designing the homepage
The homepage is where the first impression relating to who you are and what your site entails. (At times, erroneously referred to as the landing page, which can be confusing.)
You want your homepage to be strong enough to pique your visitors' interest and set the premise of the message that you are trying to present.
In our opinion, it is the most essential and critical page in web design.
The relevance conveyed upon hitting the homepage must instill an immediate sense of credibility. If that does not occur, why navigate from that page to the next page.
The homepage is also where visitors get a comprehensive view of what is happening on the site. It also indicates what solutions are possible on the site long before any navigation begins. For that reason, the aesthetics of the homepage must also grab the visitors' attention.
If your viewers do not experience a positive impression or stimulus within the first few seconds upon viewing the homepage, you will not have to worry about the rest of the site.
Yes, content is central, but aesthetics, in our estimation, is equally essential.
To make it a little easier, we will break the subject of constructing the homepage into two sections.
The first is the physical structure of the homepage, and the second is the visual elements of the main page. Each aspect is equally important.
explaining the physical structure of the homepage
The structure of the homepage refers to the way that this page is put together with its essential elements.
We feel that the following items create the best path to creating a homepage that will have the fundamentals that you need:
- prominent value proposition
- easy navigation
- use of headings and subheadings
- loading speed
- page layout
- call to action
- linking to social media
defining a prominent value proposition
Unfortunately, we are going to use one of those buzz words that we said we would try to refrain from using, value proposition.
A value proposition is a statement to the reader, asserting what you will do for the reader. It needs to be in a conspicuous location that can be easily understood.
On our homepage, we have two value proposition statements: "essential information for your website" and "how to build the best website?"
The first line is more specific in that it tells the reader that the subject on the website provides indispensable material for the visitor's site. And the second one says that the info provided will allow you to achieve success in your goal to create the best website.
Without the clarity of a prominent statement, how can a visitor know what you do and what you can do for them?
navigation should be easy!
Moving about should not be a puzzle to the visitor.
Without having to think, one quickly needs to see how to get to the information that is important or of interest. You will lose the visitor's attention if it takes more than a few seconds to figure out how to get to that information.
menus need to be descriptive!
The menu must be descriptive. That means pinpointing the subject matter for your visitor and the search engines by using key phrases on the navigation bar. Our suggestion, do not use generic terms for the menu but use product-specific or topic-specific language that says what it is that you do.
For example, you sell candy online. Avoid using the main menu item saying "products," with hidden tabs that say lollypops, lemon drops, and jelly beans. Instead, expressly use "lollypops," "lemon drops," and "jelly beans" as the main menu items.
limit your menu items
Do not load the main menu with too many items. Typically, six to eight are enough.
Too many links on the main menu make it confusing for the visitor to realize what is vital and what is insignificant. You want the viewers to move into the interior of the site once the main page has satisfied them.
Also, having too many links to your interior pages does not strengthen your internal pages, but in actuality weakens them.
An abundance of links from the homepage decreases the authority of each interior page because excessive links from that page diminish or deteriorates the importance of the secondary pages.
If you have a large number of links from the main page, like 150, the search engines value each page branching from the homepage as insignificant. Each secondary page is one of many, and therefore, unimportant.
how to prioritize menu items?
Menus are just lists.
And just like any list, the order in which menu items appear makes it easy or difficult for viewers to remember or identify.
In theory, those items at the beginning of the menu are less difficult to recall. The same is true for those at the end of the menu list. Those items in the middle have a tendency to be forgotten or overlooked.
So, arrange your menu items accordingly.
how to use headings and subheadings
The proper use of headings and subheadings makes it more efficient for both the reader and the search engines to get through the content.
By using headings, your content becomes organized so that visitors can quickly find topics or material of importance and interest. These captions should include keywords and search terms that visitors would use in finding the site, and should give a clear indication as to what follows the caption.
Also, the use of questions or highly relevant words in headings will draw attention to the area, and help to define what the following subject matter pertains. Avoid titles like "Introduction" or "Summary."
They say very little and are not indicative of being helpful. Headings or subheadings that stimulate the reader's interest in your online candy store like "Why can candy make your day?" will draw more attention than something like "Products."
Varying typography (referring to the appearance of text) in headings can give prominence to the subject matter and call attention to it. Using larger font sizes, underlining, using distinctive colors, or different fonts can accomplish this result.
Differing the typography from headings to subheadings also defines the prominence of the content, i.e., more significant type for weighty sections, and smaller scaled font for secondary subjects.
But remember to be consistent in taking this approach, and do not make headings and subheadings look overly busy.
We will cover typography more deeply later in this section.
is loading speed that critical?
The speed at which your webpage loads is critical to whether or not your visitor stays on your site.
In 2020, Google has introduced loading speeds into their ranking factor and is using the mobile versions as its primary indexing guide. Not too long ago, we were concerned with how long the desktop took to load the homepage. Now, due to the extensive use of mobile use, entities like Google are using the mobile experience to score and rank you.
The current general rule is that a mobile page should show its content in under 3 seconds. The closer to 2 seconds a site can come to loading, the likelihood increases immensely that the viewer will remain on the site.
One can write a good-sized book just on the intricacies of page speed; however, we are limiting the scope of this topic here.
What we will examine in the next subject is how to make the webpage work better within the constraints that we have already discussed.