Website elements

How to Create the Perfect Home Page

Besides actual content, the home page is the most important aspect of any website. In order to attract traffic to your site, you need to guarantee that your home page is enticing enough so that users will want to explore the rest of your site. Creating the perfect home page is no easy task, but with the right tricks it will have a lasting impact on your site’s overall success.

Similarly to how you would judge a person, most people will decide whether or not they like a home page within the first few seconds of seeing it. The question is how can you form a positive first impression with your users? The most crucial step is making sure your page can load in a relatively quick amount of time. That means covering your home page with multiple high resolution images, automatic videos, gifs, or even large bodies of text can disrupt one’s ability to get to the home page quickly. How many times have you closed out of a page because it was taking too long to load? The same policy applies to your home page. If any of these items are not essential to introduce users to you and your company, remove them from your home page in order to make sure that it will load for everyone, regardless of internet speed.

When it comes to the home page, most people come to the conclusion that they need to fit in as much information as possible in order to inform users why they should explore the rest of the site. Information is good, but too much can be a bit overwhelming. Having too many links in your navigation bar is a common problem. Remember that the navigation bar is essentially a digital map that shows users how to get to certain pages. Cover the map in too many landmarks, and suddenly the map becomes difficult to read efficiently. Limit the number of links in your navigation bar to ensure that exploring your website isn’t an overwhelming task.

Of course no one is going to take your page seriously if you don’t treat it professionally. Remember the idea that people can judge another person or site within a few seconds? That idea should be the first one that comes to mind when you’re designing the layout of the page. Is the color scheme bright and jarring, or cool and relaxed? Do you have any professional certifications listed on the home page? Do you have a clear and concise description of your company and what it does?  How big is the header, and does it make users trust the legitimacy of your site? Assuming you’re building a business site, these questions are important if you want to hook users into your site.

Content content content. In an earlier blog article we discussed how important it is to maintain a strong online presence by producing content on a regular basis. Your home page should not be your main source of content, but it should essentially make a proposition to whoever visits it about why they should continue reading or stay on your site. In a brief paragraph or two, your job is to sell your website. Explain the ins and outs of your website, but if you explain too much you might drive users away due to information overload. Finding a happy medium can be challenging, but by constantly editing the limited content on your home page you should be able to make the sale that much easier.

Creating the perfect home page is critical when designing a website. The home page is the first page that people see when visiting your site, so its effectiveness to communicate your message as well as demonstrate your ability to entice others must be perfect.  It’s the primary page that search engines locate first. These are a few tips that you should keep in mind when creating any home page, regardless of what content is actually on your site. If you have any other tips or tricks that you can think of, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

What is RSS?

You’ve seen it before. That little orange icon with a diagonal signal beaming out. It’s on some of your favorite news websites, blogs or magazine sites. But what does it mean to subscribe to an RSS feed? What happens when you click the mysterious icon? This blog post hopes to help demystify RSS and show you how you can use it effectively.

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary (often called Really Simple Syndication). An RSS feed, or document, includes data from websites, such as article or blog post information (author, publication date, and content). RSS feeds are really meant to help people from having to check their favorite website manually each time they want to get updated information. Instead, subscribing to an RSS feed allows users to get that information continuously from the website without checking it, and then reading the feed or downloading the content for later reading. RSS is a passive way for getting updates from your favorite websites.

If you don’t want to read the plaintext RSS feed (which is an extension of XML, and not the prettiest thing to decode), then you have to use an RSS reader to translate your feed into something visually accessible and understandable. RSS readers can be web based, application based (desktop or mobile) or even email based (so you get an updated feed in your inbox). Here are some of the top RSS reader applications:

  1. Digg Reader (digg.com/reader) – A clean web app that offers a simplistic RSS feed reading experience. You have to sign up to use it, but it’s definitely the simplest and most streamlined reader out there.
  2. Feedly (feedly.com) – Feedly is another application that digests your RSS feeds, but presents them in a more visual manner. Feedly is available as web and mobile apps that sync together – great for offline reading on multiple devices. It’s a little harder to skim on smaller screens since so much space is reserved for images of stories, but still a great way to get an overview of your feeds. Feedly is free online and for Android and iOS.
  3. Flipbard (flipboard.com) – In a similar style to Feedly, Flipboard lets you subscribe to different media sources through its app without even needing to click the little orange icon on all your favorite sites. Your feeds are visualized with gorgeous magazine templates, and you can craft your own magazines with a variety of feeds, topics and personally curated content. Flipboard has been around a while, and certainly has perfected its user experience. In addition to RSS, Flipboard offers the chance to integrate your Facebook or Twitter feeds, as well as the opportunity to read curated magazine by other brands (think travel or fashion magazines).
  4. Blogtrottr (blogtrottr.com) – An email application that sends your RSS feeds to your inbox on a schedule you choose. The content of your emails, and even the format they send your feeds in, are all customizable.

That’s a quick overview of RSS and how you can stay updated on all your favorite sites using some pretty awesome RSS readers. Hopefully that strange orange icon won’t be quite as mysterious anymore. So go ahead, subscribe, and make the internet work for you!

Mobile Site Design

It might not be something you think about when designing your future website, but more and more people are browsing the web on their mobile phones. It’s easy to design your website to be responsive – that is, have it look great on both a desktop and mobile platform – but according to an extensive research study done recently by Google, there are some key principles of design that people are looking for in mobile sites. They break up their research into five areas of design: homepage and site navigation, site search, commerce and conversion, form entry, and usability and form factor. Let’s break each of these areas down, and look at some synthesized tips that can improve your mobile site design.

Homepage and Site Navigation

When people are exploring a mobile site, they’re usually there to find some sort of direct content. As such, it’s best to keep ads and promotions down, and instead let users find their way to the information they’re looking for. This can be helped by designing short menus, having a constant link to the homepage, and consolidating extraneous effects, ads and banners.

Site Search

Since a mobile site is harder to navigate, people tend to take a “get in get out” strategy. Searching greatly helps users hone in on the specialized content they’re looking for. The first tip for designing a good search experience is to simply have an easily accessible search bar! Don’t hide it somewhere or have users click a hyperlink to get them to a search engine view. The best way to do this is to simply put a search bar in the upper portion of your site, so that it’s easy to find at the top. When actually searching, make sure that your search brings up only relevant information (limit it to your website!) and provide some sort of filters (date/topic). The filters can be in forms of hashtags or links on the side of your site, but make sure they’re mobile friendly!

Commerce and Conversion

Mobile purchasing is one of the biggest trends in mobile site construction nowadays. And in serving the millennial generation, there are a few things that people really want in their mobile buying experience. One core experience users want is the ability to finish their transaction on another device. They may start shopping on their phone during their bus ride to work, but want to finish up an order when they get to their home computer. Also, users want to be able to buy things without having an account to the site they’re buying from – that’s too much of a hassle. And if they’re repeat buyers, a convenience may people like is when their previous ordering information is stored and available to be used again (think shipping address and credit card info). Finally, users definitely want to “explore” their purchase before committing. This may mean offering samples or highlighting a stellar return policy on your site to assure customers they have the opportunity to return something if needed. As a side note, make sure to have return/customer service online and phone information somewhere easily accessible – you don’t want people digging for that!

Form Entry

When people use forms, such as entering purchasing info or registering for a new account, they generally want to do as little work as possible. This is even more true on mobile devices, as it’s harder to type and switch between fields on a small screen and smaller keyboard. So when designing forms for mobile (and even in general), try to streamline the process. Offer visual inputs as well, such as a calendar picker, to make it easier to fill in. And if you can tell people they’re missing a field or have entered incorrect information before they hit that submit button and wait for the page to reload, people will be much  less frustrated with giving you their information.

Usability and Form Factor

When designing a mobile site, it’s important to make all the visuals come into one easy, finger navigable place. You should tell users which orientation to view your site in, and reduce the amount of clicking by either having one long webpage or minimal links. Additionally, people like when they can click on content and have it dynamically enlarge on their phone, but still keep the web page in the background (think maximizing pictures). On a similar note, Google found that people are getting over the pinch to zoom feature on their phones. Don’t make people do it to see what’s on your site. And finally, your mobile site is not your desktop site. It’s ok to cut some features or play with layouts to reduce navigation and keep things simple.

There you have it! Some of the hottest tips for mobile site design in today’s world of phones, tablets and other small screened gadgets.