Since the conference was for marketing people, I was a little worried no one would volunteer their sites for review or, that if they did, we wouldn’t have much advice for them since one would hope marketers would have great home pages. But, as the saying goes, “The shoemaker’s children has no shoes.”
This was validated, when surprisingly, we found plenty to critique.
5 common home page disasters to avoid on your website:
1. Slow loading websites are deadly. We evaluated a design company’s website that took so long to load that it actually had a little countdown doodad to entertain us while we waited. These days, a site should load right away or else you risk losing a lot of traffic because people aren’t going to wait around.
If your site loads slow, do an evaluation and fix what’s slowing it down or get a better performing hosting service. You can do an evaluation of your page speed by visiting Google’s Page Speed Insights.
2. Carousels and sliders are problematic. First of all, sliders can contribute to slow page loads. Second, they can be ineffective as people will not wait around to view all of the messages on your slides. It is much better to put your most important message in your hero area and keep it there. If you have hidden what you do in a series of slides, then your website is a Fail. Whatever information is needed front and center for someone to know they are in the right place, should be there and stay there.
However, if you can maintain adequate load times, sliders can be used as an effective way to set a mood. The airbandb site uses them well. The airbandb message, “Welcome Home, Rent unique places to stay from local hosts in 190 countries,” stays in place while their images (actually multiple videos) change behind the message, tempting us with lovely places to dream about visiting.
Airbandb is a great example of a website with a clear message and call to action, all without overwhelming or confusing the end user.
3. Bells and whistles at the expense of clarity and ease of use. It is very tempting for some people to get carried away with edgy and snazzy web designs. Be very, very careful with this double edged sword. We know you want to be cool, but. . . you will lose your visitors if you have a busy, crazy acting page. We just want the info and it pisses us off when we can’t find it in all the moving, shaking and doodads on your site. You really don’t have to try so hard.
4. Unclear Messaging. The first order of business on a website homepage is to tell people what you do and who you do it for. You will lose your visitors if they have to ponder whether they are in the right place. I was amazed that many of these B2B marketing sites failed to get that most basic message across, right up front. Some of them eventually got to it way on down the page; but again, don’t make people think or hunt for what should be very straight forward. Get a few people outside of your inner circle to review your website, and ask them to look it over, and tell you what they think you do.
5. Using stock photos of people can make you look like a fake. Not all stock images are bad. We use them all the time, but. . . be very, very careful. A law firm site I looked at recently showed an image of a group of young professionals on their home page. But, when you went to the about page you saw the real deal, bad headshots of three old, white guys. It felt like bait and switch. The importance of authenticity can not be overstated.
There were a few sites that used lots of images of the same good looking guy all down the long home page. This was a bit of pandering to gratuitous sex appeal since the images only made the page way too long and lent nothing to the message except to try and say they were cool.
One of our client’s, the Freelance forum, uses images of people well. They have a slider with a couple of messages but, the images of the people work for them. At first, we used stock images of people and that worked fine. But since they are a group comprised of freelancers, including photographers, they decided to shoot their own photos using actual members of their organization, and we replaced the stock images. There was no significant difference in the look and feel and the stock images had actually worked well. But it is a point of pride for the organization that they used their actual members.
A common theme we live by here at New Tricks is that simpler is usually better. When your message is all over the place or you try too hard, with a flashy design, people may just pass you by. Create a home page that clearly speaks to your audience, reflects your authenticity with content, that shows rather than tells about your expertise, and you will see your website attract more visitors and convert them to clients.
What is your pet peeve? Chime in.