Website Homepage Design 101: 5 Homepage Examples to Inspire Your Ecommerce Shop
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Fifty milliseconds — that’s how long it takes for website visitors to form an opinion on your online store. For comparison, that’s about the same amount of time it takes for you to read ‘50 milliseconds.’
We all know the importance of first impressions, but in the ecommerce space, they carry more weight than you might think.
They have to, when the modern online shopper has limited time, a short attention span, and endless retail options available to them while they’re scrolling through the web.
That presents a major challenge for ecommerce store owners: how can you describe your business, communicate your value prop, and ensure the customer feels confident and engaged, all in a fraction of a second?
The answer lies in a well-designed homepage: one that caters to both the user and the storeowner, instills trust in the customer, and lays the groundwork for the entire shopping experience.
But homepage and web design aren’t easy.
So consider this your intro to the best homepage design — a 101 class, if you like — that will cover the benefits of a quality homepage, the characteristics they share, the content management systems that power them, and some case studies of the best website designs out there.
While that 50 millisecond stat may have raised some eyebrows, it’s common knowledge that your homepage acts as your online store’s first impression.
And while that’s true, some mistakenly conclude that all a homepage really needs to do is look aesthetically pleasing. But the homepage’s role is much more than a glorified welcome mat.
The design of your web page also must act as a launchpad for any and all tasks your shopper wants to complete, whether that’s purchasing a specific type of product, browsing your catalog, or simply learning more about your company.
From a business perspective, it’s your best opportunity to drum up brand recognition, demonstrate value, display social proof, and lay the foundation for the rest of your ecommerce experience.
What are you getting out of an expertly crafted homepage? Much more than just window dressing.
When your homepage successfully communicates who you are, what you do, and what distinguishes your online store from the pack, your customer can feel confident they’re in the right place.
In an ultra-crowded ecommerce market, oftentimes that’s half the battle.
The homepage isn’t just the bedrock of your website.
As likely the most common entry point into your site, the homepage lays the foundation for the customer’s shopping experience.
No matter what task the shopper wants to accomplish, whether that’s making a purchase, learning about a product, or checking the status of an order, the homepage needs to point them in the right direction.
A shopper’s path-to-purchase is fraught with opportunities for cart abandonment — it’s why the average conversion rate across all online retailers hovers around just 2%.
When we perform UX (user experience) audits of online stores that aren’t converting, the first thing the design team looks at is the homepage.
Well-designed homepages promote conversion by streamlining the target audience’s flow to the products they’re looking for. By minimizing that friction, the user has to exert less effort to complete their purchase, and are more likely to convert.
The modern consumer is under constant bombardment from brands, advertisements, and digital marketing. It’s harder than ever for your message to cut through the noise.
Luckily, one of the best tools in your arsenal for cultivating a recognizable brand is your homepage.
Remember, the path-to-purchase is rarely a straight line — it’s likely a potential customer will visit your homepage several times before deciding to make a purchase, especially if your products are big ticket items.
That’s why it’s so crucial for your homepage to serve as your brand’s number one ambassador. Those repeat viewings are an excellent opportunity to instill brand recognition into the consumer.
There’s no quick-and-dirty formula for a good homepage design.
As a reflection of your business and the foundation of your specific web presence, a quality homepage is going to look different for every ecommerce merchant.
But there are elements common to every homepage, and examining each of them individually can indicate whether your homepage is generally doing its job or not.
Color is one of the first things we notice about websites. If you were to flash your homepage in front of a shopper, even for just a tenth of a second, they’d likely be able to tell you its color.
Choosing a color scheme isn’t as simple as just re-applying your brand’s palette. You need to consider readability, consistency, and the photos or other visuals you’ll be pairing it with.
Can the shopper easily scan the text on your homepage? Are the colors easy on the eyes? Are you using color to convey important contact information? What if the shopper is colorblind?
These are the important elements that must be given careful consideration when designing your homepage.
Your call-to-actions are the tentpoles of your homepage. All of the other elements — the layout, the copy, the design — are simply guiding the user to follow that CTA, and ushering them down the path to purchase.
Your homepage may have many CTAs, each one with their own priority level.
For example, the homepage may call for users to view new products or sign up for your newsletter.
Which one is more important to your business? Does your homepage design reflect that?
What are you selling? Why buy it from you?
If the homepage of your online store doesn’t fully answer those two questions as clearly and concisely as possible, it’s not doing its job.
This is the value you’re offering to the shopper, and if you’re not demonstrating it from the get-go, you’re basically buying them a one-way ticket out of your online store.
Most believe that clear, obvious value propositions are made by strong, engaging copy. And while that’s absolutely essential, a well-crafted user experience plays a role that’s just as pivotal.
Speaking as a copywriter, choosing the language and verbiage that will occupy the homepage doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
It’s a collaborative effort with the UX designer, both of us pooling our skills to achieve the same goal: demonstrate the value proposition.
Despite it being such a key factor to the customer’s experience, we usually hold the developers accountable for a site’s speed.
And though your site’s performance will depend on the development team, the designers play a role as well.
While fast loading times are always desirable, it’s especially crucial for the homepage.
Designers need to take extra precautions to ensure the page they’re crafting is one that can be loaded almost instantly.
In practice, that can mean limiting the size or amount of high resolution images on the page.
Animations and other interactive design elements can spruce up any digital experience, but too many will bog down the site speed, no matter how good your dev team is.
The speed of your homepage will vary by user and their device, but as a general rule of thumb, anything longer than a two second load time is an issue that needs to be addressed.
I’ve waxed enough about the advantages and key elements of a well-designed homepage — let’s analyze some real-world examples of merchants that have invested in the most important page of their site. Here are some great homepage design examples.
The homepage of Ben & Jerry’s online store has a difficult tightrope to walk.
It must act as a standalone ecommerce site for B&J, clearly distinct from the ice cream vendor’s marketing page, while still serving as an extension of their carefully cultivated brand.
Their homepage executes this masterfully, most notably with its navigation bar.
Placing it upon a wood-paneled background makes it pop from the rest of the site, while still adhering to the earthy, more natural Ben & Jerry’s brand.
The user’s eyes are immediately drawn to this navbar, which at once informs them that this is an online store, not a marketing site. Next steps are clearly laid out.
The scrolling image carousel below helps support this, cycling through visuals of Ben & Jerry diverse product catalog.
Bliss, an online merchant that vends ethically sourced, spa-quality skincare products, has a homepage that prioritizes conversion above all else.
Upon entering the site, the shopper is greeted with ‘Shop Now’ and the even more direct ‘Add To Bag’ action button. The products speak for themselves.
And while this approach could be read as too forward, Bliss’s homepage avoids that pitfall by dressing all of it in:
A soft color palette.
Inviting, friendly pastels.
Plenty of white space.
True to the brand’s inclusive mission, it even offers an ‘Enable Accessibility’ toggle in the upper righthand corner.
Gillette on Demand gives us the ultimate example of a homepage that values function above all else.
There is a ton of useful information packed into a fairly standard page here: everything from how the service works to value props like free shipping and razor handles.
Note how Gillette on Demand accounts for this high volume of content through clever homepage design.
By adding a large blue diagonal traveling across the screen, the page’s sections are divided into more digestible chunks. It’s subtle, but effective.
PayPal Here’s homepage is, in one word, simple.
Everything from the font choice to the layout to the fintech company’s two key product offerings are modest, unadorned, and crystal clear.
Note how PayPal Here hasn’t separated their navigation bar from their hero image, instead using the latter as a backdrop.
The only thing louder than Skullcandy’s bass-boosted headphones might be its homepage design.
It’s essentially monochrome, but doesn’t feel one-note. There’s all sorts of visual interest baked into the page, like gradients, high-res photos, and (about halfway down the page) an abrupt shift in the color palette.
These techniques draw the eye and direct the shopper’s attention — your eye traces the path of the gradient, leading you directly to the product it intersects.
You could have a sparkling, shiny-new homepage, maybe even one carefully crafted by an award-winning UX design agency — but if you don’t have a way to maintain it, it’s not going to do your business any good in the long run.
And while you can (and should) enlist the services of a development firm to squash bugs and iron out the odd technical issue, the best way to perform upkeep on your site is with a robust content management system.
There’s no shortage of options out there, so before selecting a CMS, keep these key considerations in mind.
Ecommerce homepages are dynamic, constantly shifting to reflect new products, current promotions, and relevant company news.
An ideal CMS is one that makes it effortless to swap out graphics, change text, and edit the homepage in any way the user desires.
And even then, just ‘easy to edit’ isn’t enough.
It needs to be easy to edit for anyone, even those with little to no technical experience whatsoever.
Nowadays, a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor for the CMS is the industry standard.
A CMS’s flexibility refers to more in-depth edits than just swapping out an image or text.
Flexible CMSs allow the layman user to easily make changes to the homepage’s layout, color scheme, or other high-level features.
With a content management system’s flexibility comes scalability as well. As your business scales, your CMS should grow too, accommodating the new needs and challenges that come with a changing business.
Some CMSs come with off-the-shelf design templates or themes, making it even easier to craft a visually stunning and effective homepage.
And if you’re still interested in taking your homepage to the next level, many of these templates can be easily customized by a designer or UI developer.
A homepage isn’t just a welcome mat for your online store.
They’re ecommerce Swiss Army knives that can promote conversion, cultivate your brand, engage users, sell your products, and serve as the foundation of your customer’s shopping experience.
What makes a well-designed homepage differs by company, but all of them should be readable, fast, and clear in their branding and messaging.
Most importantly, homepages should be built on a robust content management system that can adapt to changes in your business’ products, aesthetic, or digital presence.
If you’re interested in learning more about powerful, user-friendly CMSs for online stores, reach out to BigCommerce.
More questions on homepage design? Drop us a line at Codal — we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Sean is a content and copywriter at Codal, covering topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest and greatest in digital design, Sean can be found baking, watching movies, or bemoaning the shortcomings of Philadelphia’s sports teams.