Data-Driven Homepage Design

Credit: Thrive Themes

I’ve designed a lot of websites.

Personal websites, SaaS websites, eCommerce sites. Traditional media websites. Agency websites. I don’t consider myself a designer nor a web developer, but the good news is you don’t need to be with the tools available to today’s average joe.

How do I know I’m doing it right?

At the start, I didn’t.

Like most marketers, I built a ton of crap before anything good happened.

But over the years, I read my fair share of research on UXUI. I learned CSS. I saw what was working for others and shamelessly copied it.

And that brings us to today. Here’s one of the best resources I’ve used in the last few years to great effect so hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

What does the ultimate homepage look like?

Thrive Themes tackled this question in a legendary post that analyzed the home pages of the internet’s biggest personal brands.

Specifically, they dug into the sites of Celes Chua, James Clear, Marie Forleo, Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Ramit Sethi and crafted a compelling formula.

Here I am covering it in a talk I gave on personal branding:

For the full teardown and data analysis, read the original post on Thrive Themes.

If you just want the results and recommendations, here goes. Introducing the perfect homepage for personal brands:

Even though this study was done through the lens of personal brands, I think a lot of it applies to companies, too.

Here are five data-driven takeaways to apply to your own site:

Takeaway 1: Use hero images

Whether you’re building a personal site or a site for a business, use high-quality pictures that take up most of the above-the-fold area on your screen.

Sometimes it’s ok to use phone-quality photos in your marketing, but now is not the time. Hire a photographer capture you or your business’ best side.

Takeaway 2: Display authority and proof

By and large, there are four ways to show authority and social proof:

  1. “As seen on” with logos of well-known publications and mainstream media
  2. Pictures with influencers and celebrities
  3. Endorsements or testimonials from customers or influencers
  4. Audience boast – e.g., e.g. “join 50,000+ subscribers”

Try to get as many of these as possible and put them directly below the hero image.

Takeaway 3: Ask for emails

“People in your audience are busy,” says Shane Melaugh from Thrive Themes. “They might read one of your posts, love everything about it… and then promptly forget about it and never return to your site.”

What’s a marketer to do?

Answer: Create an opt-in offer.

Opt-in offers are a mutually beneficial exchange. Offer something your customers want in exchange for their email. Avoid meaningless “Subscribe here” buttons and give away a helpful tool or template or guide that will establish you as an authority.

Takeaway 4: Blog Homepage ≠ Blog

Here’s a takeaway I 1,000% agree with.

A good homepage or blog homepage shouldn’t focus on your latest posts. If you do that, you’re leaving conversion up to chance. A new visitor may or may not be interested in whatever happens to be the top post at the time, which can stunt your growth.

What you want to do instead is lead with your strongest blog content. Look at the analytics of your posts and pick the most popular or highest-converting ones.

Before you get to your blog posts, though, introduce yourself or your business. It sets the stage for your content and paints a high-level picture for what you’re about.

Takeaway 5: Use minimal navigation

According to the study, most of the sites that were analyzed had simple navigation. Most of them only had five links and no drop-downs.

Shane Melaugh says, “This minimal approach to navigation is more than just a design choice. I believe it’s the result of a profoundly important quality that almost all successful brands come to over time: focus. It’s a beginner’s mistake to try to do too many things all at once and try to create a website that appeals to everyone and excludes no one.”

You might think it’s easier for personal brands than corporate brands to keep things simple, but take a company like HubSpot for example.

HubSpot has hundreds of features with dozens of add-ons, and yet their main menu has evolved to include only five main links and five options under software. Quite the exercise in focus—and if they can do it, you can too.