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One agency’s secret to designing memorable homepages

Emily Belden's Layout avatar

People have been saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” for as long as I can remember. But in today’s digital world, does that same rule apply to a website’s homepage?

The first thing you see after you punch in a URL and hit “Go” matters more than ever. It needs to speak to both the customer and to the trends of today. For the customer, is it designed in a way that will appeal to them? Is information easy to find and digest? It is important a site appeals to your visitor because that’s the way they know they are in the right place. To help incite action, you want the information presented to users to feel like it was created exclusively for them.

designing-memorable-homepage-experience Photo credit #WOCinTech Chat

As far as if the page is up to the times, you have to ask yourselves things like: does it require plugins or browsers that most people don’t have?  Is the page responsive to the type of technology that’s accessing it (phone, tablet, etc.)? If a user is attempting to engage with your site on their mobile device but can’t expand a menu or see the full navigation, they’ll abandon the page.

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with designing a homepage and it all boils down to whether visitors remember it for being sleek and easy to use or just the opposite – a clunky mess. Here are some top tips for creating a stand-out homepage design from one of San Diego’s top branding agencies, Grizzly.

Identify key goals the user should achieve

The user experience is as important as nailing the aesthetic, so it’s important to work through the UX process with content and interaction in mind. As all modern designers know, the success of great digital work rests in the ability to tell a story that the user can connect and engage with swiftly and easily.

“We make sure to craft an experience that tells a story and is delightful to engage with,” – Greg Gibson, Partner and Creative Director at Grizzly

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Explore your creativity

This is the fun part – and also the hardest. After the discovery and UX phase, you should spend time exploring several stylistic themes or creative concepts that relate back to the brand’s story. In addition to just what the home page looks like, these themes will also serve as the foundation for the entire site. That being said, “Be sure to work with the client to define an art direction that resonates,” Gibson advises. Otherwise, you may find yourself wasting time on revisions that could have been avoided.

Address the four Cs

Finally, the Grizzly team always keeps in mind these four components to creating memorable homepage content:

  • Complexity – What is the depth of information/interaction?
  • Content – What tools are you using to tell the story?
  • Character – How does it look/feel?
  • Context – Where does it live?

As you sit down to begin your homepage design, are you able to answer those four questions? If not, there is more preparation to be done. Think about the questions and talk to your client until you feel comfortable and confident answering those bullet points.

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Strive for story-driven design

“Our home page design process depends on the goals and nature of the project/organization, but is always story-driven,” – Gibson, Partner and Creative Director at Grizzly.

So what does that mean and how do you uncover the story? Consider setting up a workshop that helps uncover the narrative the client wants to deliver through your design. A one to three hour meeting that is fun, lively, and engaging will help you identify brand pillars that should manifest into spot-on homepage design.

Sample questions to ask your clients

Need a little more information from your clients? These questions will help you get to the bottom of the story your clients really need to tell. Before you begin, here are a few tips for your meeting with the client(s):

  • Make sure you collaborate with at least three to five stakeholders
  • Set the expectation before handing out the survey (how many questions you’ll be asking, about how long it will take, what you expect for answers – paragraphs, bullets, etc.)
  • Ask for them to work on answers and reply separately
  • Compile all answers on one sheet and provide a digest to the team so they can see what their colleagues have to say. Make sure it’s easy to see where one person’s answer stops and another’s begins.

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Start with a background of the company. Here, you should learn about the founders, initial launch, and everything major that has lead up to the meeting.

Find out the company’s mission. Have them avoid regurgitating an existing mission statement and instead speak from the heart. Pin the answers down to only one cohesive message.

Ask about their goals as a company. Limit responders’ answers to their top three goals and how they plan to measure them.

Have them explain their products and services. Tell them to keep it super simple, like they’re explaining it a child in grade school.

Make them tell you all about their ideal customer. This will key you into their target demographics.

Find out the story of how customers currently interact with their product. Listening to their point of view will help you acknowledge opportunities for better UX.

Engage with them about their sales strategy. Find out how they are currently selling or what their sales cycle looks like.

Chat about their competitors. Then try to visit their websites, order their products, or go to their stores to experience the competition for yourself.

Inquire about trends. Find out what they feel is a changing trend that’s affecting their industry or business – and how they are staying ahead of it.

Learn what they do better than anyone else. This is also known as their competitive advantage.

Then, throw in some fun questions, such as: if your company were a car/place/person…who would it be?

“Creating a memorable homepage boils down to telling a great story. ” What are some of the more memorable homepages you have seen?

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