Five Steps to Build an Effective Homepage
We all know the quote; “Don’t judge a book by its cover” well, even though we try to live by this quote, the first impression is still very much used and is one that is quite difficult to change. A homepage is not only a summary of what users can expect on the rest of the website but it is the initial basis of trust that your users develop for your organisation.
A good homepage is there to explain immediately to the user; ‘Who, What, Where, When, Why and How’, before they even get the chance to ask the questions. Having an effective design, relevant and capturing information, along with a deliberate amount of white space and quality images, your audience will gather a sense of trust towards your organisation and ultimately stay on your site longer.
The homepage is there to also highlight all the important information that you want to get across and let the user know that they’re where they need to be. A lot of people never really understand how important this part of the website is. To take the pressure off you a bit, I have devised a five step plan for you to know what you need to focus on and why.
The first step is making your own plan. You need to understand everything about what you are wanting to get across to your users. This is not only about choosing what information to put up or what images to use but more about what colours you’re choosing to use across the entire site and what widgets (what are widgets? I’ll explain shortly) you want to showcase.
Member Jungle has released numerous templates for you to choose between. Each one is different with some focusing on more specialised areas such as events or news. Scroll through the templates and choose the one that stands out most to you. Remember, if your organisation holds regular events, then you will want to use a template that has an events calendar on the homepage.
Colours are very important - and you don’t need to be an artist to apply the right ones. You want to choose colours that you’ll use consistently across the entire site, while still representing your organisation. Referring to the logo is a great start. For example, the Member Jungle logo is green, therefore, throughout the website, you see green and blue - two colours that are consistently used to create a clean and uncluttered atmosphere for the user.
Once you have worked out what information and colours you wish to include on the homepage, you can devise a way to show them off succinctly. If it’s too busy with too much information in one place, you can potentially lose them to the dredded backspace button.
The next step is to be very strict with your choice of images. You want to have QUALITY images. This is very important. If your images are pixelated, the trust that you are hoping to form with the user will diminish quite rapidly. Your images should be chosen in representation of your organisation and what you’re trying to get across to your users.
The biggest thing to remember is that clutter is not what you want! You need to ensure that you provide information but don’t go overboard. Allow the user to skim the homepage and have the opportunity to find out more information if they want to through the navigation bar.
What’s overboard? This is overboard:
Compared to this:
Which one would you rather be looking at?
If you’re not sure how to distinguish between what is and what isn’t a good quality image, have a look at the image resolution size. We recommend that anything from 1200 pixels wide will appear clear in a banner/full length image or 500 pixels for smaller widgets like quicklinks (above images).
Include the following key elements on your homepage:
Place your logo in the top header where it is highly visible. Ensure that it is not blurry. You want this to stand out. If you view the Member Jungle website, you can see that the logo placement is at the very top of the page and evenly to the left.
Your homepage is the perfect place to include a tagline for your club or organisation. Use a widget that is large, eyecatching, and to the point. Ensure you keep with your website colour theme and font to keep it consistent throughout.
Brief description of your business including a H1 heading. You can add a brief description of the company in the slideshow banner, as the first section of content on the page, or even a little lower on the page. Having various headings throughout the homepage can be usefu if you wish to attract people’s attention to specific information. Be sure to only use one H1 heading on the page (for best SEO results) and make any subheadings a different heading font.
How do you want your users to use your site?
Answering this question is the biggest step you can make to creating the perfect homepage. If the main thing you want people to do is to join, attend events and purchase merchandise, then that needs to be on the homepage and easily accessible. Quicklinks are the perfect way to showcase these by allowing the viewer to click through to the relevant pages. They say that your website should be like a Bunnings store; you can decide which way to go (or where you click) by the signs on every aisle directing you.
"Keep it simple stupid". Following on from step four, if you are wanting your members to purchase merchandise and/or login, providing these icons in the top section of the homepage is the best way to encourage them to follow through with that action. See the Australian Hand Therapy Association image in Step 3 for a good example of this.
Quality content is key
Using capturing information such as a welcome message or a slogan on the slideshow is a great way to entice your audience. It’s important to keep the information provided truthful not misleading, and relevant. You don’t want to be writing about dogs when your website is about cats. This also helps with an SEO standpoint. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. If you’re wanting to expand your reach with members, I recommend that you do a little research on SEO and how best to optimise your site.
If someone comes to your website but they can’t immediately understand that it’s what they’re looking for then they are going to leave. No matter how beautiful you make it. Therefore, it needs to catch their attention straight away to make them read on. Having that information there quick and easy is important. Also be aware of the length of your content. As you can view on the Member Jungle homepage, we use a range of widgets which allow viewers to click through if they want more information. Keep it short and simple on the homepage and be sure that the information is provided for your various topics and customers, should they choose to click to read more.
Now we have arrived at the fun section. It’s over to you to design and decide what you want to include on the homepage. “You still haven’t told us what widgets are.” Ok, I’ll tell you now.
Widgets are a pre-designed way to display your content, often dynamically pulling its information from and linking back to the modules on your website. For example, if you have an image on your site that allows someone to click on it to take them to a different page, that is a widget. A sign up form is a widget and even the login bar. Using our widgets, we’ve tried to make it so that you keep it clean and uniformed across the page using consistent sizes and fonts. The widgets on your Member Jungle system are also designed to be mobile responsive so they are suitable for your users to view on various devices.
Quicklinks are a type of widget that are predesigned links that direct users to the most important pages such as membership and store. Many sites use three quicklinks on the homepage to direct the user simply but not to overwhelm them with decisions. Other popular widgets used are an events calendar, news articles, and accordions. You will understand a lot more once you start setting up and using your new website so don’t stress if it sounds foreign right now.
Using Member Jungle, there are a number of different widgets you can use such an events calendar, photo gallery, news stories, online store and more. Have a look through, put widgets on your page, move them around, take them out - until it feels right to you. It’s all about what you want to showcase and what you believe will get the most interaction from your users.
And that’s it
Creating an inviting homepage for your organisation doesn’t require an expert - you can easily make yourself one. Following the above steps you can build on to the template, making it represent your organisation in the best way.
For our support portals article on "how to build a homepage", click here
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