Here’s a question we are often asked: “Are there best practices for homepage design?”
Yes, there are, although they may not seem related to design at first. Before you download the latest website theme or hire a designer, it’s essential to spend some time on your content strategy.
SET YOUR GOALS
Even if you think you know your goals, it’s a good idea to review them with your team.
- Content supports goals.
Every piece of content on the homepage should support a business goal (what you need to promote) or user goal (what your users need to find).
Once you’ve collected your top business goals, rank them. Let’s say your organization is a charity and your primary goal is “Get more donations,” but what are your secondary and tertiary goals? Turn your goals into calls to action, which indicate what your user can do on the site: “Donate,” “Join,” “Sign Up,” “Buy,” etc. These need to be on the homepage as buttons or links.
- Consult data when building your sitemap.
This data reflects your user’s goals. If you are redesigning an existing site and you have set up search functionality (e.g., Google Site Search), find out which search terms your visitors have been using. Review analytics from the past six to twelve months and check which pages are getting the most visits. Make sure the top items are linked from the homepage.
SURFACE WHAT’S IMPORTANT
As your organization grows, you won’t be able to put everything on one long scrolling page. How will your users navigate a multipage site?
- Use common homepage items.
Homepages often contain these elements: main image with a primary call to action, features (blocks of content like a success story, big event, or new initiative), headlines, event listings, newsletter signup, and/or contact information. These are “teasers” that the user can click to go deeper into your site and see more details.
- Make navigation simple.
Use plain language like “Events” instead of marketing phrases like “What’s On,” which could be ambiguous for the user. For ease of scanning, the main navigation menu should contain seven items or less.
- Talk to users.
If possible, give tasks to users and observe the steps they take on your site. You only need to test three or four users to find the main navigation issues. If you do not have the budget for in-person testing, use a tool such as UsabilityHub or UserTesting. Even a simple survey aimed at your target audience will collect useful feedback.
LET THE CONTENT FLOW
Your homepage should encourage users to explore further.
- Create user flows.
Let’s say your organization gives grants to prospective applicants. How will a user get from the homepage to the application form? Do you want to show them the rules before they access the form? Is the form important enough to be linked from the homepage? What other steps will they take before they can apply? User flows help to justify design decisions. Draw a diagram to help stakeholders understand your point of view.
- Consider visibility.
Place top-priority items further up the page. This is especially important for mobile users who need to scroll more to see content. Remember that carousels/slideshows aren’t recommended for important content because users tend to look at the first slide only.
- Tell a story.
The homepage should tell a compelling story that ends in user involvement. Provide digestible sections that talk about your approach, why your organization is different (better!) than your competitors, successes you’ve had so far, and conclude with a call to action that invites users to interact.
REDESIGN YOUR CONTENT
A redesign is not just about refreshing visuals. It should also involve a content audit. Don’t just copy everything over from your outdated 2011 website—this is the ideal time to make improvements.
- Kill content that has ROT.
Get rid of content if it’s Redundant, Obsolete, or Trivial/Trash/Timely (out of date). Use analytics to make a case for killing low-traffic content. Be sure to preserve the URLs for these pages and redirect users so they aren’t confronted with 404 errors and no guidance.
- Revisit the essentials.
If a piece of content is vital to your organization but gets little traffic, look for ways to improve the content, the way it’s displayed on the page, and how users get to it. Is it important enough to be put into navigation? Is it in a logical area of the site? Is it labeled in a way that your audience can understand?
To sum up: For good homepage design, start with content. Your content should always be aligned with your goals. Good design is based on good strategy. What are your tips for homepage design?
Tags: #blog, Design, UX