The Minimal Homepage

What do you notice about the homepages of the fastest growing companies in the world?







Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • No access without signup. Most startups make the mistake of giving people who visit their site free access to content, whether it’s apartment booking or daily deals. This is often a bad idea. Contrary to popular belief, the more things a visitor can interact with on your site before they’re prompted to sign up, the lower your signup rate will be. 
  • Navigation and hyperlinks are almost always absent. Over the years internet marketers have developed what they call the “Squeeze Page” with minimal content and a single clear call-to-action because they discovered that additional information could distract a visitor or cause them to click away to a different website. Notice that there’s nothing below the fold on any of these sites.
  • Focus on a single, clear value proposition. In almost every case, the product’s value proposition is boiled down to one clear statement: “Your best source for knowledge” or “Be great at what you do”. People almost never read more than one sentence on your site (and they won’t even read that one unless it’s big enough and strategically placed), so there’s no point in trying to figure out your top 3 “bulletpoints”. This also makes it much, much easier to test as a growth hacker. Just replace one sentence with another until it works.
  • Your product is not about sharing. I see this mistake all the time. Lots of startups start out thinking that people will use their product because it helps them “share” things more easily. Let me be clear here: most people do not share. And even those people who share things aren’t sharing things 90% of the time. Most of the time on the web is spend consuming, not producing. More than 50% of Twitter users almost never tweet. This is why Twitter has shifted their messaging from “the easiest way to share with your friends’ to “Find out what’s happening, right now, with the people and organizations you care about”. If you cater only to proactive people, you’ll be alienating most of your potential users.
  • Big images. Big images increase conversion rates. Just do it.
  • Embedded signup forms. Start your signup process on the homepage so people don’t have to click through to a new page for no reason. Generally speaking, the more clicks you have in your signup process, the more people will drop off along the way. Note that these signup forms are almost always on the right-hand side, above the fold. They also rarely ask for more than a name, email and password.


When I tell people these things they often complain: “But everyone knows Twitter and Facebook, so they don’t have to explain what their product is about. No one has ever heard of [my startup] so I actually need to explain it to people.”

You are wrong.

Maybe you and I already know what Twitter and Facebook are about, but we’re not the people they’re trying to get to sign up on their homepage. 2.4 billion people use the internet and more using it each day. Believe it or not, there are still people on earth who haven’t heard of Twitter or Facebook. Those are the people these homepages are trying to convert – not the luddites who refuse to sign up (trust me, Twitter and Facebook stopped caring about them long ago).

The same is true for your startup. Don’t be stubborn and don’t think that for some reason your startup is an exception. Making that kind of assumption because you’re scared to try something counter-intuitive is a sure way to make sure you never do anything innovative.

Comments on this entry are closed.

    • Mark Campbell

      I agree the the interact first vs sign up first should come down to the highest value action.
      In the case of tools such as ebay.com, the highest value action is not signing up its the intent to make a purchase.
      So advice to prompt a user to sign up first should be treated on a case by case basis.
      I think the first point should start with Highest Value Action…
      what is the HVA that qualifies as Activation?
      what is the HVA that qualifies as Retention? etc.

  • Chris B.

    I think championing “minimalist is better” can be pretty dangerous advice in some cases taken out of context.

    I’m not advocating huge, clunky, complicated UX — there are clear benefits to simple, clean, minimalist squeeze navigation that doesn’t distract your user… BUT in my experience the “Dropbox” style minimal landing page works really well for companies that have crossed the “credibility chasm” and are established, known products. There aren’t too many people who don’t know what Dropbox, LinkedIn or Twitter are at this point — the point is to get the user using the app as fast as possible so they experience it. However, if you have not earned the user’s credibility or trust yet, minimalist can hurt you.

    For example, my startup BuzzFork A/B tested two styles of landing page. One was “Dropbox-style,” very minimalist just focused on the call-to-action and signup. The second version had the exact same call-to-action content at the top, but also included things like press-mentions, descriptions of what the product did (and what the benefits were, etc.). When we A/B tested the two landing pages the one with twice as much homepage content outperformed the dropbox style landing page with 150% better conversion rate.

    You can apply general principles to UX design, but you just won’t know what’s right for you until you test it yourself, similar to the thorough way Highrise went about it: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2991-behind-the-scenes-ab-testing-part-3-final

  • Grace

    Why doesn’t Yelp require login?

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