The Home Page Diagnostic Test

Designing a home page often reminds me of my wife’s favorite television show, “Income Property” on HGTV.  Each homeowner is looking to renovate their basement with the hope of eventually renting it out and making some money off of it.  In order to do so, they have a list of items that need to be addressed prior to the property being viewed by renters.  At the start of the show, it always seems impossible that they can transform their small, dingy, dilapidated basement into a beautiful and desirable apartment that somehow makes such efficient use of space that it adheres to all renovation best practices and fulfills all the needs of every potential renter.

As it turns out, they always get the job accomplished, but not without the homeowner having to inevitably compromise of some apartment amenities due to space restrictions. This process is very similar to home page design.  When you look at everything the home page has to accomplish you quickly realize that it is impossible to fit every element in.  Most users have a tendency to scan down the home page just far enough to get a quick idea of what the site is. This means that space on the page is very limited and most elements must be squeezed “above the fold”. This is the beach-front property of the site and with such limited real estate to work with, compromises have to be made in order to complete the most important goal of the page, conveying the big picture, while offering additional elements such as impressing and enticing the users, and exposing them to promos, deals, timely content, shortcuts, and registration options (if applicable).

The home page has to also appeal to everyone who visits the site, no matter how diverse their interests are.  According to Steven Krug, author of “Don’t Make Me Think”, the home page needs to answer the following questions as quickly and clearly as possible in order to accomplish its main goal.

1.    What site is this?
2.    What do they have here?
3.    What can I do here?
4.    Why should I be here and not somewhere else?
5.    Where do I start?

These questions seem fairly straight forward and obvious, but in actuality, it takes a very strategic blue print to answer these questions without compromising too much of the design and branding elements. Below is an example of how eBoost Consulting approaches the answers.

home-page-diagnostic-test1

As you can see, we try and answer as many questions as possible within a users “glance” so the chances are lessened that the they will misinterpret something, get frustrated, and have a dissatisfying experience. If the user has clarity on who we are and what our value proposition is within the first 30 seconds or so, there is a greater chance that they will become engaged and continue into the interior pages of our site. Establishing credibility and trust is paramount because this may be our only chance to create a good first impression.

So how do you accomplish all of these goals in such a limited amount of space?  First, you put on your interior designer hat, mapping out what page elements need to be included in order to satisfy your target customer segments.  Then you utilize specific methods that are proven to be space efficient while still accomplishing a multitude of page goals.  Below are two examples of proven methods:

The Tagline: The tagline is phrase that sums up the whole enterprise, and what makes it great in about six to eight words.  The tagline should appear right below, above, or next to the site id because it visually connects your message with your brand.  It is the most valuable space on the page and where users expect to find a concise statement of the site’s purpose.  A good example of a tagline is:  “Single Best Resource For Website Music Reviews”

The Welcome Blurb: The welcome blurb is a brief description of the site and its value proposition, visible without scrolling.  The idea is to use as much space as necessary, but not any more than that.   Keep the text just long enough to get the message across, and ensure that this space isn’t utilized to show your mission statement; hardly anyone takes the time to read those.  A good example of a welcome blurb is: You will find thousands of articles on snowboarding, an online community of riders, and a huge store carrying all your favorite brands.

So there you have it.  The questions and answers you need to ensure your income property helps you pay the mortgage.

Kurt Kaufer

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