Optimizing your home page

As you might have heard the saying you never have a second chance to make a first impression, and that the first impression is made within 7 seconds of meeting someone. When it comes to a visiting website it’s even faster than that.

So what does the home page or a landing page of your website say about your website? Does it immediately grab the attention of your readers and make them focus and concentrate on your contents? Or does it do nothing at all and drive them away to another page? Does it load quickly allowing them to see what’s in store for them? Or does it take several seconds to load, making them lose their patience once the page finally arrives?

Your Landing Page Has 7 to 11 Seconds

That’s all you need to impress your reader and get them to stay on your site. Even for the faster sites, 2 to 3 of those seconds are spent downloading the page. So that leaves you 4 to 8 seconds to get your message across and let them navigate through your pages.

There are a many different strategies to make your landing page memorable and keep them clicking.

  • Navigation Home Pages
    Navigation front pages have a lot of information in a small space. They act like a portal to the rest of the site packing in the places your readers can go.

    If you have a website with a lot of information, a navigation front page may be the way to go. Often readers do not come to the front page of large sites looking for specific information, they are looking for the “route” to the information they want. While you could argue that having that information right on the front page would be good, for a large site this isn’t feasible. If your readers already know the site is large, they don’t expect to find the information on the front page, so even when it’s there, they don’t see it.

  • Information Home Pages
    Websites with one specific purpose, an informative front page gets that purpose right out where the reader expects it.

    Sites that are focused around a goal, such as selling something, or displaying designs, or publishing a family photo album are well suited for an Information Front Page. Make that goal the central part of the page. Engage the readers by showing them an overview of the goal and then drawing them in to the details and extra information that supports that goal.

Home Page Should Fit Your Site and Content

Your front page should suit your site and skills. A site with very few pages would not make an interesting Navigation Front Page. And a novice Flash designer may not make the best Splash Page. But, you should also think about what you are trying to convey with your site. The home page is where people are going to (often) form their first opinion. If you have a solid, cutting edge home page, but your site is about “Choosing a Nanny”, you might scare some of your readers away.

Your Home Page Should Be Clear

Your first page should be the clearest page on your site. If people have to guess what it’s about, chances are they will have hit the “Back” button without even trying. Your readers don’t want to have to work to get their information. We are an instant gratification world, and unclear sites become instant losers.