There was a time when having a website was quite the accomplishment, but since the days of AOL and dial-up Internet, everyone from the pet shop down the street to the multinational conglomerate has a website. In this crowded ecosystem, it’s important to stand out, and that means building a strong first impression. In an increasingly web-based world, the homepage has become the “handshake” of sales, and a firm, confident grip and winning smile will do a lot to improve your brand perception and comfort customers in the process. In this post, we’re offering a few recommendations on how to make a better first impression on your homepage.
Creating a website is an excellent first step toward better contact with your customers, but it is by no means the end of your work. As a matter of fact, the presence of a business website actually establishes expectations for basic functionality and information that you’re required to fulfill in order to convert sales. Doing so takes many forms, from the rudimentary to the complex, but in all efforts, creating the understanding that customer needs will be met is job #1.
This begins with contact information. When customers view your business, they bring with them certain fears. Fears of buyer’s remorse, fears of being scammed, and fears of missed opportunity. As profound as this ordeal may sound, it’s very real and putting your contact information on the homepage of your website will help immediately quell them. This way, if customers have worries, they know how to get in contact with you, and that trust will go a long way in the future.
In addition to human contact, customers want to know that assistance will come even after business hours. For this reason, having a clear organization and working links to the information on your website on the front page will help allay their fears and improve their experience. With more companies recognizing the importance of quality web design, creating a site that’s usable will become just as important as delivering a quality product.
But quality is still a part of the picture, and using your first impression to communicate its importance to your business is excellent practice. The initial visit to a website, just as with first meetings with human beings, determines a lot about customers’ future perceptions, so establishing expectations prior to purchase will help sales conversion and develop customer relationships. This means using aesthetic and tapping into web trends to demonstrate that your company has an ear to the ground and a modern approach.
Start with eye-catching visuals. Inundated readers have become scanners, which means that our content, and our websites, must change to curry their favor. Attractive and descriptive photographs and graphics more effectively communicate information, and establish the kind of first-impression we’re looking for much more rapidly than text. What’s of note in employing visuals, however, is the importance of content. Irrelevant visuals, butterflies for a software company for example, are more likely to turn customers off than appeal to their sensibilities. Visuals should describe your business and set standards, not come off as contrive.
With the newfound nature of Internet readers, the front-page has evolved, from a gateway to more information, to the residence of your primary sales pitch. Instead of waiting for visitors to bite and click further down the site navigation, savvy developers have seized the bull by the horns and put key product specifications, demo videos, and testimonials of satisfied customers right up front for people to see. Doing so helps avoid the small, but significant, down time between initial viewing and product research, leading to better conversion rates and happier customers.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
At this point, you’re being asked to put quite a bit on the front page of your website. From visuals to product specs to copy, there’s a lot going on at first glance. In order to prevent this torrent of information from becoming an unintelligible mess, designers have developed ways to effectively organize content, gleaning the aforementioned benefits without taxing the patience of hesitant users.
Two methods have developed that have seen widespread adoption. The first involves what are called large “hero areas”. The term harkens back to the days of print media, when a large visual and accompanying typography presented a powerful first-impression, justifying the occupation of extra space with the resultant impact. These days, it’s not uncommon for the entire screen of a browser to be filled with a single image and impactful tagline. Doing so creates a strong impression, without compromising the integrity of the following content.
The reason this practice resonates is due to the accompanying, second method: scroll-based layouts. Conventional web design focused on dividing content between pages, but new designs are dividing pages into browser-sized sections, delineated by common typography, background color, and a large, distinguishing visual. By dividing your homepage vertically into sections, you can effectively deliver a presentation of your product or brand’s benefits without the risk of lost traffic, catching eyes and attention in the process.
Web design has grown by leaps and bounds since the days of dial-up, and with it, the expectations placed upon business websites. But your firm can keep up with, and surpass, the Jones’ with a little know-how and some modern design techniques. Make your company available to your customers with contact information and working navigation. Establish your first impression with optimized content and relevant information. Finally, consider implementing some higher-level design that keeps your customers reading and puts your site on the cutting edge of the evolving web. You’d wear a suit and carry business cards to a sales meeting, and applying the same concept to your homepage will have similar results, making the ironing and tailoring worth the work.