How to write a Website Welcome Message
On your homepage, you need to make it obvious to your homepage visitors:-
- What your website offers them
- What they can find and achieve on your website
You can achieve this in a number of ways:-
- If it is not immediately obvious to your visitors what your website is about, you are going to need to write a welcome message which makes the purpose of your website clear.
- If your website is simple, it may not be necessary to write a welcome message. You may be able to display some sample previews of your content which, in combination with your menu, will make it obvious to your visitors what they can find on your website.
The modern trend is towards the second option – with no formal welcome message or statement of purpose. However, when a site is complex, it becomes essential to explain to your users, in as few simple words as possible, what they can find on your site and how they can get started.
The key to writing a good welcome message is to make it focused around your users’ wants and needs, and make it extremely simple.
Before you read further, a good starting point can be to read four simple homepage tips.
Welcome Message Option 1: A statement of purpose
One approach to writing a website Welcome Message is to provide a brief statement of the purpose of your website:-
- Tell your users in as few words as possible what they can find and achieve on your website. Express this in terms that the end user can understand, even if they are unfamiliar with what you offer.
- Avoid marketing “fluff”. Avoid using a statement that sounds like a corporate mission statement, which is self-promotional or essentially unhelpful to the user.
- Keep your welcome statement brief and concise. Don’t waste your user’s time.
- Try using a bullet point list – this helps readability – users can grasp the contents more easily.
Summarize your content
If you’re not sure exactly what you will be offering on your website, now is the time to stop and think out a plan. Organize your proposed web pages into a menu system – you can do this with a pencil and paper; draw the menu boxes and name them, then list the sub-menu items if any. Once you know what content you are planning to include on your website, you can summarize what you offer into your homepage Welcome Message.
Know your audience
Pick out one person
Imagine yourself speaking to one of your readers. What would he or she like to know about your site? Write as though you are speaking directly to that reader.
When they land on your homepage, your user is trying to get a 3-second assessment of what can be found and achieved on your website. Help them do this quickly and easily with a simple clear statement.
Your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person – a real person you know, or an imagined person – and write to that one. – John Steinbeck
Use simple terms
Don’t assume knowledge. Use simple terms that most anyone can understand even if they are unfamiliar with your subject matter.
Make it user-centric
Is your statement of purpose about you or is it designed to be helpful to your reader? Your entire website may be centred around you – what you know and offer; or it may be about your organization and the products and services you supply. But, do your readers really want to learn about you in your homepage welcome message? The answer is – not really.
Users are self-seeking in their search for information on the web. Your welcome message needs to be centered around your user’s needs. You will have an opportunity to write freely in a self-centered way on your “About” page. Every website should have an About page where you can tell the world about yourself or your organization. But don’t be self-focussed on your homepage!
So instead of saying “Our organization is pledged to helping eradicate poverty in the third world“,
you could say “Learn how you can help feed a starving child in Central Africa.”
If you do need to introduce yourself on your homepage, for example in a blog site, do it in a way that is helpful to your users and makes you more accessible. A successful website puts the needs of the user in the foreground, and the needs of the website owner in the background.
Option 2: Brief extracts from your most important pages
Another approach to your homepage content is simply to include brief extracts from your most important web content that is found on other pages on your website. Include a snippet of content, and perhaps an small image, from your most important pages, or most recent blog entries. Don’t forget to include a link to the webpage. For example, you could have a number of thumbnail images with article previews:
A brief description or introduction, followed by a Read more link.
A few lines describing the article followed by a
Read more link.
And a brief description of the article with a
Read more link.
Two or three lines of information and a
Read more link.
Tips for when you display article previews this way:
- You can link the images to your articles, so if users mouse over them, they can click to go to the article. Don’t forget to include an alternate text description for each image, because Google loves image descriptions.
- Make your article titles meaningful and attention grabbing. Your titles can also be hyperlinked to each article.
- Make your introductory text interesting to get your readers to want to click to read more.
- Use the same number of lines of description for each article, and the same size of thumbnail image. This creates a visual balance which is pleasing to the eye, and communicates a sense of order.
When you DO NOT need a welcome message
Sometimes the above approach can make the purpose of your website so obvious that you don’t need to state the purpose in words. Some of the biggest and most popular websites do not have a welcome message – for example youtube.com, cnet.com, microsoft.com. The modern trend towards not wasting any words on your homepage can mean this is a good approach, as long as you make it obvious to your users on your homepage what they can achieve and find on your website.
Test whether your message is clear
Confirm that the purpose of your website IS obvious to your users:-
- Test the impact of your homepage on users (see my guidelines for a very simple test plan). Make sure the homepage gives them a good idea of what your website offers.
- Verify that your homepage gets clicks by checking that you have a low bounce rate in your Google Analytics statistics for landings on your homepage. A low bounce rate (of say less than 49%) means that more than half the visitors who land on your homepage are clicking to read more, and that is good. Bounce rates vary from site to site – what is important is that your homepage bounce rate is as good as or better than the bounce rates on your other webpages.
Have you ever visited a website where you had absolutely no idea what the site was about? Chances are, you exited the site quickly then forgot it. Confusing sites are forgettable sites.
Website welcome message example 1
An example of a website welcome message for a website that sells gardening books is:
The above message becomes easier to read when organized into bullet-point lists:
Visit our online bookstore for books on:-
- Zen gardens
- Cottage gardens
- Small gardens
Our blog contains many useful gardening design tips.
Website welcome message example 2
The following image is a portion from a national tax office website where they have organised their content around their two primary groups of users:
In this example, the website does not have a Welcome Message, but has organized the homepage content to make it obvious to the user what they can find and achieve on the website. This shows the value of bullet-point lists when they are user-centric. Bullet point lists which are organized around the needs of the user can help them understand what the site offers. When they have hyperlinks, they can lead the users straight to the relevant page(s). If the same bullet point lists were organized around the structure of the organization instead of the user, it would be confusing!
Website welcome message example 3
This is an example of a website welcome message where a statement of purpose is used well – http://www.karmatube.org/: This statement of purpose is re-enforced by the tagline “Watch. Be Inspired. Act.”
Website welcome message example 4
At reddit.com, a brief and simple welcome message has a very prominent “learn more” link which is helpful to new users:
The importance of keywords
Remember to include your most important website keywords in your welcome message.When you are testing your homepage, don’t tell your friends or testers what your homepage is about. Ask them what they think it is about, and what they might be able to find and achieve on your website.