive deeper into your site at the earliest opportunity, and utilise the rest of the homepage to give them reasons on why they should. The purpose of the homepage is not to be a library of text and content, but rather, to serve as a teaser and trustworthy guide towards the pages that have the necessary information.

A homepage isn’t a library. It’s a guide towards pages that contain necessary information.

Search within Yourself

Companies often ponder over the presence of the search bar on the homepage, as they see it as a redundant option if a number of alternative navigation links are already available. Again, this very much depends on your key objectives. But fundamentally, the search bar is simply adding another avenue through which users can dig deeper into your website – and at ease. From specific product names to topics and genres of interest, users type in the search bar with high intent and purpose – and this shouldn’t be overlooked.

Additionally, internal search bars are actually very useful for decluttering sites of links, as well as giving users a direct line to specific pages. These express channels have become invaluable to e-commerce sites that have hundreds of pages, which can take forever to sort through – even with sophisticated filters.

Fundamentally, your homepage is the main portal to your entire website. It creates the first impression for potential customers and quickly comes to represent your company to its online audience. We would strongly suggest bringing all key stakeholders of your business together, to brainstorm exactly what it is that you collectively want to achieve with your website.

Carefully consider your business goals, identify your audience needs and how these can be met through user experience, then tailor the design of your website’s homepage accordingly. That way, you’ll come up with an end product that not only engages users effectively, but also contributes positively to your bottom line.

Mark Warman - Founder & Digital Consultant Administrator

With a background in design, technology and user experience, I help businesses adapt. Adapt to the changing needs and expectations of their digital audiences.