Manycompanies focus on using best practices when optimizing the discrete landing pages they send specific sources of targeted traffic to, but often ignore these same best practices on the page that generates the majority of visits – the homepage!

Any marketer can rattle off dozens of best practices and tips for designing landing pages that convert – but for the sake of this exercise, let’s focus on a few of my personal favorites:

Before we get started, let me make a confession: I’m not a designer. I’m a marketer. So I won’t ask you to trust me when I tell you the following sites inspire credibility through quality of design. Instead, here are some insights from a true expert in the field:

"The landing page is a powerful tool. It's the modern day brick and mortar storefront. If your storefront is cluttered or unclear, people will assume the same of your business, product or service.

When done correctly your brand narrative will attract your target audience without exerting the pressure of, say, a used car lot. When done exceedingly well, you'll gain earned media through social sharing.

Clear information hierarchy and a singular, clear call to action are also a part of it, but that’s easier said than done because everyone wants their bells and whistles. It's the designer's job to balance needs and expectations with the reality of design and technological limitations." 
-Kyle Lin Art Director, 99designs

So take it from Kyle – these five sites do a great job of delivering that perfect balance:

1. Spotify

Convey a clear value proposition/CTA – The value proposition: Music for every moment. Check. Clear Call to Action: Get Spotify for free. Check.

Use visually informative imagery - Here comes the fun part! The use of animation and imagery on Spotify’s homepage is not only instructive (listen to Spotify in your car, on the train to work, on vacation, in bed, etc.) but also reinforces the page’s main value proposition: Music for every moment.

Limit navigation - Unless you’re just dying to read Spotify’s terms & conditions or privacy policy, you have exactly two navigation options: Sign up for free or leave. Well done.

2. Airbnb

Convey a clear value proposition/CTA - Sweet and simple: Find a place to stay.

Use visually informative imagery Not familiar with Airbnb? It’s an online marketplace for non-traditional accommodations. In other words, it helps you book a stay in someone’s house, vacation home or guest room instead of dishing out big bucks for a hotel. The animation on the homepage showcases a variety of properties available on the site:

A home whose owner takes an eclectic approach to decorating:

A super-swanky beach house:

And, if you scroll down a bit, you’ll see that you can find a place to stay in cities around the world:

Limit navigation - While this page has more navigation options than Spotify, it’s pretty clear which action is meant to be the focal point: Find a place to stay.

3. Square Cash

Square cash, a service of Square, launched an invitation-only beta back in May with this stunning home page, which effortlessly satisfies our best practices:

Convey a clear value proposition/CTA - Email money to anyone’s debit card.

Use visually informative imagery - Like Spotify and Airbnb, Square Cash’s home page uses animation to tell the story of the product:

Limit navigation - Satisfying this requirement might be considered cheating since the service is still in private beta. Regardless, they’ve nailed it.

4. MailChimp

Convey a clear value proposition/CTA - Send Better Email.

Use visually informative imagery You guessed it – we’ve uncovered a trend here: the use of animation to communicate a value proposition. MailChimp’s home page uses animation to show off the product’s ease of use: just drag and drop an element into your email.

Limit navigation - There are a handful of links at the top of the page (Features, Pricing, etc.) but MailChimp has taken an extra step to make sure you know which action to take by placing the “Sign Up Free” button on both the top and bottom of the page.

5. Foursquare

Convey a clear value proposition/CTA - Find great places near you.

Use visually informative imagery - Well done, Foursquare. You know I’m in San Francisco and you’re showing me three restaurants close to my office. If that’s not visually informative, I don’t know what is.

Limit navigation - The handful of links above the fold that navigate to other pages are all in line with the primary call-to-action: Find great places near you.

Of course, as with any set of rules or best practices, there are always exceptions. In some cases, it would make very little sense to use the kind of simplicity these sites employ. Sites like The New York Times and YouTube for example, whose primary goal is content consumption, are less likely to benefit from taking a nod from Spotify or Airbnb. For the rest of us though, it’s certainly something to think about.

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JoAnne Hart is Director of Performance Marketing at 99designs. Follow her on Twitter.

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