5 Checkpoints for Effective Home Page Conversion
“Never judge a book by its cover” is a familiar English expression. Don't prejudge the value of something based solely on its appearance. Unfortunately, on the internet nothing could be further from the truth. First impressions decide whether visitors will stick around on your website or if they will quickly click on to something else. Because your home page is the first port of call for many visitors, it is important that the page draws them in. Here is how to check if your home page does just that.
1. The Attention Puller
A good home page is a page where the designer has thought about the main tasks that visitors might want to do after first landing on that page. Which element on your home page attracts your gaze almost instantly? It should be the area where visitors can perform those main tasks. With this simple check you can quickly find out if the focus or attention puller on your home page is the right one. If not, then the attention puller pulls visitors' attention away from the actions that they want to perform, and this creates a feeling of confusion, of not finding what they were looking for. So, what are the benefits of a home page with a clear focus? Visitors spend less time scanning the page and will click in the area where you want them to click, and this can lead to higher conversion rates.
2. The Page Layout
The most valuable section of the home page when it comes to conversion is the area in the middle of the top section, so ask yourself if you are putting those precious pixels to good use. This is a “hot” area, meaning that almost every visitor spends time looking at that section of the home page. We know this to be true because there have been plenty of studies where the eye movement of volunteers was tracked while they were looking at web pages. A good use of this section is to do something that draws attention to visitors' main goals and gives them an indication of how to take action. An example could be to use a descriptive and attention-grabbing headline in combination with a colorful graphic or some other form of signage that directs visitors towards taking an action.
3. The Scannable Page
One of the first things that a website visitor will do is to scan the contents of the home page to get his or her bearings and to get an indication of how the website content is divided up into sections. Your home page should reflect those sections, so that visitors can easily distinguish between them. The easiest way to achieve that distinction is to use what web designers call “white space”. This is basically empty space that you place between the different sections on your home page. If the text on the home page is too crowded in on itself, the page will not be scannable. For home pages with a large number of different sections, a grid-like structure is recommended. News websites are a good example of sites that use a grid to layout their pages. A scannable home page has the advantage of direction visitors to where you want them to be.
4. The Text Volume
Keep the amount of running text to a minimum on your home page. Usability expert, Steve Krug, in his famous usability manual “Don't Make Me Think” says the following: “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what's left”. In marketing words, minimize the noise. This ensures that important parts of your home page are seen and read. It is also good idea to avoid using jargon or terms that some of your visitors might not be familiar with. Keep paragraphs short and write in an active voice. Make the text as concise as possible without losing clarity, so that visitors don't get caught up in the words, but merely use them to find their way across your site.
5. The Graphic Elements
On the home page graphics, like images or icons, should only be used to show products or illustrate services. Decorative images only serve as a distraction for visitors, as they have a high attention-pulling factor, so they should be kept to a minimum. (You can use a graphic to lead visitors to take an action, as seen in point 2, or to illustrate how a product or service works.) This type of graphic adds value to your home page. Visitors, who are –let's not forget– potential customers, like to see what it is that you are offering them. That is why web pages with good graphics generally achieve higher conversion rates. Trust-inspiring icons from consumer protection agencies or safe-payment accreditation organizations also score well with visitors.
The home page is where many website visitors begin their journey with you. It is a place that contains a wide variety of information and leads the way to answers to many different questions. The home page has to be interesting enough to entice visitors to click on and view more of the site. When it comes to higher conversion rates, you need to keep the bounce rate as low as possible. The checkpoints set out above will help you to scrutinize those sections and elements of the home page that affect your bounce rate.