8 must-have elements of a strong home page

8 Must Have's for Home Page

When visitors arrive at the home page of your website, are they able to quickly and efficiently find what they’re looking for? Or do they become confused and frustrated – because they can’t easily figure out exactly what you do or how your website is structured and where to look for the information they need?

Here are 8 must-have elements that will help you attract and engage the right prospects with your website’s home page:

  1. Jobs to be done. What tasks or “jobs to be done” do visitors have in mind when they come to your website? What do they need to accomplish? What questions do they need answered? Are they seeking product education? Make a list of these popular tasks, and then rank them in order of importance. Next, brainstorm ways to make relevant resources more visible on your website. Your goal is to help visitors find what they need in as few clicks as possible.
  2. Economize on home page features. Don’t overstuff your home page with every article, tool and resource you can think of. That will only confuse visitors.
    Ideally, the design of your website should visually guide visitors to the most important content and resources.
  3. What does your firm do? Your home page needs to communicate that quickly, in a matter of seconds. If your home page confuses visitors, they will quickly click away from it.
  4. Clear and unambiguous website navigation. Visitors should be able to quickly discern how your website navigation works. It should use terms that your target audience knows and understands. When it comes to website navigation, ambiguity is a big problem. Seek to eradicate it at all costs.
  5. Responsive design. Is your website based on a responsive design that adapts to a variety of mobile screen sizes? If not, you should make this a high priority. In many industries and markets, the majority of website visitors are already accessing company and product information via mobile devices. The time to adapt your website’s architecture is now.
  6. Hero image. This is a large image, frequently located just below your website’s masthead and primary website navigation. The best hero photoshots perform a gatekeeper role. In other words, they inspire the audience you want to attract to explore further. Ideally, it should also encourage the people you don’t want to attract to leave your website.
  7. Contact information. Your website’s home page should contain easy-to-find contact information, either in the header or footer. Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a website and searching in vain for an email address, contact us form or office number.
  8. Shortcuts to the best stuff. Give your website visitors a way to quickly navigate to your most popular and most valuable content.

Next step

Why not use this list as a “report card” for your website. How does your website rate? Where do you need to improve?

3 Undeniable SEO Benefits of Responsive Web Design

Everyone is talking about search engine optimization (SEO) and a heck of a lot of people are talking about the benefits of responsive web design (RWD)—both for good reason. Know why?

Because RWD comes with loads of SEO perks. It’s true! First off…SEO benefits of responsive design

RWD explained: Put simply, when you create your website using responsive web design (RWD), your webpages automatically reformat to display on screens of all sizes, from small mobile phones to oversized desktop monitors. Responsive web design benefits your users because they experience essentially the same experience every time they visit your website—from ANY device. With a well-designed RWD website, your pages and posts will load fast and work fabulously on any sized screen.

Responsive website design first made the news in 2012, so if you haven’t invested in a new website in quite some time, it’s HIGHLY likely your SEO is falling by the wayside. Here are 3 reasons you should consider updating…ASAP.

1. Google Likes RWD

We all want to be BFFs with Google. After all, while there are plenty of other search engines in the sea, Google is unquestionably King of Search. The Google Gods have made their preference for RWD unquestionably clear, and their reasoning is sound.

While there’s no direct evidence that Google uses RWD as a ranking signal and assigns a higher rank as a result, Google engineers have noted (on several occasions) that web rank is affected by indirect factors that can be avoided with RWD in place. For example:

  • Redirect Errors: When you create a separate mobile-friendly website, both of your websites may be prone to faulty redirects, mainly because there’s a lot to keep track of between versions of your website, so some redirects might be overlooked between updates. If your redirect is broken and Google can’t find your mobile site? Too bad. Your site won’t appear in search results. Responsive design employs the same URL for all devices, eliminating this potential issue.
  • Duplicate Content: When you’re designing multiple sites for multiple device sizes, you’re essentially creating multiple copies of your original site. If each webpage doesn’t have proper canonical links, for example, or if you release a ton of duplicate content at the same time by updating all your sites at once, this could be misconstrued by Google as an attempt to skew search engine results and gain more traffic. Do not want.
  • Bounce Rate: While responsive design adapts to every device (whether desktop, laptop, phone or tablet), other types of design (including adaptive and separate mobile site design) don’t always fit any device properly. When elements don’t make sense, visitors get frustrated and they leave your website in a hurry. Bounce rate is an SEO ranking factor!

2. Better User Experience (UX)

As we’ve said, responsive design offers a better experience across all devices. Site visitors (read: your potential and current customers!) using any type of device—or even switching from one device to another—can easily navigate a responsive design on any screen. They can access the same content, plus your branding looks consistent as well. Who wants to lose a potential customer because they’re forced to view a stripped down version of your website with confusing navigation?

Better user experience means a lower bounce rate and, ultimately, more website visitors. Bonus points: those visitors are more likely to share and recommend a user-friendly site.

3. Oh-So-Easy Single URL

When your website is crafted with one URL that displays nicely on any device, you’re also increasing your social media share count. No matter what device your readers use to favorite, tweet, or share your content for their friends to view, your share value goes up on just one URL. Number of social shares is another clear ranking signal.

Any web team must consider SEO when planning a website design or redesign, and responsive website design (RWD) delivers some powerhouse SEO benefits. If you agree that your customers deserve the best possible experience when they visit your website, responsive web design is the best choice for a great website that displays optimally on any device.

Mobile-friendly responsive design is the KEY to great SEO. Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

 

Responsive Website Design: A Smart Long-Term Investment

ThinkstockPhotos-494979743
 
Your website isn’t just an online brochure. Done well, it’s an efficient lead generation machine and the centerpiece of your marketing strategy—as long as it works on all the devices your customers are likely to use. If not, you’re missing opportunities.

When businesses grow, expansion is necessary: over time, you may need bigger space requirements, more stock, or you may even open new locations. You get bigger; you get more business. Mobile-friendly responsive website design (RWD) is another booster to business growth. Similar to opening a new location, launching a mobile-friendly website helps you reach a new audience and draw in new customers.

Responsive website design (RWD) isn’t a temporary or quick fix. It’s a long-term investment that allows you to build a dynamic website that can automatically adapt to new technologies. This means you won’t need to manually respond to each new device or screen size as it hits the market. Instead of playing catch up, you’ll be prepared and poised for growth.

The ROI on RWD: Get More Out of Your Site Design

Redesigning your website might seem like an unnecessary expense, but with responsive design, it’ll pay for itself in customer satisfaction and sales. Here are 5 ways you’ll see return on your investment.
 

1. Enhanced User Experience

Responsive web design maximizes your investment through user experience. Customers will get the same quality of content on any device, so they can find your website no matter what device they choose. And if they recommend your content to friends who are using different devices, responsive website design (RWD) adapts to show the same content in a readable and accessible format.
 

2. Reduced Update Time

In the long run, you’ll save time and money. Anticipating the needs of mobile and tablet users used to involve creating all sorts of different websites and each site had to be updated with new content, which meant at least triple the man-hours spent doing the same updates over and over with every change. Responsive website design (RWD) means one site and one update—which also reduces the number of possible mistakes—and the time it takes to correct them.
 

3. Increased Reach

More than 60% of all web searches are performed on smartphones nowadays. Responsive web design ensures user searches will be successful, your website will load quickly, and buyers will find the information they need to make an informed decision.
 

4. Increased Conversion Rates

While it’s difficult to predict how your customers will respond to your new mobile site, other businesses have been reporting significant boosts in conversion rates for years.
 

5. You’re Prepared for the Future

Updating your website now will prepare you for the foreseeable future. While it may not be 3D-hologram-compatible, as long as we’re still using screens, responsive website design (RWD) will dynamically respond to any size device that might hit the market. You won’t be scrambling to adapt to whatever the next big thing might be.

 

Investing in a responsive website design (RWD) now will create an enhanced user experience, boost your SEO, and cost you less on maintenance in the long run. If you’re ready to expand your business and reap the benefits of your investment, RWD is the way to go.

To learn more about mobile web design, download our free mobile-friendly guide below!

 
related-resources_01

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly
 

7 Pro-Tips: Get the Blueprints Right Before Your Website Contractor Starts Working

House and town plans on lawn (digital composite)
 
Building a website is much like building a house; every little detail matters. Long before you watch contractors pour the foundation concrete, you go over the blueprints with your builder to ensure you get what you want and stay within your budget.

Imagine this: “I want a 2-bedroom 1300 sq. ft. house with 1 bathroom and an open floor plan. I’m on a tight budget, so I want simple, functional, and efficient use of space.” Cool. The builder drafts up your house plans. They’re exactly what you asked for, they fit the lot, and the build falls within your budget. The builder goes to work. He lays a precise foundation and puts up the walls. Plumbers and electricians come and go.

And that’s when you decide you need an extra bathroom. Two bedrooms should have two bathrooms, right? What if you have guests?

You wouldn’t really do that to a builder (we hope)…or if you did, you’d understand that changing something that significant is going to cost a lot more. Walls will have to come down and be rebuilt, the plumbers and electricians will have to come back, and the whole project will take more time.

A Beautiful Buildout is in the Blueprints

Much like building a house, when it comes to building your website, you’re going to want to avoid all the headaches and hassle.

The answer lies in the planning stages. It’s all about crafting blueprints that take both your short-term and long-term marketing strategy and website goals into account. Ok, ok, adding a webpage isn’t like adding a bathroom, but what if you suddenly realize…

So how do you know what to include? How do you even start crafting website blueprints that include everything you need for a site that fits within your budget?

Follow These 7 Tips for Website Blueprint Success…

 

#1: Pick the Right Web Development Team

Trust is everything. An experienced web design/development team has the real-life experience to go over all the pros and cons of your website design, structure, and feature options…before you begin your build. Find a team focused on marketing strategy, rather than website design alone.
 

#2: Be Prepared

When you have that first conversation with your website development team, have your ideas, questions, and budget organized and ready to go. Start with the basic framework, which includes all the must-have items on your list, then go from there. If you’re entirely revamping your website and/or your brand, showing examples of what you’d like to see can be helpful. Note what you like about each example: the colors, layout, speed, features, clean lines, striking images, etc.
 

#3: Be Honest About Your Budget

It’s human nature to lowball, but your contractor needs to know what they’re working with, so they can help you think forward and build out a plan for achieving your goals in affordable steps.
 

#4: Share Your Ideas…ALL of Them

What does your dream website look like? What are all those “it would be SO COOL if we had that” features you’d love to see? Spell everything out to your dev/design team up front. If you have big website dreams, there’s no reason you can’t unfurl them over time so they fit your budget. However, it’s important to respect the scope of each phase of the project. If phase one is building a 2-bedroom house on a budget, don’t be surprised when it lacks a grand entryway with Italian marble tiles.
 

#5: Avoid Committing to a Proprietary Site

Some creative teams will insist you commit to their homegrown web solution…but what you’re really getting is a huge pain in the you-know-what. If your website is built on proprietary software, you’ll have to hire that same development/design team ANY time you want even the smallest update. (That’s how they getcha.) Plus, down the road, when you want to move your website off their servers or software, it’s really going to cost ya. The answer? An open-source CMS platform you can update in-house, any time you want, without permission or help from your web dev team. In most cases, this means working with WordPress, Joomla!, or Drupal.
 

#6: Demand Responsive Design

First and foremost, your website should always be designed with the customer in mind. User experience for both desktop and mobile is your strongest asset. So you need a website that will render beautifully on any device, now and into the future. Mobile is a must these days, but you have options for how to build out your mobile-friendly site. We recommend responsive design. It’s easier to maintain than some other options and much more budget friendly as well. (*Psst: Google recommends responsive design, too!)
 

#7: Again: Plan, Plan, PLAN

Maybe you can’t afford a finished basement from the get-go. However, smart homebuilders lay in the basement electric and plumbing so you don’t have to tear the house apart when you’re ready for that fancy basement. Same goes for your website. Lay the foundation now and build out your website over time. Get the details right up front and you’ll be able to craft a strong website that grows with your business.
 
…and hey, please don’t be this guy.
 
Questions? Comments? Leave a response below!
 
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Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly
 

5 BIG Reasons Why You NEED to Be Mobile Ready for 2016

Modern computer media devices

2016 is coming up fast, so you’re already thinking about how to grow your business next year. If your business strategy doesn’t include a mobile version of your website, you’re already missing out on hot leads. It’s time to turn the mobile web into a lead generation machine for your business.

Not convinced it’ll be worth the money to build a mobile site? Here are 5 reasons why you should reconsider.

1. The Growing Number of Mobile Users

Mobile is BIG. Roughly 2.16 billion people will be using smartphones in 2016. That’s 198.5 million in the U.S. alone—and B2B isn’t exempt: Executives and decision-makers use mobile technology. In fact, 72% use their smartphone to conduct research on products or services for their business. This represents an upward trend reaching critical mass. There are more active mobile devices in play today than there are people.

2. It’s All About the Mobile Search

At Recode’s recent Code Mobile conference, Google’s senior vice president of search, Amit Singhal, said more than 50% of Google’s 100 billion searches originate on mobile devices—plus, he was only referring to screens smaller than six inches. That’s a lot of traffic to leave on the table if your site isn’t mobile friendly.

3. Inbound Marketing Strategy is Must

If social media and inbound marketing are part of your marketing strategy, you’re wasting your time without a mobile website. 71% of social media access happens on mobile devices. So what happens when you tweet out your awesome new content? Your page won’t load, your readers get ticked, and your visitors bounce without ever reading that blog post you crafted so carefully.

4. The Need for Speed…Loading Speed

Speed is key to customer satisfaction. Web surfers don’t have much patience. If your site doesn’t fully load in 3 seconds, they’ll move on and you’ll lose business. Or worse, you’ll lose that coveted customer loyalty.

Pro-tip: Check your mobile speed here.

5. Dominate Local Search

More than 90% of smartphone users use their mobiles to find local businesses. What’s more, people who use their phones to search are likely to act on that information within 24 hours. Mobile presence puts your business in front of people who are looking for answers on the way to buy. It’s point-of-sale web. When customers are in a buying mood, you need to be accessible.

Let’s Get Ready to Go Mobile in 2016

Mobile presence is crucial for any growing business, whether B2B or B2C. The most popular activities on mobile devices include social media and opening email. Isn’t that where most of your customer reach is centered?

How you go mobile matters. There are multiple design options and each has strengths and weaknesses. You can read all about your options (plus common mistakes) in this comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

No matter how you choose to implement your mobile site, it should be optimized for usability, speed, and SEO. To truly engage your audience, you need to go where they are—on their mobile devices.

Becoming mobile ready may seem like a big step, but with the growing dominance of mobile search and commerce, it’s the best way to move forward with a strategic marketing plan in 2016. Choosing a responsive mobile web design prepares your business for the future. No matter what screen size or screen configuration comes with the next big thing, your site will respond and you won’t have to scramble to update or revamp. A worthwhile investment now can make a huge impact on your bottom line now and for the foreseeable future. It’s time to go mobile!

 

Hybrid Responsive Website Design: Right for Your SMB?

Responsive web design

We’ve heard a lot of marketing companies suggest hybrid responsive website design (HRWD) lately. After all, going mobile friendly is now a must, so many business owners are figuring out the best way to go mobile. A hybrid design takes the best of both responsive website design (RWD) and adaptive website design (AWD) components, resulting in a user-specific experience tailored to exact devices resulting in specific goal-oriented outcomes.

Sounds great, right? It is. But while HRWD might be the “optimum tech solution,” the complexity, costs, and maintenance time required make it less than ideal for most everyday businesses. If your marketing company suggests this option, be sure they’re strategic about the build process and the configuration of ALL your website design components—and not just looking to stick you with a huge bill.

Note: Google recommends responsive website design (RWD), and so do we.
 

The Basics

Hybrid responsive website design is created with a dual approach: it marries responsive web design’s ability to flexibly adjust to the user’s device with server-side adaptive web design techniques to adjust how the content is displayed, based on user needs.

 

The Pros:

  • Each user experience is tailored to a specific user outcome, so your website will automatically deliver content and layout tailored to each user.
  • Like responsive design, responsive hybrid design uses a single URL for every device. This is important to your search engine ranking and your site’s accessibility to mobile users. You won’t be penalized for duplicate content or pages, and your users will have a much better experience with your site from any device.
  • Your customers will have no trouble finding what they are looking for, even when they switch from a smartphone to a desktop, and they’ll be able to recommend something on your site to friends, who will be able to then easily find the same page or button.

 

The Cons:

  • Building a hybrid responsive code is time-consuming and requires uniquely skilled website developers, which means development comes with a hefty price tag.
  • Responsive web design (RWD) is configured mostly on the front-end (i.e. CSS), while mobile-specific, adaptive and hybrid responsive design options require server-side configurations. This means a lot of set up and a lot of maintenance over time.
  • Hybrid responsive design requires a complex device detection process to decide what version of your webpage is delivered to each device. Because tons of new devices with different screens sizes are introduced each year, it’s essential to update your detection algorithm regularly. Again, more maintenance to worry about.

 
Hybrid responsive website design (HRWD) is a major undertaking—the most complicated of mobile-friendly website options. You’ll need a trusted web developer very well-versed in the complexities of hybrid coding, plus the time and money to make it happen. In many cases, it’s overkill for a small- or medium-sized business.

The real question is: Is it worth the extra time, cost, and maintenance hassle?

The trend today—and moving forward—is all about user experience, and ensuring ALL parts of your website are visible, accessible, and fast. Your best bet is to ensure every screen experience is the best you can deliver…within your budget.

related-resources_01

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly