Tips for Choosing a Website Template
Website Wisdom — Experience-driven Success Solutions
Tip 1. Do not select a template based on the homepage desktop view.
Do people usually enter your website from the front door, the homepage? How do you know?
If you already have a website template, perhaps you selected it based on the desktop view of the homepage. Many people do. The thing you need to carefully review is the percentage of people who actually come to your website this way.
The majority may come through other doorways and you want to check out these other views. You want every doorway to be enticing, welcoming, and successful with your viewers.
Where is the flaw here? You love your homepage. After designing and developing more than fifty websites, I can say that almost everyone made their decisions based on the homepage appearance. The Front Door is simply the most important to website owners.
Your website front door can be elaborate and beautiful, have wonderful pictures, even be ornate. But if people arrive at other pages online most of the time, are you wasting your time and money on one view of one page? You can of course add Google Analytics to your website and view the actual statistics. You can see the list of landing pages and visitor counts. Then you will know for sure.
Yes, we do know that beauty, and emotional response come from the initial glimpse of the visual aesthetics of the first page a visitor sees. Times are changing, new web habits emerging, and most visitors just don’t enter a site by the homepage anymore, and no longer just on desktop.
View the website demos on your phone. Check out both homepage and internal page designs. Then you will see what many of your future visitors will also see. Be sure you love these views just as much before buying your template.
Tip 2. People find your website in search, based on the topic they are searching.
You want visitors to find your website in search. Do people search for topics that are covered in your website? Whether objects, people, discussion topics, medical issues, or anything else, usually people search the topic they want. Then the search engine matches them with articles on that topic or stores containing that item.
The link goes directly to the page on that topic. These visitors do not go to your homepage first. They go from search directly to the topic they want. Every door is now a homepage.
In most of the websites I have designed and built, I find that the majority of people who visit first come through the doors of a topic they are seeking, often found in an article, text page or blog post.
Most of your visitors no longer politely knock on the front door, use your navigation, then go down the hall to the page they want. That may be how people still enter your home, but the analogy stops there.
A Real Website Story
I recently worked with a website that had about 1700 pages. The company presumed that most of the 100,000 website visitors in an average month went to the homepage by company name and from there primarily selected a famous product of that company.
This does seem logical. However, when the pages people visited were studied in Google Analytics, it was discovered that many other pages were in competition with the main topic for visitors and page views. This was a big surprise.
The company was also known as a resource for health information on several other wonderful services it provided. The overwhelming majority of visitors actually came from search on six varied health topics. The number of these visitors added up to more visitors than the homepage doorway.
The shock of this realization caused a stir and generated a company wide focus on all the other services the company provided. Those in charge considered this as not only a useful but financially viable new direction for their company to promote.
Tip 3. The Responsive Mobile Homepage is Rising in Prominence
Now, in 2016, we are in the days of responsive website design. We need to respond to various human needs for accessing a website including the 18,000+ different devices people now use. A desktop is quickly becoming a less used entryway.
"Search is the most common starting point for mobile research" — Google Insights, Smartinsights.com
How many people come to your website by phone, tablet, phablet, tabtop, laptop, desktop, or widescreen wall screen? If you don’t know, you can find out in Google Analytics. Please check. Research and shopping habits are changing dramatically. We use new tools and read in motion daily, rather than return to a desk to study and think.
Depending on your primary audiences and their web device habits, a significant portion of your visitors may never see your website on desktop. Professionals work on their phones. The percentage of people who have desktop computers and/or broadband internet at home is also surprisingly less than you may realize. If your audience is not the most affluent, plan for alternate doorways.
We are stuck with desktop thinking though, and many people pick web templates based solely on desktop view. It may be a surprise, but the beautiful big pictures you loved on the desktop template view are not seen on the phone. Look at your template design in smartphone view before selecting it. Do, please, so you are not surprised or disappointed later with few images, all-text views, or excessively narrow columns.
People may view your offerings at 2 inches wide or 8 inches wide and you can't decide that. It is their choice. The way you can provide for the device needs are to find templates that are "responsive" and automagically change the website appearance based upon the device used to view it.
Don't just take my word for this, trust the authority. You may wish to login to view the full research report if time permits:
"It has never been a more important time to know how consumers are behaving than in today’s fast evolving digital environment. These trends in digital technology are propelling consumers’ new multiscreen, constantly connected lifestyles." — Nielsen Reports, http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2014/the-us-digital-consumer-report.html
Research, travel directions, purchase, ordering, getting a reservation, checking out a friend: each need is so different that we must be aware of the journeys people take to best accommodate their needs and expectations. The person who visits on a phone may never actually see your amazing website on a desktop, so the phone journey must be a complete and well-planned experience for them.
Provide rich and useful experiences for every website visitor and your visitors will love you more.
Things to do
Test out website templates on your phone. At least squeeze the desktop webpage view to narrow, just 2 inches wide or so in your desktop monitor, to see how the template restructures the page for mobile.
Consider the source of your visitors and the pages that will really serve as landing pages.
Plan a great experience for all your internal pages. Drive your visitors to the most desired course of action on every page.
It is as if you have a hundred side doors to your house and you want a welcome wreath on all of them.
Have you read about Ghosts of the Desktop Era?
Learn more about Search here You are an Entity and not a Keyword
Hoping to make your online success easier with tips and stories from fifty websites, twelve years of coding and five decades of design — Thank you for reading.