Every founder’s favorite project is redesigning their home page. It’s the introduction of your company, brand, mission, and hopes and dreams to all of your customers. At least, you think it is. When you analyze your actual business, you might find the majority of new customers don’t actually start on your home page. If you’re doing paid acquisition, they might land on specific landing pages designed for those ads. If you’re growing via social traffic or SEO, most people are landing on specific pieces of content. The typical growth team’s response to this urge is that the home page is not a high priority, and that they should work on landing pages or content pages This is correct. But the home page for some businesses is still a major source of traffic. You have to learn what type of traffic that is in order for a redesign of it not be a complete waste of time. I’ll talk about what those types of traffic are, how to identify them, and what types of designs you might pursue based on your mix of traffic.
Traffic Type #1: People who want to login
On sites with a lot of engagement, a lot of the traffic to a home page is from people who are already customers and want to login. In this case, your goal is to just make logging iin as easily as possible or auto-log them in via something like Google Smart Lock. Better yet, if you can make sure you never logout your customers, then they never see this page and get right back into the product. Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr are good examples of this.
While Facebook has sign up front and center, it has a top navigation bar for login, and that is where the cursor begins.
Pinterest has a unified sign up and login field with a friendly call to action that just says continue. It also has a dedicated Login button for those searching for it.
Tumblr has a login button front and center equal to the signup button.
The metric when you are optimizing for logins is login conversion rate. This may be harder to calculate than you think. Let’s do an example. Let’s say you have 10,000 people visit your home page. 2,000 login. Let’s say another 500 sign up on this page. Your login conversion rate is 2,000 / (10,000 – 500) = ~21%. You don’t actually know if the remaining 7,500 who did not login or sign up were there to sign up or login. If you have cookie data, you can check to see if they had ever logged in, and that may give a clue on how to segment them. If you don’t have that data, you assume they were there to login. If at all possible, you should never log people out. The best way to help them login is to keep them logged in. Tools like Google SmartLock are also effective.
Traffic Type #2: People who want to sign up
Someone coming to your home page directly is not doing so because they randomly type it into a browser. They already have some context. A friend told them about it, they read an article about, or something similar. Many of those people are already convinced and want to sign up, and the job of the home page is to get out of their way and make that as easy as possible. Generally, sites do this by putting a sign up form front and center, and making that form really easy to fill out. You can see how Facebook and Pinterest do this really well. If you look at the images above, Facebook’s signup formis right aligned, and Pinterest’s is front and center. There isn’t much to distract you from signing up.
The metric when you are optimizing for signups is signup conversion rate. It is similar to login conversion rate, just with signup as the numerator instead of logins, and logins are subtracted by the numerator. Given the same number from above, your signup conversion rate is 500 / (10,000 – 2,000) = ~6%. You still don’t actually know if the remaining 7,500 who did not login or sign up were there to sign up or login. So, to be conservative, you assume they were there to sign up.
Traffic Type #3: People who want to learn more
There can be a wide discrepancy between the people who come to your home page directly, and are not existing users. Some may want to sign up quickly like above, but others just want to learn more. Preferably, they would not like to have to give you their information before they understand if the site is for them. The ideal scenario for these these users is to see a free preview. If personal information is required to show a convincing product, then the home page sells the value instead of shows it, or asks for filtering criteria without asking for personal information. Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook all address this type of user in different ways. Facebook, as seen in the example above, left aligns the explanation of Facebook on the page. Pinterest and Tumblr create a separate call to action to learn more that triggers a dedicated “learn more” experience. Pinterst has a red call out with a How It Works button, and Tumblr has a clickable green bar at the bottom of the page asking “What is Tumblr?”. Both clicks result in scrolling explanations of what you can use these products for.
Traffic Type #4: People who are skeptical
There is a fourth type of new user that visits your home page. This is the person who heard about it, but is very skeptical. The best way to engage this user is to let them have free usage of the product for as long as possible. You usually encounter these users with very well penetrated products that are reaching the very late majority or laggards. Google is a good example of a site that lets you experience the product value without signing up.
You can see from the above examples that companies try to address multiples of these audiences at the same time on the page. In some cases, based on activity of the page, they will be able to bucket you into one of these groups definitively. Gibson Biddle has a great post on how Netflix evolved their design with regards to these different types of users and these users’ understanding of their brand over time.
As you’re working on your home page, you should first make sure it is the most important page to work. For many sites, their landing pages are where a lot more people get introduced to the product. When you do work on your home page, think about these four audiences, which one you really need to optimize for, and if you easily segment and address the other groups that are not your primary focus. Also, be sure to revisit thes decisions over time as audiences and brand awareness changes.
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