Recently, I’ve heard multiple clients express a desire to reevaluate their homepage design. To be clear, they weren’t talking about changes of the standard and relatively fluid type—swapping out promo banners, updating messaging and content—but rather, altering the fundamental purpose their homepage serves.

While every retailer’s homepage has its own unique look and feel, I’ve noticed many trending toward one of the four following broad categories, each with a design carefully crafted to achieve a specific goal:

The Glamour Shot: An increasingly popular design, utilized by retailers such as Burberry and Rawlings, this approach features a full-window image combined with rich navigation. These sites tap into consumers’ aspirations (“I want to play like a major leaguer!”) and connect them with their brand, while helping visitors navigate to their desired product category.

 

The Display Case: These homepages immediately highlight specific products, and allow consumers to quickly begin adding them to their cart. This strategy is particularly useful for retailers whose products fall within few, similar categories, such as Bed Bath & Beyond.

 

The Sales Circular: Like the inserts in your Sunday newspaper, these homepages focus on special discounts and promotions. Successful promo-heavy sites, like W.B. Mason, are able to draw in new visitors and then upsell other products throughout the entire shopping experience.

 

The Merchandiser: These homepages, used by retailers such as Zappos, offer a variety of product callouts and classifications—from recommended products to various categories and curated collections. This layout helps consumers find their way, especially in instances where the retailer offers a wide array of products across many categories.

 

Take a look at your site; is your homepage’s design achieving its intended goal? If not, rather than launching into a full redesign, first consider ways to test different elements on the page:

1. Do new visitors convert at a higher rate when they see promotions and discounts?
2. What are the effects of showing returning visitors recommended products based on browsing history?
3. Is a scrolling, flash-based hero more effective than a static image?
4. Does adding a background color or image help or hurt performance?

Several clients I work with have run these simple yet powerful tests over the past few weeks, looking not for short-term incremental revenue, but for a high-level understanding of how their homepage actually serves visitors.