I took a tour around the U.S. recently, and it was quite a journey: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to Biscayne, Fla., to Norman, Okla., to Troy, Ala., to Lake Charles, La., to Des Moines, Iowa, to Milford, N.H.; to Winston-Salem, N.C.—and a few other spots in between. No, I didn’t accumulate air miles on this journey; I navigated all these locations online.
I googled “flooring retailers” in a wide range of cities across the map to gauge how companies in the biz show up in web searches, and then I clicked through to sites in each location to experience the ways web visitors are welcomed on homepages. I made a point to click on the retailers that showed up four to six spots down in search results, in addition to those that came up first. And I searched on both my laptop and iPhone to see how sites format on various devices.
Mind you, this was not a scientific research project—but it was a practical way to see what your searching consumers are experiencing when they seek and find businesses online. Here are “souvenirs”—some insights and suggestions gained—from my “trip” across the country.
1. Observation: “Call us” is the most common and prominent call to action on homepages.
Whether I was looking at sites built with templates or those that are custom, most businesses I viewed have their phone numbers positioned clearly—often at the top of the page. In the majority of instances, the phone number is configured to touch and dial on mobile devices, a smart move to make it easy for customers to get in touch by phone. Customer calls can be personal and immediate.
Suggestion: Don’t just have ‘em call; capture the lead!
The invitation to call is great for the reasons just stated, but nearly all the websites I visited had no other immediate lead capture mechanism on the homepage. Don’t let the potential customers who have no intention to dial you slip away without an invitation to connect otherwise. I highly recommend businesses add a highly visible (and quick and simple) invitation to “join our email list” or “sign up for a discount code”. You can add a pop-up to your homepage (I’m personally not a fan, yet I’ll admit those do work), or simply include a fill-in form near the top of the page. Only ask for name and email address on that form so nobody feels they’re getting in too deep. Once you collect those email addresses, follow up with a message right away that includes some incentive to get people in the door. Remember: some of us out here would rather type than talk before coming in to make a purchase!
2. Observation: Template sites are everywhere.
I understand the benefits of using a website template, especially one that’s configured specifically for your business type. You’re in the business of selling flooring, not building websites, so the more turnkey your online marketing solutions—the better. For many people, going with a template can alleviate hassle and help them sustain a good web presence.
Suggestion: Stand out from the crowd!
Committed to keeping your template website? Consider going with a fully customized homepage while keeping other pages in the template format. This could help you stand out in the crowd. While you’ve likely done what it takes to make your physical location look and feel unique, you may have taken an easier route for your online presence. If your website is “deja vu” of many other retailer websites, how can potential customers discern you’re something special? Don’t let your website—perhaps that key first impression—be a “me, too” experience.
3. Observation: Photography and visuals on homepages run the gamut.
Some businesses grace their homepages with professionally photographed pictures of installations. Others have bold graphics touting discounts, selection, and service. A few retailers show static photos of their showrooms. Images are often presented in ‘sliders’ so that every few seconds a new photo or graphic appears, and they’re typically really big—taking most of the real estate of the homepage.
Suggestion: Go with what’s beautiful and aspirational for the best homepage appeal.
Ours is a fashion industry, so go with images that represent great design as a way to welcome people to your business online. All day, every day, your customers are inundated with images that sell lifestyle across broadcast and social media, and you’re competing for their attention. People come to your website hoping you have what they’re looking for—and, commonly, what they’re looking for is the right style of product. That’s why it’s smart to tell a design story front and center on your homepage.
4. Observation: Sometimes, homepage design gets lost in translation on mobile devices.
Most of the sites I visited are mobile responsive, meaning the pages automatically configure to fit the device on which they’re displayed. That’s great news, because it’s essential that websites be mobile friendly in order to rank in search on smartphone web browsers. However, that’s not the end of the story. Those pages need to function smoothly and look good, as well, and some features I saw in use on homepages simply do not work well on mobile.
Suggestion: Keep it simple for the best site visitor experience.
Forego the bells and whistles if those elements do not translate correctly on mobile. People may move on to other sites if things on your homepage look weird or take too long to load. Don’t risk it! We’re in an era of web design in which “the fancy stuff” doesn’t hold the same appeal that it once did, anyway—so you’re fine to skip it altogether. Focus instead on a clean, inviting design that highlights your call to action and key information while prompting consumers to connect.
When a homepage is well designed and built with marketing strategy in mind, it may very well be all customers need to make the decision to connect with your business. Don’t underestimate the power of a first impression! Carve some time and take an honest look at your homepage. Identify what’s great and what’s out of date, and set a deadline to make necessary changes.
If you want another set of eyes to review your homepage, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) a link to your website, and I’ll share some feedback. It’s time to make that homepage work for you!