Over the past year I’ve taught around 60 or so Content Marketing Workshops to business of all shapes and sizes around the world, and during this time I’ve consistently found one of the most meaningful “Aha” moments business owners and marketing teams can have occurs the instant they see other people—especially those that have never seen their website—state their immediate impression of what they see on the screen upon viewing the homepage.
Imagine a group of 50 or so people being shown a website and, without filter, yelling out the immediate emotion they experience based on what they see. As you might guess, it’s pretty powerful, with the following words being quite common:
You see, the fact is, we’ve all developed this “Sixth Sense” for judging companies and brands quickly by their websites. Instead of judging a book by its cover these days, we judge it by what’s on the screen. And more than ever, our patience is short with those companies that seem to be more interested in themselves than the viewer.
In the particular workshop activity mentioned above, my favorite part isn’t so much the positive or negative emotions participants experience, but rather what comes next when I state the following simple question.
Why do you feel that way?
It’s with this question everyone in the room is forced to understand why they feel what they feel—which for many is the first time they’ve ever treaded in the waters of user experience and web design.
This being said, there are common points that come up again and again in these workshops, which will now be discussed in today’s post.
10 Web Home Page Design Mistakes that Create an Immediate Negative Impression on Viewers
No Clear Headline Showing
Headlines matter folks. Whether it’s a title of a book, a newspaper article, or any other type of media. Sadly, many websites have no headline or at least have no clear headline—which causes immediate confusion and/or frustration for the viewer.
The Headline is Not About the Viewer (AKA the “Me, Me, Me, We, We, We Syndrome”)
I’ve talked a lot about what I call “You” statements in the past, but here is the key—A homepage headline should clearly explain to the viewer the problems your company solves. And remember, stating what you “do” doesn’t at all mean you’ve explained the problems you solve.
There is No Main Image
We are a visual people. And these days, having no imagery, especially on one’s home page, is an immediate way of sending a message of “we’re boring” or “our company has no personality” to the viewer.
The Main Image has Nothing to Do with What the Business Actually Does
To add to #3, one VERY common mistake companies make is when they show a main image that doesn’t at all represent what the company actually does. For example, when doing this activity recently in a workshop with a group of CEOs I showed a webpage that had a very elegant brick and stone home on the homepage. Immediately, most folks in the room assumed this company specialized in custom home construction, when in reality they were actually a wholesale stone supplier.
To reiterate these first 4 points, let’s just look at it this way:
Bad headlines + Poor Image Selection = What the Heck Does this Company Do and Why am I Still on this Website?
There is No Clear Order of Importance/Priorities as to what is Being Shown
When it comes to a great web experience, the key to remember is that everyone’s simple goal is to find what they’re looking for and find it quickly. This being said, if the brain (and eyes) have no clear direction as to where to go once they’re on a homepage, then we have a problem that will quickly lead to frustrated viewers that simply bounce off the page without looking back.
Ask yourself—Does this page’s design, messaging, and linking structure allow viewers to immediately find what they might be looking for?
The Buckets are Only About the Company, Not About the Viewer
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen companies, immediately after their homepage headline and main image, display buckets (selections) that *only* have to do with the company. For example, making statements like “Who we are”, “What we do”, and “Why work with us” are completely self (company) centered, and would be much more effective if they were focused on the main problems and questions of the viewer. An example of this would be something as simple as saying, “Problems We Solve.”
There is too Much Clutter
Less is more folks, especially when it comes to great user experience and design (Just think Google vs Yahoo here). This doesn’t mean your site has less content, but rather that it doesn’t ever feel cluttered and overwhelming. Again, the key to remember is, “I want to find what I’m looking for and I want to find it quickly.”
There is Video and No One Knows What the Heck It’s About
I have seen this one wayyyy too many times—companies putting videos on their homepage without any rhyme nor reason.
When it comes to video, remember this: More often than not, consumers don’t go to a home page to watch videos, which is why home page videos, at least above the fold, will often times have a surprisingly low click-thru rate.
Also, do not forget to explain what the video actually says/is about to the viewer. Without a prompting as to what it is, there is absolutely no reason for them to click and watch.
The Company Name/Logo is Too Big, Outdated, and/or Overbearing
Let me be as blunt as possible on this one:
- No one cares about your logo.
- No one cares about your logo
- No one cares about your logo.
Now granted, I’m sure there are a bunch of “brand specialists” that would argue this point but the reality is your logo/company name should NEVER be the hero of the homepage. Too often, these logos find themselves competing with the homepage’s main headline statement, which, as you can easily imagine, makes no sense whatsoever and is only harmful to the user experience.
There is Way Too Much Small Text and Other Non-Pertinent Information (like NEWS)
The purpose of your homepage is not to teach someone everything there is to know about your company. Ultimately, the only purpose is to help them get to page 2 (quickly), as only then do we start to see what they truly care about. Therefore, putting paragraphs of small text telling the reader how you’ve been in business since 1907, or telling them the date of your next company picnic, simply doesn’t cut it.
If you’ve made it to the end of this post, there is a good chance you’re now thinking about all of your homepage pet peeves and turn-offs. That being said, what would you add to the list? What are some other very common mistakes you see companies making with the home page layout and design? Remember, what I’ve said here are all “general rules of thumb,” and no doubt there are exceptions to these best practice. That being said, we can all (myself certainly included) benefit from analyzing the efficacy of our website design and user experience often.