Over the last few months I have written quite a bit about writing landing pages and offer pages. But I haven't said much about the challenges writers face when writing a homepage.
Homepages can be tricky, simply because your page not only has its own job to do but also has to support a group of second-level pages.
Here's how I approach writing homepages... whether a site has a total of 10 pages or a thousand pages.
1. Use your principal homepage headline to communicate your site's underlying value proposition
This is job one. When first-time visitors arrive at your site, they have a purpose in mind. They are looking for something.
The job of your principal headline is to communicate quickly and clearly the primary value proposition of your site.
That is to say, you need to let people know what your site is about, and why it is better than all the competing sites that offer similar products or services.
This is a tough job in the best of times. But it gets harder when you burden your headline with extra duties.
So stay focused. Understand what your visitor is looking for. Communicate your promise and value quickly and clearly.
2. Use some short introductory text to clarify and expand on your headline
Not every value proposition can be communicated completely in 10 words or less.
You may be able to get close. But if you have a business that offers a number of different product or service categories, you are better off keeping your headline simple, and then using some short introductory text to expand on your message and clarify.
Place this text directly beneath your headline, so there is a natural flow from one to the other. Don't make your readers have to search for this clarifying copy.
In other words, be aware of the eye-path of your readers. If you want someone to read a block of text immediately after reading your headline, place it within the same column, with the same margins, one following directly after the other.
3. Help visitors find what they are looking for
Unless you have a single product or single service, you are going to have to help people find the second-level page that best matches their immediate interest.
If 80% of your visitors end up going to just three or four of your second-level pages first, make links to these pages easy to find on your homepage.
This sounds obvious, but homepages are often cluttered with too many featured links.
Use your navigation links to provide access to all areas of your site. But make a feature of the links that best serve the needs of the majority of your visitors.
4. Make your first-time visitors feel comfortable and confident
When visitors come to your site for the first time, they will feel unsure about you unless you are a nationally recognized brand.
They will need reassurance. They need to know they can trust you. And they want to know that you really can give them what they are looking for.
There are numerous ways to build trust, including the use of third-party seals from organizations like the Better Business Bureau Online.
But a major factor in building trust will be the tone of your headline and other text on the page.
Your home page is rarely a sales page. The selling will take place on the second or third levels.
So on your homepage, avoid hype. Write simply, clearly, and honestly. Make your page and your text useful and helpful.
Clearly, there is a great deal more that can be said about writing homepages. But these four points cover what I consider to be the most important issues.
Whenever I write a homepage, I aim for clarity and simplicity. In my mind I stay focused on helping each visitor.
I want people to quickly understand what the site is about. I want them to be able to find what they want without having to work too hard to find it.
And I want them to feel comfortable and confident that they have come to the right place.