Our series on How To Make a Website continues with tips for optimizing the most important part: the homepage.

Your site’s homepage is typically the first — and sometimes last — page of your site that visitors will see. So make it count!

Before we get into the details, let’s start with some broad advice. Before designing anything, make sure you understand your website’s target audience. Who are they? What are they looking for? You’ve likely already thought about these questions when branding your company in the first place, so make sure that your website reflects your brand and you should be in good shape.

Once you’ve settled on the tone of your page (youthful or refined? Exciting or elegant?) it’s time to think about the elements. An eye-tracking study at Missouri University of Science and Technology found that visitors will spend an average of 2.6 seconds scanning a webpage before settling in to look at a specific area. This means that the time you have to capture and direct their attention is minimal, so make sure they see what you need them to right away. You only get one chance at that first impression.

Because people will largely find your website through a search engine, , it’s crucial that you answer their most important question right away when they arrive: “is this what I’m looking for?” State your purpose clearly and concisely near the top of the page in a font that is highly visible and easy to read.

Once a visitor has established that you are in fact offering what they’re looking for you, you need to hold their interest with your branding and layout. The eye tracking study mentioned above found that people view the following elements longest, and in this order: Logo, navigation, main image, written content.

This gives us insight into the questions people ask and answer once they’ve decided to stick around your homepage for a moment.

Logo: Who are these people and what are they about?
Navigation: Will I find what I’m looking for here, and how quickly?
Main image: What do these people do best, what is their company like?
Written content: Was I correct in my assumptions so far, and should I continue looking around?

Make sure your visitors are getting the message you want to send during their visit to each of these areas, and you’re well on your way to a successful small business website.

Ready to take it to the next level? Start thinking about how you can get those visitors who stuck around your homepage to learn more to take further action. Do this by incorporating effective calls to action (CTAs) to turn your visitors into customers. (Think eye-catching buttons with calls like “learn more” and “get started”)

If you’ve done your job up to this point, those first-time visitors will turn into repeat visitors. So give them something new to see every time they come back by creating areas for dynamic content. This can be an area that features your latest blog posts, or a social plugin that shows your recent Twitter activity.

What are some other features of great homepages that you’ve come across? Let us know in the comments below.

From our How To Make a Website Series:

How A Blog Can Make Your Small Business Website a Success
Five Commandments For A Great Contact Page
How To Make A Great Website Homepage
Dos and Don’ts of User-Friendly Website Navigation
How To Make A Website: Breaking Down The Pieces
Prepare Yourself: What You Need to Start a Website
Checklist: 10 Steps to a Successful Business Website in 2013
Building a Website: Do It Yourself or Hire A Pro?

5 Responses

  1. Reply
    Erik Kron
    Jan 17, 2013 - 01:08 AM

    I am still new in SEO and this is really helpful for me. Thanks for the guides in making a good website!

  2. Reply
    Steffen
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  3. Reply
    Nagwa abdelgawad
    Apr 27, 2014 - 05:42 PM

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  4. Reply
    RaHuL Da$
    Jun 13, 2014 - 10:09 AM

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