“We must put my stuff on the front page because it’s real important.”

I often get involved in heated debates on what to include on the front page.

When I introduce concepts such as above-the-fold1, the debate often gets even more heated. And if I would weigh in by saying that certain elements aren’t that important, the chances are that someone will get offended. Like, “how dare you pass judgement on the importance of what I do for a living?”

Since this tends to be a tricky situation, to say the least, I want to give you some easy-to-follow mindsets and examples to help you get prevent all your front page items from consuming one another.

Here goes:

It’s Not About “Important”

The key for an efficient front page design is to stop thinking about what to put on the front page regarding what’s “important” and what’s “not important”. Take a look at Google’s front page:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 13.51.16
If Google can keep their front page this clean, so can you.

Now, Google has lots of important products. Google Drive, Google Maps, Google Chrome, Google Earth, Google Trends, Google Adsense, Google Scholar and many, many more. The only service that makes it onto the front page is Gmail (top right corner), but it isn’t exactly prominent. And of course, Google’s also involved in experimental R&D projects such as self-driving cars and bio-hacking.

All these Google products and areas are reasonably important, right? Even still, they don’t make the cut to be highlighted on Google’s most important front page — the Google search page.

The choice of what to put on the front page isn’t related to what’s important or not important. Instead, your front page should be regarded as a point of entry into your brand’s universe.

Strive to show visitors only what they came for. Kill your darlings.

Only if the user goes deeper into your site, only then are you allowed to show them more of your stuff.

“Yes, There are Exceptions” (No. 1)

Yes, there are successful businesses who also have cluttered websites:

Amazon.com might be the prime example, but my favourite got to be lingscars.com and her rather “more-is-more” approach to web design:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 13.27.48
A master class in lunatic web design.

But you still have to ask yourself if this is the right direction for you and your brand? My guess is: No, excess probably isn’t the right direction.

“Yes, There are Exceptions” (No. 2)

Some businesses have made it their business to produce news-driven content en masse, like Mashable. These sites can sustain a front page as full of content as their daily output of content are massive, but these types of stories often has very short “shelf-life”. Therefore, they do well with layouts like this one:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 14.06.31
News sites and blogs often have lots of call-to-actions.

But even news sites are looking at more basic front page layouts. Look for instance at how a front page at Huffington Post looks:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 14.13.08
Huffington Post and other news sites are moving towards cleaner designs.

Or Business Insider UK:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 14.15.00
More and more front pages are getting less cluttered.

The Small Ask

Allow me to use myself as an example: On my front page, I use a feature box, meaning I push my blog post down below the fold to focus on one single CTA (“grab my FREE 28-Day Digital PR Challenge.”) instead:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 14.40.33
A feature box above the fold.

But the 28-day email course isn’t exactly very important to me. Promoting my services is, however, important to me. But I must first earn trust by demonstrating my knowledge. So, I ask for something smaller instead; I ask visitors to try my free 28-day email course. (Small asks are often referred to as lead magnets.)

The psychology behind focusing on smaller asks is rather straightforward as explained by the Engagement Pyramid:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 14.57.06
The 1-9-90 rule of engagement.

By making a small ask (your email address in exchange for something valuable to you) instead of a big ask (invest in hiring me as an advisor), I can capture and nurture trusting relationships over time, slowly moving prospects from 9% to 1%.

Iceberg Publishing

If we look back at the Google example, one could say that they are using multiple front pages. If we look att Google Drive’s “front page”, you can see the same strategy; there are just one message and one CTA (call-to-action) above the fold. It works because it’s crystal clear:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 14.21.55
Google has many front pages instead of just one.

Instead of trying to cram everything into one single front page, your business could utilise multiple high-converting “front pages” instead , a strategy I call Iceberg Publishing — where there are many hidden direct entry pages beneath the site’s surface.

Contrary to popular belief, a landing page isn’t a page where people “land”. A landing page is a single-purpose web page with one CTA only.

More and more conversion experts are arguing that most pages within a website’s structure should, in fact, be landing pages. Landing pages are easy for search engines to drive relevant traffic to and since they’re stripped out of any unnecessary content, they also become very clear by omission. This is a strategy I call Iceberg Publishing, where there are a wealth of pages doing most of the site’s heavy lifting beneath the surface.

What About the Cannibalism?

Imagine a web page with 1,000 visitors per day. The page has only one button for the users to click. The conversion rate for the site is 2% on average. That’s 20 clicks on your button. So, what if you add another button? In a majority of use cases, the conversion rate for the page doesn’t go up — it falls down. Instead of getting 20 clicks on one button, you might find yourself getting ten clicks in total on two buttons. Call-to-actions tend to cannibalise on each other.

This is the paradox of choice. In 1995, Professor Shena Iyengar from Columbia University put up a market stall with different flavours of jam. When she offered twenty-four choices, more people came to the stall. When she only offered six choices, more people converted into paying customers. Our decision-making process is complex, but research have suggested decision fatigue, analysis paralysis, and buyer’s remorse as possible explanations.

If Google can keep their front page clean, so can you.

Photo by Micaela Parente on Unsplash.

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  1. The part of a webpage that is visible without requiring the user to scroll.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Nice post Jerry! I would also add the use of data analytics and continous testing, to verify what should and should not be on any web site’s front page. Perhaps something for a follow up post!

    • “If it plays, it stays.” Great addition to the post and a logical next step for when you’ve made your initial assumptions. Thanks for adding to the post, Peter. Have a great Sunday.

  2. Great post. Got me thinking of Susan Weinchenkt and the small commitment/small ask principle. Her example is like – “If you ask someone your interested in very early on ‘would you marry me’..you’d probably get dumped right away. But if you ask ‘would you like to go on a date with me’, the chance is that stuff will happen.”

    Another thing we talk alot about with our customers is that when we try to get traffic to web sites (organic, paid or whatever way we can get our heads around) often the first page won’t be the visitors first page, it’ll be a blog post or something else.

    Anyways, love your posts!

    • I love the analogy with the wedding proposal! Puts the whole concept of “big ask vs small ask” in perspective! :) Take care and thanks for taking the time to share, Jakob!

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