We are all on a quest for a great homepage that represents our brand and serves our goals.
Unfortunately, we fall into the trap of overcrowding our home pages with features and elements that drive visitors away.
Here are 5 major homepage mistakes that we all see everyday – and some tips on how you can easily avoid them:
1. Just Say No to Stock Photos:
Stock photos play a big role in web marketing and design, but they should be used with caution. As illustrative images for blog posts or peripheral elements that make your design pop, a quick browse around your favorite stock site can be a low-cost and easy solution.
But using stock images too prominently on your homepage is increasingly becoming a no-no. Savvy web users know how to spot them. Every time I land on a site only to be greeted by a smiling, business-casual, multi-racial bunch, expertly backlit and photoshopped, I start to wonder why you don’t have real photos of your real team, your real products and your real customers.
Of course, they can sometimes work and help get a new site off the ground without investing in original photos. But try to not to use them too prominently, and try avoid the cliched usual suspects.
2. Adios, Twitter Feeds
It is quite popular to have Twitter feeds embedded in sidebars, footers and even tickers scrolling across your home page. These show your latest tweets and mentions updated in real time, and supposedly present a picture of your organization as a dynamic outfit.
At illuminea, we beg to differ.
Twitter accounts are often used to carry out conversations that may be valuable to you, but they can’t be understood by others without context. Most of your visitors will not have a clue what to make of tweets like this:
LOL! I’ll check that out #fail #Thanksgiving @fatjuicyboy247 @CocaCola
So lose the Twitter feed from the homepage! And perhaps the rest of the site too.
3. So long, Social Media Smorgasbord
Many websites have a line of social media icons placed in headers, footers and sidebars. The idea is that interested visitors will follow you on their prefered social networks and this will give you the chance to interact with them going forward.
This can work well, and social media savvy visitors will indeed click on these icons, discover your profile and follow you.
But what if they click on an icon and find a profile that is inactive and out-of-date? You’ve just wasted valuable homepage real estate to make yourself look really lame.
Pinterest, Vine, Google+, MySpace, Twitter, even Facebook… if these are not your stomping grounds, do not prominently feature their icons on your homepage.
4. To the Trash, Mr. Flash
If you have any funky Flash animations on your homepage, they should be at the top of your “To-Dump” list. Besides hogging memory and being bad for SEO, Flash is not viewable on some of the world’s most popular devices, including iPads and iPhones.
That’s right: all those Apple devotees cannot see all those fancy-pants Flash websites properly.
5. Au Revoir, Sliders and Carousels
I know this one’s going to be controversial, but sometimes you’ve got to say what you believe.
Rotating sliders and carousels have become extremely common as the main feature of homepages everywhere. Designers think they jazz up a boring, static homepage and allow you to target various audiences in a single space.
I’m sorry to report that they are wrong. The latest usability tests find that users ignore sliders and that they interfere with SEO. Even worse, they usually don’t work well on mobile.
I know it’s going to be tough for some of you to say “au revoir” to your homepage’s rotating carousel, with its carefully selected images and text. But sometimes if you love something, you have to let it go… especially if it’s undermining the effectiveness of your website.
Limit yourself to one main message that you want to convey on that prime homepage real estate.
Just Do It!
All these things have one thing in common: everyone is (or was) doing them!
It’s hard to break from the pack, but the effectiveness of your website – especially your homepage – is too important to sacrifice to peer pressure.
Be brave. Slash that homepage clutter and start giving more prominence to your core marketing message and call to action.
And enjoy the results!