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Home Page Essentials - Miss These and You're Missing the Mark

The home page (also known as "index" or "default" page) is usually the first thing people see upon entering your site. If it doesn't grab them - or contain certain information - many people won't venture past it ... and might just leave your site altogether. As my Mom used to say, "You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a Good Impression." This rings even more true when it comes to your website's home page.

So what are the essential components that every home page really needs to include? And why are they so important? Keep reading and you'll know in a flash (no pun intended) whether your site is hitting the mark or missing it altogether.

1. Your First Paragraph: I can't tell you the number of sites I've been to that don't tell me who they are and what they do. Remember the "Five W's" when writing about your company - Who, What, Where, Why and How. Tell me up front who you are and what you offer so I know if I'm in the right place or need to continue my search.

A good rule of thumb when creating your site content is to look at your site from a surfer's point of view and answer this question: "What's in it for me?" Website visitors tend to be very directed. They land on your site after searching for something they need and don't care about anything else. If you want your visitors to stay, you need to tell them right away that they've come to the right place.

2. Consistent Navigation: You need to decide on a navigational system. This is generally at the top or left hand side of the page with links to every page or section of your site. Make it clear and simple for me to get where I need to go and don't confuse me or cause me to think too hard about it. This can lead to frustration and an early exit.

You'll also want to include text navigation at the bottom of the page (sometimes called secondary navigation). Another option would be to include one of those drop down navigation boxes that allows you to make a selection from a drop down box and be transported instantly to that page.

3. Subscribe to Our Ezine: You'll also want to include a chance to subscribe to your ezine on this page. It's very important to your marketing efforts that you start collecting a list of opt in subscribers who are giving you permission to contact them at a future date.

Most people will not buy from your site on the first visit so you'll want to get those email addresses for the possibility of a future sale. Mail lists can be maintained with stand-alone software or your web host may provide this service for you, you'll need to ask. The easiest way to implement one is to use one of the free list services like Yahoo Groups or or Topica. Make sure you include an easy sign up form somewhere on your site - the topright hand corner will get you the best attention.

4. What not to Include: Things like long Flash intros, tons of pop up boxes and music, all which can serve to annoy your guests - causing them to reach for the exit button. If you feel the need to use a pop up box (which have proven to be effective for actions like reminding visitors to subscribe to a newsletter), use the type that only pops up upon exit. It's less obtrusive and doesn't hamper the web surfer when he or she first enters your site.

So how many of these strategies have you implemented on your home page? Remember, some people will never make it past the entrance to your site, but by incorporating the above essential elements into your page you'll increase the chances of a happier surfing experience for your guest and a more effective website for you.

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