For most websites, the home page is the most popular page.That doesn’t mean that most of your visitors start on that page, though. Any page at your website can be a landing page, an entry page, for your website.
Site owners often think about their homepage as though it were a physical magazine. People pick up a magazine and at least glance at the cover before beginning to read. Some will stop at the table of contents, but many people browse through the magazine from front to back, enjoying pages with varying degrees of attention and thoroughness. If you think about your website in this way, you may want to make sure that all the important stuff is on the homepage. You might figure that people will peruse your home page and make decisions about where to go from there.
That’s not how websites work. At least not all the time.
Is the home page your visitors’ starting point?
In the screenshot below you can see that our lab site’s homepage — shown with the symbol / — is the most popular page.
You can also see that only 2.55% of visitors go there. This is a lower number than we usually see. But you will almost certainly find that fewer than half your visitors start out on your home page. Our visitors find us by searching for lesson plans on specific topics and going directly to the pages with those lesson plans. They find us by seeing a great classroom idea at Pinterest and clicking through. Or they find a link to one of our pages on their school web resources pages and click through.
They’re not mostly coming to the home page. The majority are certainly not starting out at the homepage.
What’s the function of your homepage?
First, your homepage could be the starting page for some of your visitors. People who have heard of you may type in the web address of your website and start on that page. There may also be links on other sites or in social media which go to your entire website — that is, to your home page.
Second, people who arrive at an interior page may navigate to your home page to learn more about your organization. The screenshot below shows that our lab site’s visitors enter the website on hundreds of different pages. After visiting a page or two, though, many of them go to the home page to see what else we might have to offer.
For both these groups of people, your home page must provide a clear message: here’s what we have to offer and here’s how you can get it. Give your visitors a clear path to purchase that helps them find what they want. It should also encourage them to do what you want.
You might want them to buy something, to make an appointment, to visit your patient portal, to subscribe to your web feed or your newsletter, or to make a donation. It’s your home page’s job to make that action easy and natural for your visitors.
Test your home page
Once you’re clear on what you want your home page to do, it’s good to test it. Find someone who is unfamiliar with your website, ask them to navigate to your home page, and watch what they do.
- Do they see their options and choose one easily?
- If they scroll down the page, are they engaged or confused?
- Do they use the main navigation?
- Do they click on a call-out box or spotlight element?
- Do they feel frustrated?
- Do they engage with your Call to Action?
Don’t make suggestions or give instructions. Once your tester has finished, though, you can ask, “What does this organization do?” or “Who would you recommend this website to?”.
This kind of simple test can be eye-opening.
If you still love the look of your homepage but you can tell that it’s not really doing its job, a content update could be an affordable way to make your website work better. Contact us to find out how easy it can be.