Google, home page to the world, can teach you a lot about how to make the home page of your website more attractive to both readers and search engines.
Home Page to the World
The world’s most visited home page is also one of the simplest. However, don’t let that familiar, simple-looking web design fool you; there is more going on than what can be seen on the surface. Google is an expert at using the bare minimum … for maximum impact. In this article, we will use Google as an example of how to build a home page that helps you and your website visitors.
Less Clutter, More Impact
By adding in only what’s necessary, you eliminate the clutter that typically diverts visitors away from the main content. As a result, you create a web page where no one could possibly be confused in any instance. When visiting your home page, people want to grab the information they need and move on because what they need from the site is almost always beyond the home page.
Because your average website visitor will spend only a few seconds on your web page, you need to make every second count. The truth is, every single element on your web page affects function of your website. The more elements a page contains, the less impact each element has.
Mirror, Mirror … A Look at Your Home Page
Look and your home page and what do you see? Where is the first place your eye goes to? Are there so many images or so much text that you don’t know where to look or click first? These are tough yet critical questions you have to ask of yourself. In order to have a home page that is as effective and powerful as possible, you first need to be able to look at it through the eyes of a first time visitor. Be honest, be critical … your answers, no matter how tough, will help you in the end.
What Google Is Great At:
1. Communicating a concise message.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. The main function has been and always will be search, and that is immediately evident on their home page. The other options offered by Google, from search to mail to Google+, are clearly and simply listed on top and bottom headers.
To help you figure out what your concise message needs to be, consider this: as quickly and cleverly as possible, your home page needs to answer the four questions the visitor has in their head when they enter a new site for the first time. These questions are:
What is the website about?
What do they offer?
What can I do here?
Am I in the correct place?
If those questions are not answered for your website visitor within the first few seconds, people will get frustrated, hit the back button and leave your website for good.
2. Integrating social media.
Google easily allows you to share content and connect with Google Plus. The design of this social media aspect of Google fits very well with the classic streamlined Google look and helps to draw more attention to the content that users are sharing.
Here are the top features of Google+:
Circles – With Circles, Google proves beyond a doubt that it wants to work like people think: In real life we divide the people we know into special groups. For example, we have relatives, friends, close friends, colleagues, classmates etc. And with each group of people we behave, talk and act in special, quite different way. The same way we want it to be on the Web, right? Well, with Circles, yes. Instead of grouping everyone together as your “friend,” you can create different circles for the different types of people in your life.
Hangouts – Remember chatrooms? Ah yes, the old-school chat room gets an update via Google’s Hangouts. Send a broadcast to your friends that you’re online and ready to chat face to face, and your pals can drop by your “hangout” to video chat with you.
Sparks — Once you get Sparks up and running, it acts like your very own cognitive personal assistant. It knows exactly what you want and delivers it to you whenever you want it so you never get bored. All you need to do is designate your interests in Sparks, and Google+ will collect articles, videos, and photos of the things you love from around the web to read when you’re free (like an RSS reader). You can even share these items with specific circles of friends instead of all of your friends.
How To Integrate Social Media On Your Home page
Now, this might seem like an unfair comparison, after all, Google has its VERY OWN social networking outlet to fall back upon. The rest of us, however, have to depend upon external social media outlets, including but not limited to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Pinterest, and, naturally, Google+.
However, if you look at how Google brings together all of the best features of the top social media outlets into Google+, you can easily see all the options available to you, and then decide which aspects and options you want to incorporate into your own home page. There are literally hundreds of free social-media plugins you can easily download and integrate onto your home page that will highlight any social media icon you actively participate in.
3. A call to action.
Google’s call to action is pretty easy an obvious: the Google Search button. However, do you know what the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button is all about? Ordinarily when you type in a key phrase in a Google search, you press the search button, and Google returns a results page that shows multiple Web sites matching your search phrase.
The I’m Feeling Lucky button skips the search results page and goes directly to the first ranked page for that search phrase. For regular Googlers or people just wanting the top search result from a specific query, I’m Feeling Lucky button meets their needs by saving them a few extra seconds parsing through the list of search results.
Your home page needs to have a clear call to action in order to take the next step in the conversion process. There are several obvious steps that can be taken including: request a quote, view our work and a phone number.
What does stickiness mean? Give your website visitors a reason to keep coming back for more. You’d think with just their name serving as the page’s only real image and content, Google might not have anything that would be ‘sticky.’ But then again, that’s why they are Google: the company is always pushing the boundaries of what is possible online.
So how to make a site interesting and dynamic enough to get people to return on a regular basis? Introduce Google Doodles. These often playful illustrations regularly transform Google’s home page to mark things like notable holidays and anniversaries, famous birthdays and notable discoveries and inventions – everything from Halloween to the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to the launch of the Hubble telescope.
Stickiness Can Be Contagious
The Doodles make opening Google’s home page a little like unwrapping a present, there may be a surprise inside. But while the Doodles have become an online art extravaganza, the company makes sure to keep their brand identity consistent, first and foremost.
“The first rule is leave the company identity alone, keep it consistent,” Dennis Hwang, one of the earliest Google workers, said. “You look at Coca-Cola or McDonalds or Starbucks, anywhere in the world, and the symbols you see are very consistent.”
So yes, it is okay for you to have fun with your company branding and logo – or other aspects of your business or industry- just not at the sacrifice of your overall company image. This might take some trial and error, but the great thing about the Internet is that you can make something go away immediately after you make it appear. Post the wrong hours for a special promotion? Wrote too long a headline? No problem, you can easily and instantly fix it. You can’t do that with print!
So as you tweak and experiment with perfecting your home page to make both humans and search engines happy, don’t be afraid to take a few risks. It’s better than doing nothing at all.