More often than not your homepage is the first page visitors will see when they come to your site. Even if they come via a search engine link which takes them to another page, at some point they will likely visit your homepage. As a consequence, homepage design is very important and something you need to take time to consider. As well as building a business you need to create an online experience which visitors will not forget.

Reliable host

You would be surprised how many people spend a significant amount of money on their website theme design then try and save a few dollars on their hosting. The first task for any online entrepreneur is to ensure they have a reliable hosting company with high guaranteed uptime – no website, no traffic, no sales, it really is that simple. There is no point having the best website in the world if it is down more than your competitors. Shared hosting, VPS hosting and dedicated server hosting are three of the main options available with many focused on e-commerce websites. The one you choose will depend upon the traffic and complexity of your website, therefore it is worth taking advice from your host provider.

Optimise images

While optimising images on your homepage is very important, this is advice which can be carried right through your website. It is fine having the best images you can find, high resolution, easy on the eye but if they take too long to load then your visitors wont hang about to see the end result. You need to find a balance between large/high resolution images and load time. This issue is even more important with regards to mobile devices where speed really is of the essence. Over the last 12 months we have seen a shift in the use of mobile devices which now account for more than 50% of traffic.

There is also the subject of website logos to take into account – in tandem with long-term branding. It makes sense to have your logo towards the top of your page, probably towards the left-hand side, so that visitors can associate your website with your logo. This type of recognition can be priceless going forward.

Simple friendly text

There are a number of issues to take into account when looking at the text displayed on your front page. There needs to be a fine balance between keyword text, which is good for the search engine bots, and good old-fashioned information for your customers. Just a few years ago search engines seemed to take more notice of keyword based text as opposed to that written for “humans”. The situation is changing and search engines are now giving more focus to naturally written text. Any website text will always need keywords, to show the search engines what you are promoting, but do not overdo it.

Clarify what your site is about

In a perfect world your domain name would give visitors an idea of what you offer even before they land on your homepage. This trend needs to be continued with regards to your homepage where instantly a visitor needs to know what you do, what you have to offer and how they get it. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Internet surfers today have a very limited concentration span – literally down to just a few seconds. If there is any confusion about what you do then quite simply they will look elsewhere. Be blunt, be to the point and let your customers know who you are!

Website theme design for the homepage

Research shows that a mixture of text and images works best for website homepages. The vast majority of websites seem to have a central image, again research shows that images with humans work best, which tells a story and grabs your attention. There is also the issue of text, good for SEO and customer experience, as well as menus. As we touched on above, it is very important to get the format of your homepage right in order to attract and keep as many visitors as possible. If it seems thrown together or there is too much text/too many images you might not necessarily be giving the right impression.

Remember, the vast majority of people will read your pages from top left to bottom right therefore the line in between is where your strongest messages need to be located. Take your time to get the format right!

This then brings us onto the subject of website designers who may be able to assist you with your quest for a certain look and feel. We all know that a website design is very important when looking to create a first impression.

If you have the experience and the time to do your own website, there is no harm in trying, or bring in the services of a third party website design expert. Bringing in a third party will allow you to maximise their expertise, take advice and stick to what you know best – selling!

Menu options

Over the last couple of years there has been a new trend towards hiding menu options to maximise the exposure for images and text on the front page. While this may work for some sites, there is a growing opinion that hiding menu options is not the best idea for all websites. There is nothing wrong in keeping it fairly simple but hiding all of your menu options could be a mistake.

Therefore, on balance it may work best to make your main menu options visible and maybe complement these with drop-down boxes for additional navigation options. How can we put this? If a visitor is not able to find what they want, or advice on the best page to visit, in just a few seconds then you will likely lose them forever. It is also useful to standardise the format of your menu options right across your website, that way visitors will know where the navigation options are located.

Live chat

You will no doubt of come across many websites which offer a live chat service. Set-up and executed correctly, these live chat options can be worth their weight in gold and often secure additional sales. However, it is not always that straightforward.

Unless you are able to a man the live chat option for most of the day/night then sometimes it can be counter-productive. Yes, we know there is an option to leave a message and a contact email address. However, if you promise a live chat option then you should have that available for as long as possible through the day/night. Whether you take turns amongst employees, hire a third-party or simply do it yourself, live chat services can be extremely lucrative.

Dynamic/interactive homepage designs

 As we touched on above, there has been an explosion in the amount of traffic coming from mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets. Historically, homepage designs have been built with laptops/desktops in mind with rigid dimensions. These dimensions are different for mobile phones and tablets therefore the more successful mobile websites will incorporate a dynamic/interactive homepage design. In effect the design will detect the type of device being used and then revise the design/dimensions accordingly.

We also know that the search engines are now more welcoming of mobile friendly websites when it comes to search engine rankings. Even though we have social media and an array of other means of attracting traffic, good old-fashioned search engine traffic has been and continues to be the main source for the majority of websites. Therefore, not only do you need to keep onside with the search engines but also ensure that your dynamic design gives end customers the best experience possible. There are many basic templates for mobile friendly websites which can literally put you on the mobile Internet map.

Website safety

Over the last few years we have seen an upgrade in the standard HTTP protocol to a secured version known as HTTPS. This new version offers surfers added security when it comes to accessing websites/exchanging information and allows search engines to give more visibility to HTTPS based sites. In tandem with HTTPS based websites we have SSL certificates which add yet another level of security. It is vital that you promote all of the security aspects associated with your website for visitors to see. Tell them what you have done to secure data, tell them security is important to you and let them know you are working hard to give them the best experience.

You may also have noticed that many search engines now highlight websites which do not have HTTPS and/or valid SSL certificates. While not necessarily a major security risk, the idea that they are singled out by the search engines can plant a seed of doubt in the mind of a potential customer. That is the last thing you want!

Summary

While we have covered a number of issues with regards to homepage design, visitor experience and search engine rankings, first and foremost you need a reliable hosting company. Shared hosting tends to be the first port of call for new websites then, as traffic and business grows, you may look to upgrade to VPS and even a dedicated host server in due course. There are also many aspects to consider with regards to page content, designs and menu options not to mention the overall format.

Once you have an idea, you have bought the domain name and your hosting is ready to go, it can be tempting to rush the homepage and get yourself online as soon as possible. Remember, a visit to your homepage is likely to be high on the agenda for new visitors and those returning. It is the place to promote all of your offers and discounts, advertise your services and try to interact and grab the attention of visitors.

As they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!