Your website’s home page is your shop window – is it inviting customers in?

ShoppingI’ve mentioned this on my Facebook page before but, just down the road from my house, there’s a new shop with a shop-front that stumps me every time I walk past. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what the shop sells. The chaotic appearance is so overwhelming, I don’t think I’ll ever muster the energy to push open that door and see if the mystery is solved once I’m inside.

This humble little shop always makes me think about the psychology of buying. Personally, I want to understand what a shop has to offer before I step inside. I want to be able to see the products and find the till. I want someone who can answer my questions without breathing down my neck and going in for the hard sell. I also want to feel welcome.

Sadly, I wouldn’t be shocked to find this shop empty a couple of months from now, waiting to be reinvented once again, a symbol of wasted opportunity.

Of course, on the virtual high street, our websites’ Home pages are the closest thing we have to a shop window. How does yours stack up against your competitors? Are you losing customers because of an uninviting Home page?

What is in a name?

Now, let me begin by saying that there are loads of companies out there with great names that don’t have an immediately obvious connection to what they actually do or sell. Other companies take an ‘it does what it says on the tin’ approach. Neither is right or wrong.

If your name doesn’t enable customers to immediately identify what your business does, you may just need to take a more creative approach, perhaps using your logo or a strapline to help customers understand what you have to offer.

Be visual

When someone visits your website, you have a matter of seconds to grab their attention. This is why it pays to have a strong visual identity and relevant images, not only on your Home page but throughout your website.

Focusing on your shop window though, it’s your Home page that we’re concerned with here. Are you using carefully chosen images, colours or branding that show people at a glance what it is you have to offer? Does your Home page look welcoming, visually appealing, and easy to understand? High quality images of your products, a well-written headline or a slider that showcases the main streams of your business can all help customers grasp what you do in those all-important first seconds. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Signpost the way

Sweet shopJust down the road from the shop I mentioned above, there’s a fantastic sweet shop stacked full of confectionary of every colour and flavour that you can buy by the quarter. From the racing green-painted brickwork outside and the old-fashioned lettering of the company name to the handdrawn blackboards showcasing special offers and homemade milkshakes, everything is there for a reason. What the shop lacks in size, it makes up in personality and clear signposting.  Despite shelves upon shelves of identical jars, I know where to look, how to buy, what’s on offer, what’s new and what’s different. Some days, there are people queuing down the street to get inside.

On a website, clear navigation and signposting is key to getting visitors to stick around. Your Home page is not the place to be too clever or too quirky, unless that’s part of your brand. By using logical menus, internal links and strong calls to action, you can show your customers how to find what they’re looking for in just one click (two at most). Google Analytics can help you understand the traffic flow through your website to improve the signposting and navigation.

Make it easy to buy from you

As your virtual shop window, it’s tempting to cram your Home page full of information about your business. After all, you’re proud of what you do or sell, aren’t you? You’re passionate about it and want to show that to your customers. The thing is, there’s a time and place for these things. As the chaotic shop near my house shows, put too much on display and no-one can pick your key message out from the noise.

Your customers are busy people. When they look in your shop window, they want to see that it’s easy to buy from you. Your ‘About us’ page can showcase your story or your commitment to your customers, your ‘services’ page can explain in more detail what you do, your online store can present all your products, but keep your Home page simple.

So, what do you think? Have you taken a look at your Home page recently? Using the shop window analogy, is it presenting your business in the right light? Are there improvements that would make it more inviting, easier to navigate or warmer in tone? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Then go to Di