They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is especially true when it comes to your website’s home page, which is often the first thing people see when they want to check out everything your business has to offer.

Maximizing the effectiveness of your website goes beyond just styling it up with fancy graphics and some basic SEO strategies. The most successful website home pages also employ directional cues, innovative navigation features, videos, and calls to action to draw the user in while optimizing engagement rates.

Whether you’re designing a new homepage, or your current one needs to be redesigned for 21st Century success, you might want to consider some of the following design tips and best practices.

Make Your Intentions Clear

Your home page needs to clearly, accurately, and quickly define what your company is about and what you have to offer. This means using direct wording with an active voice while letting users know about your products and services. Along the way, make sure you clearly state what you do best, or what truly sets you apart from your competition.

Ensure All Your Pages Work On Mobile Devices

These days people are using their smartphones and tablets more than ever before to visit websites. You need to make sure all your pages work on mobile devices, and that none of the navigation functionality is compromised. This is especially true for your home page, as a user is likely to bounce from your homepage the first instant they can’t use a feature.

They might even bounce if the page is slow to load on a mobile device, even if it loads just fine on a desktop computer.

This means you have to not only design your homepage to be compatible with Droid and IOS devices. You also need to rigorously test every single feature to make sure it loads quickly, and all the navigation features work seamlessly.

Use High-End Images & High-Quality Video

Low-resolution images and low-quality videos on your home page send the wrong message about the kind of professionalism you are offering in your products and services. People tend to assume that if you can’t use crisp images and videos on your home page, then your products and services are likely equally as sloppy.

Yet high-quality crisp images, engaging visuals, and compelling, high-quality video pull people in. It invites them to dig deeper into what your website and business have to offer.

While promoting a sense of pride in professionalism that encourages them to trust you with their hard-earned dollars.

Design-In Directional Cues

Most people view a website in a “Loose Z” pattern, that mimics the motion of the eyes when you read a book. If you don’t build in directional cues to key elements and infographics your site visitors might miss what’s right in front of their faces!

You can infuse your home page and many of the important pages on your website with engaging visual cues. This includes things like arrows or even an image of a person looking in a specific direction. These simple things encourage the visual flow of your page from one important element to the next. Giving you some added control over what they see and think. While also making it easier for you to place important promotional information.

Remove Sliders, Sidebars, and Carousels

Once upon a time sliders, sidebars and carousels were the vanguard navigation tools. Though that time has come and gone. Now they are often seen as outdated features that send people bouncing off the page, as they wonder what other products and services of yours are still stuck in the past.

Instead, you need to focus your content on the specific actions you really want someone to take, without making them wrestle with clunky page navigation features.

Don’t Fear White Space

Modern websites have a clean look that makes it easy for the human eye to catch and hold onto key points of information. Your website doesn’t have to tell people everything, about your company everywhere. White space is inviting to the eyes. Whereas wall text and busy graphics crammed together can feel intimidating to users who might just be there to skim through what you have to offer.

Use Real Product & Service Photos

Real product photos are engaging, they “Show” without having to “Tell.” They also give users the sense that you are truly hands-on with your product line and not just a distributor.

If your business focuses on services, or you have services connected to your product line, adding real photos helps people see them in action. It gives them a sense of confidence in how your offerings work in the real world.

Use Color to Create Emotion

Colors are connected with emotions as well as brand images. When you think of your favorite fast food places, you can remember their color schemes like Mcdonald’s red and gold or Culver’s blue and cream white.

Your webpage needs to equally represent your brand colors, as well as other color schemes that evoke the emotions associated with your products and services. This engenders trust in users that you are consistent with your brand message, and always on point with the goods and services you offer.

Include Social Proofs & Trust Symbols

Social proofs and trust symbols go a long way toward solidifying a user’s trust in your brand and everything you have to offer. They don’t have to be overly bold. They can be simple, tastefully placed things like “As seen on…” or a link to a social media article. Perhaps it’s just as simple as a Better Business Bureau rating logo at the bottom of your homepage.

Use Short Sentences and Poignant Copy

Today users tend to want to skim through content to find the digestible bites that they want. They aren’t looking for lengthy introductions and paragraphs with flowery prose. They want to know what you’re offering and what sets you apart without having to hunt for key details.

Include an Intuitive Search Feature

Some users will come to your site with their own intentions in mind as they shop about the differences between you and your competitors. Including an easy-to-use search feature at the top of the homepage or in other key content, locations let them find what you’re offering and make them more likely to convert to a loyal customer. Even if your competitor is offering the same thing, but they bounced because they couldn’t find the information immediately.

Include Blog Highlights & Spotlight Articles

Blogs and timely spotlight articles are great ways to get noticed by users and search engines alike. Anytime you put up a new blog or write a crisp article on an important topic, make sure to include a snippet and a link on your homepage. Not only is it likely to improve your engagement rates, but it can also improve your site navigation for crawler bots.

Optimize Your Loading Time

Users don’t want to wait for your massive background graphics to load. Especially if they’re viewing your site via a mobile device. Taking the time to streamline your homepage’s loading time reduces the risk of new users bouncing. It also increases the likelihood of a search engine ranking you ahead of a competitor’s website with a slow loading time.

Update Routinely

Making routine updates to your homepage keeps it fresh. It also demonstrates to search engines that you have an active website that is making a true effort to offer users the best possible experience. This might come in the form of blog snippets, highlight articles, and links to freshly uploaded informative articles that help users make better-informed decisions.

Include a Call to Action

Your homepage needs to evoke at least two to three calls to action. You want the users to give in to the desire to dig deeper into what you have to offer and what sets you apart. Letting them know that you want to build a relationship with them through carefully placed calls to action to do things like “Sign up for a special offer” or “Click to learn more” boosts engagement rates and keeps them invested in your site/business while keeping them equally away from your competitors.

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