Here is another contribution from David Dufresne, who has agreed to share tips with our readers from what he has picked up running Bandzoogle. This regular feature is especially geared for bluegrass bands who manage their own web space.
Your homepage is usually the first page visitors to your website will see, so it’s important to make sure that you have the right elements in place to grab their attention, make a strong first impression, and keep them on your site. A well-designed homepage can get you more sign-ups for your newsletter, more sales from your online store, and convert first-time visitors to becoming active and engaged fans. Here are 6 essential elements to have on your homepage that will help you do just that:
1. Great Header Image
Your header image is arguably the most important element of your homepage. It’s likely to be the first thing that people see on your website, so think about what image can best represent your music and who you are as an artist. Having a great photo of your band along with your band name is a classic example of an effective header image. Here’s a nice one from Rhonda Vincent:
From the picture and description, you know Rhonda’s name, what she does, and you can probably already get a sense of her music just based on that image.
Your header image can also be artwork rather than a photo, but same rules apply: it should represent your music and who you are as an artist.
2. Short Bio
You should never take for granted that people visiting your site already know who you are or what you do. Yes, your current fans will be visiting your site, but so will lots of potential new fans, and journalists, bloggers, promoters, bookers, etc. Folks you want to impress. Having a short bio, or an “elevator pitch” right there on the homepage will let a potential new fan immediately know who you are and what your music is all about. Here’s a screenshot from the homepage of Audie Blaylock & Redline:
For this bio, keep it short. A longer version can be saved for your “About Us” or “Bio” page. You can probably stick to the “Who You Are” elements of your bio, like:
- What’s your band name?
- Where are you from?
- What do you sound like?
- What are your influences?
Make it the blurb that you want bloggers and lazy writers to copy-paste in their articles about you. For more tips on creating your pitch, check out this blog post by Music PR superstar Ariel Hyatt: “Creating a Perfect Pitch – Laser Focus Your Message.”
3. Music / Video
First time visitors should be able to sample your music in one, easy, obvious click. So the next element you should have on your homepage is a song that people can listen to right away. This can also be an embedded video they can watch. Adding visuals to the experience means that you can grab their attention through both their ears and their eyes. Less chance that they’ll get distracted by their e-mails, Facebook or anything else, and you might get their full attention for the whole song. But for both audio and video, be sure that it is your best, freshest track, or a song that you think best represents your band.
Monroeville has both an audio track and several videos available just below the header on their home page.
Speaking of calling people’s attention to something, the next element to have on your homepage is a call-to-action. A call-to-action is designed to direct people’s attention to something specific that you want them to do while on your website. It could be to join your mailing list, buy your latest album, listen to your latest track, or donate to your fan-funding campaign.
But it’s best to limit yourself to one, maximum two calls-to-action. What your call-to-action is depends on what your goals are for your career, at this point in time. For an emerging band, collecting email addresses to build up your mailing list would be a good goal to have. For a more established artist with a solid fan base, directing people to purchase new music and merch through your online store might be the way to go. If you’re raising money to fund your next album, you can direct people to your fan-funding campaign.
Here’s a good example of a call-to-action from The Boxcars, a prompt to join their email list:
5. Latest News/Blog
With this next feature, it can come down to personal preference. Some artists have a full blog on their homepage, others have a news feed with all of their news from the past few months. Just remember that your website should have a blog, but it shouldn’t be a blog. Most people don’t scroll down on a web page (one study showed it was as high as 80% of people), and will only read what they can immediately see on their screens.
So put the top news items on your homepage (maybe 3-5 items), and direct people to your full blog from there to see more. Info about your new album, a new show announcement, or a press article/interview are all things to feature proudly on your homepage.
See below how Del McCoury’s front page includes a number of news items, and a call to action.
6. Social Media Links
People might only have a short time to check out your website, so it’s a good idea to give them a quick link to connect with you on social media sites. That way, if they only have a minute, they can go to your Facebook page and “Like” it, or follow you on Twitter, right from your homepage.
Don’t overdo it, you can simply list the social media networks that you are most active on. The goal isn’t to send people away to 10 different places other than your website, but to make it easy for them to keep up with your latest activity.Then you can draw them back to your website with the content you put out through those social media profiles that you are active on.
Here’s an example from Cumberland River’s homepage, where the social media icons are prominent in the sidebar to the right of the main content:
Keep it Clean
One last thing to keep in mind is that an overly-cluttered homepage is not a good thing either. You’ll want to stick to these 6 elements for the most part, and use them to direct people to other sections of your site effectively. Otherwise, if people have too many options/links/images to look at, they might simply ignore it all and leave your site.
The most important elements, including your call-to-action need to be above the fold. The fold is the line after which visitors have to scroll to see the content. Keep in mind that the fold is different for different monitors and screen resolution.
If you do decide to make some of these changes to your homepage, you can use your Analytics to measure whether it worked. If you look at your current bounce rate before and after the changes, the bounce rate should decrease after these changes. You should also hopefully get more email sign-ups and sales from your online store too.
Your Website is Home for Your Music
Social media sites come and go (i.e. MySpace, Friendster, soon Google+?), or can completely change, like we’ve seen with the recent “Timeline” changes to Facebook Pages. Although social media sites are a great place to interact with and find new fans, you can’t rely on social media sites as a homebase for your music, and as a hub for your online strategy. You should focus on driving fans to your own website where they can always find your music, sign-up to your mailing list, or shop for music and merchandise directly from your own online store.