Last week I addressed the home page from a written content standpoint. Today I’ll discuss your home page in terms of look and feel and imagery.
When surfing the web, think about the best websites you’ve seen and the worst.
How cluttered were the worst? How busy were the pages? How confusing were they? How long did they take to load? How much animation was there?
Now think about the ones you liked. They probably had information that was easy to find, were uncluttered, loaded quickly, were pleasing to the eye and had little to no animation.
10 Tips for Making Your Home Page Better
1. Know How Bold Works
Over the years I’ve had a variety of interesting client demands. One once insisted that I make the entire page text be bold. The problem with this is: if everything is bold, nothing will stand out. The point of bold text is to draw the eye to specific sections on a page, emphasize certain words or phrases, or to give a visual cue as to what the name of the page is (such as having the phrase About Us in bold).
2. We Don’t Use Underline on the Web
If you want to emphasize text, go with bold or italics. Underlining text is confusing to surfers. This is because underlined text means that is a link that can be clicked on. If site visitors try and click on your underlined text, they will assume the site is broken and leave.
3. Go Easy on the Animations
Too much blinking and flashing will drive away your visitors. Unless your target demographic is children, in which case they may enjoy it. Also, if you want audio on your site to go with the animations, I advise against it. I’ll be making a post in the future on audio and your website. I’m not saying all animation is bad. I’m just saying that it is good to know when to say no.
4. Use Relevant Imagery
A lot of websites have images of random, smiling people on their website. Who are these people supposed to be? Customers? Employees? Usually they are just some stock photography that has nothing to do with the business itself. And there is no visual cue to the site visitor just who these people are.
Use imagery that is either directly a part of your ad campaign, or in some way related to what you sell. If you sell socks, have images of socks or people wearing them. Headshots of random smiling people don’t indicate to your audience that you sell socks.
Just because visitors see a picture of a smiling person on your website doesn’t make them assume your product or service will make them happy.
5. Avoid Splash Pages
Some websites have a page just before the home page called a splash page. Often this is a large graphic with a small amount of text, and then a link that says “Enter Site”. This is not useful to your audience. The only person that likes this is the person that wanted it on the site. It doesn’t encourage your audience to buy anything. Further, it’s just one more obstacle between your audience and the product or service you want them to see. Why throw an obstacle in their way? Why not just show them what they want right away? Remember: when making a website, don’t annoy the customer.
6. Just Say No to Pop-Ups
One of the quickest ways to upset and possibly drive away site visitors is to have a window pop up in their face. This is not usually an effective tool to get people to sign up for mailing lists, products, services, take surveys, or anything else. Visitors just get annoyed and close the box. Some will even leave a site on principle.
7. Contrast Is Our Friend
We want contrast in colors on a page. Monochromatic (all one color) sites are cool, but sometimes you want another color to draw the eye to specific information. Also, we want enough contrast between text and the background so the page is easily read. Just because you have great eyesight doesn’t mean all of your visitors do too. Be nice to your site visitors: don’t give them eyestrain.
8. Keep It Simple
As I said when discussing the written part of a site: simplicity is our friend. Same goes for imagery and use of color. We want visitors to find information on your site quickly and easily. Too much going on is just overwhelming and confusing. A frustrated visitor will quickly make use of their friend, the Back button.
9. Color and Shape to Guide the Eye
We can use colored text and icons to draw the eye to certain points on a page. But remember that not everyone who comes to your site can see color. There are colorblind web surfers, so don’t assume that just using red will get something noticed. Further, there are a lot of different types of colorblindness. So we want to work around that and with that in mind.
10. We Don’t Need Page Counters
Still see websites showing how many people have visited the site? Not many, but they are there. Use of these counters is
a. So 1990s (it looks like you can’t keep up with trends)
b. Very unprofessional looking (it looks like you can’t afford a knowledgeable designer)
No one cares how many people went to your site. Just leave them off. If you are wondering how many people visit your site, most web hosts provide tools that allow you to track that. Or you can try Google Analytics.