You only get one chance to make a first impression. It’s advice you’ve probably heard a hundred times, and it’s never been more true than when considering your website.

Studies have shown that web pages have a brief window to capture people’s attention and convince them to stick around, so not only does your first impression have to be good, it has to be compelling! It has to draw people in from the jump, get across some key information in just a few second.

For most companies, a homepage of a website also acts as an introduction to their brand. It’s the first look many potential customers are getting at the company itself, and the first time others are seeing your key messages.  While there’s a lot that goes into doing this well, here’s a couple of things we always keep in mind while designing homepages for our clients.

Above the Fold

Much like a newspaper, The most important information on your website should always go above the fold. For those of you who have forgotten how a newspaper works, above the fold refers to what was visible when the paper was folded in half. It’s the leading story, the main headline, the thing all the newsies shout.

Many of our website designs lead with a large hero image, a compelling headline, and an immediate call to action, all above the fold. These three things should act together to tell visitors what it is you do, why they need it, and what the next steps are. It’s an all-in-one shot to convert them right then and there. Make the homepage design visually interesting, and a part of a story, and there’s a good chance they’ll dive deeper into the site.

Straight Forward Navigation

Something you’ll see in a lot of older sites is a header navigation packed with a thousand different links. To that we say, “no thank you.” Not only does it make for some pretty hideous design, it’s also confusing and tells the user absolutely nothing about which messages are important.

There’s a phycology to simplified navigation design as well. Humans process information through a memorization method called “chunking”. That process involves breaking information into groups or units, rather than remembering everything individually. The fewer units there are, the more likely they are to be remembered.

While this concept applies to your homepage design as a whole, it’s especially important in header navigation, where the use of consolidated dropdown menus can help assists users in the chunking process.

Keep It Simple (Smarty)

This should be pretty straightforward, but I never cease to be surprised by the amount of homepages I see crammed with every single piece of information possible about a company. Don’t do it! All you’re doing is guaranteeing one of two things: Users will immediately run and hide from an information overload, or they’ll completely misunderstand the hierarchy of messaging you’re trying to create. In good design, strategy is everything.

As a practice try thinking about how little you could have on your homepage and still have users understand your brand. Could you get by with just a headline and call to action? Can you cut out any media? I’m not saying that you should necessarily do either, but by limiting the amount of messaging on your homepage design you can better ensure which messages users will walk away with.

Design For Every User

Building on the point above, designing with the user in mind is kind of homepage design 101. But, judging by some of the homepages you see out there, you’d think it was part of a masters class curriculum. So we’ll just throw this piece of advice in there again, make sure your homepage design makes sense for your audience.

That means thinking about how your content displays on mobile as well as on desktops. Make sure that your homepages aren’t so media heavy that they take too long to load. When is comes to web page loading times, every second counts. That’s especially true if this is a visitors introduction to your brand. You don’t want to be associated with slow loading times and poor design, do you?

Below the Fold

Lastly, let’s talk about all the secondary information you may want to include in your homepage design. Below the fold content is everything people will see once they start scrolling. Consider the hierarchy of messages people will see, which are most important, and which can be left to secondary pages. Again, you may not want to include every single selling point on the homepage. Tease people a bit, encourage them to explore, create a compelling user journey that visitors will remember.

It’s also worth noting that your footer can hold a lot of valuable links and resources in a small, easily navigable piece of space. Moving non essential pages from the header or page design down to the footer can make the rest of your site cleaner and more manageable. Things like links to blogs, career pages, individual sub-categories and more might all be better placed in the footer. Again, it’s all about making a great first impression and telling to key pieces of your brand's story. Do that, and you have a homepage design worth showing off.

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