One of the biggest mistakes Web designers make is cram too much information on a homepage. They are so afraid that someone is going to click away that they shove every product or service they provide right in your face.

Unfortunately, that's going to lead to the exact problem they were hoping to avoid: Visitors will get overwhelmed and leave.

A great homepage is one that:

  • Instantly delivers a core business message.
  • Appeals to the eye.
  • Provides a simple and intuitive set of navigation tools designed to lead visitors down the path of conversion.

A homepage is not an inventory display. Instead, think of it as a device designed to lead visitors where you want and need them to go.

By “core business message,” I mean something that differentiates your business from your competitors. It can be great pricing, amazing customer service, unique products or services, whatever.

Obviously there is no single formula for creating a site that is “pleasing to the eye.” Many different design styles succeed. But here are the design principles that are common to the best sites:

  • Make the site as uncluttered as possible.
  • Choose colors that stand out without overwhelming the senses.
  • Make your fonts easily readable and large enough to be read on devices of all sizes.
  • When you use photographs, videos or graphic designs, make them as  professional as possible and large enough to be clearly seen.

Finally, navigating your site shouldn’t be like “Where’s Waldo.” Navigation tabs should be clearly marked and prioritized to serve your visitors most immediate needs and interests.

While there are many sites that understand these principles, there are millions that don’t. I’ve chosen to look at two direct competitors in the consumer electronics business: Sixth Avenue Electronics and BestBuy.

The Sixth Avenue Electronics site does a good job of presenting its core message (“Save up to 70%”), but does a miserable job with the design and navigation of the site. Here are just a few of the issues:

  • Eleven tabs on the top navigation—and it is almost impossible to read any of them.
  • You have a guy with a headset in the upper left corner, but there is no explanation, no call to action, and nothing to click on.
  • The shade of blue used for the top navigation and the “Great Service Awaits You” proclamation is washed out and makes it difficult to read the navigation tabs.
  • “Recently viewed” is on top of brand navigation and is not populated at all for the first-time user.
  • The “Brand” navigation defaults to brands starting with numerals.
  • Ironically, the “Brand Showcases” isn’t a showcase at all. It is buried on the bottom of the left navigation.
  • What does “Trade-Ins” mean on the homepage?
  • “Click here to view entire AD.” Perhaps it would be helpful to know what the “AD” is.
  • Poor use of calls to action. The only real call to action is “Learn More.”
  • The photographs of the featured products are too small to make them seem at all appealing.

By way of comparison, take a look at BestBuy.com.

Like SixthAvenue Electronics, the core message is discounted products. That’s about the only thing the sites have in common:

  • The design is far cleaner and more pleasing to the eye.
  • There is no clutter or extraneous navigation.
  • The color scheme and font sizes make it easy to read the copy.
  • The highlighted products are presented clearly and effectively.
  • Top navigation has four tabs. Drop down menus help keep clutter to a minimum.
  • The calls to action are far more compelling: “Shop Now” and “See the Deal.”

If your homepage is weak, it doesn’t matter how good your products are or how strong the rest of your website is. People won’t bother to find out. It doesn’t take a huge budget to create a great homepage. It just takes some sound business and design judgment.