What to include on your website homepage

Your website homepage has a big job to do. It needs to:

  • Grab attention by clearly communicating your offering and telling your audience why they should care

  • Build trust and create a connection

  • Provide an easy jumping-off point to find out more

  • Motivate your audience to take action

How you achieve each of these goals, and how long your homepage should be, really depends on your business and what you’re offering. Some of the best websites I’ve seen do this with a simple header and easy navigation, no scrolling required. Other brands need a bit more space to explain the offering or provide ways to navigate to more content.

Below I describe my simple (but strategic) process for determining exactly what should go on a website homepage using each of these goals.

Grab attention

You have just seconds to grab your audiences’ attention. So, right at the top of the page, you want to let them know they’re in the right place by telling them what you do and why they should care. If you’ve defined your unique selling proposition or elevator pitch you might be able to use it here.

Headlines that talk directly to an audience’s desires or problems and that simply state that the offering satisfies their desire or solves their problem work well.

You can include a clever tagline, too. But they shouldn’t stand alone.

Follow it all up with a strong call to action that sends the person into the meat of your site. For example, your service/products main page or a ‘how it works’ page.

I reckon you should do all of this ‘above the fold’ or before your audience has to reach for their mouse to scroll on. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s something I aim for.

Here’s how Basecamp makes their header work. They describe who they’re for (‘growing businesses’) their audience’s problems (‘hair on fire, buried under email…’) and that they solve those problems ('Basecamp solves them’). There’s a clever tagline and a relatable image to draw the reader in. Plus a strong call to action. Bonus points for taking away all the risk with a free trial offering. And notice how they’ve done all of this without once saying ‘we’re a software company’? Because boring!


Build trust and create a connection

You have my attention and I know I’m in the right place. But why should I buy from you? Building trust and creating a connection with your audience is key to keeping them on your page and moving them to the next stage.

To build trust and boost your credibility include social proof elements like testimonials, customer case stories and logos of brands you’ve worked with directly on your homepage.

You can also start to build a connection with your audience by using images of your actual face (professionally shot), and give a little teaser about who you are or the story behind your brand with a link to read more on your about page.

Finally, one of the best ways to build trust and credibility is to work with a professional web developer or designer if you can afford the investment. This is particularly important if, like me, you’re a complete dunce when it comes to design. The last thing you want is for your carefully crafted content to sit on a site that looks like a backyard botch job. Because nothing will send your audience running for the hills faster than terrible design.

Here’s how Bellhops works to build trust and connection on their homepage. Right under their header they include information about how long they’ve been in operation, how many people they’ve moved and their customer rating. And right under this they included images of their Bellhops movers in action.


Provide an easy jumping-off point to find out more

You have my attention, I know I’m in the right place and I can see you’re a trustworthy and credible brand that others have used. Now I need to find the information about how to work with you.

This is all about simple, easy navigation. And good strong calls to action. Make it easy and obvious for your audience to find what they’re looking for, for example how to work with you, how much you cost, how to book a free demonstration etc.

Providing a simple, clear navigation menu with options for finding out more about your business, your services/product and how to contact you should be your bare minimum.

But you don’t need to rely just on your navigation menu. Try including sections for each of the main parts of your website with a clear call to action to read more. This gives your audience an easy way to access content that connects with their current state of awareness and needs.

For example, a ‘what we do’ section linking to a services page might be great for new visitors. While a blog section that automatically pulls thumbnails and titles of your latest blogs might be more relevant for returning visitors or people looking for general, industry-related information.

Here’s Who Gives a Crap’s (a favourite around these parts) top navigation menu. Simple? Yup. But here’s how I’d improve it. Delete the ‘Our’ and ‘Us’ they’re wasted words in precious real estate. And where do you think the ‘Help’ page will take you? Maybe a page with some helpful content or information on how to get help? It’s not clear. It actually sends you off to an FAQs page that WGAC calls a ‘knowledge base’. I’d rename this ‘FAQs’.

There’s no need to reinvent things or get clever here, stick with what works and what audiences understand to make it as simple as possible for them to navigate to the content they need.


Motivate your audience to take action

You have my attention, I know I’m in the right place, I can see you’re a trustworthy and credible brand that others have used but I don’t know what to do next.

If I’ve come over to your website with no clear question in my mind I might need a little nudge. Using strong calls to action (CTAs) provide that nudge. They pull the reader along to the next logical step in the journey.

You can make that nudge more compelling by asking a question (‘Want to know more?’) or using quirky language (‘Gimme that freebie!’). But your standard, clear descriptive CTAs will still work well as long as they match your customer’s awareness and readiness to take the next step.

There’s a time and a place for big shouty ‘BUY ME’ calls to action and that time and place is when you know your audience has all the information they need to take that action. For some brands and websites that might be straight under the headline above the fold. For other brands it might be more appropriate to warm your audience up with a little ‘Learn more’ or ‘Get a free trial’ or ‘Find out what we do.’

Over to you!

Have I missed anything? Or do you have a curly question for me? Let me know.

And if you need help crafting your homepage, you know where to find me ;)