Outstanding Website Homepage Design: 10 Secrets to Success

Looking at other people’s homepages for inspiration doesn’t lead to a successful homepage design. You need to understand the principles that underpin them.

If you search the term “homepage design” or “website homepage design” every single organic result on the first page of Google is posts that list examples of ‘outstanding’ homepages. However, looking at examples of excellent website homepage design is worthless if you do not understand what makes them successful. Don’t get me wrong; I am fine with highlighting examples (I did a similar post only last week). However, blindly copying others, never works.

That is why in this post, I want to break down ten things great website homepage designs do well and how you can learn from those when designing your homepage.

We begin with probably the most obvious thing a homepage should do and yet something that many people overlook.

1. Explain What You Do

The first question users ask when arriving on a website is what does this organisation do? As a result, the most fundamental role any website homepage design has to perform is to explain what an organisation does clearly.

That is, of course, obvious, and yet companies regularly fall on this essential requirement because they fail to make it clear enough what they do.

Too often, organisations fall into the trap of making vague statements or relying on jargon because they have never taken the time to clearly articulate what they do in a single sentence.

Hotjar website homepage design reads - the fast and visual way to understand your users.
Hotjar does an excellent job of explaining what they do in a single sentence.

Hotjar does a great job at this on their homepage. You know instantly that they offer a tool to understand your users better. If you scroll slightly, you can also quickly see exactly how they achieve that.

However, there is another interesting thing to note about the Hotjar homepage design. It doesn’t just say what they do. They also explain the value that provides to visitors.

2. Explain How You Provide Value to the Visitor.

Once a user has established what a website is about, their next question is whether that website can help them achieve their goals. That is why it is so essential for a website homepage design to communicate the value that it can provide to the user.

How is your website going to help them? For example, the TripIt homepage promises visitors “an easier trip every time”, while Qwilr will help users produce “documents that get results”.

Tripit Homepage Design reading - an easier trip, every time.
Qwilr homepage design reads - documents that gets results.

3. Have a Clear Primary Call to Action.

Some of those visiting your homepage will be ready to take action. Maybe visitors have already looked around the site or are returning after a previous visit. In either case, they have seen what they need to and are ready to act.

Your website homepage design, therefore, needs to make taking that action evident and easy to do. There needs to be a clear call to action, whether that is to sign up, make a purchase or get in contact. Whatever your call to action, it needs to be easy to spot, as many users visiting your site will be distracted or in a hurry.

Of course, not every user will be instantly ready to take action.

4. Have a Secondary Call to Action

In many cases, a user will return to a website multiple times before being willing to commit to your primary call to action.

In such cases, your website homepage design could probably benefit from a secondary call to action, such as signing up to a newsletter. That is a superb way of opening a regular line of communication, ensuring the user does not forget you when they are ready to act.

For example, I encourage users to sign up to my newsletter so when people are ready to employee a user experience or conversion rate specialist; I am more likely to be front and centre of their mind.

Boagworld Newsletter Signup Form
A secondary call to action such as signing up to a newsletter can be a useful way of maintaining contact with users until they are ready to act.

Of course, we still have to convince users to complete these secondary calls to action.

5. Address Common Objections

Whatever you are trying to persuade people to do on your homepage, people will have reasons why they do not want to do it.

Even signing up to a newsletter brings up concerns about security, spam and privacy. These are all concerns that need addressing if your homepage hopes to encourage people to act.

A good website homepage design should address immediate concerns relating to calls to action on the homepage itself, and provide easy access to more general objections about your products or services.

However, a website homepage design doesn’t just need the right messaging and calls to action. It also needs to project the right feeling.

6. Elicit the Right Feel

According to a study published in the Journal of Behaviour and Information Technology, users typically form an impression of a website in under 50 milliseconds and that their opinion often does not change even after more extended viewing.

That means that first impressions of your website homepage design really matter. A website needs to elicit the right emotional response at a glance if it is going to be compelling and project the right impression of your company.

Of course, emotional response to design is subjective, and so it is crucial to test the look and feel of your homepage design with real users. The designer’s opinion or even that of the client is not enough.

Usability Hub Homepage
A tool like Usability Hub makes it easy to test a homepage design concept with real users.

7. Signpost to Critical Content

Although a website homepage design should initially seek to give an overview of what an organisation offers, that is not its only role. Another primary job is to guide a user to any additional information they require. In other words, it should provide signposts to other critical content found further into the site.

The UK Government website is an excellent example of this in action. Because that site doesn’t need to ‘sell’ the government, its primary role is one of signposting, and you can see how it provides fast action to everyday tasks.

Homepage design of the UK Government
The UK Government homepage design does an excellent job at signposting users to relevant content.

Unfortunately, what internal stakeholders consider to be critical content is not always in line with what users think.

8. Remove Distractions From Your Website’s Homepage Design

A homepage design can quickly become a mess of links and promotions as internal stakeholders compete for real estate.

Effective website homepage design resists the temptation to add more and more content, instead focusing on top tasks and critical content.

Of course, that is easier to say than do. One approach is to run a user attention point exercise with stakeholders to help them prioritise homepage content and avoid distracting users with secondary material.

Another technique that can help is to ensure the website homepage design has a strong visualise hierarchy.

9. Create a Strong Visual Hierarchy

Because an effective homepage design has to do a lot of work and often contains a lot of content, it is essential to guide the user to the most critical information visually.

We can achieve that in a variety of ways, including:

  • Grouping similar elements, such as navigation.
  • Positioning more important elements higher on the page.
  • Using colour or imagery to draw attention to more essential items.
  • Varying the size and styling of items to donate importance.

Of course, that requires organisations making hard decisions about what is essential and what is not. Something many organisations are unwilling to do.

However, it is impossible not to prioritise in design. For example, something as simple as an alphabetical list favours items at the top of the list. Equally items higher on the page, receive more attention.

In the age of mobile where a single column layout is typical, no website homepage design can avoid prioritising, so you must prioritise the right elements.

Nevertheless, I accept that the prioritisation of homepage elements can be challenging, especially when you are trying to reach a diverse audience with many different needs. In such cases, personalisation can help.

10. Personalise Whenever Possible

People often perceive personalisation as the kind offered by Amazon. Personalisation that requires the user to be logged in. However, that is not the only option. There are a plethora of personalisation options when designing a homepage. These include, but not limited to:

  • Based on the referral source.
  • Using location.
  • Related to time of day.
  • New vs returning visitors.

To improve the effectiveness of your homepage design, personalise wherever possible. The more specific your homepage content can be, the more compelling and useful it will become.

Testing Is the Real Secret to an Outstanding Website Homepage Design

At the beginning of this article, I argued that merely copying the homepages of other websites will not be enough and that you needed to understand why those sites were working.

However, in truth, even that will not be enough. There are so many nuances of how elements work together, combined with organisational and user needs, that no amount of theory will lead to your perfect homepage.

The only way to truly end up with the best homepage for your audience and company is through rigorous testing from initial concept to final design and then through a program of ongoing A/B testing to continue optimising post-launch.

Business vector created by pikisuperstar – www.freepik.com

Boagworks Boagworld