The home page is the most important page of your web site. It’s the page that most of your visitors will view. It’s the primary page that search engines locate first. Your site’s home page needs to be visually attractive, convey key information in a concise manner, and make it easy for your site visitors to find what they need. A poorly organized homepage serves no purpose and can eliminate any chance of achieving your site’s objectives.

When planning your home page, pay attention to all three factors — design/layout, graphics and content. If a visitor can’t find what they need within 5 seconds, they will go to another site. A page that is lovely to look at but doesn’t tell your visitors who you are and what you do means they’re going to go to a site that does. A page that is wordy and repetitive will bore your visitors, and they’ll move on.

Do not waste critical space on your home page by adding unrelated images and long, looped Flash banners that do little for your site. A good home page balances the use of images and well structured, SEO content.

Design/layout. There are three important elements here: navigation, legibility, and colors.

  1. Navigation. Your site must have a clear navigational path for accessing site content. This may seem logical, but many sites ignore the “clear” part! Four things to keep in mind with navigation: (a) it must be consistent throughout the site; (b) it must be in a predictable location so the visitor can find it quickly — either above the header, just below the header, or on the left; (c) the navigation bar provides the visitor with a clue as to what page of the site they are currently on; and (d) a large site has a site map.
  2. Legibility. No matter how good your content is, if it’s difficult to read, it’s going to be ignored.
    • Your font should be easy to read and the correct size for your audience. Don’t use Comic Sans font for your site if it’s geared to a professional audience. Don’t use a 10 point font for a site for senior services.
    • The background and text colors should complement and contrast with each other. Lack of contrast between text and background can ruin an otherwise well-designed site. No gray text on a light gray background. Dark text on a light background is easier to read than light text on a dark background.
    • Limit your use of capitalized text as it’s harder to read.
    • Allow sufficient space between lines (line height). Text that is tightly spaced is difficult to read.
  3. Colors. Avoid the use of too many colors, non-complimentary colors, or overly bright colors. (For more information on use of colors, read our blog entry “Design Elements – Color and Whitespace“)

Graphics. This can be summarized as: (a) don’t make your web site out of one image; (b) make sure your graphics make sense — use your images and photos to illustrate what your company does, not just because they are pretty; (c) size your photos before posting them on your website to save on download times; (d) make sure you use the alt and title tags — both for visually impaired visitors who use text to speech output and for search engine optimization.

Content. When writing content for your site, keep these major points in mind.

  1. Write and edit your content keeping in mind that your web site is not about meeting your needs; it’s about meeting your customers’ needs.
  2. Make your site’s purpose clear — explain who you are and what you do. Concisely.
  3. Start the page with a tagline that summarizes what your company does. Don’t automatically start your page with “Welcome” as your visitors have already made the commitment to go to your web site.
  4. When linking to other pages in your site, don’t just describe what each page is about — use specifics and show some of your best content.
  5. Avoid the “click here” link title; it’s much better to tell your visitors what they’re going to see when they click a link. After all, we’ve all accidentally ended up on a NSFW site.
  6. Give your pages a search engine friendly TITLE tag.
  7. Don’t use graphics for text!
  8. And did I mention writing and editing your content with your visitor’s needs in mind, rather than yours?

By the way, these rules should apply to all your pages, not just your home page. Any number of pages on a site can be the entry (or landing) page. So take some time to evaluate your home page with a critical eye, and let us know if we can help!