When looking for opportunities to optimise your website, it’s integral to prioritise certain areas of your website to ensure the effort is focused on areas with the most potential impact. For an ecommerce website this may be the checkout; for a lead gen site, your enquiry form page. These key areas of focus will differ from business to business but something that is key to all business’s online presence is the first impression when new visitors arrive at your website.
In order to identify opportunities to optimise your homepage, it’s first necessary to establish the job of the homepage. Website homepages are often described as the equivalent of the shop window. Though that may not be an entirely accurate description, it is true in the sense that the homepage is often the visitor’s first impression of your website. This is where new visitors make a decision about your website’s suitability for their needs and determine whether or not your site is a better fit for their needs than your competitors.
So, here are my top tips for areas to test and optimise on your homepage to help you make a great first impression, leading to reduced bounce rates and increased engagement.
Note: I’ll be focusing on the homepage specifically within this blog post but when looking to optimise for first impressions, it’s important not to assume that all visitors land on the homepage. Check your analytics to ensure you have a clear picture about where the majority of your visitors land. The theories I discuss here can be applied to landing pages too.
Communicate your USPS
When arriving at a website for the first time, visitors want a reason to stick around. This is the opportunity to boldly communicate what is special and unique about your offering – what differentiates you from your competitors.
For tips about how to effectively communicate your USPs throughout your site, read my previous blog: https://www.prwd.co.uk/blog/3-ways-communicate-unique-selling-proposition/
Provide a clear route into getting started
When discussing the concept of choice in decision making, Psychologist Barry Schwartz suggests that although some choice is better than none, more choice is not necessarily better than some. What he means by this is that although we may perceive having a wide range of choice and options to be a good thing, actually, having a lot of options makes the decision making process more difficult and can discourage us from making a decision at all.
With this in mind, don’t overwhelm visitors with numerous different ways to move from the homepage onto the next page of your website. Focus visitors on key journeys by providing a manageable amount of clearly differentiable calls to action.
Similarly, don’t include anything and everything in your main navigation. Stick to the key areas of your site and provide links to secondary content elsewhere, such as in a utility menu or in the footer.
One example is Premier Farnell’s navigation. It features an extensive list of categories with no easy way to differentiate between them, such as visual cues. This may well be overwhelming and confusing to a new visitor and therefore reduce the chance of conversion or another visit.
Don’t undersell your brand by overselling your promotions
Although everyone loves a bargain, too much focus on promotions can have a negative impact on users’ brand perception.
In his book ‘Influence’, Caldini highlights how our perception of value can be skewed by price. He tells the story of a jewellery shop, struggling to sell a specific range of jewellery. Despite being at a reasonable price point and being prominently displayed on the shop floor, the products simply weren’t selling. Before leaving for the day, the manager left a note for employees suggesting they half the price of this range to encourage purchases and essentially shift the stock. The employee, however, misread the note and instead doubled the price. Instead of this further hampering business, the action of doubling the price actually had the opposite effect, resulting in the previously unpopular range selling out. The increased price point had created a perception of higher quality, triggering the run of purchases.
This isn’t to say you should double all of your prices, but it is useful to bear in mind if you’re planning a promotion or your business model is promotion focused. Ensure you test and optimise the way you display your sales and offers to determine the right balance between being too pushy while still appealing to visitors desire for a deal.
A recent example is the Sports Direct homepage which screams ‘Sale’. The first impression from this could well have negative connotations about the quality of the products. Though this may encourage business for Sports Direct, it would be detrimental to many other businesses.
The opportunity for homepage optimisation doesn’t end with new visitors…
Welcome returning visitors
Personalisation provides an opportunity to optimise your homepage for returning visitors. Personalisation is gathering information about the user in their initial session to make their following visits more relevant, such as their location, the device they’re using, their browsing behaviour and the types of products they view. This is especially important if your analytics show that it typically takes users multiple visits to convert. This tends to be the case with high cost products and more significant purchase decisions that may require additional research, thinking and comparison. In these cases, using personalisation can serve as a delighter to demonstrate to visitors that your brand is making a real effort to understand their needs.
Here’s a few of examples of how personalisation can be used to optimise your homepage:
When returning to the ASOS homepage, visitors are automatically directed to either the ‘Women’ or ‘Men’ landing page, depending on which category they interacted with previously.
Upon returning to Loveholidays.com after an initial session, your last search criteria is displayed on the homepage, allowing you to simply resume your previous search.
Amazon.co.uk have always been ahead of the game when it comes to personalisation. When returning, other than the promotional banner, the whole homepage is focused on my browsing history with ‘related items’, ‘more items to consider’, ‘inspired by your browsing history’ and ‘additional items to consider’ sections.
Remember, first impressions are made almost instantly. You want to make sure your homepage is ready for any visitor, new or previous. You need to make sure you stand out from your competitors, that your homepage isn’t the opening to a maze and that you take advantage of the data from previous visits to offer a more personalised experience. This post has a few key areas to get you started but to have the success of an Amazon or an ASOS, you have to have an extensive research and testing methodology in place.