Does Your Homepage Answer These Five Questions?

Does Your Homepage Answer These Five Questions?
Posted on 02/19/2018
CivicLive Blog - Does Your Homepage Answer These Five Questions?

Your homepage is the most valuable asset your website possesses. Why? In many ways it is often the first impression a person gets about your municipality. Your website’s homepage tells residents whether or not your government has their needs in mind. A good homepage offers, at a glance, a gateway to everything a citizen may need to access a municipal service — whether it’s paying a bill, applying for a permit or finding out about local events.


A well-designed, thoughtful, citizen-focused homepage encourages users to refer back to their city’s website, and to remember it as a reliable source for information and task completion. In order to achieve this, your homepage should answer five main questions.


1. Does Your Homepage Define Your Website's Purpose?

Websites are often referred to as “calling cards” because, like a calling card, they act as a convenient way to provide relevant and timely information. Your website is the easiest and fastest way to connect with your citizens, business owners and visitors, which is why it’s important for your site to have a clearly defined purpose. As a government website, your overall goal is to meet your citizens’ needs while highlighting all your municipality has to offer. Your homepage needs to make this clear by explicitly telling site users what it’s for.


Do: Add a tagline or motto, provide a brief overview, or a catchy, succinct headline. Whichever you choose, keep it simple, concise and easy-to-understand.


Don't: Dedicate half of your homepage to telling your city's history. (Keep that for your "About Us" section.) Writing too much about who you are and your goals on the homepage can be overwhelming.


2. Is Your Content Clear, Concise and Easy-to-Understand?

Plain Writing in Government Communication is the law. It’s also important for ensuring your content is accessible to all. Your homepage should demonstrate that your government understands this by only adding easy-to-read and easy-to-understand content.


Do: Limit jargon, keep sentences short, use accessible language.


Don't: Write down to your audience—keeping language simple doesn't mean it shouldn't be professional and respectful of your audiences' intelligence.


3. Does Your Homepage Have an Easy-to-Follow, Intuitive Design & Navigation?

When residents visits your municipal website, how easily will they know what to do? Will the design and navigation make sense? Will your homepage highlight the most important needs your site visitors have? Design and navigation, though not the same thing, do tend to go hand-in-hand. Your homepage’s design should encourage navigation while your website’s navigation should reflect the typical users’ journey on your page. A big part of providing good intuitive navigation is making sure users can access the most popular/most trafficked pages on your site, directly from your homepage. If your city blog, permits or bill payments pages are in high-demand, make sure your homepage highlights them.


Do: Ensure users know how to use your site, highlight your most trafficked pages and make sure first-time visitors can easily navigate your homepage.


Don't: Inundate users with too many options (keep things simple and direct).


4. Are Your Images High Quality and Original?

While stock images are easy to come by, finding one that tells the right story for your website, particularly your government website, isn’t easy. Taking the time to procure real images of your city, its residents, businesses and local hotspots is important as high quality images are a great way to further show off your municipality.


Do: Make sure your images are at least 300 dpi and use real, high quality photos of your city.


Don't: Use stock photos or low quality images.


5. Can Users Find Your Contact Information?

This may seem a bit obvious but a lot of homepages bury this information, which leads to frustrated users. A government website should encourage open, two-way communication with its residents. An easy to locate “Contact Us” tab is important. It should be placed in a fairly prominent location on your homepage so users can easily access it, as opposed to hidden at the very bottom of your homepage, in small writing. And remember, there are a variety of ways residents can contact their local government, including through social media. Making your social media easy to find, access and follow on your homepage makes contacting your government that much easier for busy, on-the-go citizens.


Do: Make your “Contact Us” page easy to find and highlight your social media accounts to provide a secondary means of communication.


Don't: Nest your “Contact Us” page within mega menus or dropdowns, also don’t hide it away at the bottom of your homepage.


Conclusion

A good website homepage encompasses many things, the above questions are only five of the most basic you want to answer when designing (or redesigning) your government website. To learn more about website homepages and what a great website design can do for your city, contact CivicLive today. CivicLive today.

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