Your homepage is the face of your website. It's what people see first, it's the page they direct their friends to, and it's the starting place for exploring the rest of your content. Naturally, you want your website home page to be attractive, welcoming, informative, and easy to navigate. There are hundreds of techniques and designs that can achieve all of these goals but even the most beautiful and informative homepage can turn visitors and customers away with one or two major design flaws. Whether you're working out your web design on your own or working with a professional developer, it's important to remember that just because something seems like a good idea doesn't mean the customers will enjoy it. Over the last twenty years, business websites have tried everything they can think of to create engaging and enjoyable homepages. So you can learn from those who came before, here's what didn't work:
Everyone loves music, right? We put music in our brick-and-mortar venues, music on the customer service lines, and some companies even pipe music into their parking lots to let guests boogie on their way to and from a physical store. But what about on your website? At first, it may seem like such a good idea to create an ambiance and give your guests a little background music. Don't do it. Music that starts on its own was proven to be a bad idea back in the 90s and early 00s.
There are two major problems with putting music in your homepage. First, you can get your visitors in trouble at school or work if they're not supposed to be on your site or if the music interrupts something. Second, you have no way of knowing what the sound settings are on a users computers and might accidentally blast their ears off. Not a good way to make a happy customer, so if you simply must include music, make it optional and off by default.
2) Distracting Flash
People want to look at your pictures, read your content, and carefully navigate your website to find what they need. They do not want to be distracted by moving, flashing, twinkling, or otherwise disruptive and unhelpful movement on their screen. Flashing text, dancing advertisements, and high-contrast color changes are hostile and unpleasant. Unlike music, there isn't as clear an explanation as to why people hate flash on a homepage, but trust us. It doesn't go over well. Keep your pages sedate and mostly stationary. If there is movement, make sure it's slow and smooth.
3) Auto-Playing Anything
If you were around during the Myspace era or visit the spammier news websites in search of event details, then you know how annoying auto-playing anything is. Not only is there the sound level and getting in trouble issue of playing anything that makes noise, but for the most part users have not come to your homepage to listen to watch a video, listen to a speech, or groove to your elevator music. Even worse, it often takes a moment to find the pause button which is particularly frustrating. You can absolutely have a video on your homepage and this is often a great idea, just make sure it doesn't start without someone clicking 'play'.
4) Big, Slow Pictures
Large images are all the rage in modern web design, but there are right ways to do this and wrong ones. If you simply HTML insert an enormous picture or a large collection of pictures into your website, it will take half a day to load and your visitors will leave long before that. If you're going to incorporate larger, high-resolution images into your homepage design, make sure you're using the right techniques or page load time will be killer. Talk to your web developer if you're not sure about this one. They'll have the answers.
5) Hijack Scrolling
Finally, let's address a fairly recent trend. It's become popular to control the scroll bar location while your visitors are browsing your homepage. Sometimes this is used to force users to look at a promotional at the top of the page, scroll down and stick to certain content, and sometimes tries to 'slide around' artfully as if the scroll bar were on ball bearings or ice. All of these are annoying and some are downright pushy. Just as you wouldn't grab a customers hand and guide them to put items in their cart, don't take control of their scrollbar either. Shortcut links are fine, but let customers look at things in their own way, at their own pace.
There are a lot of different ways to design a homepage and companies are coming up with new design innovations every day. However, for things that have been tried and proven to be unpopular, simply learn from those who came before and avoid these few classic homepage mistakes. For more helpful homepage design tips and tricks, contact us today!