CX Insights

Top 10 Guidelines for Designing Better Landing Pages

9 min read

The current shift of focus away from the usability of a website towards its user experience can be quite challenging. Especially for those generations that were usability experts long before the emotional impact of the Internet was even an issue. Now Usability has become a commodity. Does that mean it’s less important? It certainly does not. We just have to learn to go a step further and make our websites functional, usable, and pleasurable.

Jakob Nielsen is one of the leading experts when it comes to usability. Over the years he has conducted countless studies, written very useful books, and contributed quite some knowledge to the world about how to make a website usable. However, he has not yet taken that extra step towards a great user experience.

The homepage is the most important page on most websites, and gets more page views than any other page.

According to Nielsen is a company’s homepage the “face to the world and the starting point for most user visits.” Reason enough to make the best of it, I think. In this article I’d like to take a look at Nielsen’s Top 10 Guidelines for Homepage Usability and how we can make pleasurable landing pages, without paying the price of good usability.

Make the Site’s Purpose Clear: Explain Who You Are and What You Do

Nielsen’s first concern regarding the usability of your homepage is that people understand the purpose of your site. This is certainly important as people come to your site with a goal and it’s quite rude if you don’t do your best to help them. So good usability includes that you answer your visitors questions and meet the expectations they have regarding their goals.

Now you can either leave it at that, or you take it a step further and exceed their expectations. This is where the user experience comes into the picture. People won’t notice good usability, but they will notice and remember you by the emotional impact you have on them.

1. Include a One-Sentence Tagline

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A tagline on your site is a great way to summarize what your company does. Make sure you offer that tagline and inform your visitors about your site’s purpose. Then take that extra step and think about how you can present your tagline to add additional value for yourself and your visitors.

For example, Testflight inform their visitors that they can help them to build better apps. At the same time they use carefully chosen words and appealing visuals to make their tagline alive and their product desirable.

2. Write a Window Title with Good Visibility in Search Engines and Bookmark Lists

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The TITLE tag of your site is of course important for search engines and helps people to find your site at the first place. At the same time, it makes your site more personal and user centered if you directly address your visitors. Most people won’t notice your title, certainly not if it’s just a stringing together of keywords, but they will appreciate it if you design it for them.

3. Group all Corporate Information in One Distinct Area

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At one point or another, when visitors are on your site, they will want to know who you are. It might not be their first priority, but they’ll get there. When they do, make sure you offer appropriate information about yourself and your company. This way you not only meet your visitor’s expectations, you can also build trust and create a bond with them. You can include an “About Us” link somewhere on your site, but additionally you can also add a more prominent “About” section.

The designer Michael Western dedicates a defined section on his hompegae to his introduction. He presents himself in a very personal, humorous and likable way, forming a great base for potential customers to trust and eventually hire him.

Help Users Find What They Need

As I mentioned before, people who visit your website are more than likely to have a specific goal in mind. Your task is it to help them reach that goal as quickly and easily as possible. Basically, you can do that by offering just enough textual information and relevant links to answer all questions. You can also think about how you can present your information in a more visual, more appealing, and more engaging way. Make it fun for people to find answers, make it exciting and pleasurable for them to reach their goals on your site.

4. Emphasize the Site’s Top High-Priority Tasks

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Nielsen suggests that the homepage should offer visitors a “clear starting point for the main one to four tasks” they’ll undertake when visiting a site. So this is important. You need to tell your visitors what they are to expect. This can be various things and you might offer to do them together with your visitors or leave them to themselves. Again, you can just list information, or you can think about ways draw people in, make them curious, and engage them in your offers.

For example, the designer Aleks Faure takes his visitors by the hand and guides them step by step through his work. He carefully explains how he approaches a project and also how he involves his clients in the process. The sketched visuals highlight the personal relationship that customers can expect when hiring Aleks.

5. Include a Search Input Box

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I totally agree with Nielsen on this point. A search option makes a website usable, even if the rest of the site is so unusable that we don’t know where to look for certain information.

Google is a great example for this. You might argue that “they are a search engine and therefore better have a search field”, and of course you are right. Their main focus lies on that one prominent search field in the very center of the site. For quite some time now Google is considered a trendsetter when it comes to minimalistic design and the generous use of white space. But then, just a little while ago, they introduced customizable background images. And by doing so, they didn’t take away the usability of this one crucial search field, they added a personal experience to their site.

Reveal Site Content

We are humans and as that we are extremely curious by nature. On the web, this doesn’t change. As a consequence, when visiting a website, preferably we want to see everything that’s there at a glance. Of course that’s not possible, especially if you are a big company with lot’s of information to share. But there are certain things you can do to meet usability standards and at the same create a great user experience.

6. Show Examples of Real Site Content

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A great way to explain to people what you do and what they can expect is to show them what you have done in the past. Let your visitors decide for themselves if they like your work or service and if you are what they were looking for. A portfolio with previous projects, such as a gallery can be very convincing.

The creative agency Knock Knock Factory show an excerpt of their previous projects on their homepage. The way they present their work looks very clean and professional and conveys a feeling of trust and expertise. They inform and at the same time they appeal to their visitors’ emotions.

7. Begin Link Names with the Most Important Keyword

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Just like we are curious, we are very impatient. Especially when looking for something specific, we like to just jump to the most relevant link on the site. Make it easy for your visitors to scan your homepage and quickly find relevant content. Instead of just using text links, try to be more creative. You should focus on both the visual design of your relevant links and the link copy.

Spigotdesign offer different services on their site. They use nicely designed buttons for their main service categories. There are three reasons, why these buttons work to attract attention. First of all, their colors really stand out on the otherwise clean and colorless design. Second, their position is very prominent. Third, the text is short and precise and the chosen font is very clear and readable. These links are not only easy to find, they also make the visitor curious of the content they link to.

8. Offer Easy Access to Recent Homepage Features

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Some websites pretty much stay the same over years. Others live from constantly changing content. Sometimes this can be a challenge for the usability of a website. Users expect to find information at the same spot every time they visit a site. If your website includes content that changes frequently, think of ways to explain these changes to your users or offer them alternatives, such as direct access to content that has been moved.

Blogs are a common example of this. You have probably experienced this yourself. You read a nice article somewhere on a blog and a while later you can’t find it anymore. It’s gone. It has been pushed to the next page by more recent content. The Next Web offers a whole section on their homepage with categories that people can easily scan through. They not only offer the latest articles, but also the most commented and most recent once. This tells me as a user that they really care for me and want me to find their best content.

9. Don’t Over-Format Critical Content, Such as Navigation Areas

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Nielsen suggests that graphics might be easily mistaken as ads and take away the impression of usefulness. At this point I disagree. Surely you shouldn’t go over the top with visuals and graphics if it’s not appropriate. However, if used well, I think visual design can do just the opposite: support the usability of critical content.

For example, indubitablee uses many different design elements in the header; different fonts, different font colors, icons, and a button. The way these different elements are designed doesn’t cause confusion though, it creates a unity. Despite the diversity, there is a common style that keeps the header clean and easy to capture. The sketched icons even create a sense of familiarity.

10. Use Meaningful Graphics

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Nielsen suggests that images can be powerful communicators. This is very true. Even more so, images can carry emotions and trigger our memories.

The design agency webdesign be welcomes their visitors with a big, friendly looking octopus. This illustration isn’t very useful at first glance, but really it is. First of all, it makes the site owners very likable. I mean hey, who would put an octopus on their landing page if not really humorous and creative people, right? Second, the octopus looks very professional and gives an instant preview of the quality to expect.

Sabina Idler
Sabina was technical writer & UXer @Usabilla for 5 years before she started her own UX research and consultancy firm; UXkids. With UXkids, Sabina leverages her academic research expertise, know how in child development, and strategic vision to help companies build successful digital products for children. You can connect with Sabina on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.