The reality is that there’s no magic formula for a great homepage. What makes a good homepage for one charity will be totally different to what makes a good homepage for another. It all comes down to having a clear strategy, and knowing your users and their needs. That said, there’s definitely some best practice you can take on board.
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Plan the content before you design
You should plan out the content you want before anyone even thinks about designing what the homepage will look like. Or you could work on this in tandem with a designer.
What you want to avoid is being stuck with a bunch of pre-defined boxes and buttons that you need to fill with content, because that’s going to limit you.
Remember the homepage is about moving on
People don’t come to your homepage to see your homepage. They come to your homepage to get to something else. So make it easy for them to get where they want to go.
Highlight top tasks
Give people a quick route into the information or services that they’re most likely to need.
If 50% of your users come for one specific thing, then that probably deserves a prominent spot on the homepage. You can’t rely on navigation for this – I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen users completely miss navigation in testing.
Cover multiple tasks
If you have multiple tasks or calls to action (CTAs) and/or meet needs of different users, make sure you’re providing a few different options to give people a route to the thing they’re looking for.
Say who you are and what you do
If your charity is a household name, maybe you can get away without this. But I think it’s good practice not to take this for granted and to reiterate your mission. Even having a short tagline on the page is enough.
Use social proof
Social proof – like case studies, quotes, and stories – can help people understand what you do and what you can do for them (or what they can do for you in the case of campaigning or fundraising).
Plan for governance
Make sure you have a plan for how you will prioritise/decline/respond to requests to add something to the homepage in the future. (And no, the policy shouldn’t be to add anything the CEO asks for.)
Remember the homepage isn’t everything
Remember that the homepage isn’t the be all and end all, and help your stakeholders to understand this too. If something isn’t on the homepage it doesn’t mean that it’s invisible. Not everyone lands on this page. It might not even be the biggest page on your site by pageviews.
Break these rules
Rules are meant to be broken and exceptions prove the rule. These sayings are trite but true. Don’t follow these rules if you’ve done your research and they don’t make sense for your organisation and your users.