Is It Time To Fire Your Home Page?
Imagine that it’s performance appraisal time. The awful time of year that strikes fear and trepidation into the hearts of all but the most annoyingly confident employees. The time when sadistic HR managers, who love to feast on fear and anxiety, start throwing around terms like “KPIs,” “quantifiable measurements” and “data points,” just to watch you squirm.
As employers, we rely on these appraisals to tell us how our people are doing. Are they making a valuable and quantifiable contribution to the company? Are they a positive influence on the morale of the office as a whole? Or are they just costing us money (not to mention stationery and coffee) without adding any discernible value?
We place a lot of importance on the outcomes of employee performance appraisals because we know they have a direct bearing on the ultimate success of our company. We like to identify pain points and fix them. Or, sometimes, if it’s the employees themselves who are the pain points, we don’t fix them, we fire them. We do whatever’s necessary to ensure the ongoing growth and prosperity of our business.
So why don’t we do the same for our websites?
Your Website Is Your Virtual Company
True story. Many people will visit your website before ever visiting your bricks and mortar business. Many customers will buy your products or services online without ever actually setting foot inside your company’s front door.
To put it simply, your website is very important. Like, seriously. And if it’s not doing its job properly, it’s time to find out why. You should be performance appraising the heck out of your website, finding out where the pain points are, and fixing them. Now. Immediately. If not sooner.
So, as with any good book, let’s start on the first page. The first page of your website is the Home Page. This is like your company’s virtual front door, through which most people will first be introduced to who you are and what you do.
Hubspot describes it thus:
“Your homepage needs to wear a lot of hats. Rather than treating it like a dedicated landing page built around one particular action, it should be designed to serve different audiences, from different origins. And in order to do so effectively, it needs to be built with purpose. In other words, you’ll need to incorporate elements that attract traffic, educate visitors, and invite conversions.”
So, is your Home Page meeting these essential KPIs, or should you fire it?
The Importance Of The First Impression
Old adages survive into their dotage for one very good reason – they are jam-packed full of truth. And truth is a survivor. Hocus and BS only hang around for so long before enough disgruntled former believers hurl them off the cliff of disappointment into the abyss of oblivion.
An adage becomes an old adage when it survives the truth test and proves itself to be more than just pretty verbiage. One such gem is this:
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Mind? Blown. Flabber? Well and truly ghasted.
Your Home Page is like your company receptionist. It’s the first impression people get when they walk in. Are they made to feel warm and welcomed? Greeted with a friendly smile? Helped promptly and efficiently, and shown where to go in a clear and non-confusing way?
You walk into a company’s foyer, full of hope and promise about all the wonderful things you’re hoping the business can do for you. You’re greeted by a gum-chewing receptionist, whose hairstyle hasn’t quite made it out of the 80s, and who takes several seconds to acknowledge your arrival because she just had to finish posting pics of her weekend’s activities on Facebook.
How excited do you feel now?
Compare this to the receptionist who is neatly and professionally dressed, and who looks up and smiles at you the second you walk in. Who greets you warmly and asks how she can help, and then clearly and efficiently shows you exactly where you need to go for your meeting.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely know which company I’d be doing business with.
What Are Your Home Page’s KPIs?
Just like your human receptionist, your website’s Home Page has Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) it needs to meet in order to be doing its job properly. There’s a great infographic on Hubspot you can take a look at that outlines pretty much all the boxes your Home Page should be ticking in order to do what it’s designed to do. But because we know you’re busy, time is money, there aren’t enough hours in the day and so on, here are the key take-outs from that article:
- Have a clear and simple headline that tells you within three seconds what your site has to offer.
- Avoid jargon, and don’t just waffle on about yourself.
- Have compelling calls to action.
- Use eye-catching images, but avoid cheesy stock pictures.
- Highlight the important features and benefits of your product or service, but don’t talk above your customers’ heads.
- Include impactful – but short – quotes from customer testimonials.
- Make site navigation simple.
If you’re thinking that sounds like a pretty good job description for a human receptionist too, well, hello! Point made.
What Does A Bad Home Page Look Like?
Very much like a bad receptionist, actually. A bad receptionist arrives late for work, so she’s not there when you arrive. Meaning you turn round and walk out. A bad home page takes too long to load, so you hit the back button. A poor receptionist doesn’t have the knowledge or training to help you or gives you the wrong information – a bad website has broken links and no user flow. And a rubbish receptionist is too busy with her own agenda to talk to you, while a bad home page offers up the dreaded 404 error message – Page Not Found.
And, like an untidily dressed receptionist with a scary hairdo, a messy home page is, quite simply, repellant.
Hiring A New Receptionist
So, you’ve conducted a performance appraisal and analysed the non-adherence to critical KPIs. Sadly, you have now come to the inevitable conclusion that, for the ultimate good of your company, the time has come to fire your old receptionist and start the search for a new one.
What do you look for? What qualities make for a truly awesome receptionist?
And when we say receptionist, we mean Home Page!
What The Professionals Think
Kissmetrics identifies the following key elements of any successful home page:
- Logo – make sure it’s the right size and positioned in the right place.
- Navigation – when website users can’t find what they want, they need to be able to come back to the home page easily so they can start again.
- Search functionality – if you have an e-commerce site, this is probably the most important part of your home page.
- Content – copy is important for SEO purposes, but keep it clean and uncluttered.
Hubspot highlights these points to take your home page from blah to brilliant:
Answer questions – tell your visitor who you are, what you do, and what they can do now that they’re on your site.
- Speak clearly – eliminate the fluff and keep your focus narrow. Speak to the right people in a language they will understand.
- Nail your value proposition – give visitors a reason to stay on your site and visit other pages. Make them hesitant to hit the dreaded “back” button.
Wix adds this advice to the mix:
- Big up your buttons – If you’re going to use call-to-action buttons, use them properly. Make people want to click on them. Tempt them. In four words. Natch.
- Keep content fresh – update your home page content whenever necessary, so that visitors know your information is relevant and reliable. But don’t go into too much detail – no one is going to spend hours wading through gumph.
And What Else?
There are many other ways you can make your home page slash virtual receptionist work for you. As with its human counterpart, you can make good use of “downtime” to do a little bit of double duty. Whereas an actual company receptionist might use quiet times to open post, do a little basic invoicing or file important documents, your home page can also be used to highlight a new product or important announcement. Temporarily adding an eye-catching call to action button on your home page is a great way to draw attention to a new development.
Your home page needs to meet a lot of KPIs. It needs to effectively serve many different people and, most importantly, encourage conversions. So, if your home page isn’t performing as it should, perhaps it’s time to cut your losses and fire it.
If you’d like a few pointers on how to “hire” a newer, shinier, more effective home page, chat to The Digital Coach. We feel right at home on home pages, we can drive your sales home, we’ll take you home, country roads…ok, we’re stopping now.