Along with TV, blogging and social media, people have been predicting the death of the homepage, over and over. While all of them will most definitely evolve and change, perhaps beyond recognition, given enough time, they’re definitely not going anywhere.

We need to reach out to audiences, grab them by the hand and invite them in a setting in which we can effectively build long-term relationships with them. To do that we need social media to ferry them, homepages to welcome them and storytelling to engage them. Today we’re looking at the things we need to tell effective stories through our homepages.

Assign a role for your home page

Depending on where your website’s home page is along your user journey, you will have to assign it a function to support said journey. If you rely heavily on direct traffic, then your home page becomes the exposition part of your story. If, however, your run a lot of brand awareness campaigns that drive traffic to your home page then it becomes more of a synopsis.

Gathering the thoughts and sketches of 28 great contemporary artists in a single, epic Moleskine, the project’s goal is to support talent in marginalised communities. To achieve that goal, though, they first needed to build awareness and engagement around the Moleskine they were auctioning off, through a mix of inspirational copy, brief synopsis, and a feel-good component that we derive from supporting a worthy cause.

The home page itself has a very neat intro with a quote that paraphrases Malala Yousafzai – We have our books and our pens. They are our strongest weapons. This gives us our inspirational component. The page then becomes static to reveal a brief paragraph that introduces the epic Moleskine, the collaboration with the 28 artists and their goal, providing us with a brief but very clear synopsis.

Keep things simple and succinct

Whenever I speak to someone looking to incorporate storytelling into their website or marketing, nine times out of ten, I find they expect that to translate into a long, drawn-out narrative. That’s one reason why we keep falling face-first into home pages that have copy worthy of an entire book series.

People don’t have the patience to read that much. Especially since, because they don’t know you yet, they’re not invested in the story you’ve detailed at length. Pages within a website or actions within a marketing campaign are not story. They’re supposed to be part of a bigger brand story.

Founded in 1758, Martens Brewery is a family business that has been at the top of the Belgian brewing industry for eight generations already and their home page is a reflection of that legacy. It connects to its past through vintage imagery and by mentioning the year they were founded and includes a very short positioning statement that draws on that legacy and makes it relevant for today’s beer enthusiast.

What makes this a truly engaging and effective home page is precisely the fact that it’s the first page in a much bigger brand story. The intro transitions from the static image to expand on their brand positioning to include their products, while a page entirely dedicated to their history uses a mix of imagery and narration to take us through each of the eight generations, detailing how each have contributed to the business’ growth.

The Best Visuals Might Be No Visuals

We’ve known for a while that multimedia is the shortest way to our audience’s hearts and minds. With that in mind, some brands splurge on stock photography or videos, while others invest in shooting their own and, more often than not, you’ll find the ones they’re most proud of on their home pages.

Sometimes, though, rather than an overpowering, generic photo, you’re much better off with nothing more than white space and text.

As a small, cozy restaurant in London, serving Venetian dishes, Polpo could have thrown everything from mask, gondoliers, drool-worthy dishes, as well as some ethnic tunes onto its home page. But it didn’t. Against a clean background, they’ve decide to add their positioning statement only, with no other elements competing for the audience’s attention.

They continue to build the story throughout all of their pages but to truly understand why their choice for a home page works so well, you have to read through their history to discover their philosophy.

And our philosophy back then – one of humble, honest, unpretentious, stripped back beauty in everything we do – still holds true today.

That philosophy translates into their entire website but nowhere is it more obvious than their home page.

The Bottom Line

The effectiveness of your storytelling – in marketing, web design, as well as copyrighting – relies not as much on the narrative you’re developing but on the technique behind it. Your brand’s story may be unique and exciting but if it’s blandly blurted on a page, that meaning is lost.

Using the different mediums available, such as your website or social media accounts, to break that story down into episodes connected by cliffhangers, will improve the odds of users becoming invested in the story.

This does mean that the biggest challenge in building the story is to strip down the narrative in each medium. That means your home page has to be broken down into the bare minimum required for the page to fulfil its function in the story, convey just the right amount of information and through the right means. 

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