Homepages are one of the most important stops along your audience’s journey towards conversion. When they function as a landing page for your eCommerce store, they’re either the first interaction a user has with your website or the result of a successful post, ad or other kind o referral online. Whichever the case, an effective homepage is essential in persuading your audience of your brand’s trustworthiness and the quality of your products.
Beautiful, compelling, outstanding – these are some of the words that most often describe an effective homepage and we tend to use them over and over when telling businesses owners what their homepages ought to become. What we should do more often is explain what we mean by them or how to get there.
Dump the clutter
The biggest eyesore on any web page is clutter. People tend to look at homepages as either a welcome sign or a crash course in (insert brand’s core business). While that might be true to some extent, such perspectives can lead to extremes, either oversimplifying pages to the point of becoming way too vague to make any sort of sense or trying to anchor every single inner page to the homepage just in case people want to find out more.
The purpose of the page is to briefly let people know what your business does (ie: flower delivery service), what the website’s reason for being is (ie: selling and delivering personalised bouquets), how you can benefit from that service (ie: order here), what makes your products/ service unique, in a nutshell (ie: 1-hour delivery anywhere in the city).
You can group any elements detailing products, other offers, your brand story, return policy, other perks, etc in inner pages, making sure you give visitors a single point of focus – your core business and providing them with an easy to see, easy to complete selection of actions.
There are of course, features like business name, user accounts and contact forms, which are necessary from an operational standpoint but the decision to add anything else should be based on whether or not it supports the purpose of your page’s purpose – if it doesn’t, drop it into an inner page.
Small and medium-sized businesses rarely work according to well-documented brand manuals. This, however, doesn’t mean they get to get away with half-assed designs and inexistent branding, quite the opposite. Branding doesn’t just make you recognisable, it brings cohesion, particularly for brands with very different products.
When you sell all-white furniture, it’s relatively easier to build a visually recognisable brand because you’re products are helping you along. When you’re a retailer selling shoes of all shapes, sizes and colours, unless your branding is solid and consistent, as your products change and you’re trying to adapt to them visually, your website is going to look all over the place.
People tend to rebel against branding guidelines, especially when a hands-on marketer or manager is trying to implement campaigns or communication initiatives, because they don’t understand them very well and they might not even fully grasp their function.
As you’re working with designers to define your brand’s visual identity make sure you understand the reasoning behind their decisions or you’ll have a hard time sticking to them, leaving you with money spent and not a lot of return on your investment.
Create a hierarchy
A web page is not a democracy of features, all crammed in just for the sake of being inclusive. It’s a dictatorship in which the page’s purpose decides what features make it onto the page, and tells them what they’ll look like and how they’ll behave. It also doesn’t really care about any feature’s feelings, making it extremely clear who’s more important than everyone else.
For eCommerce stores, homepages lead audiences towards purchase but they’re often the farthest point in the website from the checkout. To help achieve the website’s overall goal, the homepage has to draw the conversion point closer. In the case of the floral delivery business mentioned before, one way to do this is by adding a very clear and focused call to action that reads Order now.
This button then becomes the most important, and therefore prominent, element on the page. Other elements that support this feature, such as a descriptive text that reads 1-hour city-wide flower delivery in 3 steps, will become the second-most important element.
Through this process, you can incrementally decide what elements are the most effective in helping you reach your goals and order them accordingly. You can, of course, have elements that are of equal importance, such as the items in your menu, but you’ll mostly be creating a hierarchy of different things, which will give your audience with visual cues that will increase the chances of them completing the user journey.
Pick your pictures
High-resolutions, high-quality photography is a great way to showcase your products, your brand and visually clue in your audience what products you sell, why buy them and how people will feel once they’ve got them.
This, however, doesn’t mean you have to add your entire image database to your homepage, or your website, for that matter. Select a few key visuals that help you showcase your business, products, promotions and display them according to the importance of the concepts they describe.
If, for instance, you’ve determined that your fall sale is more important than the new product line then, in a slider, the picture featuring the fall concept will be displayed before the one with your product line concept – yes, that means just one of each. Keep in mind that a lot of websites do very well with regularly swapping out just a handful and sometimes even one, large image.
Less is more
When it comes to features, images and content, invest in quality not quantity. Especially when you use photography effectively, you don’t need 5 paragraphs of text to also describe that you’re running fall discounts. Keep your sentences brief and simple, trying to provide your audience with the information they need, rather than the things you want to say.
Just like you shouldn’t include all your images or anchor every single inner page into separate sections on your homepage, don’t turn the content on the page into one, long rant. Rather, following the hierarchy you’ve already established, decide whether to also accompany those features with content, and in most cases, brief, 100 character descriptions can do the trick very nicely.
The Bottom Line
eCommerce homepages are one of the most compelling examples that just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. Instead of treating them like business overviews, we ought to look at homepages as teasers that drive your business’ story forward to a destination that very much depends on where your audience originates from and, therefore, must not keep them still for too long or give away everything in one, long, chaotic and tiresome page.