Clutter free homepage design

In this week’s blog post I want to address the topic of homepage clutter. I find it useful to compare a company’s homepage to the entrance to a home. Can you imagine a house full of stuff where the rooms had no walls and upon entering the house visitors saw the entire contents at once? The homepage is no different. The homepage should be impressive but it also needs to make it easy for people to get to where they want to get and you don’t want to bombard people with too much unnecessary information. But few companies do this well – particularly in small business. It seems a fairly typical small business homepage design is comprised of a menu (or a few), an image slider of some sort (or a few), maybe a news module, a welcome message, perhaps a few promos, maybe a contact us button or a phone number. Have you ever stopped to wonder why small businesses seem intent on cramming so much into their homepages?

So if your aim is to create a clutter free homepage how do we go about it? I have provided below a number of examples of how you can achieve it.

1. Use your homepage as as funnel not a brochure – webcircle.com.au

In general you don’t know a lot about people who land on your homepage. You know they are perhaps interested in your business or your area of expertise but you don’t know what they want. A lot of homepages try to achieve too much – they are filled up with content that tries to ‘sell’ the benefits of what you do, sign-up forms, latest products, news items, sliders and more. Visitors find it hard to get to where they want to go for one thing but it’s also very difficult to provide only the right content to “convert” the visitor on the homepage since you don’t know a lot about them.

Using your homepage as a funnel is one way to narrow down your visitors so you can build conversion pages tailored to groups of visitors. For example we have recently done this on our main site www.webcircle.com.au. Since we offer both elearning and website design and do so to 2 pretty different groups of customers, we try to direct people away from the homepage to either the website design page or the elearning page (the conversion pages).

Once the visitor gets to those pages, we know quite a bit about them. For example if they clicked on the elearning page we know they are either interested in elearning or they are interested in our elearning services so we dedicate that page to selling our elearning services and don’t cover too much about it on the homepage.

For businesses that offer a broad range of products / services (which is probably most businesses) it’s always going to be very difficult to get visitors to take the action you want them to take from the homepage directly (for example call you or sign up for your newsletter or buy a product etc). So the funnel method allows you to move them to a dedicated page and also frees your homepage up from clutter.

We have recently undertaken an experiment about funneling visitors where we tested how it impacted on a bunch of different website performance measures. We will be releasing the results of this shortly however it will suffice to say that doing this will not only clear your homepage from clutter it will also significantly increase your conversions and your website performance.

2. Create exclusivity – facebook.com

Have you ever gone to Facebook without being logged in? There is very little on the page other than a very brief statement about what Facebook is, a login form and a registration form – that’s pretty much it. It oozes confidence. Facebook know they don’t need to sell you on the idea of joining up. They just need you to know that all of your friends are using it and you aren’t. Facebook was conceived on the concept of exclusivity and it continues today with their clutter free homepage design. If your site can utilise the idea of exclusivity then this could be a way to get people to take the next step (whether that be sign up or call you or whatever it is you want them to do). We are releasing a site soon which employs elements of this principle so stay tuned for that.

3. Have a clear purpose – Google.com

It is pretty clear what Google want you to do when you get to Google.com there isn’t a lot of room for error. There is a logo, a search box and a button that says Google Search – not much more. Google is the ultimate example of a clutter free homepage especially considering what their competitors (like Yahoo) were doing at the time Google came to prominence. If your site has a clear goal (maybe to get people to sign up for something, or purchase something) you can have your homepage focus solely on this goal and provide a simple link to everything else.

4. Below the fold – http://37signals.com/

Ok so you want to have stacks of information on the homepage but you still want a clutter free homepage – what do you do then? Put the content ‘below the fold’ so the immediate homepage is clutter free, clean and simple and people can scroll down for more. If you are confident you know what the majority of your visitors want, make sure you include these things in your ‘above the fold’ area. 37 Signals is a great example of this. Most people will get to their homepage and see a clear, clutter free presentation of their main products which is probably why they visited the site. But if they are just browsing, the heading text entices them to scroll down to the rest of the content. People are able to scroll these days, it’s not a challenge – you don’t need all of your website content crammed into a non scrolling area of the page.

5. Temporary fade – http://www.apple.com/

Apple are the masters of simplicity. Their homepage is a great example of most of the points in this blog post but a technique I noticed recently is the fade in of the homepage after the visitor has had a chance to view their latest product. When they have this fade-in active (I just noticed they have already replaced their homepage and aren’t using the fade at present), you can go there and all you will see for the first few seconds is a giant ad for their latest product. After a couple of seconds the rest of the site fades in. You want one don’t you? A MacBook Air? You know you want one.

Conclusion

In this post I have presented a few ways you can achieve a clutter free homepage design. Feel free to leave any comments about this article and any articles on this blog. In future articles I will be releasing some further information on using the homepage as a funnel and some research on conversion pages so stay tuned.

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About Alex

Alex Retzlaff is the owner of A Website Designer and Web Circle.

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5 Responses to “Clutter free homepage design”

  1. Anna @ Copybreak November 16, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Hi Dan, great blog and excellent examples.

    I’m currently in the process of reworking and rewriting my own website and home page, so I’ll be referencing this article to remind me to keep it simple.

  2. Stryks November 20, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    The apple example walks a fine line, which they may well have realised they overstepped.

    Having a clutter free page is definitely a great thing, but superimposing content over that design can make the clean design worthless.

    Throw up distractions or force a viewer to wait while your sexy popup plays at your peril.

  3. Dan November 22, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    I agree Stryks, they do walk a fine line. Thanks for the comment Anna. Also see our latest article on the 3 things for getting more customers, I will be releasing some experiment results on funelling from the homepage to a conversion point soon and the results are very impressive.

  4. Marketing Web November 30, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    Good post and examples. I particularly like your point #4 re the “below the fold” – using this effectively is a great way to have an attractive looking site and still have enough content for search engines to read and classify your page – while making sure it’s human readable also of course. Doing it and doing it well though are two very different things.

    In the cases of a couple of other examples such as Facebook, Google and Mac, they work well based on their online marketing strategy – building of true brands that people will search for by name. In the case of most small to medium sized businesses, this may be too big a task. Even those like 37 signals who are mega successful don’t have a brand to the same level of a Facebook or a Google.

    This is why I believe SME’s need to work out ways to get content on their home page using concepts like above/below the fold, as most don’t have the luxury of being a destination site, and thus do have to rely on pesky things like search engines for a percentage of their traffic. When you get to the level of Facebook it doesn’t matter whats on your home page, as the sheer volume of incoming links gets you ranked for your own brand. For the rest of us, a combination of content and link value gets rankings, hence why content is still so important.

    Hope my ramble is of some small value!

    Matt

  5. Dan December 9, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Hi Matt thanks for your comments, I understand what you are saying about the brands, it is a lot easier for someone like facebook to oooze confidence than it is for Billy’s backyard chicken coups to but small businesses can still learn a lot from the big boys I think. By the way your blog is great, feel free to contribute an article to ours if you feel inclined :)

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