A website’s homepage is a first impression, and a great homepage design should make it one to remember. More and more often these days, a visitor’s first interaction with a brand is through their website, and according to survey data, 75% of users judge a website’s credibility on its design.
The homepage has a lot to accomplish and a short amount of time to do it (about 0.05 seconds before the viewer forms an impression, to be exact). From summarizing the business or service to generating leads and providing seamless navigation, the homepage design must also set the tone for the rest of the site to follow. All of this can make homepage design an exciting yet challenging opportunity. With that mind, let’s take a look at some homepage designs done well.
What makes a good homepage design?
For a homepage design to be considered good, it has to be more than just pretty (though that is certainly a factor). A homepage design must be effective, which means it must accomplish business goals. So let’s start by asking, what is the intended purpose of a homepage?
First of all, a homepage is an introduction. It is often the first encounter a viewer will have with a business and a brand. This means that copy must effectively communicate what the business is all about and the design must give a visual and emotional impression of the brand, using design elements such as a color scheme, font choice and imagery.
This also means that in order to get a good homepage design, you must already have your brand identity established. A web designer will channel that identity into the homepage design, but you will need a logo or brand designer to create it in the first place.
An effective introduction must convey information in a clear and concise manner. While a copywriter or marketer will be in charge of the actual words on a homepage, the designer must make the information visually appealing and easy to scan. This entails understanding effective alignment, spacing and visual hierarchy. You’ll also want to make sure you brush up on common website layouts and composition principles.
Secondly, a good homepage design should invite interaction. It should make the user want to keep scrolling, want to click to reveal information and want to explore the rest of the site. This is where some aspect of making the design “pretty” comes into play, using inviting colors or satisfying micro-interactions.
Finally, a homepage design must be flexible enough to adapt to different screen sizes. This requires planning ahead of time, which is why most web designers choose a mobile-first approach. For more information, refer to our guide to mobile-friendly design.
Homepage design tips and inspiration
Conventional layouts can still be creative
These days, it is common to see similar layout styles appearing on multiple different homepages. This is perfectly acceptable—sometimes, even preferable. Ultimately, a visitor should be able to navigate and use a page intuitively and a familiar design scheme achieves that. So let’s go over some conventional layouts.
One of the most common iterations of a homepage features a large header with a text description of the business and a Call-To-Action (CTA) on one side (usually the left) and a hero image on the other. The content, of course, varies: the hero image can be anything from an illustration to an elaborate photo, so long as it captures the brand in a unique way.
This is usually followed by more detailed information about how the brand or product works. These are delineated into sections. Some websites make these sections explicit (with each marked off by a border or new color) and other times they are contextual (as in the content itself is what clues you into the fact that you’ve entered a new section).
Either way, the layout will sometimes shift for each section to keep the page visually interesting. For example, one section might have a two-panel layout, one might create an alternating zigzag, and one might use a horizontal gallery.
Alternatively, you may see a homepage with a large, screen-width hero image and a central alignment for the text. This is generally useful for relatively simple homepages that emphasize a CTA or text box, for example, this is a common approach for search engine sites.
While these standard approaches are inevitably familiar, they don’t have to be boring. There are ways to make these layouts exciting and unexpected through bold use of color or imagery. For example, Launch Psychology uses creative, colorful backgrounds for each section that make the standard layouts therein feel fresh.
Create an effective summary in the header
Let’s focus on the header. It’s the first thing a visitor sees when the site loads, and its ingredients usually consist of a succinct pitch, a compelling hero image, and a CTA. With most visitors sticking around for a mere 15 seconds, the header is perhaps the most important element of the homepage for capturing the visitor’s interest and summarizing the information.
There are a number of ways to accomplish both of these things through the copy and the imagery. The Holon example highlights an immediate deal for the visitor with imagery that showcases the product alongside some tastefully photographed leaves and a matching background of green for a serene ambiance.
The Main Squeeze design uses an artful display of juice bottles and fruit to emphasize the freshness of the ingredients. And the Gentz homepage uses its header to demonstrate the simple and seamless experience of using its app.
Compress the page to a single screen
One of the most important goals of a header is to convince the visitor to keep scrolling down the page to the rest of the content. But one option to negate the pressure of navigation is to eliminate the rest of the page altogether. Essentially, this means compressing the content into a single screen.
This can work in a number of ways. You can move less important content to other pages, as in the Eagle Wing homepage which uses sidebar tabs. You can also compress content with an automatic slideshow. For example, the four dots on the bottom right of the PYTIA homepage design indicate that the content beside the animated image will be swapped out at regular intervals.
The advantage here is that the user is given less information to parse through all at once, making it less daunting to both read and retain information. But of course, this strategy will not be useful for homepages with a lot of information to convey, in which case you’ll have to rely on visual hierarchy.
Tell your story with color
Color is both a key opportunity for branding and a powerful means of connecting with a visitor’s emotions. Take, for example, the vibrant yellow background on the Pressed to Fresh homepage design. Even before you read the words, the color combined with the happy-looking dog comes across as joyful, making you feel as though the product is here to solve problems.
Most web designs go for white backgrounds, and while this can create a clean and orderly impression, it is not your only option. Similarly, dark mode has been rising in popularity to ease up eyestrain bright white can bring about. These approaches have their practical uses, but vibrant colors can create a more personal connection with the visitor. In order to do so, make sure that you read up on the different emotions colors evoke when planning your color schemes.
Color can also be overwhelming on the digital screen so you will want to use it strategically. Soft color palettes that match a physical product, as in the GLAMRDiP homepage, can give life to the product on the digital screen. Color can also be used to create visual landmarks to guide the eye, as in the Piña Vida homepage design.
Focus on immersion
Like a real home, a homepage is meant to be inviting. It is supposed to draw the visitor in. And some homepage designs do so literally through an immersive experience.
Digital interfaces have a tendency to feel remote and impersonal, which is why users can find it easy to leave. Immersion, on the other hand, is all about including the user in the web page’s world.
One way to create immersion is through larger-than-life imagery, as in the huge photographic backgrounds on the Toussaint Productions homepage that almost make you feel like a part of the party. The HDgov homepage design, meanwhile, uses a full-page illustration to create a world within the website.
Another means to immerse the visitor is through interaction and animations. When a visitor feels the page responding to their touch (as in the nei.co example) or is breaking into the third dimension (as in the BlueIO example) this encourages site exploration. It makes the homepage feel less like assigned reading and more like a living thing.
Design by Alisha Chef via Dribbble
Design by Daniel Kurilenko via Dribbble
Get a homepage design that feels like home
A homepage design is not only the visitor’s first impression of a brand, it is the part of the site they will usually see most often if they do stick around. For this reason, a great homepage design can provide a comfortable, seamless experience—a place where the visitor can kick off their shoes and put their feet up.
As you have seen throughout the examples we’ve included here, there are many different stylistic approaches for homepage design. But what makes a truly great homepage design is both a unique vision and a great designer.