Fifteen seconds isn’t a lot of time.
You can’t do very much in 15 seconds.
And yet according to the CEO of data analytics company Chartbeat (who count Time.com as one of their clients), your website has less than 15 seconds to convince a visitor you’re a website worth staying on.
You haven’t got time to mess around.
Not only does your website need to tell them what you do, but you also need to convince them to stay longer, to go deeper into your site.
Sounds like a lot of hard work, right?
And it’s up to the top half of your Home page – that’s like the shop window of your site – to do all the work.
Cut your home page in half
When you fold a sheet of A4 paper in half, you get two parts, with the crease as the fold.
Now think of your website Home page as a sheet of paper folded into two halves. When people arrive on your website, they expect the top half of your Home page to tell them what they need to know about your business. (The technical term for the top half of your Home page is known as Above the Fold).
Visitors needing more information may start scrolling further down your Home page, going Below the Fold.
Since Above the Fold is the first main screen anyone will see, it needs to contain the most important info about your business:
- Who the website is for (use their name; and show a photo)
- What the website/business helps with
- What the visitor can do on your site (e.g. Join a mailing list, watch a video, demo your product)
- What the visitor should do next after reading your Home page (e.g. Where to visit next)
It isn’t necessary to communicate all this using copy.
But it is important to get all of it in there, by using your main headline and opening paragraphs.
Anything else – e.g. links to a store, blog post highlights, your About page – can still appear on your Home page.
But unless you can fit them Above the Fold, chances are they’d be Below the Fold.
And Below the Fold, by the way, isn’t some no man’s land that no one will read.
Visitors may still scroll here, but it’s important that Above the Fold be as free of clutter as possible.
You seriously cannot waste this space
Unfortunately, many solo businesses I’ve seen squander their Home page.
They’ll greet you with “Welcome to our website” as the opening headline, then fill the space with a slideshow of photos.
Worse still, the company may start talking about themselves and how great their products are, completely forgetting that a website is not a sales presentation.
And before you know it, your web visitor’s 15 seconds are up, they’ve hit the back button and they’re gone.
Not just a sales assistant
To best illustrate what Above the Fold looks like, I’m going to take you through the Home pages of 4 websites run by solo entrepreneurs who work in the events-related field. Together, you’ll see just how important not wasting your Home page is.
I’ll be assessing each website on 4 criteria:
- If their opening headline connects with the reader
- What the Home page does to capture leads
- If the Home page motivates you to explore the site
- If the website is visitor-centred
I’ll be scoring each site out of 4, based on how successful their Above the Fold is.
# # #
Allaboutcool.com helps families stay cool outside, by providing them with info on kit such as fans and air conditioners.
Problem is, the website fails to say any of this in their opening headline and you’re left to guess from the photos in the sidebar.
“A stronger headline like “Outdoor Cooling Systems – Help Your Family Feel Comfortable in the Heat” would’ve cleared up any questions straight away.
Should the reader want to explore more, they can use Google search in the sidebar or scroll below the fold. Unfortunately, the photos in the sidebar are not clickable, nor are their captions. There’s also no About page, mailing list sign up or videos of the products talked about.
Above the Fold Success: 2 out of 4.
# # #
Aurora Multimedia provides audio visual equipment, for clients such as event spaces and schools.
But given the technical language of the main headline (what is projection mapping?), I’d say it’s more for clients who are already familiar with the technology.
If the business is catering to schools, shops and salons, then this Home page is an immediate fail, because there’s nothing here that relates to those groups.
Even the photos are a fail, as they’re stock photos. The photos also rotate in a slideshow that moves too fast.
The Home page copy also talks in the “we” – we do this, we do that. This is a “talking at the customer” approach, which is also not very friendly or personal.
Other than links to deeper pages further down, there’s nothing else to do on the Home page. No blog to read, no mailing list to join. There’s a sense of no one being home with this site.
Above the Fold Success: 1 out of 4.
# # #
This company has decided to use their Home page as a book cover to the main site.
To enter the actual site, you need to click “Enter site”.
The problem with this Home page is the assumption that their main headline, “total travel management solutions”, is intriguing enough to persuade visitors to visit inside.
A different opening headline might’ve done a better job, e.g. “Providing stressed out corporate clients with high quality travel planning”. That way, you’d immediately know who it was for and what they did.
First impressions count on any website. And this company gives the impression of being very self-important.
The page also runs on Flash. So if you don’t have Flash on your computer, you can’t open the website.
Once you do enter the site, you can see from the sidebar what this company does, e.g. Meetings, conferences, corporate golf.
But there’s no reason why they couldn’t have said all that on the Home page.
Above the Fold Success: 0 out of 4.
# # #
I Love Delray Beach
This website is clearly all about Delray Beach and why your family should take their next vacation there.
The header photos, main photo, and web template colors all work together to evoke beach, blue skies and happy times.
And straight away, you can dive into the site, by signing up to their newsletter; browsing their social media buttons; or using the site’s Google search. The left sidebar lists the main pages you can start browsing.
Above the Fold Success: 4 out of 4.
# # #
When your website has less than 15 seconds to capture the attention of passing web visitors, it hasn’t got time to be silly, self-important, or clueless.
And your Home page needs to carry the load. It’s not just the sales assistant for your site, it’s also your ambassador. It will make or break your web presence.
If your Home page does feel a bit on the unsure side, make sure it hits the four criteria outlined above. Just helping visitors understand where they are can make all the difference.
Research: Tony Haile, CEO Chartbeat
Top image: DarkB4Dawn