3 Essentials for Crafting the Best Homepage

There are as many different kinds of Homepages as there are websites or scents at International Flavors and Fragrances, the world's largest perfumery.  Which is great news because no matter what you're selling you can design a Homepage that lets your personality shine through.  And attract customers who'll love what you're offering.

But just like there's an art and science to distilling the perfect scent there's also a bit of an art and science that goes into crafting a stunning Homepage.  You have to get just the right combination of scents or instead of bohemian vintage you end up with moldy basement a la moth balls.

But, if you can engineer just the right balance of elements you might be able to create an experience that's alluring, memorable, maybe even intoxicating...just like your favourite scent.

Most perfumes have 3 parts: base notes, heart notes and top notes.  So I've distilled Homepage elements down to just 3 absolute MUST haves.

Top Notes

In Perfume: it's all about piquing your interest.  They usually last around 15 minutes, so they don't overstay their welcome.  Designers put some weird or even unpleasant things in here.  Think spices (not bad) or ambergris (whale vomit?), also driftwood, metal, ink or wheat.

In Homepages: I'm in no way advocating the bizarre and please leave the whale vomit for the perfume (seriously who ever thought, gee whale vomit would be awesome in perfume).  Also, things happen a lot faster here.

Remember you only have 5 seconds or less to communicate who you are, what you do and what makes you unique before they're on to the next site.  Which means you need to have INSTANT CLARITY.

This sounds super basic but if you can't do this they'll hit the back button faster than you can say eau de toilette.  And then all the other elements will be for nothing.

You need to grab their attention with your business name, tagline, and the copy that appears above the fold (before you have to start scrolling down).  Every word has to have exquisite focus and pack an emotional wallop.  So your visitor says, "Yes, this is exactly where I need to be!"  And then settles in to explore everything you've so painstakingly created.

And when it comes to clarity and focus I have to say LESS is more.  So many companies make the mistake of trying to put EVERYTHING on their Homepage.  The effect is like having a bunch of sales people all screaming at you, "Look here!  Over here!  Look at me!"  All at the same time.  That doesn't create the kind of feeling you want in a potential customer and unless you have a great search function (and sometimes even with one) they're outta there.

No one is going to waste whole minutes (gasp minutes?!) trying to figure out if you have what they want or where they have to go to look for it.  The answer: Prioritize.  Life is all about prioritizing and this is no exception.  Family, friends, work, me-time, hobbies, sleep, etc. you have to find a way to balance it all and it doesn't all get done in a day.  Likewise, it may not all get done in a page.  Find a way to segment your information.  Ask yourself if it really absolutely HAS to be included on the Homepage.  Is it your top selling product?  Is it a link to your page with the best SEO results?  Maybe it deserves to be there.  Decide your criteria but be as ruthless as you can in cutting out what isn't essential.

Okay, I'm stepping off my soap box and moving on.

Heart Notes

In Perfume: This is what you remember about the perfume.  The scents that are at its heart (aptly named isn't it?).  So when we think of a scent as floral or citrusy we're thinking of its heart notes.  They usually last 3-4 hours.

In Homepages:  disclaimer - this little gem really applies to every page you write (not just Homepages) in fact it applies to EVERY WORD.  Yep, it's that important.  You have to know the heart of your customer.  Sure it starts with demographics.  But you have to go beyond that.  What are their hopes and dreams?  Fears and worries?  What motivates them?  Only once you understand as much as you can about who you're serving (like more than age or gender) can you hope to write to them in a way that makes them feel understood.

Forging that kind of connection will keep them on the page, keep them reading and give you a chance to make the sale.

As for generating interest there's a thousand ways to do this from word choice to design elements, none of which include whale vomit.  Just avoid the bizarre unless that's something you KNOW your audience will love.

Base Notes

In Perfume: Last 4-5 hours. Are often used to boost the strength of the heart and top notes.  Think musky, mossy, woody scents here.

In Homepages: Design that complements the copy.  Here's my bias as a copywriter but design needs to work WITH your words, however, it shouldn't be the star.  I'm not saying it isn't important because it IS.  But it should never compete for your attention or distract from your message.  Your designs should be a reflection of your business and personality.  The exception to this is if you're a designer, photographer or artist.  Then your design SHOULD be front and centre.  But it should STILL be accompanied by some killer copy ;)

You can show your personality through typography (aka font choice) and color choice and the emotions they evoke.  Great designs make use of white space (space without words or pictures), natural edges and balanced elements.

Great design lets your visitor's brains unconsciously relax once they've landed on your site.  Their brain goes, "Ahhh, this looks nice" and then immediately moves on to the words, which is what will sell them on whether or not this is the place for them.  Design is important because a bad design will have them hitting the back button just as quickly as badly written copy.  They just may not be able to tell you why.

That's it - those are the 3 ESSENTIALS to crafting a Homepage that doesn't stink.  If you can combine those 3 things: design, writing so your customer feels understood and instant clarity then you can create a Homepage that will draw in your ideal customers.