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Why Your Home Page Looks Like You’re Selling Everything But the Kitchen Sink

by Jennifer Beever on October 26, 2012

home page everything but the kitchen sinkLet me be really clear – this is not a photo of my kitchen sink! I’m using it to make a point – the home page of most websites is crammed with everything the owner or management team can think to put on it – and then some, including the kitchen sink! But, when it comes to the home page of your website, less is more.

Why do business owners put too many features, options, text, graphics, buttons and more on their home page?

Two reasons.

1. Because if it’s not on the home page, you’re afraid that visitors to the site won’t know that you offer it.

2. Your home page has morphed and mushroomed in content over time, and no one is managing it.

Either way, a busy, jam-packed home page will not help you. It will harm you. So, it might be time to re-design your home page, or, if you are creating a new website and have a brand, new home page, here are some things to keep in mind.

Put only three options / ideas / concepts on the home page.

Put the rest as options on drop down menus. I read this tip years ago. I believe a study had been done and the researchers found that website visitors could only handle three options on one page. The example that was referenced at the time was Southwest Airlines home page, which had three buttons: 1.) Book a Flight, 2.) Check-in, and 3.) Arrival Times.

There is a well-known jam study that illustrates this point. In a nut-shell, when shoppers were presented with many samples, they bought little. When the number of choices was reduced, they bought more! Read more about this study on this great blog post by Derek Halpern of Social Triggers.

Chunk your content – make it” scan-able.”

Keep your text minimal, use headlines, and create short paragraphs that are easy for the eye to scan. Don’t use large, long blocks of text! Write in simple language – some say to a high school level provides the best readability for most visitors. Test the readability of your site with this tool by  Juicy Studio.

Design your content to fit the “F” scan.

Studies have shown that website visitors view content in an “F” shape. First, they scan across the top or top middle. Second, they scan across the middle.  Third, they scan down the left side.

Put key content “above the fold.”

Your important content – what you do, why you are different, your call-to-action – should all be “above the fold” or at the top of the page before the visitor has to scroll down to read more.

Don’t use busy or too many graphics.

Keep it simple. Studies have shown that graphics without words are often ignored by website visitors. So, use one graphic as an “ad” – perhaps with an appropriate image, but definitely with compelling headline. Other graphics can direct visitors to next steps, such as “Download Content” or “Subscribe to a Newsletter” or “Buy Now”.

Analyze buyer behavior to identify what content to keep on your home page.

Using web analytical tools, you can find out what content on your home page (and on your website) is more popular, and then you can put that on the home page to increase visitor engagement.

Above all, keep your home page as simple as possible. Continually track and analyze buyer behavior and keep tweaking the home page for better performance. Some say content on the home page should be revised every 3 months to keep your website dynamic and fresh.

Need help on your website, web content, and especially your home page? New Incite has been optimizing website performance since 1998 for its clients. Contact us to find out how we can help you improve your website.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael C'deBaca October 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Great summary of good homepage design, Jennifer! I agree that it’s often easier to add another item than to have a methodology to follow. Many homepages end up looking like an ornament-laden Christmas tree – lots of stuff but hard to pick out any one thing. My apologies if you’ve covered this in another post…I wanted to add that it is equally important to define the target audience before developing content. Pick at most two or three personas (or audience profiles) and stick to them. Doing this in advance ensures you have a plan that all stakeholders can promote and defend as the site is designed and curated.

Jennifer Beever October 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Yes, Michael, good point about identifying the audience(s) up front. Or, re-identifying if your business has changed.

And, it’s not a problem to have multiple audiences on one site – you can design home pages to say “Engineers go here,” “Business Owners go here,” etc., with custom landing pages per audience that contain the message for that group! That is a question I get very often – many assume they have to have multiple websites.

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