In this week’s podcast episode, Tim and Lozz discuss the 5 questions that any website’s homepage needs to answer.
Whilst these questions might seem obvious, you would be amazed at how few websites answer them adequately.
As always, the golden rule of website design is “you can’t be too obvious”. So whether it’s hiding important information in the footer, turning your audience off with the wrong images or failing to describe clearly why people should choose you over your competitors, many sites are guilty of unknowingly sabotaging their chances of conversion. Answer these five questions clearly, however, and you’ll be well on your way.
Question 1: What does your company do (in your customers’ language)?
How do your buyers describe what you do? Do they use the same words or phrases that you do?
Businesses rarely talk in the language of their customers. Instead, they force the customer to do the translation and hunt out what they need from a sea of industry jargon. The best headline you can use on your homepage is one that describes exactly the problem your customer has, in their own words, and tells them why you are the best option to fix it for them. It’s that simple.
Of course, your headline also has an SEO purpose. Talking in your customers’ language (i.e. using the keywords that they use) will help to make sure that your site shows up for the phrases that they search for too!
Question 2: Who are your target customers?
This question can be answered in your headline, but it’s also answered subconsciously by other visual ‘cues’ across your homepage. For example, do you think these two websites are targeting buyers in the same income bracket?
Of course not! SweatyBetty.com uses premium colours and an absence of pricing/discounts to subconsciously signal that the products are priced higher. The models in the shots are calling out a specific buyer. Even the use of “London” underneath the logo gives a subtle hint that this is more like a high fashion brand than a typical sportswear company. Contrast this with MandM Direct’s site which uses bright colours, huge discount banners, a CLEARANCE menu tab and a tagline that says “BIG BRANDS – LOW PRICES”. A very different message although the layouts are very similar.
Question 3: Where are you based?
This is obviously particularly important if you’re a local business, but even if you do business nationally or internationally, location cues still matter. You’ll notice in the above examples that both sites show a Union Jack in the header, as well as the Sterling (£) symbol. This immediately tells visitors that they’re in the right place.
If your business goes out to your customers rather than having them come to you, it’s important to make it clear exactly how far you will travel so that visitors can see quickly whether or not you serve them. A subheadline that says “Serving Bristol, Bath, and Gloucester” is much clearer than just showing your postcode in the footer and expecting people to call you to check (they won’t).
Question 4: What are the benefits of doing business with you rather than your competitors?
Every business needs a reason, and that reason has to mean something to your audience. If you’re unique in your market (this is rare), then it’s important to be bold about this and leave visitors in no doubt. If you’re unsure exactly what makes you unique, ask yourself if any of the following apply:
- Do you offer a more luxurious option than any of your competitors?
- Are you cheaper than your competitors? If so, do you offer a price match guarantee on this claim?
- Do you offer better service, and if so, how? Note that ‘better service’ is a meaningless statement to most – it needs to be backed up with a tangible benefit (24-hour helpline, free returns, a dedicated support person etc)
- Are you faster than any of your competitors?
- Do you have experience or knowledge that nobody else can match? This needs to be presented in a way that has high perceived value to your visitor.
- Are you more convenient to buy from?
- Do you offer a guarantee that your competitors don’t?
- Have you been in business longer than anyone in your market? Note that for some markets, this benefit holds little weight. In markets where trust is one of the main differentiating factors however, being well-established can be a significant benefit.
Question 5: What can visitors do immediately to take a step closer to buying from you?
This is about making your Calls To Action (CTAs) as clear and compelling as possible. If someone is almost ready to buy from you, what are they supposed to do to move further along that line? Is there a free taster that they can try? Is there something that they can download or get access to which can help them make their mind up? For more on choosing your ‘bait’, check out Episode 4 of the podcast.
Your site will also attract visitors who aren’t ready to buy from you yet and in are in the research phase. What can you offer these guys, so that you keep at the front of their minds when they do decide to take things further?
How to test whether your site answers these questions
Whilst these questions seem obvious to read through, it’s worth asking someone who isn’t familiar with your business to judge whether or not your website does a good job of communicating the answers. We’re big fans of User Testing videos (like Peek User Testing), and you can use these questions as prompts when you’re having reviewers scan your site. Whilst these questions are fundamental, it’s actually fairly rare to find a website that does a good job of answering all five. I’d be willing to bet that very few of your competitors are doing a good job of answering all five.