The seating hostess at a not-too-busy restaurant sat behind a podium engrossed in a novel. As my luncheon companions and I approached, she gave us the “talk to the hand” sign, indicating that we were to wait until she finished her paragraph.
Not kidding… and it gets better.
When she finally did bother to acknowledge my friends and me, she looked at us with disdain, mumbled something that none of us could understand, and then actually asked, “So… what do you want?”… as if there might have been some reason other than lunch that we were there interrupting her reading! One of my lunch companions (who does not suffer fools gladly) retorted, “To leave… immediately!” Out we went.
Talk about a bad first impression! Needless to say, we never went back. It was crystal-clear why this establishment was not too busy. It stayed that way… and closed months later.
You only get one chance to make a first impression. This even applies to your website! Think of your homepage like a seating host/ hostess in a restaurant. Is your home page welcoming customers, knowing what they want, and meeting their needs, or is it causing them “to leave… immediately?”
Consider these “Do’s and Don’ts” to help your homepage help your business:
• DO include your contact information! It almost seems like a “no-brainer,” and yet it is sometimes accidentally omitted in an effort to include other things. The simple fact is that if you want a customer to call or visit, you must make yourself easy to find. At very least, include an email address and phone number. If you have an actual location, consider adding a map and/or directions. Put this information in a place that is visible for first-time visitors to your site.
• DO use easy, clear, and uncluttered navigation. Place it across the top or down one side of the page. Be careful to not overdo the number of links, as this can result in a look that is confused and chaotic.
• DO make it a point to check your links periodically to be certain that they are functioning properly. A bad link can create the impression (however undeserved) of a business that doesn’t care or is run in a slipshod manner.
• DO offer an option to sign up for emails/ newsletters. This is an excellent way for you to know who your customers are and where they are. It is also beneficial for them as this is an excellent way for them to receive not only emails and news, but also valuable coupons and other offers from you. Be certain to let your site visitors know of the value of this submission!
• DO pay attention to the “look” of your page. Use large, attractive fonts and eye-pleasing colors. Include graphics that clearly convey the message of what your company does and for what it stands. Use bullets to provide information in a clear and concise way. Your home page needs to convey your message very quickly and in a manner that is easy to understand.
• DON’T add music! As much as it may seem like a good idea (for setting the mood, conveying a message, etc.) or something that will make you memorable, avoid this temptation! Often people will be visiting your site in a public place such as an office or a café. A sudden blast of “That’s Amore” while visiting an Italian restaurant’s website may result in a quick hit of the back button and a trip to a quieter website. If, however, you are in a profession where music is necessary on your website, allow your visitors to press a Click to Play button to listen to it at their discretion.
• DON’T use Flash animation. This will slow down your loading time. Making website visitors wait for frivolous animated bits to load is a big no-no that will cause them to go-go to another site!
• DON’T overload your home page with too much text. A website with a home page that is almost all text can prove visually overwhelming and off-putting. Even if the information is interesting, by placing it all there on your home page, you are essentially hitting your visitors squarely between the eyes with it. Rather than absorb it, they will often navigate away from it. Use this page to welcome customers and make them feel comfortable.
• DON’T use fonts that are overly stylized or too small. That Old English-looking font may seem just right for the atmosphere you want to create on your used bookstore website, but stop and rethink that! People must be able to read what is there on your website, and even though certain font styles may set the right mood, they will do you a disservice if they are difficult for your visitors to read. The same goes for fonts that are too small. Your text should be clear and inviting, not migraine-inducing.