Fahrland agrees. “There’s a set of people who have your catalog in hand, and a set who only remember ‘that red merino wool sweater,’” she affirms.
Sterne also recommends supplementing your search box with filtering options that specify product or age categories (e.g., “gifts” and then “4- to 6-year-old girl”).
Adding a box to the search/quick order area where users can type in their e-mail addresses to receive e-newsletters and promotions is another handy home page tool, suggests Burke.
Opinions on up-and-down scrolling vary. Some experts view it as a deterrent for customers and advise against using it. Others, such as Marc Waldeck, managing director of marketing strategy firm Brave New Markets, are less resistant, but stress keeping the most pertinent information “above the fold” in the page’s top 600 pixels.
However, all experts interviewed here give an unequivocal “no” when asked whether side-to-side scrolling is advantageous or even necessary for a home page, saying it not only makes the customer work to view the page, but it goes against the basic principles of Web design. Waldeck compares it to a partially viewed catalog cover: “How successful is the front page if I can only see half of it?”
Company information, while important, should take a backseat to the previously mentioned components. Try putting links to the following at the bottom of the page:
• your 800 number; and
• your company’s actual address.
A Few Don’ts
The following home page features may send customers scrambling for their “back” buttons:
• Don’t make visitors register on your site simply to view merchandise.
• Don’t use pop-under ads. “If you don’t have the guts to show it up front, don’t leave it in the background for the customer to deal with,” advises Waldeck.
• Don’t display pictures of your founder and/or CEO unless he or she is a major part of your marketing and advertising (e.g., the late Dave Thomas of Wendy’s).
• Don’t give users the option of two home pages to view, depending on the speed of their modem connections. Assume they’re on a low-speed connection, advises Fahrland.
• Don’t display outdated content.
• Don’t use Flash animation. Even if it’s used for a relevant purpose, says Waldeck, it slows down load time. Save it for appropriate offerings on your product pages.
• And while they don’t label it strictly off-limits, most experts suggest that you avoid putting information about your public, human or investor relations on your home page whenever possible.