People Do Judge Websites by Their Front Pages
"Drive thy business lest thy business drive thee."
I remember how illuminating the experience was to me when I
first started with the Internet and grew along with it. While
6 years ago the source of my business was 90% offline and 10%
online, today that figure has literally flip-flopped.
However, I must admit that I learned faster and much more
easily what I needed to do in order to profit on the Internet
than what I had to learn in order to profit outside of it.
The Internet is a phenomenal place for resources, tools and
information that can help quicken the entrepreneurial learning
curve, which can be dramatically slow for many new businesses
in today's hypercompetitive world. It is important to realize,
though, that the web, as in all things, has important elements
one can never ignore. One of them is the human element.
While cyberspace is cold, emotionless and mostly run by robots
or "bots" (i.e., software), it is still managed -- and visited
-- by people ... Yes, people! (Can you believe it?) And when
designing a website, the human element is often the first to
be ignored. Of course, it's easy to do so because the web is
the most automated medium there is, but an online business is
run by the same forces that shape an offline business:
End-users. People. Human beings.
When creating or marketing a website, one must remember the
important human element. Why? Because a site -- and especially
any online marketing message -- is easily filtered (both
literally and figuratively). Unlike that annoying commercial
on TV forced upon us in the middle of our favorite show, one
can easily click-away from a site at the drop of a hat.
People, offline or on, will jump to conclusions no matter
what. People do judge "books by their covers" (or in this case
a website by its front page). Consequently, if that first page
fails, then the entire site fails altogether. Of course, this
is not entirely true all of the time, but the risk of failure
is greater if that important first page doesn't perform.
A successful website is an extremely effective sales tool
since it has the ability to gain the attention of a captive
audience and become quite profitable for some who follow the
basic rules. And it all starts with the first page. So here
are some basic rules to follow when designing it:
- FOCUS ON YOUR NICHE AND TARGET YOUR AUDIENCE
Target your market! As the adage goes, "You can not be everything to everyone." You can, however, position your site effectively to meet the needs of a specific group.
It's a paradox but you will indeed get more with less. This
means understanding who your customers (and visitors) are
and what motivates their buying decisions. Therefore, do
your homework. Know your customer. Focus like a laser on
your niche and, consequently, your site will "burn" into
Websites centered on a very narrow theme or idea will create
visitors of greater interest, and especially leads that are
much more pre-qualified and apt to buy. Look at it this way:
When you narrow down your message and focus on a niche,
visitors will be 50% sold the minute they hit your site's
first page. Then, it is up to your content (your copy,
offer, and call-to-action) to take them through the
When focusing on a niche, the content of your site's first
page will be far more credible than the see-through puffery
of one's own blatant promotional message. Additionally, if
you cater to a particular audience, it will then be easier
for your first page to lead visitors to a successful
- HAVE AN OBJECTIVE IN MIND AND BE SIMPLE
Answer this skill-testing question: "What exactly do you want your visitors to do?" Simple, isn't it? But it doesn't seem that way with the many sites I've visited. An effective site starts with smart planning and it must have a clear objective that will lead to a specific action or outcome. If your site is not meant to, say, sell a product, gain a customer or obtain an inquiry for more information, then what must it do?
Work around the answer as specifically as possible.
Don't be vague. Be specific. Is your site meant to be like a
resume or billboard that only advertises the fact that you
are "open for business"? It shouldn't, unless you are
intimately involved with that specific medium (i.e., you are
a designer or host, or in other words your site *is* the
If not, is it to generate qualified leads? Is it to sell a
particular product? Are you trying to persuade your visitors
to switch from another company to you? Do you want them to
call you on the phone for more information? Are you trying
to have them subscribe to some program? You get the picture.
- COMMUNICATE AS CLEARLY AND CONCISELY AS POSSIBLE
When you are in the process of buying a book, for instance,
the one thing that has attracted you is the cover (if you're
not aware of the author beforehand, and even then the cover
plays a key role). If the adage, "Don't judge books by their covers," exists, it is because we as humans have the natural
inclination to do so. In fact, newspapers capitalize on that
intrinsic human behavior, which is why front page headlines
and news articles are always carefully selected.
Therefore, the front page of your site is "the cover of your book," so to speak. It should entice readers to surf further into the site and not lead them to take action right then and there (unless your site is a single, long copy page).
If it's multiple pages, then keep your front page copy short
and to the point, allowing the reader to quickly understand
what's in it for them. Use bold, attention-grabbing
headlines and subheadlines (even surheadlines) to emphasize
the major theme and the core benefit that your site offers.
In fact, list the benefits. Why should a visitor surf your
site? What's in it for her? In other words, focus on the
visitor and communicate the reasons why she should browse
further. Therefore, your website's first page should focus
on the benefits of visiting your site and not its features.
Nevertheless, remember that, in marketing, the package is also
just as important than the contents. In fact, the package is
part of the "whole product." Similarly, your front page is
part of your website's package. Once you make your visitors
pass through that all-important first page hurdle, then
persuading them to take action later on should be a cinch.
About the Editor
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. See SuccessDoctor.com/ for more.
Magnetize your online business with practical ideas, tools and
strategies anyone can use to dramatically transform a mediocre
online presence into an unforgettable -- and highly profitable
-- one. See SuccessDoctor.com/pp/ for more information.
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