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Site visitors form an opinion about your website in as little as 50 milliseconds. That’s literally faster than the blink of an eye. What’s more, in one study of website credibility, 94% of the reasons web users gave for mistrusting a website were related to design.
It’s clear first impressions are critical, and with so little time to make yours count, it’s crucial you get your website design right. When the success of your business depends on how efficiently you engage new visitors and nurture them into clients, your homepage design needs to be 100% optimized for conversion.
The first thing site visitors see when they land on your homepage is the large rectangular area in the top half to two-thirds of their screens. Not only is it the first thing they see, it’s where users focus roughly 80% of their attention. This area represents your make-or-break opportunity to either captivate your visitor’s attention in an instant, or let them wander off elsewhere on the Web.
What you feature in this space is perhaps the most decisive factor on your entire website for successful engagement and conversion. Hence the name “hero image” for the all-important picture you display in this position. Your hero image needs to be effective on multiple levels to achieve all the following goals:
Following are five of the most common ways to make your hero image work hard for you, capture more leads for your business, and convert those leads into customers or clients.
Note: Whichever of these five methods you choose, common to all is the goal of converting visitors into leads, and leads into customers. To that end, your hero image should include your company logo if it’s not already part of your homepage header design, a simple brief headline, and a few words of text. Perhaps most important of all, add a clear, obvious CTA or even two — see our complete line, sign up for our newsletter, request a consultation, get a no-obligation quote, download a free report, buy now — whatever makes sense for your business.
If your business produces actual products, this is the most common type of hero shot. It’s the fastest, clearest way to show visitors precisely what you make and distinguish your brand from your competitors.
Commodity products tend to be self explanatory — musical instruments, running shoes, handmade pottery for example. Sure, there may be a lot of unique detail and variation in all of those products that can’t be expressed in a single hero image. But those details and variations are what the sub-pages of your website are for. Use a simple, clear, uncluttered, relatively close-up shot of your flagship product. The overall design should distinctly emphasize your product, logo, and brand colors to immediately communicate exactly what your company produces, and entice viewers to engage with you further.
Sometimes the product doesn’t lend itself to a particularly interesting image. A bag of mulch comes to mind. Or maybe you’re in the career counseling business and you don’t manufacture a product at all.
In such cases, use your hero image and a simple headline to show the benefit of using your product or service. For the career counseling example, it could be a simple photo of a person signing a document that clearly states “Employment Agreement” at the top, accompanied by the headline “You’re hired!” Depicting your product or service in the context of how it will benefit site visitors will quickly communicate what’s in it for them, and give them reason to stay on your website longer or visit more often.
Take advantage of the human factor in your hero image. When you show a person or their face in your image, it helps site visitors relate on a visceral, human level. In particular, a smiling face will put viewers in a positive frame of mind about your business. If viewers can picture themselves in the same situation, interacting with your product or service, they begin to form a personal connection to your brand and will want to explore your site further.
Use real people and use an original photograph if it’s within your means. It’s possible to find an authentic-looking stock image showing models in staged situations. But stock photos often lack a sense of warmth or authenticity. That’s certainly not how you want viewers to feel about your website. Be as real as you can with your hero image, and if you must use stock photography, put in the time and effort necessary to find the most genuine-looking image you can find.
This works particularly well for companies that don’t sell physical products, or for companies that want to highlight the benefits of their product. Viewers respond and relate better to images and brands that evoke familiar and positive emotions. That’s one of the reasons smiling faces work so well in advertising. Your hero image can leverage those feelings and emotions to entice visitors to engage more deeply with your website.
Even if your product or service is something people don’t generally associate with happiness, such as taxes or finding care for elderly parents, you can still create positive feelings by showing how your product or service helps people solve their problems. Potential customers come to your website looking to overcome difficulties or soothe concerns. Show them how delighted or relieved they’ll be by engaging with your business, and they’ll associate those positive feelings with your website and brand.
The use of video on the web continues to grow, and the reason is plain and simple: better engagement. Moving images are nearly impossible for humans to ignore. For example, one business blog switched to a video for their hero image and saw a 138% boost in visitors staying on the site and signing up for their offer.
But using video on your homepage comes with its own set of rules. The improved results can be worth it, but like anything else, you need to do things correctly to achieve the improvement. Here are six fundamentals you should follow to ensure your hero video better engages visitors and increases the likelihood of conversion.
Note to WordPress website users: There are two relatively straightforward options for adding a video background to your homepage. One is to choose a theme that supports video backgrounds. The other is to use a video background plugin.
Following are some additional do’s and don’ts for your hero image regardless of which method or format you choose.
You get just one chance to make a stellar first impression. Your hero image is the single most important feature on your homepage to instantly capture a new visitor’s attention and entice them to engage more deeply with your website. Follow the guidelines presented above to ensure your hero image is working as efficiently and effectively as it can to drive more conversions for your business.
We have seen websites of all shapes and sizes, from brilliant to completely dysfunctional. Your site may live solidly in the middle of the bell curve in this regard, however that doesn’t mean your site couldn’t stand to benefit from some amount of modernization. Just like all other technology, the technology of websites is constantly evolving and changing. Often times, elements of a site which were highly effective when a site was built lose their effectiveness over time; and depending on the nature of your business, you may not even realize how significantly even a small issue can affect your business.
While it may be difficult to fully comprehend and validate the decision to move forward and modernize, it is important to keep in mind that time flies as it relates to technology and user expectations fly right along with it. Your website is a 24-hour, 7-day a week representation of your organization online. It needs to properly showcase your brand, your message and your mission. It should drive results, rather than hinder your efforts.