Krissy Scoufis / Design / February 10th, 2014

Do Your Users Get Past Your Homepage? UX Turns Visitors into Customers

Traditional and digital marketing efforts are critical for getting users to your site. What happens after they land has a lot to do with a solid user experience strategy. No matter how many people get to your site, it doesn’t matter much if they never make it past the homepage.

There’s no hard and fast rule about website bounce rate – the percentage of people who hit your website and then leave before navigating to another page – but if more than 50 percent of visitors are bouncing from your homepage, you may want to take a closer look at what your site is asking visitors to do.

Traditional marketing gets visitors to the site. User experience manages getting users through the site.

During the past decade, user experience professionals have spent a great deal of time researching and defining usable websites. Although the body of research and industry attitudes about the field of User Experience will continue to evolve and change, there are some unifying and guiding principles that make the user’s experience getting through the site as productive and pleasant as possible.

Mapping the customer journey starts with an expectation.  Users will make a snap judgment about your site within seconds of their arrival. This initial opinion they have about your site is largely based on an expectation they have about what your site should be and happens primarily subconsciously. This stems from prior knowledge or experience with your company or a company that is similar. If the initial visual appearance or functionality of your site matches their expectations, the user will most likely be encouraged to stay awhile.

Tip 1: Make sure your marketing efforts, site design and brand match user expectations.

As the user scans the homepage, they are looking for clues about what the site is all about and what they can do here. A well designed logo and tag line will give the user reassurance they have landed in the correct place. This means that your Title Tags and Descriptions should match the content of your landing page, your site should clearly show what it does and it should look like a trustworthy place to do business.

Tip 2: Clarity on your homepage is essential to answering user’s questions about what this site is all about and what they can do here.

Every site has a small number of really important tasks that will deliver a high level of value to both the site visitor and the product owner. Every site also has a handful of less important tasks that are necessary to exist on the site but should not get in the way of the really important things. Defining these tasks is a process we call creating red routes. Borrowed from the London transportation system, red routes describe the process of removing roadblocks from user’s ability to perform critical tasks on a site. Understanding business goals and pairing them with user goals and motivations is the critical first step to creating red routes. After you have identified the critical needs, every aspect of your design should be focused on those needs.

Tip 3: Define red routes to focus design efforts on the most important tasks.

Many design best practices can be used to highlight red routes and prevent users from leaving your site. Visual hierarchy is how humans rank the importance of objects they see. Establishing a clear visual hierarchy allows users to know what the most important thing on the page is, and where they should look next. Size, color and the proximity of one object to another are a few of the ways to create a visual hierarchy.

Tip 4: Use size color and proximity of one object to another to create a visual hierarchy.

People cannot help but notice movement on a web page. Any movement on the page will take the user’s attention away from the really important tasks and can annoy a user who is trying to focus on the content on the page. Too much sensory input will inhibit a user’s ability to pay attention and visual noise takes a lot of brain power to process.

Tip 5: Conserve attention by eliminating unnecessary visual noise.

Powerful calls to action (CTAs) are one of the best ways to encourage a user to do something specific on your site. Your homepage CTA should relate directly to the red route tasks defined earlier. The CTA is usually in the form of a button and should stand out from the other elements on the page. Use highly contrasting colors relative to the background to ensure the user notices the call to action button.  Encourage the user to take action with urgent language using action words.

Tip 6: Create Compelling Calls to Action

Getting and maintaining site visitors attention is a critical first step to a successful website. Using these tips based on design and usability best practices will help your customers efficiently and effectively navigate through the home page and prevent home page abandonment.