10 Elements of a Home Page – And Why You Should Have Them

But if you look at nearly any well-conceived website out there today, regardless of the industry or market they serve, you’ll start to see a common blueprint.  They all may have different graphics, but their foundation is almost always the same.

In that foundation, there are common home page elements (for lack of a better term). Each element serves a distinct purpose, whether it’s branding, navigation, sales, search engine optimization or “hooks” to draw the user deeper into the website. While some of these elements are undeniably obvious, others are frequently overlooked yet critical to the success of the website.

So let’s break each of the 10 elements down:

1. Logo and slogan

I know; it’s an obvious one. But it’s one of the 10, so I had to list it.

2. Banner graphic

At or near the top of the page (“above the fold” in newspaper-speak), you’ll often find a large, horizontal banner. Often the banner will rotate, displaying a new banner every few seconds, or it may display a new banner each time someone hits the page. Either way, the banner should be focused on one thing. That one thing might be a service you perform, a product or a photo and statement that reinforce your slogan. Whatever it is, remember that it needs to be one thing. The more messages you try to pack into that banner, the muddier and less effective it will be.

3. Primary navigation

OK, another nobrainer. But when designing your site, keep these things in mind when it comes to navigation:

– Do you have a short list of navigation pages to display? If so, a horizontal list might be more effective, and will also provide more “real estate” to display content below.

– Do you have (or plan to have) a larger number of pages to display in the navigation? Let’s say that number is eight, and expected to go higher. In this case, you’ll want to go with a vertical navigation going down the left of the screen. This will allow for future real estate as you add pages, and won’t require expensive graphic redesign when you do.

4. Quick links

What pages on your website get viewed most, or better yet, which ones do you want visitors to go to most? In this case it might make sense to add a list of links, displayed separately from the primary navigation so that they stand out. Typically you’ll see Quick Links to pages like Contact Us, Member Login, Calendar of Events and Sign Up. These pages are still within the primary navigation, but are given separate prominence.

Quick links can also be internal banner ads. Have an upcoming event or a product you want to highlight? Set aside real estate on the home page so you can run small, targeted banner ads that link to specific pages within your site.

5. Intro statement

This one seems obvious, but is often overlooked. The intro statement needs to answer the question: If a stranger had three seconds to look at your page, would they know what you do? Your intro statement should be no more than a couple sentences in length, and packed with keywords that relate to what you do, which will help with how you are listed with search engines like Google.

6. Dynamic content

Latest news, events, blog entries and more, the idea of dynamic content is that your home page is always changing. If someone visited your site last week, will they find something new this week? If not, they might never come back. Dynamic content keeps your website fresh, which is also looked upon favorably by search engines like Google.

7. Social networking

If your organization is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn, give them links from the home page. You can also provide feeds on your home page, so that as you create new content on Facebook, for example, that content will also display on your home page.

8. Login

If you have members, clients or other users who need the ability to login to the site, give them a clear, easy-to-find link to do so (a Quick link is a good way to go). Or better yet, put the username and password prompt right there on the page, saving them a click.

9. Search

A sitewide search tool is important to some, not important to others. It all depends on the amount of content you’re serving up on your website. If you have dozens of pages and lots of content, give the user the ability to run a search right from the home page.

10. Footer

The footer can contain items such as your privacy statement and your copyright information. More important, however, is that the footer should display your contact information. Your address, phone and e-mail should be right there for all to see. This saves a click for users having to go to your Contact Us page, and it helps search engines like Google know how and where your website should display in a search result.

A list of stuff is always nice, but a visual is even better. Does your website incorporate these elements as well?

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