To tell you what to do, lets begin with what not to do! Yes, you need to know what is the wrong path to take in the case of the home page for an e-commerce website.
An E-Commerce Site’s Homepage is Not:
- A dumping ground for everything. Too much information about your company – like how you started, then what happened, and so on.
Hot Tip– People want to know what you sell and not too much about who you are and where you were born!
- The homepage is not a product catalog. You need not list each and every product you sell! It will be too much information for the visitors. Also they may feel choked and pushed too hard to make a purchase on the homepage only.
Hot Tip– You should list all your products if you sell like only one or two things! Secondly, give a short and broad list of categories that will take people to the special product pages. Also, feature a discounted or special offer product on the homepage- it grabs attention!Unknown Object
- Your homepage is NOT your newsletter. It must not have full 250 words press releases on it!
Hot Tip– The best idea is to include a teaser paragraph of each article on the homepage, with a link to the web page with the full text. Do not bore people with information they don’t want.
- Do not make it your blog home page! People want interesting content, but they want to see other stuff too.
Hot Tip– Just display the catchy headlines and introductory paragraphs. Let people go on to the blog themselves.
The “don’ts” out of the way, you probably want to know what is good to display on homepage. What should be the content that you must place prominently on your site? For this, you need to do a bit of soul searching. To know what content to write on your site, you need to know what is the purpose of your site. What do you want from your site? The most obvious answer for an e-commerce platform is to get more business, drive more sales. Well, for this, you need to ensure that your site fulfills the following requirements-
- Your site is the complete guide to your business. What you do- who you are and what makes you different.
- It is an authority of sorts on the products you sell- be it through reviews or customer generated content.
- Your website must serve as a good referral point.
Now that we have touched on the site’s essence, lets get to the issue at hand, home page content. Well when you get down to working on it, here are a few key guidelines to keep in mind while you are writing content.
Home Page Content Writing Tips:
Tip 1– Your homepage content should be concise- You need to grab the attention of the users and also tell them the essential stuff. So the key is being short and simple- in order to achieve effective communication. Avoid long sentences and repetitive lines.
Tip 2– Your content must satisfy the query people used to search and come to your site- People have come looking for something to your site and your home page must provide them with that, unless you want people to hit the “Back” button.
Important Snippet– To prevent bounce backs, make sure that you link the referring keywords to the right page. Do not link everything to the home page. It leads to poor user experience.
Tip 3– Your content must represent the entire theme of your site. Is it lively? Serious? Emphatic? Young? The tone of the content has to match your products!
Tip 4– Your home page content must be convincing- Users must be forced to stay and explore more. You are the best in your niche, that is something you have to convince the users for. But again, do not over sell.
For more insights on home page tips- see this video:
Write Who You Are And What You Do?
Your homepage must give an interesting description of what your e-commerce site is about and what it sells or promotes. So, if you have first time visitors, they will know where they are and what they stand to get. Provide a snapshot of who you are and what visitors can do on your site, via the home page content. So your flow could be something like this for a book selling site:
“Books4U is a niche audience business that specializes in selling self help books from top authors around the world. We are a medium sized enterprise, that operates from Victoria, London, and supplies books to our customers across the 7 continents. We have a list of Bestsellers and New Entries from which you can choose and add the books to your cart.”
You must remember to add links to your shopping cart, informational articles, and product lists too.
Tease Your Audience For More:
Your home page must have a snapshot of promising products and information available in the pages inside. You may include a tip of the week, that may be related to a certain product, and take the visitors to that page. The idea is to make your visitors stick to the page and explore further.
You can also feature a bestseller product, with a short description and then link it to its own web page or its place in your “products and services page“, catalog or shopping cart. This will make people curious enough to find out what’s so special about the product that everyone is buying it!
For example, continuing with the book retailer example-
“Want to know who your favorite self help books author is dating? Or why readers have gone wild with the new book by celebrated author- Mr. X?”
Write On What Makes You Different And How Will Shoppers Benefit From You:
Yes, why you and not the hundreds of similar sites? What makes your e-commerce platform so different? You must highlight the features and benefits of the products your site sells and how differently from the others.
People need to be convinced that you indeed are different from the others. For instance, “We are dedicated to bring to your reading table, the best that the literary world has to offer. Buy the latest books that have just entered the market, at reduced early bird prices. As for the really popular books, the old favorites, you can get exclusively autographed copies from our site. These signed copies are few, so book your copy fast!”
This is your big marketing pitch. You have to create content for your e-commerce site’s homepage that is full with your sales pitch. So you can offer discounts like free shipping for one side, or you could harp on your expertise in the business. All of this has one purpose only, to make that sale. Also, assure the users that you have an easy return and exchange policy.
For instance, your words could be:
“Books4U is your best online guide in helping you choose the best self help book that can really make a difference in your life. Our 20 years experience in the field of books, will ensure that you arrive at the book that seems custom made for you. Just add the book to your cart and once you purchase it, we will ship it for free! In case you do not like the book, you can exchange it within 2 weeks, and get your money back. More on our exchange policy here.”
Write What Praises You Have Got From Previous Customers:
You should also always feature a Nothing works like a person to person impact. If you post one line testimonials from ex users, your credibility will soar high among the users. satisfied customer. It’s great if the satisfied customer can send you a picture of himself or herself. This is what you may write-
“See what Mike says about us- ‘Books4U were quite prompt in sending me the book. I feel so much better after reading it.”
Make sure you test your home page on a few people, before it goes live. Show it to people and get their honest opinion. Whether your content works or not, will be pretty clear then. You have to be short and effective as the user attention span is quite low, and you have a few seconds to make impact. Follow these guidelines and you should be good.
The Best WordPress SEO Plugins:
1. All in One SEO Pack –
The effectiveness and popularity of this pack will be evident to you, when you Google WordPress plugin, and this will come right on top. With this plugin you can automatically optimize your WordPress site by generating meta tags. The plug in will make WordPress use by default your blog tagline as your Meta description and keywords. You can easily optimize web page title, post titles, descriptions, URL structures and tags for each post. With the All in one SEO pack, you can customize each post/ update on your site to make sure that their relevance is understood by the search engines. Other features include-
- Automatically optimize your titles for search engines
- Advanced Canonical URLs
- Page Navigational Links Can Be Fine Tuned
2. WordPress SEO – This is another all inclusive SEO plugin, that does the work of 8 plug ins. It includes a snippet preview that lets you optimize your page titles, meta descriptions and keywords. Not to forget the XML sitemaps, and many other things.
Other features include Google analytics, breadcrumbs, building the canonical tag etc. Here is a list of its features:
- Post titles and meta descriptions
- Robots Meta configuration
- Permalink clean up
- XML Sitemaps
- RSS enhancements
- Edit your robots.txt and .htaccess
- Clean up head section
3. Scribe SEO – Scribe SEO is a paid plug-in that analyzes your post for keyword focus, gives you information about it and suggests improvements from an SEO perspective.
Here are some of the essential features.
- Optimize content faster
- Choose great keywords
- Preserve reader engagement
- Build quality links
4. Google XML Sitemaps– This WordPress plugin generates an XML sitemap so that the search engine spiders can crawl and index your WordPress site better. The XML Sitemaps give a clear view of your site’s structure to the search engines. Google XML Sitemaps also support other engines like Bing, Yahoo!, by notifying them every time a post is created. This plugin updates and rebuilds the XML file everytime and all the time you post something new. It also pings Google about the same. In this pug in , you may set it to write a normal XML file or a zipped file. There is the option of building the sitemap manually. Other features include:
- Calculates a priority for each post, based on the number of comments
- User interface to customize all parameters like priorities etc.
- Generates sitemap automatically
5. SEO Rank Reporter– As the name gives a hint, this WordPress SEO plugin lets you find certain keywords in your site, and track their prerformance. You get a report every three days, fully detailed with performance graphs, so that you know how are they doing. In case of a major fluctuation in any keyword’s ranking, you will get an email notification. This is a list of its primary features:
- Email notifications for ranking fluctuations
- Download a full CSV file containing all of your ranking data.
- List of keywords that drive traffic to your website and add them to the rank reporter.
- Search using other Google Country URLs (e.g., google.co.uk)
6. Redirection Plug In – This plugin lets you control 301 redirections, to keep track of 404 errors and also correct them. You can manually add 301, 302, and 307 redirections for a file or a post. You get a regular expression support. It works with WordPress and that is why Apache .htaccess is not required. Other prominent features include:
- 404 error monitoring – captures a log of 404 errors and allows you to easily map these to 301 redirects
- Custom ‘pass-through’ redirections allowing you to pass a URL through to another page, file, or website.
- Full logs for all redirected URLs
- All URLs can be redirected, not just ones that don’t exist
- Redirection methods – redirect based upon login status, redirect to random pages, redirect based upon the referrer!
7. Robots Meta -This plugin comes loaded with many features, like- automatically generating meta tags, optimizing page and post titles for search engines. Most importantly, it helps you in avoiding duplicate content. You can add noindex, follow robots Meta tag in your pages to prevent the search engines from indexing them. Other features include:
- Prevent duplicate content by stopping the indexing of subpages to your homepage, category pages, author pages and tag pages.
- You can also prevent the indexing of your comments feeds.
- You can easily edit the .htaccess and robots txt file within your wordpress admin panel.
8. SEO Friendly Image – SEO Friendly Image is a WordPress optimization plug-in which adds alt and title attributes to all your images. These image tags W3C and lead to better traffic. If your images do not have ALT and TITLE already set, SEO Friendly Images will add them according to the options you have set. If you have taken optimizing images for search engines seriously, their accessibility, and search engine indexability is increased a lot.
9. SEO Smart Links – SEO Smart Links is a WordPress SEO plugin , links the keywords in your new post/page to the previous ones. You can set up your unique keyword sets with matching URLs, with SEO Smart Links. . With this plug in you can set “No Follow” attributes and open links in new browser windows or browser tabs.
10. WP Super Cache – Site speed is now a ranking factor, and your WordPress Site plug in lets you cache your site. Use it to reduce load time and get better ranks. The plugin serves cached files in 3 ways- Mod_Rewrite, PHP and Legacy Caching. Of these, most users will opt for Mod_Rewriting as it is the fastest but PHP caching is almost as good and recommended too.
There are other plugins too, but these are the ones that will make your WordPress site, search engine friendly fair quickly!
Identifying The Itch
Where is the problem exactly. What is lacking in your site? Are you not getting what you expected? If your are not getting enough business out of your site, then maybe the reason has not much to do with the site’s design, but site marketing.
Again you need to know what you want from the site- sales- leads- comments from visitors- links from other sites? What is your desired position, and once you know the answer, you can figure out whether the problem can be eradicated with a marketing idea or a content management strategy. Redesigning may not be essentially required then!
You can achieve much more by effective landing page optimization or even working on your site’s navigation too. Overhauling and redesigning can be avoided as they are costly and can create further issues.
Redesigning Has Initial Hiccups
If one fine Monday morning you unveil your new site expect that things will go better now, you are mistaken. It may be severely down the hill for a while. Why? We have discussed below:
Brand Identity– You have built a name for your self, and people identify you with it. So suddenly changing the patterns and colors associated with your brand equity seems pointless. This example is for a bigger corporation, but imagine the shock you may experience, if Coca Cola turns to a Purple color from the red it has endorsed for decades?
The colors you use become your brand’s personality and are associated with your brand. People know you with these colors and patterns, that is why drastically changing them has a negative impact- you lose the brand equity. Modification is recommended not overhauling.
Confusing The Customers- This is in continuation with the the brand identification concept. If people find you changed overnight, they will not relate to you, trust you or even understand you. Their familiar site is now new- like a stranger, its unknown. They may even not like the new site, and hit the close button!
What If All Fails– This is a scary thought, but may be true. Even after you redesigned your site, there is no change in user behavior. You are back to square one. You still are clueless about what could be wrong now. So, do not overhaul everything at the same time. Keep introducing little changes, so that you know what change had an effect and which one did not. This will tell you what works for you, and what was wrong.
Rethinking is an essential stage that comes into play right before the redesign process. You need to think the primary purpose of revamping your site. You need to work keeping in focus the primary goal of the website. You must think- whether you need to revise your company’s goal, or if the site is apt for your goal. Or are you connecting with the audience as per required by the goal. Rethinking gives you a better insight to what is happening and what needs to be done.
When Redesigning Is Inevitable-
There are certain situations in which you can’t do much except overhaul the site. Some of these situations are:
- If your company’s mission, logo, name, etc have changed.
- Your business areas as in products/services and offers have changed. You need a different approach for them (from a food seller, you add on juices too).
- You have found definite consumer feedback about your website.
- Your research shows site navigation problems.
- Content Duplication has been detected and you can forsee that causing problems.
There can be more reasons for changing the site, even if it is to just make it look modern. But the thing to remember is to change slowly and gradually.
Little Changes Mean A Lot
It is important for you to understand that a full website overhaul is time taking. That is why, start with little changes- that are really crucial to your goal- like ‘ sign up’, ‘buy’ or ‘hire us’ portions. Again, working on effective landing page strategy is quite helpful.
Other changes may include- just changing the headers graphics on all the pages. Or maybe adding social media widgets. You can also widen the site. Or create a new page with all the elements that you want. Maybe, if you can get away by just changing your logo (if that has been changed).
The Parting Shot
Well, there is nothing much to say, but this-
Pause. Think before you act.
So, the basic task is to capture the visitor’s attention in those few seconds you have and also make sure that he is led towards what he came looking for, or what you want the user to look at. You have to tell them/ answer them/ sell them or whatever in those 10- 12 seconds only, otherwise the loss is all yours.
Essentials Of User Behavior
Users are in a hurry, they have already chosen your site from search results/PPC/social media or whatever, and they know what other options they have left behind in the previous page. That is why you have to be pretty clear in putting forth what you have to say.
Users like quality, credibility and of course relevance- If your page has all of these, you are good, and they will stay on. Design should support the content and not overwhelm it.
Users scan your site and don’t read every line- so make sure you have attractive headings, banners, the works.
Users want control – If too many pop ups come on their windows, or videos start autoplaying, it leads to a very poor user experience. They may never come back to your site if the pop ups don’t leave them alone.
Enhancing The Key Experience
When a visitor lands on your page, you must make sure that he is helped in every way possible to find what he is looking for. Also, the first impression of the page must live up to the user’s expectation that built when he clicked on your link. The design of your site must be clear-precise and uncluttered so that the user is lured on to stay and explore.
Using Words Effectively– Words are the most important tool you have to grab the users’ attention. Say what you have to see and be very clear about it. If you have brought a user to your site for latest Nokia Phones, then have a clear-well placed and easily readable line- “Latest Nokia Phones At Great Discounts” on your site. Words are taken seriously by the users and they respect it too. You build user expectation with words, and clear promises are generally easier to keep. Clarity also results in better credibility.
Clear Call To Action – If a user gets confused on your site and is not clear about what to do, then your entire effort is lost. Remember that a user likes your site if he understands what he is doing. You must give clear, straight-forward cues, so that the user understands what is where and what he can do.
Be Speedy – It is a very logical thing, if the users don’t have the time, this means that they want the site to be fast and really fast. If your load time is long, then the back or the close button will be hit much more that you would like. Explore the option of speed optimization versus as it will bring improvement in retention and user experience.
Information Architecture For Usability
The basic idea here is to make sure that the user knows how to use your site- navigate it. If your site navigation is clear and consistent, then the users will stay on the page and will use it. Usability is basically the level of ease and comfort visitors feel when they come to your site and navigate for information -services or products. If your site is not clear about the “buy” button, then you cannot expect the user to comb thru the site to find one, they will get out of the site rather than doing that.
Do Not Make The Users Think- your site navigation must be clear enough so that the visitor is not confused or forced to think where he is and what he needs to do. This will only lead to a poor user experience.
Guide The Visitors- Your site navigation must not be cluttered, so the visitor gets lost. Any page on your site must not be more than 3 clicks away from the home page. Lead the visitors to your goal skillfully and clearly. Clarity is important.
Use Breadcrumbs– Keeping a clear visual hierarchy helps. Visitors must know clearly where they are in your site, and how can they go back or to another category. Keep the home page in front view from any page.
Little Graphics Help- The idea is visual design of a call to action. Like a shopping cart, or a mail envelope, or a verification tick- that guides users clearly as to what they are required to do on the page.
Enhance The Utility Of Your Site
Utility is web designing means that your site is capable of doing many things. You can buy a product- learn more about it, add it to wish list, get informed about the product through emails, chat with fellow shoppers, leave reviews on a site and much more! This is how the utility of a site can be understood. So give your users many options, but do not overload your site with too much of it. Strike a balance.
Think Mobile Usability
Well, more and more people are switching to mobile internet for everything and anything. So make sure that your site has a mobile version too, that can cater to the mobile net users. This version has to be even simpler with vertical navigation and more prominently placed call to action buttons (the mobile user has even less time!).
Testing Your Site
What better way to know whether your site is working or not, than testing it for usability. Testing will give you a clear picture of where you are in terms of usability and what can you do more. You’ll be pointed to the absence of major design flaws which will give you essential insights for your project. Remember that you must design something, test it, fix it and then test it again There are tools like- Google’s website optimizer, with which you can test the different variations of a page in terms of which page produces the most visitors who convert.
The Final Word
You have to make sure that the user experience, on your site has to be simply fantastic- your site should be attractive, uncluttered, clear in words and design, easy to navigate and most importantly highly relevant to what the user is looking for.
Designers Are Different From The Rest Of Us
This is a fact- artists are different. They are creative individuals, who are more often than not, guided by their passion. Whether it is a canvas, or a website design tool, the force behind getting the right work done is- Creativity. This “creativity” is what makes them different from other professionals, and arises the need to develop a new “artist handling technique”.
So, in order to make them understand what you want and where they are going wrong, you have to make use of certain words. Your priority is your site- that should be up and about on time. That is why quick and effective communication is needed, so that the designers deliver the right site and you can get on with your business. Also worth mentioning here is the essential words and vocab, that you must avoid in dealing with designers.
Things That May Ruin Your Communication With The Designers
When you do not like the sample sent in by your website designer, it can be really frustrating thing for you. You have to see your deadline and keep the costs from escalating. And if you become too hard on them, and they come in the exit mode, then that could leave your project hanging mid-air. With a new designer, it will be the whole routine from the start. Result- loss of money as well as time and business. That is why effective communication is the key- you must use certain terms to keep your professional relationship healthy.
“This is horrible!“- While this line may convey your exact feeling about the design, but it doesn’t go well with the designer. Art is about perception, and you may be seeing different things in the design. The designer may label you as an unclear client who does not “understand” art!
“I can do this better“- Yes, you are a full 360 degrees professional. You know website designing inside out and more importantly you know exactly what you want. But saying you can do this better, really hampers the personal touch that the designer may have been giving to your project. Bruising an artist’s ego can never get you good and quick results.
“Copy From This Site“- There are certain copyright infringement issues to be considered here. Certain ethical issues also rise.
“I need this finalized – NOW! NOW! NOW!“- Your concern and anxiousness is perfectly justified. Your work is top priority and you need things done pronto. Pressurizing the designer is necessary to meet deadlines, but some of them may snap under too much pressure. Dealing with this will cost you further loss of time and monetary.
The Right Means Of Communication
The artists and designers need to understand what you want clearly, so that the number of revisions needed comes down drastically. You must approach them in a way that they set aside their own preferences and do as you want. It is your site after all! To achieve this professional acquiesce, you have to use a whole new means of communication.
“This is not working for me” – This is the term to be used instead of “This is horrible!”. The designer will think of it in professional terms, as to the requirements of your site and will not take it personally. With a clear mind, he will arrive at the desired design with better productivity.
“Try doing it this way“- Open your re-do communication with this sentence instead of “I can do this better”. The artist will respect you for your knowledge and will try to work towards the results you want. Your experience must garner respect and not ill feeling.
“For reference and guidance see this site“- The best way to give them ideas, instead of “Copy From This Site”. A designer need to be sure of himself- that he can create what his client wants on his own. He tries to avoid simply lifting concepts. That is why asking them to be inspired by some site is the right way, lest you want a debate on ethics.
“We have to keep the deadline in sight. Do not deviate”- Building pressure is essential, and you should take this route instead of- “I need this finalized – NOW! NOW! NOW!” The designer is a professional too, he knows deadlines, you just have to give him a little push-and not breathe fire down his neck. If he hurries, then the results may be worse than the earlier samples.
The Lesson To Take Home
You have to make sure that you always adopt a constructive approach in dealing with website designers. Do not be overtly critical and be clear in your instructions. This will speed up things much better. Timely delivery of projects will benefit you and if a little change in the mode of communication facilitates that, then you have nothing to lose, right?
Try with effective communication right now. Leave a comment; tell us what you think!