How to design a website homepage that converts

Your website homepage has just 10 seconds to capture your users’ attention and inspire them to spend more time with you. It’s a shocking truth that carries a lot of pressure.

Research by Chao Liu and colleagues concluded that 99% of websites have a 10-second opportunity window. (xd.adobe.com)

So how do you do this exactly?

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How do you capture a website user’s attention in less than the time it takes to grab a can of soda from the fridge?


It may seem a little bit nebulous and a lot daunting, but there are actually very tangible pieces of information your audience is looking for during this time.

Your website visitors want to know:

Am I in the right place?
What do you do? Can you help me?
Why should I choose you over another option?
Can I trust you?

The true purpose of your website homepage is to answer all these questions successfully, plus, inspire them to take the next step with you (AKA: a conversion). You might be thinking, there’s no way someone is going to read all this info in just 10 seconds.

And you’re exactly right!

All of this needs to be accomplished through a combination of factors carefully crafted into one seamless user experience.

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Here are the factors of an effective website homepage:

  • Effective, on-point copy and messaging
  • Professional and cohesive visual design
  • Presence of calls to action
  • Quick page load speed
  • Secure website experience

Every detail on your website homepage plays an important role, so it’s important to make sure they are intentionally crafted into a cohesive narrative.

What happens if your website doesn’t do these things?

Here’s another hard truth. If people can’t easily figure out if your products or services are right for them, they won’t work to find out. They’ll just leave.

The metric we want to look at here is your website’s engagement rate in Google Analytics. To register as an engaged session, the user must do at least one of the following:

  • Actively engage with your website for at least 10 seconds
  • Initiate a conversion event (like clicking a button)
  • View 2 or more pages

A low website engagement rate is a powerful indicator that your website is not effectively working for you. You want to look for a website engagement rate that’s:

  • Above 63% for B2B websites
  • Above 71% for B2C websites

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How to design a website homepage that converts

Now, let’s dig into the essentials of a website homepage that converts.

It’s not about you, it’s about them

Remember, your website is about you, but it’s not for you. This is one of the most common mistakes businesses make with their messaging.

Remember, your website visitor is coming in wondering how you can help them. Your messaging should read as a dialogue with the end-user, letting them know you understand their pain points, their goals, and showing them how you can help them get from point A to point B.

A good rule of thumb: Your copy should say ‘you’ more than it says ‘we’.

Your content MUST be skimmable

Users are spending an average of only 5.59 seconds looking at a website’s written content (source). Because of this, it’s absolutely critical that your content is skimmable. This means using the following to break up chunks of content:

  • Headlines
  • Subheads
  • Quotes
  • Graphics and illustrations
  • Charts and graphs
  • Carefully selected photos that tell an intentional story

Here’s a great example of skimmable content:

Peer Blog H3C Scrolling Screen

Messaging should prioritize clarity over cleverness

When you have just seconds to communicate, it’s important to prioritize clarity over clever copy. You want to make sure that your message is conveyed quickly, clearly, and without confusion.

As our good friend Donald Miller at Storybrand says, “If you confuse, you’ll lose.”

Make it clear what you do and who you’re for

Right away, your copy should clearly and quickly convey what you do, what you offer, and if you serve a specific demographic.

Showcase your secret sauce

With an endless list of options at their fingertips, website visitors need to know why they should choose you. What sets you apart from every other product or service provider out there?

Instill trust

Today’s online world is rife with scammers and fraud. Your website users want and need to know that:

  • You’re a legitimate business
  • You’ll deliver on your promise
  • They can contact you if they have questions or if there’s an issue
  • Other people worked with you or purchased from you successfully
  • Your website is secure

On your homepage, this looks like:

  • Professional, polished design
  • Clean copy, free of misspellings and improper grammar
  • Your contact info clearly and prominently displayed
  • Testimonials and reviews of past positive client or customer experiences
  • The little lock icon next to your URL

This represents a minimal, basic level of trust, but we encourage you to go beyond that. Set your sights higher to become established as a thought leader in your industry.

Include teasers for 1-3 thought leadership pieces on your homepage for added effectiveness.

McGill Resources

Include calls to action and opportunities for conversion

AKA: Buttons, links, chat widgets, and signup forms

The most important factor in having a homepage that converts is offering opportunities for conversion! This might seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Include links and buttons in the right places that allow people to take the next step with you.

As soon as someone lands on your homepage, they should be able to see a button with the #1 action you’d like them to take.

Core10 Call to Action

Including a fantastic lead magnet signup is also one of the best ways to have a homepage that converts visitors into leads, and ultimately sales and growth for your business.

McGill Lead Magnet

Is your current website leaving money on the table?

Want to know if your website homepage is actively losing you leads and sales? Schedule a call with Tierney and she’ll help you assess the areas for opportunity on your current website.

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