Our team is currently working with a private school on redesigning their website. “Is your website’s home page primarily for potential parents and students, or is it for current parents and students?” I asked them. This is an important question that every business should answer before designing or redesigning their website. The school’s website will be used by both potential families and current families of the school, but who is the primary audience?
Can’t you design the website for both potential clients and current clients? Yes and no. Let’s use the website’s home page as an example. There are two main types of home page designs I’ve seen: the elevator pitch and the visual menu.
The Elevator Pitch
You’ve probably heard the term “elevator pitch” before. It refers to a short 30 second summary of who you are and what you do. It’s a short and sweet explanation that you could give to anyone in the duration an elevator ride. Many home pages are designed as a short introduction to the business: who they are, what they do, who they help, and how they help. In less than a minute, a new person coming to your website can discover the essence of your business.
A home page designed as an elevator pitch is primarily for a prospective customer or anyone else that is not familiar with your business. It’s the first thing a potential customer reads and it helps them decide whether to read more or to go somewhere else. An effective home page will get your ideal customer excited to read more and quickly tell your non-ideal customers that you’re not right for them.
The Visual Menu
Many websites have a home page designed as what I call a visual menu. The home page essentially gives people several options to click on. It might highlight the popular pages within the website, some recent news, a calendar of events, or the latest blog posts.
This type of a home page is designed primarily for current customers, as it highlights what is new and helps them get to where they want to go quickly.
Is Your Website for Potential Clients or Current Clients?
The answer is both. But each page in your website should be written for a specific audience, and you should design your website so that different audiences are guided to the pages you want them to read.
Your website’s home page is by far the more important page of your website. As I discussed with the private school about who the home page should be designed for, we decided to design it for potential clients.
The school has a very small opportunity to catch the attention of a potential student’s parent who is visiting their website, and if it does not do a good job communicating clearly, that parent may never return to the website. In contrast, a current student’s parent is more forgiving if the website is not designed for them, because their student is already enrolled in the school. A current student’s parent is willing to spend more time searching for the information they are looking for.
One of the biggest mistakes that businesses (and website designers) make is not being clear about who the primary audience of each website page is, particularly the home page.