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Getting Started: Homepage Tips and Tricks

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Editor’s note: This is the third in our six-part Getting Started series, designed to assist beginners with online commerce.

First impressions are lasting. So the homepage of your eCommerce store is your opportunity to forge – or lose – long-term customer relationships. It is where the majority of your customers will go first to get to know you – think of it as the entrance of your home. So what do you want customers to see first as you “introduce” yourself? Is there a goal, or set of goals, you hope to achieve? What should you include and not include on the homepage? These are questions we’ll answer in Part Three of our Getting Started series.

Pushing Specific Products

Certainly, selling products is a primary goal for any eCommerce business. When visiting Amazon, the first thing you see is a full-width banner promoting the firetv.

One could argue that the banner is serving a purpose beyond advertising the product itself. Amazon is attempting to set a mood of high-tech convenience with new customers. With our products, you don’t even need to lift a finger to turn on the TV—just have your AI butler do it.

Should I Include a Product Carousel?

Jakob Nielsen, perhaps the most prominent usability specialist ever, confirmed a Notre Dame study that showed people rarely click beyond the initial carousel side. From that study:

Approximately 1% of visitors click on a feature. There was a total of 28,928 clicks on features for this time period. The feature was manually ‘switched/rotated’ a total of 315,665 times. Of these clicks, 84% were on stories in position 1 with the rest split fairly evenly between the other four (~4% each).

Just because Amazon gets away with this pattern on their homepage doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for your business to clone the behavior. Popular websites like Amazon can often represent a false marketing positive for anti-patterns like the product carousel. Because so many people flood the site every second, the odds of people generally clicking more elements on the page greatly increase.

Are There Exceptions?

If your content is very engaging and you have fewer than five slides in the carousel, a carousel may work for you. You need to grab people’s attention and provide a strong incentive to click through to the text slide. Finally, if you’ve decided to go ahead and use a carousel, resist the temptation to auto-rotate the slides (more on why here).

A Better Pattern

Though it may seem obvious, there is nothing wrong with simply showing all the products you’d like visitors to notice.

This can work well because it is attractive and straightforward. A visitor can click on one of the featured product links or view the entire collection from the link below. From a design standpoint, another good reason to go in this direction is if your products photograph well. This can make your website look more attractive.

Social Media

Does your company have a social media presence (and it should, but that’s another blog)? If so, include a feed that best represents that presence. Include the images and messages your company is all about.

However, do not feel obliged to include a social media feed that is not exciting or is poorly maintained. This will have the reverse effect on people and reflect poorly on your company. Remember, it’s better to wait to include a social media feed rather than rushing something half-baked out the door.

Blogging

Are visitors interested in learning more about your company? Maybe you own a company that creates cutting-edge dog training software. All sorts of dogs are running around your office every day. This sounds like a very bloggable topic. What’s it like to work in a fun, hectic environment like that? What does the inside of the office look like? A well-maintained blog can provide all these details along with crisp images and video content. Feature an article on the bottom half of your homepage. This will help customers connect with your brand and increase the likeliness of customer retention.

Consider including a high-resolution image with each post, as well as a punchy caption. New posts should visually stand out from old posts. Similar to social media, keep the content fresh. If you haven’t written a new blog post in several months, maybe it’s time to reconsider giving the blog precious homepage real-estate.

Featured Promotion

Often located at the top and/or bottom of the webpage, the featured promotion, though usually small, can stand out in a clean design. This is another reason to include only necessary elements to your homepage. If your page is visually cluttered with auto-rotating carousels and popup windows, visitors will likely miss other elements you wish them to see, including the featured promotion.

One advantage of the featured promotion is that it is typically small and easy to update or disable. Ensure that the foreground text is legible and large enough to read. Be clear what is being offered in the promotion, so visitors are more likely to tap/click. Last (and this is somewhat of a theme), if you are always running the same promotion, it may be redundant to include it on your homepage. Homepage content should be vibrant and liquid!

Store Map/Location

If you run a brick and mortar business with an inviting interior, including a photo of your space along with your address and hours of operation is another way to make your homepage pop. It’s also a way to drive traffic to your store.

Newsletter

Last but not least is a newsletter sign-up form. Typically, these forms are designed to be above the footer towards the bottom of the website.

An informative newsletter can be extremely important in attracting return visitors. People often subscribe to newsletters from companies who make their favorite things. When a new product is released, they want to know about it right away. A newsletter is something of a contract. People want to know what’s new, but they don’t want their inboxes bombarded with non-essential content. To keep your customers happy, space out your newsletters and remind subscribers why they liked you in the first place.

Keep it Simple

It’s easier to order something off of a menu that contains 15 items rather than 80. When you display only essential content on your homepage, visitors appreciate it and are more likely to tap, click and purchase your products. If your company environment is fun, show people why through social media hooks and lively blog posts. Test your designs and—above all— listen to user feedback.

Authors

Alexandra Wood
Alex has worked in eCommerce for over 8 years supporting large multi-$100M companies and those just starting out. Today, she leads Small-Medium Business Solutions at LiveArea. When not working you can find her cheering on her sports teams and enjoying good weather with friends on a patio in Dallas.

Andy Hoffman
Andy Hoffman began his web career when people still wore flannel shirts tied around their waists. He currently lives in Portland, OR, and serves as Shopify Lead for LiveArea. When he’s not coding, Andy enjoys drumming, biking, coffee, and Abe, his evil-genius cat.

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