Monday, December 7, 2009

8 Common Homepage Mistakes

A website's homepage is the first thing a person sees when they visit your site.

This is obvious, but many homepages contain mistakes, or leave things out. As customers do more shopping online, and do internet searches to find information, your homepage is becoming more vital for business survival.

Errors and deficiencies on homepages are easily corrected, once you identify what can be improved or added.

Here are some Common Website Mistakes:

(1) No photo of CEO/Owner.

Showing your face is not a matter of vanity. It's all about humanizing your business, making it more personal and friendly. A homepage with no picture of the President, CEO, Owner, or Founder seems cold, bleak, even unaccountable.

You'll increase good will, personal warmth, and credibility for your homepage by displaying a nice photo of the primary spokesperson of your company. This photo will instantly convey authenticity, a person who is in charge, whose reputation is on the line.

People like to do business with people they can see and relate to. Select your photo carefully. Look approachable, charming, professional, smart, kind.

(2) Clutter.

Trying to display too many items on the homepage can cause all of them to disappear, lost in chaos. Instead, show the most customer-relevant items and functionalities. Then group the secondary items under headings that make sense to customers, in words they typically use to talk about the topics, and make top navigation bar links to these categories.

(3) Hard to read.

Be especially careful about the color of your text and the background colors. Medium gray text on light gray backgrounds is difficult to read, for example. Gradients, where a color fades from top to bottom, can sometimes reduce readability.

Your website visitors are always in a hurry, or multi-tasking, or otherwise distracted. Don't assume they're devoting total attention to your website. Make it easy to scan quickly, so customers can readily find the information they need, and can ignore what's not relevant to them at that moment.

(4) Drop down menu About links.

Even if you feel you must sub-divide your About page, don't make your customers choose categories from a drop down menu. It seems minor, but any extra complexity can cause frustration to customers.

Your About page link should be a single item that takes them to a page where you explain who you are, what you offer, and how customers can benefit. Then, on the main About page, you can display links that focus more on each separate item, like Personnel, History, and Employment.

(5) Hiding Contact page in About.

While it's good to have Contact information in your About page, you should display a separate Contact link in your navigation bar on the homepage. Again, we must keep in mind how customers are in a hurry.

You want customers to contact you. And contact is a primary action that customers want to perform. If they don't see a Contact link on the homepage, it could frustrate them, and they may leave your website to visit a competitor.

(6) No tagline or slogan.

People like jingles and statements that sum up what your business is about. You probably have one you're using now. It's part of your identification. So why leave it off your homepage? Customers like to do business with familiar entities.

By adding your slogan, jingle, tagline, or motto, under your logo or business name, your customers will more readily connect with your business. It can be the hook that says, "You already know us. You've heard our commercials for years. You can trust us."

(7) Unfriendly.

Your website is you. It represents your business just like a sales person does. Is your staff aloof and depersonalized? Of course not. Then why should your website homepage look sterile, like a manual or textbook?

The wording should sound like the way normal humans talk. Some trendy companies go so far as to be comical, edgy, or even smart alecky, just to lighten things up a bit. Your homepage should have the feel of a friendly person who enjoys helping people, not a spec sheet with "just the facts ma'am". LOL

(8) Links that disappoint.

If you have a News link on your homepage, fill it with actual news, rather than just a statement about how you'll be featuring news there eventually. If you have a link to a blog, why not state some reason to visit it, some benefit to customers? If you have a Photo Gallery link, be sure to fill it with interesting, educational, or entertaining photos, including recent events, with captions explaining the scene.

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