Jolly Good Websites for Reading Businesses Established October 1999
Tel. 0845 6445513 (national) Tel. 0118 9507617 (local)

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Is Your Homepage Too Big?

It's good to keep a homepage small for a variety of reasons.

1. Google likes fast-loading homepages. Say no more.

2. The homepage is just a shop window for the information on your website, so you shouldn't worry about there being too much actual content on it.

3. People don't like to scroll. I know it sounds bizarre, but it's true. So you should try to keep most, if not all, of your homepage content "above the fold". Above the fold is an old newspaper publishing expression – the theory goes that when I newspaper is on the rack, the most important elements (ie. the masthead and headline) should be visible at a glance even if it's folded over or partially obscured by competing publications. The same rule applies with a website homepage, except that with a website you're trying to avoid forcing visitors to scroll down to find what they want.

Of course, there are examples of good website designs where you do have to scroll down to see the whole homepage, but generally speaking you will find that (a) they have a lot of content on their site and (b) they use above-the-fold space to state their intent and to proffer their most important products and services.

See How The Big Guys Do It
In my opinion, the size of the homepage should be in keeping with the size of the website as a whole. If you've got 40,000 pages in your site, then by all means have 100 links on your homepage. The current version of the homepage, for instance, has 294 things you can click on. (Yes, amazing, I have a thing that counts them, would you believe? I never knew that would ever come in useful). But I think you'll agree they have stuck pretty firmly to the above-the-fold rule.

How the site uses the above-the-fold rule

Homepage Dos
Do use your homepage to do the following things:
  • Make an impact

  • Capture the imagination of the reader

  • Make yourself look good

  • Make it completely clear what you do

  • Highlight a particular product/service or range of products

  • Tell people why you're better than or different to the competition

  • Boast about your awards, credentials, testimonials, guarantees or any other evidence of your expertise/value for money

Homepage Don'ts
You should avoid the following things on your homepage:
  • Showing exactly the same thing 365 days of the year

  • Saying "Welcome to [insert company name]" - it's a waste of valuable space

  • A 'News' item that is weeks or months out-of-date

  • A detailed explanation of products or services

  • A Flash-y "splash page"

  • Audio or video that starts playing without the visitor having clicked a Play button

  • Corny, royalty-free images of people in suits shaking hands or pretty receptionists wearing telephone headsets

Say What You Do
Finally, just a note to emphasise a point from the above list of "dos": make sure your homepage makes it clear what your website is about. Again, I know it sounds crazy, but I've lost count of the number of websites I've seen for companies that offer "business solutions" and "enterprise solutions" but you'd be hard pressed to decide whether they're an IT consultancy or a cleaning firm.

Further Reading:
Is My Web Page Too Wide - Or Not Wide Enough?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Does Your Site Have a Call to Action?


Each week in our BNI lunchtime meeting, I am expected to get up and tell other members and visitors a little bit about my work in a sixty second snapshot.

If you want to find out a bit more about our weekly meetings, skip to the bottom of this page.

Here's what I had to say this week:

"My name is Jon Ewing and I'm from ltd in Reading, a website design and development company from Reading established more than ten years ago.

"You should refer people to me because I help people make more money from their website.
Blue Sky Independent Financial Advisers, Reading
"This week I'm going to be doing some work for David from Blue Sky Independent Financial Advisers and one of the things we're going to be looking at is a Call to Action.

"A Call to Action is very important on a website. It's all very well getting someone to come to your site, but what if they just browse and leave – even if they intend to come back one day, they might not. They might forget or go elsewhere. So you need something on your site to convince them to move ahead with their purchase there and then.

"A Call to Action might be a limited-time discount on a product or a free gift, but for a company of financial advisers from Reading, that's less practical. In a case like that, you're hoping to get a lead rather than a sale. You want a name, an email address and a telephone number. And members of the public won't give that to you freely – they expect something in return. Maybe it's a voucher for a free telephone consultation or a free ebook they can download.

So this week I'd like you to go away and look at your own website and ask yourself if it has a Call to Action. And if it doesn't, give me a call, and maybe we can work on one together.

"To find out how good your website could be, look into inframes."

What's BNI?

I am part of a growing new chapter of the BNI business networking group and we're looking for other Reading-based small business professionals to refer business to.

We meet between 12.15pm and 1.45pm on Wednesdays. If you'd like to come along to a lunch, please drop me a line or give me a call and I'll put you in touch with our organiser.

There's absolutely no commitment required – you just pay a tenner, which covers the cost of lunch at the Strada on the Oracle Riverside - and you'll have a chance to meet existing members and other visitors, introduce your business and of course hand out business cards.