You need to assume that any site visitor is going to quickly—quickly!—review your home page to see if you can help them answer their question or need.
The site visitor’s eyes bounce around the page as their brain asks:
- “What’s important here?”
- “What’s the fastest way to understand this page?”
- “What here is useful for me?”
The word is scanners. Realizing that, your website needs to make it very easy for the site visitor to get the information they need. It needs to be scannable.
How can you make your website scannable?
Use a visual hierarchy—you need to visually set apart the most important elements of your page so that scanners will be drawn to them. Obviously, the larger a piece of content—a photo, an infographic, an article—the more attention-grabbing it is.
You can also create a visual hierarchy through the colors you use. Use colors that compliment each other to draw visitor’s attention—for example—yellow copy on a blue background will grab a scanner’s eyeballs.
First off, use a common web font, Helvetica or Verdana, for example. Or use a Google font (backed up by a common web font). You don’t want your copy to be off-putting to a site visitor. Eschew Comic Sans and its ilk. That will send site visitors toward a competitor’s website.
Whatever font you use, use it consistently. For example, have a specific size for your main headlines and a specific size for your sub-heads. Oh, and:
Don’t use fonts that are hard to read!
Your content—words, images, graphics—need breathing room. This is known as negative space—space with no content. Do not cram every inch of the screen with content. Leave empty space between elements and also within elements. Without enough negative space, site visitors won’t pay attention to the things you want them to pay attention to. Worse, they’ll leave if only to give their eyeballs a rest!
Calls To Action
Make your calls to action obvious. You don’t just want a user to visit your site. You want them to do something—even if it’s just ask for more information. Your call to action elements are often buttons. These buttons need to be seen in a split second to let site visitors understand what actions they can take on the particular page.
Remove extraneous words. Be ruthless. With every word, think “is this word redundant?” For example, instead of going on and on here about how you should use the fewest number of words possible, let me just boil it down:
Harvard psychologist George A. Miller created the concept of “chunking” in 1956. According to Miller, a person’s short-term memory could only hold 5-9 chunks of information. Experts since then have different opinions on the exact number of chunks a person can remember, but the main concept is what’s important: People have a limited capacity in their short-term memory.
Within your chunks, look for opportunities for bullets and numbered lists. Organizing content into lists creates a concise presentation, and your site visitors will still take in the content even if they skim. And use numbers instead of letters. That is, ‘5’ instead of ‘five’.
What site design elements are the most effective at catching your eye, causing you to slow down and read?