You might have noticed that ‘the internet’, once a vast, lonely city, consisting of an ebay/Amazon high street and a couple of clunky government information noticeboards has now become a very busy place indeed. It is estimated that during 2013 we’ve hit the billion websites mark and this is expected to double by 2015.

Competition is fierce and what that means for your website is that it better be good. There are no second chances at first impressions, and the homepage of any website is the first, and potentially the last, view of your company a visitor will see. With a crowded web comes impatient visitors and they’re liable to judge your particular book by its cover.

So what are the ingredients of a great – let’s say it – perfect, homepage?

It Clearly Answers The W’s

  • Who we are
  • What we do
  • What you can do here

Nike don’t need to explain who they are or what they do but unfortunately your business will likely have to. Let’s face it, if you’re the Chief Digital Officer for Nike you’re likely not reading this anyway, but sitting in your glass penthouse supping green tea. For the best known brands, they can get right on with the ‘What you can do here’ on their homepage. For the rest of us, make sure these three elements are clear right off the bat. This may be achieved through design or text or likely a combination of both but it will act to assure visitors they’re in the right place.

It Understands Who It’s Talking To

Even though a company’s product or service might seemingly appeal to young and old, rich and poor alike, a great homepage speaks to a ‘target’ customer in language and style that they appreciate. Don’t try to be all things to all people. It didn’t work for Google and it won’t work for you. Poor example …

It’s User Friendly

Ford don’t regularly change the location of the gear sticks and steering wheels in their new models in a bid to stay cutting edge as they know this would likely lead to user frustration (and serious injury). So it should be for a website. Innovation is great when directed towards giving visitors an exciting and fresh experience but keep the basics simple. Keep menus straightforward so when visitors have seen enough of your proverbial fireworks, they can also figure out how to get back to the car park.

It Gives Direction

Calls to action should be less a bellowing market trader and more, a clear and helpful signpost. Examples might be, ‘Buy Now’, ‘Learn More’ or ‘Free Trial’ and these, displayed clearly, will encourage visitors to take another step and dig deeper into the website. A successful homepage will encourage, and make it easy for a visitor to what you want them to and take the next step towards doing business with your company.

It Doesn’t Rest

Out on the high street, shops windows are the key to enticing passers-by in-store and because of that, they’re constantly changing to stay current and fresh. The same should apply for a homepage with focus being given regularly to keeping each of the various elements up to date and appealing. Seasonal changes, significant national events and personal company milestones can all be great excuses for giving the homepage a spruce.

It Knows You’re On The Phone

With ever increasing levels of overall web traffic coming from mobiles and tablets, websites which aren’t optimised or dynamic (meaning they automatically format depending on the device being used) will slowly see their visitor numbers fall off a cliff. Trying to view an un-optimised website on a mobile is like trying to get one of those tetra pack soup containers open without ripping the whole thing to pieces – impossible or incredibly annoying.

It Looks Like It’s Been Built By An Adult

Whether you’re building your own website or getting help from a professional, great design is essential for grabbing visitor attention. Colours, fonts, images and other elements should all work together and be pleasing to the eye. There is no need to say EVERYTHING on the homepage. Using concise explanations, great supporting visuals and leaving clean areas of blank space can lead to a far more engaging experience for a visitor than being bombarded by a wall of information and marketing.