In the charity homepage survey, I noticed the same mistakes coming up time and time again: things that harm usability or accessibility, or make it harder to get your message across. Here are some common ones to be on the lookout for.
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Images taking up all the space above the fold
I came across a few sites where the homepage was completely dominated by an image and there wasn’t any text until I scrolled down.
Images can have a big impact, but they work best with words if you want to draw the user in.
Carousels are a popular solution for homepages because they give you the ability to put more than one thing at the top of the page, or just to fit more content into a smaller space.
That might appease your stakeholders or make your page look more concise, but it creates a poor user experience. People don’t tend to click carousels because they think of them as adverts. And they’re often not accessible either.
Images with no alt text or copy as an image
If an image doesn’t have alt text then someone who is blind or visually impaired won’t know what it shows.
If the image is just decorative – like an abstract shape or texture – that’s fine. But if the image is part of the message that’s a big problem. Worse still is having text in an image because, again, a person who is blind or visually impaired won’t be able to get their screen reader to read that.
Too much content or too many CTAs
Having lots of content and CTAs can overwhelm your users and make it harder for them to find what they’re looking for. Some people who are neurodiverse might find this particularly challenging.
You need to focus on meeting key users needs and serving top tasks, and cut anything that adds clutter and distracting ‘noise’ to the page.
We-ing all over your copy
Using the word ‘we’ a lot is a good indicator that you might be too focused on what you want to say, rather than what your users actually care about.
Yes, you need to say who you are and what you do. But should try to do this by speaking to the user directly and focusing on their needs and goals.For example:
Unhelpful link text
I saw a lot of unhelpful links, things like:
- generic link text (for example: Find out more)
- mid-sentence links (for example: Find out more about our latest appeal to save the rainforest)
- links that put the keyword at the end (for example: Please help us by making a generous donation)
Make your link text specific, put links at the end of a sentence, and front-load the keyword where appropriate.
Writing in all caps
Writing in all caps seems to be more common on homepages than elsewhere. It doesn’t get your message across in a more clear or urgent way – it just makes your copy harder to read. You should use sentence case instead.
Old latest news stories
I saw quite a few examples where the ‘latest’ news was a year or more old. This can make it look like your site is out of date, and can make users doubt your professionalism or relevance.
If you don’t publish news stories regularly, it might be best to pull this element from your homepage. Consider replacing it with a different content format that’s more suitable instead.
Not showing the navigation or using splash pages
It wasn’t common, but a couple of sites didn’t show their primary navigation on their homepage because they used a splash page (an introductory screen that appears on first load) or an entry page instead.
I don’t advise this in most circumstances – it can be really disorienting for users and can leave them confused about how to navigate and get back to where they started.