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Quickly grabbing the attention of anyone who visits your homepage is essential if you want them to stay. The importance of this instant engagement is even more clear when you realize that 47% of visitors “bounce off" or leave a website after viewing only one page.
Creating an effective homepage is a bit like being a good party host. Your homepage should make visitors feel welcome, provide an atmosphere that’s easy to navigate, and help them find what they need.
“A homepage is a chance to spell out what you do and capture a visitor’s attention,” says Jen Ellis, Senior Product Design Manager at Mailchimp. “We know that visitors make a decision within seconds if they want to learn more.”
When you build a website in Mailchimp, you’ll begin with a homepage layout that includes the most important elements to engage your audience and communicate what you do. Starting with a hero, contact information, a subscribe form, space for testimonials, and product blocks, you can use this layout as a trusted guideline while you design a website that fits your unique brand. Then apply these tips to put your homepage visitors on the right path.
Communicate your top messages
The most important thing your homepage should do is clearly convey what you offer, and to whom. If you can do this, you stand a good chance of engaging your visitor. Assess your homepage by asking the following 2 questions.
1. Can anyone quickly “get” what you do? The layout, copy, and graphics on your homepage should all work toward the goal of spelling out what your business offers. You’ll know you’ve done it when a first-time visitor, in just a few moments, can understand what you do or sell.
What’s typically required to achieve this clear homepage messaging is iteration. This just means creating a homepage, showing it to people—including friends and potential target audience members—and adjusting until it’s clear. Encourage people to be honest with you, make adjustments, and show it to them again until you get it right.
2. Does your audience know they’re in the right place? Part of what makes a homepage compelling to your audience is presenting information that’s valuable to them. Evoke this feeling by using keywords they use to describe themselves in the context of your offering. This is an easy but essential part of search engine optimization (SEO), and it not only makes your website more discoverable on search, it makes your site more engaging. For example, if you provide a service for people looking to meet someone, you might use terms like “discerning" or “good match" if those are the aspirational words people use during this process.
If you serve more than one audience, that’s ok. Just be sure to communicate to each one separately. For example, if you broker paintings for artists, you may want to welcome both gallery owners and individual buyers with separate sections that quickly communicate that you’re an important contact for both.
Put essential information up front
Businesses with physical locations should make hours and address details easy to find. Put this information in the footer of every page on your website, or set it off in some other way that’s clear and obvious, ideally without clicking on links to other pages. It’s also a good idea to create a Google My Business profile that contains this information, too.
Even if you don’t rely on foot traffic to a location, your homepage needs to make it simple for visitors to contact you via a web form, email address, phone number, or social media link.
Another essential element of your website’s homepage is a signup form that prompts visitors to provide their contact details. Offer them updates, blogs, deals, or something else of value that builds your relationship with them. If you create your website in Mailchimp, a signup form is automatically built in, and it will add new contacts directly to your audience in Mailchimp’s Marketing CRM.
"Sites should also consider the full lifecycle of a visitor,” says Jen. “Often those that are interested may visit your site a few times before interacting or purchasing. Using something like a signup form keeps those people close so you can continue to interact with them."
Feature your favorites
In the same way a store displays popular products in window displays to draw people inside, your homepage should be updated frequently to encourage visitors to explore your website. Do this by highlighting popular sections of your website, or showcasing what other people are reading, trying, or buying.
Here are some examples of creative ways businesses can spur visitors to take action.
- In the spring, as the school year draws to a close, a nonprofit may want to showcase an “Honor Your Teacher” donation drive, encouraging contributions made in a favorite educator’s name.
- A food blogger known for creating quick-and-easy chicken entrées could make it easy for home cooks to find popular dishes with a “This Week’s Top 5” section, sharing direct links to video tutorials for the most downloaded recipes in the last 7 days.
- To help drive new business and engage existing clients, an accounting firm may run webinars on updates to tax codes or financial best practices. A button on their homepage could drive signups for these virtual events.
- A clothing retailer could spotlight new skirts recently featured in posts from an Instagram fashion influencer.
- An artisan candy seller might want to focus on chocolates that are top sellers at the holidays.
Help people learn more about you
Not everyone who visits your website will join your audience or buy something on their first visit. But if you create opportunities for them to engage with your homepage, they are more likely to come back when they’re ready to learn more or make a purchase.
Visitors who aren’t ready to fully commit might engage with these homepage features.
- Checklists can get new visitors thinking about what they might want to accomplish, and how your business can help. For example, a greenhouse might share a list of the 5 things you need to get your yard ready for spring planting.
- Blog posts and articles can position you as an expert and resource in your field, and let new visitors know you are a source for valuable information.
- Email newsletters give you a chance to continue the conversation after visitors leave your website—and visitors who share their contact information care enough to want to hear more.
Create an easy-to-follow path
Make it easy for users to navigate to what they’re looking for from your homepage. With the pathways your customers are likely to take through your website in mind, check to be sure visitors can find the information and links they’ll need to move from one part of your site to another.
For example, people often go to a restaurant’s website in search of their menu, hours, and information about reservations. So, restaurants should make all of this easy to get to from their homepage. Similarly, a nonprofit that frequently hosts events could feature a “save the date” button on their homepage, so that visitors who want to get involved always know what’s happening. Or if you have an e-commerce shoe business, you may want to make it simple for customers to find what they are shopping for—be it shoes for boots, sandals, or sneakers.
Aside from the content featured on your homepage, a centrally located navigation menu with links to all areas of your website will make it simple for people to find their way around quickly.
First-time visitors to your website may want to check you out before they feel comfortable enough to buy. Right on your homepage, you can set them at ease with information about your reputation and relationships with other clients and businesses.
- Testimonials are a great way to illustrate your experience and showcase great work. When you build a website in Mailchimp, a testimonials section automatically populates on the sample homepage—you can edit this to reflect your own style.
- Partnerships with other organizations or businesses a new visitor knows and trusts can help legitimize your website. With their permission, include logos and links to partners to show your business keeps good company.
- Won any awards recently? Don't be shy about letting the world know. Many awards programs offer banners you can post on your website to share the news of your honor with your audience.
Keep it simple
With all the things your homepage does, an essential rule is to keep it simple. A visually overwhelming page with lots of text, colors, animations, carousels, or callouts can be overwhelming and end up turning visitors off.
- Use the key “real estate” of your homepage to introduce your business and priority offerings, and use the search and navigation features to let visitors dive deeper. If your homepage describes who you are and what you offer, and motivates visitors to dive deeper, it’s a success.
- Keep your homepage design consistent with the rest of your website. With a Mailchimp site, you can easily upload your brand elements from your content studio to your website.
- Once your website is up and running, make sure you regularly check your reports page to monitor your success and review metrics like views, clicks, signups, and revenue.
Start off right
The effort you put into crafting a welcoming, engaging homepage experience can pay off every day. Once your homepage is built, create a plan for making updates that will keep it current with audience priorities. Updates to content, copy, and design will keep your homepage looking fresh and visitors engaged.