We see it all the time… financial institutions so eager to inform their audience of every special deal and product that they jam everything onto their homepage. But try to tell people everything and you’ll end up telling them nothing. Instead, you’ll just turn them off, because the layout is too cluttered and distinct information coalesces into a blob of color and text.
Visitors come to your homepage wanting to access online banking, look at loan information, check rates or find a location. Instead, far too many institutions make the wrong impression and frustrate visitors. Remember, you have only a few seconds to communicate with consumers before they get irritated and move on. That’s why it’s critical that you keep your homepage simple — at least at first glance — so you don’t drive away your audience.
So how do you carefully select the information you want to present balanced with the information you know your audience wants to view? Here are seven steps to a simpler website homepage experience.
1. Run analytics on your site
Why? This is an important first step. Analyze your site thoroughly to determine which pages your audience views most often, and then give visitors what they want by making these popular pages easily accessible.
Tips: Most of the time, people are looking for information about your rates, branch/ATM locations, loan products and online banking. Even though you have particular messages you want to present to your visitors, you should balance your objectives with your audience’s proven pattern of usage.
2. Create an information hierarchy
Why? This is a successful strategy that applies to all facets of design because people’s reading habits haven’t changed much over time. You need to account for short attention spans and keep in mind that people typically read a website in a “Z” pattern.
Tips: Place your most important information above the fold so your audience focuses on it first. Then determine how to align additional information on the page in order to give your site’s messaging the best opportunity of being read. Financial institutions might have a lot of great things to say, but some people don’t care about anything but logging into their accounts. To this end, make sure you showcase your online banking login to help your customers/members go about their financial business as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
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3. Use exciting photos
Why? The images you choose for your homepage will have a tremendous impact on the emotional tone you convey, so connect with photography and graphics that personalize your financial institution.
Tips: You can create a powerful homepage by choosing the proper emotive image and surrounding it with simple navigational and text components. This strategy will make a strong impression on your viewers without complicating your homepage presentation and obscuring your messages.
4. Choose text carefully
Why? Written (non-image-based) content on your homepage is important for supporting your SEO goals and for filling in the blanks between your images and navigation. That said, you should avoid overloading your homepage with content that litters the presentation.
Tips: Use content minimally, but ensure that you’re sending the most important and compelling messages about your financial products, services and service area. The most effective writing is concise, clear and active. Additionally, you want content that will support your SEO initiatives. This will require extensive keyword research and a professional writer who knows how to maximize the value of specific words and phrases without compromising user experience.
5. Maintain flexibility
Why? The content blocks where you post promotional messages should allow you to update them on a regular basis as your promotions change. That way, you don’t need to push all of your messaging out to your homepage at once.
Tips: Switching out your promotional materials regularly provides a different look to your audience so you can maintain engagement. This strategy ensures that your website can adjust as your FI grows and your marketing needs change over time. Additionally, for phone/tablet versions of your site, consider mobile-specific promotions if your content management system provides for that functionality.
6. Complex doesn’t have to be confusing
Why? Yes, you want a simple homepage that is easy to navigate, but that doesn’t mean settling for a boring homepage. Consider implementing features that maintain a clean-looking homepage on the surface but involve more complexity behind the scenes so you’re able to present more information to your audience.
Tips: Most financial institution homepages should include rotating banners, mega menus and expandable content. You won’t overwhelm your audience with messaging, but the information will be easy to access if your visitors choose to seek it. Additionally, you should establish a clear navigational structure that provides an easy path for visitors and encourages them to dig deeper into your site. Your homepage is like an entryway to your home for your visitors. Greet them warmly with a perfectly designed homepage and then show them where they can go and what they will see.
7. Additional features
Why? Many institutions also need to consider other must-have homepage items when redesigning a homepage. This could include social media icons linking to your various platforms or a newsfeed for your blog posts, press releases or social posts. It’s easy to get sucked into a situation where too many priorities pile up and violate the simplicity you had in mind.
Tips: Whatever additional components you are considering, balance them against the totality of your homepage presentation. If they aren’t mission-critical, consider including them “below the fold” and look to your designer for creative ways to group similar items.
If your homepage looks more like grandma’s attic than an entry to an impressive institution, it’s time to clean up. Create a tidy presentation that attracts your audience and allows them to go about their financial business quickly. By considering these points when you analyze your homepage, your website’s first impression will be strong, confident and helpful. You’ll be able to share the marketing messages you want your audience to see while they find the information they want to access.
Jennifer Buccini is the Art Director at ZAG Interactive, a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, that has created hundreds of bank and credit union websites. To discuss your design questions or needs with ZAG, call 860.633.4818.