Writing a Homepage
Until about three or four years ago, 80% of the work I did forclients was for printed projects (brochures, ads, reports) and less than20% for the Internet. Today those figures are reversed. Most of thedemand for my services comes from clients who need help writing fortheir websites.
And most of these requests come too late!
By the time I get called in, the problem that got me there(non-performing websites) has usually passed the point of no return.
The Internet is not a place for reading. Visitors come to yoursite to get information quickly. If they have to read--and think-- tofind out who you are and what you can do for them, most will simplyclick off into cyberspace never to be heard of again.
The best time to think about good writing on your website isbefore you publish your home page. While it is true that many commercialsites invite customers to individual pages on their site, the homepageis still the first place that many visitors land when they come tovisit. Therefore, it is important that the home page makes it veryclear what you do and lets the visitor know quickly if they are in theright place.
Because the home page is so important, there is a lot ofpressure on the home page, not to blow the opportunity to develop a newcustomer. Most home pages don't hold up under the pressure.
Many years ago, I worked in a neighborhood print shop in alarge metropolitan area. One of my duties was to help the customers tellthe typesetter what they wanted to say on their letterhead, businesscards or ads. Almost every day I would meet an individual who was juststarting out in business and insisted on putting every possible productor service that he could possibly fit onto his business card. I triedwith limited success to discourage this approach by telling my clientsthat sometimes "less is more." That's how it is with business cards,and that's definitely the way it works with home pages.
Before you sit down to write your home page, it is worthwhileto remember that visitors to your website are not coming to read. Theywill skim or scan as necessary but they really don't want to work thathard. They are coming because they have a problem and they are lookingfor a solution. They want to find products and services that work andthat are provided by credible dependable vendors. Whether you areselling cookies or software consulting, the job of the home page is tocreate the first step in the sales cycle. If you build the greatAmerican Home Page it doesn't mean that you are going to turn every leadinto a customer. It is still up to you to move the prospect through thesteps needed to make a sale. But if you have a confusing or overstuffedhome page, you can be pretty sure that most visitors will stick aroundfor a few seconds and then move on to somebody who doesn't make themwork so hard.
Secrets to Writing a Great Homepage
Clients ask all the time, what they need to do to write a homepage thatworks. Most are looking for a formula they can simply follow. It doesn'treally work this way.
The first step in creating a home page that works is focus onyour audience. Visualize the visitors that you want to come see you. Then the hard part, once you know to whom you are addressing yourmessage, you have to figure out what your homepage message needs to be.This is where you begin to put the "less is more" philosophy intoaction. The homepage is just a first step - it's important--but it isalso preliminary and not meant to be exhaustive. You need to make yourhomepage appealing enough to your audience so they are interested enoughto click through for more details.
When a visitor arrives at your homepage, here are some of thequestions your homepage should answer:
What's this site about?
Do these guys know what they aretalking about?
Is there something here that is valuable to me?
Can I find what I want quickly and easily?
The tricky part is that you don't get to ask specificquestions. Remember, people don't read on the Internet. The questionsabove need to be answered, not in words but in the perception that iscreated in the mind of the visitor. By using just the right blend ofwords, design and organization, the good homepage creates the perceptionthat it can be useful and that the visitor will do well to spend sometime here.
It comes down to this: you have to create a home page thatmakes the visitors believe, by the clarity of design and conciselanguage and organization that the answers they are seeking are just aclick or two away.
Is it easy to do? Nope, it takes a lot of work to introduceyourself to a potential client to one elegant page. It's definitely anact of faith because you have to think about what's most important andlet go of the rest.
But if you take the time to write a great homepage it will bewell worth the effort because you will significantly increase thenumbers of visitors who stay to become customers.