Monday, 7 July 2014

Designing An Effective Homepage With Usability In Mind

Like the old saying goes, your first impression is your last impression. And that is certainly true for your website’s homepage.
A company’s homepage is like the entrance to a whole new world you want visitors to explore. If, however, they are not impressed by what they see they may decline your invitation in favor of websites that are more attractive and inviting.
This type of reaction is not unusual; the reason being that a lot of websites suffer from poor design. For example, some designers tend to pack too much content into a site, making the visitor feel overwhelmed.
Some sites even bypass the homepage altogether, zipping the visitor straight to the content pages without giving him any indication what lies ahead.
Depending on what they are looking for, users can wind up at your homepage for a variety for reasons. Therefore, your site should have an easy-to-find and user-friendly navigation bar so that the visitor will know where to go once he lands on your page.

Here are some prompts you may want to consider:

Explain what you do

A small initial description is an integral part of a website’s homepage that informs the visitor what your site is all about. Think of it as a mission statement that tells the visitor what your purpose for existing is and what you hope to accomplish.
Even companies that are well known must not skip this vital part of their homepage as there may be some visitors who are not familiar with everything they carry. They cannot count on their popularity alone to compel a visitor to snoop around until he finds what he’s looking for. Remember, internet visitors have a very short attention span.
The navigation bar should also include subcategories that point to featured products and specials. The site should also include a search box so that the visitor can search the site by keyword. In addition, a messaging service should be made available so that the visitors can query the site administrator for further information.
Should a visitor land on one of the deep links as the result of a search engine query, he should be able to easily navigate his way back to the homepage should he wish to do so. Such a feature is characteristic of a well-designed website.

Set your goals for the homepage

Keep in mind that the goal of the homepage may be slightly different from the goal of the site as a whole. While the site is designed to sell products, the homepage’s job is to entice visitors.
This means that a homepage should be attractive enough that it causes the visitor to want to investigate the rest of the site. This will be uppermost in your client’s mind, so you should make every effort to make it happen.
The homepage is viewed as prime real estate and, therefore, should be used to introduce new products and services that the site visitors may not be aware of.
Naturally, you’ll want to give priority on your homepage to products that bring in the big bucks. If those products also generate revenue from subscriptions, make signup easier by having the signup form prominently displayed on the homepage.
Decide what features are necessary to achieving the site’s goals and prioritize them according to their importance. Then, design the site with the prioritized features in mind.

Make it clean and trustworthy

Visitors also like to know if the site can be trusted before buying its products and services. So, if your business has been around for a while, let them know by proudly displaying the establishment date of the business.
In addition, highlight any awards the business has received. Posting testimonials from satisfied customers is also a good idea. All these things will go a long way toward instilling trust into your site’s visitors.
Keep in mind, however, that simplicity is very important in a user-friendly homepage design. Nothing turns a user off like a cluttered homepage. In addition, putting too much stuff on your homepage can significantly slow down the pages load time.
So, before adding a new element to your homepage, ask yourself whether it is absolutely necessary for it to be placed there.

Mistakes you shouldn’t make

Some designers make the mistake of adding too many widgets and redundant navigation on the homepage. They even add content on the homepage that would be better suited for one of the inner pages. This is a prime example of poor design.
For example, in some UX projects, a disproportionate amount of elements is given to the homepage. It is usually the first page to be wireframed and receives the bulk of the designer’s attention, while more of their focus should have been directed toward product pages.
By necessity, login users will require a different homepage once they’re logged in to give them access to features that are not readily available to regular visitors.
If you haven’t thoroughly researched user needs, you may end up focusing too much on the business aspect of the homepage. As a UX designer, you should also direct a lot of your attention to users and their needs as well.
Using a wireframe would be a better way of positioning page elements to give you some idea how they’ll look in the final rendering. If it appears too cramped, question the necessity of each element until you have pared it down as much as possible.


Designing a website is just as much a scientific endeavor as it is an act of artistic expression. Attention must be given to detail, while at the same time acknowledging the site’s purpose and goals, as well as functionality.
After all, it is a website’s usability and not its aesthetics that ultimately determines its success or failure.
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