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August 25, 2010

User-Centered Design for Homepages

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The first impression customers get of your website and your business is geared by the impression made by your website homepage. It has a major effect on its success or failure.

Your website homepage can be the determining factor in the reader’s choice to delve further into your site or bounce off after a cursory glance, to go back to the search engine and look for something more relevant.

Despite this, many websites miss this great opportunity to lure in its readers, simply by having poorly targeted or poorly displayed homepage content that does not immediately inform them what the site is about.

You have just 4 brief seconds to convey to a potential customer what your site has to offer. Each moment wasted where visitors try to decipher your website, is a moment lost to create the right impression.

To create effective, compelling homepage content, here are some easy to follow guidelines:

1. Your homepage serves as the introduction to your company. You should be seeing to welcome your visitors – throwing out the red carpet for them.

On entering your site, the reader should be able to know immediately what you and your website offers, without having to click around or scroll. In your introduction, or your website header area, do not assume that the reader has previous knowledge or understanding of your site’s products or services.

It’s a good idea to add a breakdown of how it works if you’re offering something innovative, and new to the market to help customers understand your online offering. If you want to, it’s a good idea to add in a link or two about your company. (But be careful not to make your homepage all about your business! Customers find that really dull!).

2. Your homepage should contain contemporary content. Fresh homepage content, if suitable, appeals to the reader as it shows that your sit e is current and up to date.

Change the content as needed by displaying popular or hot features that are relevant while keeping the design consistent. Doing this will attract more readers but does not alienate your regular audience. If your homepage looks dated, customers will question the validity and credibility of that information – worse still, if it looks really old they might think you’ve gone out of business!

3. Your homepage should have a set of unique selling points (USPs).

Your USPs must explain the benefits of your site to prospective clients or customers and should be in a prominent position on your homepage. They also tell your reader why your site is better than others similar to it and what you can offer them that others can’t.

Summary

Remember, you only have a few seconds to encourage your website visitors to find out more about you. The customers whole browsing session at your site is determined by how they rate the experience of visiting your homepage and learning more about your business (or not!).

Before you invest in any offline or online advertising campaigns, like pay-per-click (PPC), make sure your prospects are going to understand, and value, the place you’re directing them to – otherwise you’ll be wasting money.


For more advice on having a clear, effective website homepage, check out the Website Success System which is a jargon-free practical usability course for business owners with over 500 tips explaining how to have a good website with an enjoyable user-experience for customers.
Customer-friendly website have been proven to make more money online for their owners. www.websitesuccesssystem.com

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