Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage Usability
A company’s homepage is its face to the world and the starting point for most user visits. Improving your homepage multiplies the entire website’s business value, so following key guidelines for homepage usability is well worth the investment.
Homepages are the most valuable real estate in the world. Each year, companies and individuals funnel millions of dollars through a space that’s not even a square foot in size. For good reason. A homepage’s impact on a company’s bottom line is far greater than simple measures of e-commerce revenues: The homepage is your company’s face to the world. Increasingly, potential customers will look at your company’s online presence before doing business with you – regardless of whether they plan to close the actual sale online. (Update: our studies of B2B usability found that this is the predominant behavior of business users.)
The homepage is the most important page on most websites, and gets more page views than any other page. Of course, users don’t always enter a website from the homepage. A website is like a house in which every window is also a door: People can follow links from search engines and other websites that reach deep inside your site. However, one of the first things these users do after arriving at a new site is go to the homepage. Deep linking is very useful, but it doesn’t give users the site overview a homepage offers – if the homepage design follows strong usability guidelines, that is.
Following are ten things you can do to increase the usability of your homepage and thus enhance your website’s business value.
Make the Site’s Purpose Clear: Explain Who You Are and What You Do
1. Include a One-Sentence Tagline
Start the page with a tagline that summarizes what the site or company does, especially if you’re new or less than
famous. Even well-known companies presumably hope to attract new customers and should tell first-time visitors about the site’s purpose. It is especially important to have a good tagline if your company’s general marketing slogan is bland and fails to tell users what they’ll gain from visiting the site.
2. Write a Window Title with Good Visibility in Search Engines and Bookmark Lists
Begin the TITLE tag with the company name, followed by a brief description of the site. Don’t start with words like “The” or “Welcome to” unless you want to be alphabetized under “T” or “W.”
3. Group all Corporate Information in One Distinct Area
Finding out about the company is rarely a user’s first task, but sometimes people do need details about who you are. Good corporate information is especially important if the site hopes to support recruiting, investor relations, or PR, but it can also serve to increase a new or lesser-known company’s credibility. An “About ” section is the best way to link users to more in-depth information than can be presented on the homepage. (See also my report with 70 guidelines for the design of “about us” areas of corporate websites.)
Help Users Find What They Need
4. Emphasize the Site’s Top High-Priority Tasks
Your homepage should offer users a clear starting point for the main one to four tasks they’ll undertake when visiting your site.
5. Include a Search Input Box
Search is an important part of any big website. When users want to search, they typically scan the homepage looking for “the little box where I can type,” so your search should be a box.