The homepage is the most important page of every website. It will most likely be the first page new users land on, and it will be the most visited page of your site by far. As it receives so much traffic, there is the temptation, especially among ecommerce sites to use the homepage to sell products. In these situations, more than likely the homepage and what products it features will be the subject of long hours of internal debate as each product manager stakes a claim to a piece of that valuable real estate. In fairness, this can make a lot of sense on first glance – if a user comes to your site with purchasing in mind, why not offer them products right off the bat and make a quick sale rather than making them browse through your catalogue and product pages.
Well there are three good reasons why not:
Many users are not ready to buy at the homepage
By putting products on the home page, you are in effect asking users to make a choice there an then. A large chunk of users, while they might have an idea of what they want, probably don’t have a fixed idea of the product itself. Furthermore, before looking at your products and considering you as a legitimate option, users need to understand the value of your site. It’s very difficult to sell something to someone who isn’t bought into your brand.
The brain looks for structure
When processing information, people look for structure. Structure provides a logical way of searching for things and finding what you want. Products on the home page, especially if they aren’t bundled into clear categories don’t have structure and as such they will tend to be overlooked, unless they just happen to be the exact thing the user is looking for.
Pushing price too early scares customers away
Home pages that are pushing products direct from this page are also exposing price information. As everyone is price sensitive, we will all tend to focus on that information. This will make the main message of your home page price focussed whether you like it or not. The problem with this, is that you are showing price before you have expressed the value of the site/product and given the user compelling reasons to shop with you rather than someone else. If you push price, then the user will use that as the benchmark for thier decision. So unless you’re the cheapest seller out there, it is the value proposition of your site/product which will entice people into the funnel.
What should your home page do?
Provide clear direction:
For e-commerce sites, the objective of the home page is not to sell products, but to help push people into the purchase funnel, that is pushing them towards to the category and product pages. These are the pages that do the selling, your home page is there to support that end, not to be the point of sale. If your site exists to sell stuff, then this should be the key focus of your homepage.
You may have secondary objectives – newsletter sign ups – that’s fine, but don’t saturate your home page with multiples CTAs that relate to different goals. Design the page around the primary focus, with any secondary objectives at a lower priority from a design and real estate point of view.
- The main part of the page above the fold is dedicated to communicating value, both through the main image and the supporting top banner USPs. This is designed to convince the user that progressing through the site is worthwhile.
- The rest of the page above the fold is geared to get the user to browse categories and products. They have clear category based top nav and next to the main picture offering all that value, is a search widget.
- The page is very clean and there are no competing images distracting from the main goal. The entire design of the page is built around the objective of the home page
- Further down the page? More value focussed around getting users into the funnel
Note that nowhere on this page are particular products being sold. All the product images they do have relate to categories or support their main USPs. Everything on this page is focussed around the main goal – getting the user into the funnel – either directly through functionally, or through providing value and reasons to browse and buy.
Your home page should also provide tonnes of value to the user. Why, because value is what builds trust with your users and lets you show why your brand stands out against your competition. Your home page may provide clear direction of what you want your users to do, but you need to give compelling reasons why they should look at your products rather than the any number of shops they currently have open in other tabs.
A great example of providing value is Bellroy.com. Nowhere on their homepage are they pushing products or prices.
- Instead, they offer solutions to specific problems – ‘slim your wallet’, ‘travel smoothly’- and all images are all designed to reinforce this message.This is a really effective way to entice users to the ultimate goal – looking at the catalogue – as it provides a compelling message targeted the user’s problem.
- By focussing on solutions, they also naturally created a segmented homepage, addressing different problems that appeal to different types of user, so it feels incredibly relevant. Products are spit between, ‘everyday’, ‘travel’ and ‘outdoor’ which is further down.
- In summary, tonnes of value and plenty of reasons to start browsing their catalogue!
So your home page should be providing direction and value to the user. One way of doing this is making the home page as relevant as possible to the main converting segments that visit. Addressing the main needs of the users that visit through grouping your offerings to speak to different user segments is a great way of encouraging users to click further into the site.
While the next example is simple, Watchshop.co.uk clearly shows the benefit of designing a homepage that is relevant. Not only does this homepage provide a great deal of value, they have split the home page by the main segments that visit the site – watches (mens/women) and jewellery (mens/women). This makes the home page feel much more relevant, makes browsing easier and provides direction as to where to click.
Remember that your home page is the most visited page on your site, particularly by new users. It should act as a conduit to push people into the rest of your site – your funnel – and give compelling reasons why, out of the many tabs a user likely have open, why they should look at your products rather than a competitors. While it is tempting to use the home page as a place to push individual products and deals, try to resist this urge, as it misses the point of what a home page is and potentially pushes the idea that the only value your site offers is price. Great if you’re the cheapest seller on the web, fatal if you’re not.