Getting internal agreement and managing homepage expectations
The homepage is your first chance to make a good impression on users who visit your website. It’s the first chance to convince users that your product/services are worth their investment. The goal of a homepage is to establish your brand whilst at the same time compelling visitors to dig deeper into your website.
Achieving these goals requires agreement around the key brand messages you want to promote on your homepage, understanding the needs of your users when they come to your website, and balancing what you as a brand might want users to if they enter from the homepage, against the reality of how users interact with brands online. If there is no agreement or unifying vision for the homepage, it often leads to a design by committee approach.
Homepages where there is no agreement and design by committee tend to:
Look cluttered - Lack of agreement on what's important leads to content overload, with too much content packed onto the page.
Don’t flow - The homepage doesn’t tell a story as there’s no single vision.
Have an abundance of actions - If there’s no agreement about the most important actions for users to take from your homepage then all possible actions end up being added. If you bombard users like this you reduce the likelihood of them taking any action at all due to cognitive overload.
Have a rotating carousel(s) - This is often the go-to solution for brands who can’t agree priority messages or actions for the top of their homepage. This is in spite of many studies proving these can be ineffective with click-through rates as low as 1-2%. Web designer and speaker Brad Frost labelled rotating carousels "organisational crutches" which I think is a great way of summarising the easy leaning of carousels so that everyone's message can supposedly be important, instead of internal agreement being reached around the content that is actually most important to show your users.
If you don’t want your homepage to fall victim to the above issues, it’s vital that internally everyone is on the same page.
If your homepage and website as a whole are to perform the best they can, there should be internal agreement around:
- Website objectives
- Key performance indicators
- Target audience groups
- Audience needs and expectations
- The most important content to show on the homepage to entice users to want to learn more
- Priority and realistic actions for users to take from the homepage
The expectations of stakeholders involved in your website project, also need to be set.
Setting Stakeholder Expectations
You need to decide at the very beginning of your project who will be responsible for signing off each stage of the project, including the homepage design. If a senior staff member won't be involved in the day to day of the project but will have the final say on how your homepage looks, you need to ensure they are still educated around digital best practices with regards to homepage design.
Senior stakeholders need to trust the project lead to drive decisions that will be best for the website, no matter their own personal preference for the homepage design.
Making the right decisions for your homepage means understanding its purpose, how users engage with brands online and looking beyond the homepage at how all elements of a website work together. Although the fact that we all use the internet and browse homepages every day, that doesn't make all of us digital experts on homepage design. So welcome the advice and skills of professional digital design teams.
Look at the evidence
Using evidence of your current homepage’s performance is a good way to set expectations going forward - if one or more elements are not performing well such as low click-through rates for content given prime real estate currently on the homepage then you need to ask why this is, and be open to a different approach going forward.
Google Analytics is useful for a statistical overview of how your homepage is performing whilst seeking feedback from current users through surveys or interviews can provide more qualitative insights.
It can also be useful to look at other websites related to your sector to assess their homepage approach and what users expectations will be when they land on your homepage.
Third party help
It is always difficult trying to ensure relevant parties in your organisation feel involved in a website project and managing their expectations.
If you’re struggling with managing expectations seek outside help, as a third party can be the voice of reason and relieve any potential tension between staff or get buy-in from stakeholders, particularly if they can reference their experiences with other projects and refer constantly back to the project goals and KPIs.
At tictoc we always hold a kickoff session at the beginning of each project with the project lead or ideally all key stakeholders. This allows us to agree website objectives, key performance indicators, define target audience groups and agree priority content and calls to actions.
In this session we also cover current digital best practices and user experience considerations, to get those involved in the project thinking about the bigger picture of website design. This education aspect of the session aims to set expectations on the approaches we will recommend as the project progresses, including that of the homepage design.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your organisation avoid a design by committee approach and instead have an effective homepage design that meets your goals and the needs of your target audiences, we’d love to hear from you.