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Don't Let Uninspired Compromise Ruin Your Homepage

tug-of-warQuick: What are the first- and second-most important jobs of your company's homepage?

If you have a clear answer to that question, congratulations. You’re in elite company, and chances are the most important page on your site -- your homepage -- is working well.

If your answer is wishy-washy, you probably have an uninspired compromised on your hands. Your homepage is probably under-performing and you have work to do. 

Why Focus on the 'Job' of Your Homepage?

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, who created the “jobs-to-be-done” framework, explains the idea using the story of a milkshake.

Christensen and his colleagues were doing a consulting project for a major fast food restaurant, trying to help the company improve milkshake sales. The restaurant chain had already asked customers for feedback on their milkshakes and come up with a range of improvements, most of which had no impact on sales.

When the Christensen team arrived, they decided to ask a different question: What job does the milkshake perform? At first, customers were surprised by the question. But as they thought about it, unexpected new information surfaced: Most of the customers were buying milkshakes in the morning to keep them happy and full on long, boring commutes.

With this information, the fast food company was suddenly able to focus on improvements that made the milkshake better at the job it was hired for. They made it thicker (so it lasted longer), they added fruit chunks (so it was more fun) and sales went up.

Now think about how the jobs-to-be-done framework can help improve your homepage.

Your homepage probably has lots of potential jobs. But if you try to build a page that serves all those jobs you'll end up with an uninspired compromise -- a page with so many competing goals that none of them are achieved.

Just like with milkshakes, if you identify one, maybe two, key jobs for your homepage things will be easier. You'll have a clear measurable goal, and you'll have a good chance of hitting it.

Examples: The Difference a Job Makes

To see the difference between a homepage with a single, clear job, and an uninspired compromise, look at the difference between Google's homepage, and Yahoo's:

 Google Homepage Yahoo! Homepage

The job of Google's homepage is simple: Let the user search. Yahoo, however, is trying to do a lot of different things: Get you to subsections of their site, pull you into news articles, show you advertising, get you to log in, get you to search.

The jobs-to-be-done framework is useful for medium-sized businesses, too. The website of OfficeSpace software, built on HubSpot's CMS, is a great example: 

Screen_Shot_2014-03-07_at_2.09.45_PM

The OfficeSpace site seems to have two main jobs (probably the two most common jobs for business websites): 

  1. Explain what the business does. (Seems to be the first priority.)
  2. Convert the website visitor to a demo. (Seems to be the second priority.)

Many businesses with similar homepage goals stumble into uninspired compromises by letting other priorities compete for homepage attention. OfficeSpace did a good job of avoiding this trap.

The "What is it?" and "Convert" jobs are common on businesses websites, but businesses do pick other jobs. 

Last fall at HubSpot, after we launched new software at our INBOUND conference, our homepage was focused on explaining new features (see below). And some companies, like Dropbox in the second image below, will flip the OfficeSpace prioritization, making conversion job #1 and "What is it?" job #2.

Screen_Shot_2014-03-07_at_2.59.05_PM

Screen_Shot_2014-03-07_at_2.13.09_PM

What Should the Job of Your Homepage Be?

Different jobs make sense for different company homepages. To figure out what makes sense for your company, you need to do three things:

  1. Identify your key buyer personas. Who do you sell to? (Here's a great guide to developing buyer personas.)
  2. Understand their buyer’s journey. How does your buyer persona find you and make their decision? (Here's an ebook that will help you.)
  3. Understand your funnel and the key bottlenecks along your buyer's journey. (Here's a guide that will help you.)

Once you've taken these three steps you'll know who you should be targeting, and how. With that information you'll be able to decide what role your homepage should play in your sales and marketing funnel. 

To see how the job of the homepage can change, consider HubSpot's story: Early in HubSpot's history lead gen (and building our database) was our highest priority. Given that company-wide priority, the homepage's #1 job was lead gen. Explaining the product was the second job.

Today, HubSpot's database has grown, and we’re much more concerned about nurturing leads already in the database. As a result, the #1 job of the homepage has shifted to explaining "What is HubSpot." Lead gen is still a priority, but it's #2.

As your company priorities shift, the job of your homepage should shift, too.

Where the Buck Stops: Measurement

Jobs-to-be-done is a nice conceptual framework to use while you're building a homepage, but on its own it's a little squishy. The real value comes with what it enables: Measurement.

If your homepage has a clear job, chances are good that you can measure it. We measure the success of our current HubSpot homepage with user testing. We test to make sure users can answer the question "What is HubSpot?" Dropbox probably measures their homepage by the conversions, and Google by searches. 

On an uninspired compromise homepage, measurement is impossible, because there's no clear goal to measure. Conversions? The new product you're promoting? Positioning? Who knows. You haven't decided on a job, so you can't measure. And without measurement your homepage will be mediocre.

real homepage design examples

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