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Homepage expert tips

All you need to know for an engaging homepage.
A person browsing a shop online.

Every bit of online ‘real estate’ counts on an eCommerce store. The first part of the digital shelf that matters is the homepage.

The homepage: the main ‘page’ of your eCommerce store and the shop window through which your shoppers are looking. The first impression matters, so how can you create a homepage that works?

The homepage is the shop front – the gateway to help customers find the right product category or individual product. When potential customers come to your site, do they know what they are looking for? Is it obvious to them what you have and what you want to promote? For eCommerce stores with lots of products, the homepages can get crowded very quickly with lots of products fighting for screen real estate. This can lead to clutter and an unfocused homepage.

For your homepage, there are two different approaches you can use, following best practice from other eCommerce stores:

  • Product-focused eCommerce stores promote a single or only a few of their products on their homepage. Typically these are companies with fewer products in their range and a strong brand. Think of Apple selling direct online but with only one product on the homepage.
  • Retailer eCommerce stores have lots of different brands and products. These eCommerce brands – like a department store – display lots of products on their homepage.

There is no one right answer to the two choices, but we can make a few rules of thumb.

Lots of products – a large product catalogue

If you have lots of products for sale, having many of them listed out on the site – even if it looks cluttered – can both help your shopper get to the product they want and can actually sell better. With so many different items upon arrival to the homepage, the shopper has no other choice than to delve deeper into your site, by selecting a category or a specific product.

In this case, having a very clearly marked search bar at the top of the site can help customers find what they want by typing in the brand name or product they are looking for.

As user experience experts, the Baymard Institute say: ‘your job is to figure out which of your categories are the most popular (or most profitable), and promote those. Ten product thumbnails is a viable solution as long as it’s unique types of products, each catering to a large portion of your customer base.’ (A thumbnail is an image with a reduced file size; when you click on it, it becomes the main image.)

Another great aid to shoppers is to have a ‘top sellers’ listed on the homepage, or ‘our experts choice’ if it’s a more considered purchase, for example a TV or a washing machine. These lists provide shortcuts to shoppers to help them make a choice by using the social proof that others have made these choices. In reality, who are these experts? You can just say ‘hand-picked by experts’ – and be the expert! Or more easily, just select the top-selling products and make sure they are on the homepage of your site.

Example: ‘handpicked by experts’ on AO.com

Screenshot from AO.com(Click to expand)

Example: ‘you may also like’ or ‘top selling items’ from Natori

Screenshot of the Natori website(Click to expand)

Fewer products – a small product catalogue

There is a trap here for smaller eCommerce businesses: we may see big brands such as Nike or Apple with one single product on their homepage. The thing to remember is that you are not Nike spending billions on brand marketing. Their shoppers already know the product range on offer. But only a handful of big brand companies can get away with this.

First-time shoppers with no idea of what you sell will base their idea of your eCommerce store’s product range based on the homepage. If the homepage content shows a small selection of products, first-time shoppers will believe that you have a smaller product range, and as a result, will not look for products they don’t believe the site will carry. They are unlikely to return to your site.

To avoid shoppers underestimating your product range, demonstrate the breadth and assortment of your products on the homepage and ensure a broad selection of different product types are featured.

A rule of thumb is to ensure that at least a third of your product range is represented on the homepage, according to Baymard Institute research.

Expert tips

  • Make sure you show the most popular or profitable items you sell and especially on exclusive or unique products which differentiate your shop from competition.
  • Highlight seasonality with best sellers or promote ‘new’ selections. Homepages are about showcasing new products and creating excitement – just like the windows of high-street shops.

Sample homepages from thepopband.com

This is a great example of a homepage that shows off the product range at the same time as having an attractive central visual that purveys the brand and shows off all the different types of products they have, as well as some new, exciting arrivals.

Screenshot of the Popband website(Click to expand)

Sample homepage from ao.com

Appliances Online sell a wide variety of products. They use their homepage to showcase their huge catalogue, even using the words ‘shop our entire range’. They also show their products in action – instead of saying ‘oven’ they say, hassle-free dinners. Each visual below the main picture gives an ‘entry point’ into the complete range.

Screenshot of the Appliances Online website(Click to expand)

A good homepage design builds on the nature of your eCommerce store and what sort of brand your store is. There is definitely no one-fits-all solution. The above examples are designed to show you the potential. There are lots of great examples of eCommerce store design available on the internet: make sure that you become an expert at understanding what you are observing on website homepages and category pages.

Over to you

Let’s look at homepages in action. Open a browser on your laptop or mobile phone and visit these sites:

Think about the following questions:

  • Which homepages do you like?
  • Which homepages do you think work well? Why?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below, and compare them with the ideas of your fellow learners.

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Research and Prepare: Understand eCommerce Customers, Products, and Propositions

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