Many of us view our home pages as "introductions" to our sites.
It's where we create a store window, which gives people a quick view of what our company does and who we are. It's an overview, an executive summary. It's a place to tell people what we offer, who our clients are, and what the media is saying about us.
Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?
The trouble is, this kind of approach no longer serves the needs of our visitors.
Perhaps it did back in 2000 and before, when users came to our sites filled with curiosity and were prepared to dig down a level or two before finding something of direct interest to them.
Today, our visitors are a lot more impatient. They are in more of a hurry. They come to our sites with a purpose in mind, with expectations of what they will find.
They don't come to our sites to "browse" or "surf" -- they arrive with a set of questions in their minds. They have a task to achieve. They want to get something done.
When a visitor's needs are that specific, you can't afford to ignore those needs and spend your first screen talking about your wonderful company or organization.
You don't have time. Your visitors won't allow you the time.
You need to engage each visitor immediately. You need to get that person to do something, take an action, make a commitment to your site by making a choice, clicking on a link.
If this sounds like direct marketing thinking, it is. The logic behind that thinking is if you don't get a reader to do something right now, he probably never will.
Here are a couple of examples of sites that recognize the need to get people clicking.
Take a look at the major copy lines on the first screen at Citibank.com:Look for a product or service
On that first screen, the site's designers use direct, active verbs at the beginning of each line, then put you in a position where you need to make a choice, choose a direction... do something. In fact, excluding the top navigation area, every link on that first page starts with an active verb. Do something!
And look at the American Cancer Society's site:Select a group to find the information that most closely matches your needs.
Again, on screen one, the organization is directing you to make a choice -- to go to a page that is directly relevant to your particular need at that moment.
Neither site -- one for a huge company and the other for a huge organization -- wastes a second of time or an inch of that first screen on telling you about themselves.
Both home pages are devoted to getting users to move quickly and directly to the information that best suits their needs at the time of that visit.
Is your home page like that? Probably not. Most home pages are still too slow off the mark. They have too much "window display" and not enough recognition of each visitor's state of mind.
For the most part, visitors don't come to your site simply to find out about your company or organization. They arrive with a purpose in mind. They want to do something, find something, achieve something.
The faster you can get each visitor moving toward her objective, the better the chance she will become a customer, member, or subscriber.
It's Direct Marketing 101 for your home page.
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Nick Usborne speaks, writes, and consults on strategic copy issues for business online. For Web sites, e-mails and newsletters, he crafts messages that drive results. He is the author of the critically acclaimed bookNet Words - Creating High-Impact Online Copy.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT