Forget the Homepage and Focus on What Matters
Visiting a homepage, loving the design, and then immediately investing in the brand is a rare phenomenon — and old school thinking when it comes to website design. New visitors hit your site running, ready to delve into the information they really want.
If you don’t deliver, and quickly, all the eye-catching visuals in the world won’t prevent them from moving on.
What doesn’t matter in your website design
More than half of your visitors spend less than 15 seconds on your website (source). That is it! Fifteen seconds to convince them that you have the answers and are worth their time.
The new visitor doesn’t care about your logo or your brand colours — at least not yet. Why should they, when you were likely one of 100 similar businesses that came up in a Google search. You have to earn their interest, their time, and their investment through providing them real value.
Your content is what invites them to stay beyond that fifteen seconds, be it through engaging blog articles, resources, services, and case studies or projects (read more: Why Case Studies are Killer Marketing Tools).
In reality, a large animated home screen, flashy navigation bar, or fancy sliding banner are nothing more than obstacles in the way of them finding value in your content. Don’t design a distraction! The longer they spend looking at shiny objects, the less time might be left for your convincing content before they exit.
This is why my design style leans toward simple and purposeful (while still being attractive and delightful). Every moment with your audience counts — we don’t waste even a millisecond.
The homepage, and specifically the homepage banner, offer little to a visitor. Immediately scrolling down after hitting a homepage has become a learned behaviour; we all do it, and you should plan for it.
It’s unfortunate when clients insist on hours and hours and rounds of revisions trying to make a logo “pop” in the navigation bar. I know from experience that this effort will go to waste. While it might seem like your showpiece and make your team members proud, the bottom line is that it drives no value for your audience.
In the Forge and Smith process, we use the homepage design to set the mood and tone for the visuals of the rest of the site.
What really happens
The reality of your traffic channels — organic search, social media, ads, referrals, email, direct visits — is that most people won’t find your business and land on the homepage. Many visitors will come via a shared blog, social media links, or other site pages that came up in a Google search result. These users don’t even see your homepage. This is why every page on your website needs to be viewed as a potential gateway to your key content that drives conversions.
Don’t worry — once you have a visitor spending more than fifteen seconds on your site who is ready to invest, they’ll look for your logo on the subpage they’re currently reading.
What actually matters
While a homepage does have value, the rest of the site is where most attention should be focused. I’m not just talking about the design process here; the long term digital strategy for your website should also focus on maintaining, updating and adding site-wide content.
All of that good stuff I mentioned, like articles and case studies, is on your sub-pages. This is the true value to your audience.
Important decisions and, more importantly, conversions are made on sub pages. That’s phone calls to your business, requests for more information, subscriptions to email lists… it all happens off of your homepage.
Give your site’s interior pages the thought and attention to detail they deserve. Because content is what matters most, how that content is displayed is extremely important. Things like heading hierarchy, CTA button copy, and styling your blog articles correctly can make or break a conversion. Well-crafted typography, intelligent content mapping, and engaging website design are what Forge and Smith provides for our clients.
Your homepage isn’t the book cover — it’s the table of contents. It barely touches the surface of your visitors’ online experience, so stop overthinking it and direct that focus to the pages that matter most.
Want to know what goes into the complete Forge and Smith design and strategy process? Check it out!