We all know that first impressions matter. Whether we’re talking about first impressions in a board room or first impressions on a website – that initial interaction can be make-or-break. Yet, it’s still something that is often taken for granted.
This can be a big mistake. Outside of referrals, word of mouth or just hoping to be that white whale no one can ignore (the ultimate rarity), your homepage design can deter someone from signing up immediately. They say never judge a book by its cover but people do it all the time. As such, it’s important to understand the message you want to convey and do it effectively. However, even the biggest of companies need to start somewhere.
Similar to fine wine, startup homepages have improved with time.
As more and more people become familiar with good design, the bar for a quality homepage has been raised. Your potential customers or users are looking for a homepage that conveys the reason they should be signing up and the problem you solve.
The approach for your startup or company is going to be different from the next. If you’re in B2B, it’s likely that you’re going to take a much different approach than someone with an ecommerce site. That’s just the nature of understanding your audience and their different motives.
Recognizing how far we’ve come, I wanted to take everyone back into time to take a look at some of the homepages that some of the most successful startups launched with.
Here’s one of the first homepages for Dropbox. Notice how minimalistic it is in communicating the two different call to actions. You can watch a video or download it immediately and get started.
The founder of Dropbox recorded one of the first videos. You can check it out here.
While the startup and marketing world is just starting to catch wave of Snapchat, it’s been around since 2012. Here’s what their early website looked like:
Do you remember Ghostface Chillah? That’s what the original nickname of Snapchats ghost before they erased his face.
Before BuzzFeed Food took over our Facebook newsfeeds, there was the original. Similar to most blogs and media websites, BuzzFeed was a standard looking site. The biggest differentiator though was highlighting content that was going viral now and showing the total clicks on their content.
Tesla may have recently woke up the entire world with their billion dollar Model 3 kick starter but they’ve been around for years. Since day one, Tesla has been focused on creating electric cars and their slogan, burn rubber, not gasoline – sold the dream.
Classy since day one. Uber differentiated itself from the rest of the pack by conveying a premium product for its customers. It communicates quickly the primary call to action (sign up) while also deliver three primary value propositions: (1) Request from anywhere (2) Ride with Style and (3) Hassle Free payment. Three benefits that still hold true today.
As one of the oldest companies on this site, it should be expected that Salesforce wouldn’t have one of the prettiest sites on the list. What’s special about Salesforce is their commitment to no software in the early 2000s. While CDs were still all the rage, Salesforce went as far as establishing the phone number: 1-800-NO-SOFTWARE.
It all started with the hope that people would share what they were doing. Since the days of this homepage, Twitter has evolved well beyond this simple value proposition.
It would be a shame to forget the site that changed the way we connect.
TheFacebook, which was originally only available for Harvard University students wasn’t always a site filled with algorithms, videos, and games. It was nothing more than a Mark Zuckerberg production.
What is the lesson from these billion dollar homepages?
First and foremost, understand who it is you’re talking to. When Mark launched Facebook, his audience was Harvard University students so he explicitly stated that on the homepage. When Uber launched, they knew their audience would be people looking for a premium driving experience.
Once you understand who your audience is, it’s time to be focused on what their primary goal is when they visit your site. Do they want to download your app like Snapchat or Dropbox? Or do they want to read content like they would if they landed on Buzzfeed?
Understand who your audience is first and what your audience wants to do second. Once you have those two answers, it’s time to optimize for those experiences and recognize that different visitors are going to want different things. Some will need more information before they download while others will be willing to download immediately. It’s on you to understand and optimize for their behaviors.
But don’t stress.
It will never be perfect. You can look at the homepages above and realize that it’s okay to be embarrassed about your first launch. If you’re not, it’s likely you took too long to get there.
Three words: Just Ship It.