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.
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.