Great First Impressions: How to Get the Most Out of Your Website Header

Friday, February 24, 2023

That worn-out saying you often hear in social situations — “you don’t get a second chance at a first impression” — incidentally happens to be a great way to describe why you need to devote extra time to the design of your website header.

Article 7 Minutes
Great First Impressions: How to Get the Most Out of Your Website Header

If you consider your homepage your digital calling card, your header becomes the most important piece of screen real estate you own. It can either help you direct traffic or cause a high bounce rate.

Let’s examine what you can do to make that great first impression and make the most of your website header.

Be clear about what you do

You need to make it very clear what your business is and what you offer to your customers or clients. In other words, you need a killer headline — one that’ll focus on benefits as opposed to features and that will use the language of your target audience.

Start by writing down as many words or phrases that describe your business well. Don’t expect to nail it on the first go. Experiment with different adjectives and action words, and make sure to take some time to research your competition. It’ll help you familiarize yourself with the vocabulary in use and potentially identify any missed opportunities you can use to differentiate yourself.

Here’s a good example of a simple, effective header from Vetter. It’s right on point and their focus is on simplicity rather than using fancy industry jargon or sales-speak. In a sea of overly complex headings in the realm of SaaS, their value proposition sounds like a breath of fresh air.

Vetter website effective header example


Include a compelling CTA

Your header also needs to include a CTA, as you want visitors to be able to take that action without having to scroll or open your menu.

Depending on the nature of your business, the header CTA can be many things. It can lead to a product page, perhaps your newest or most popular item. It can offer visitors several choices, like checking out the features of the product or taking a look at your pricing models.

Make your choice depending on the sales funnel stage most of your audience is in. If they need more info, direct them to an information page. If they’re ready to convert, help them do it.

Your aim is twofold: you want the CTA to pop and be easily noticeable, and you want to use words that inspire action and that speak to your audience.

Startup Resources has a simple but effective CTA that checks all the boxes. It’s red, so it’s easy to spot, and it uses a simple “Get Startup Tools” slogan that’s catchy, without being overly salesy.

Startupresources example of effective CTA


Highlight your key differentiators

Your site’s header is the ideal spot to let people know what sets you apart from competitors. In most cases a great value proposition is already going to do this, but this is an incredibly important message which definitely warrants a bit of strategic copywriting.

When communicating your value proposition and telling your visitors what your site does, ask yourself this question: “Will a first time visitor be able to tell me apart from a competing product?”If the answer is no, your header and its value proposition needs a bit of work.

Despite the importance of this header component, it’s not a particularly difficult task. It’s extremely likely that you already know what your key differentiating features are. Are you cheaper than most competitors? Are you the only seller who stocks a certain brand? Can you promise a higher quality product than most of your competitors?

Once you have these differentiators in mind, all that’s left is to find an elegant, simple way to insert it into your header. There are many ways you can do this, but the most effective is to integrate it into your value proposition.

Let’s take a look at Vivion for example. The online retailer’s competitive advantage is clearly their supply chain, which ensures their product meets certain sustainability standards. Hence using the term “ethically sourced” in the value proposition.

The brand knows that many of their customers who purchase ingredients at a large scale are aware of the need to limit the impact their product has on society and the environment.

This is an excellent differentiator and the site’s header does a great job of communicating it very clearly.

Vivion example of an effective website header


Add a user-friendly search feature

If you sell various products, your best bet is to include a search box in your header. As you’ll never be able to display just the right products for every audience member, giving them the option to do a simple search will instantly improve user experience.

You want the search box to be as user-friendly as possible. Let’s look at Anytime Baseball Supply and their amazing solution, which you should try to emulate.

Anytime baseball supply example of user-friendly features in website headers


When you enter a term, you are shown various search results. You get to see what some popular similar searches are (in case you are not sure what you need), you can check out product collections, or even read blog posts about the product you are looking for.

And, of course, you also get to see six relevant products from several categories.

Showcase more than one product

While the search feature will be of great help to visitors who know what they’re looking for, it won’t do much to convert those who are just browsing. You need a different header element for the window shoppers in your audience.

Instead of focusing on one product or one product category, use a carousel to display numerous products (or services), or create a dynamic header and use several imagesor videos to spark some interest.

Look at Bellroy, for example. Their value proposition and CTA remain static, but they rotate their header images. They have color-matched them very well, and they’ve included shots of their products in use, the smiling faces of their satisfied customers, and highlighted some of their most popular items.

Bellroy example of showcasing multiple products in a website header


Address common conversion worries

The people who land on your homepage will have certain obstacles to overcome in order to convert. They won’t consciously be thinking about them, but they’ll be present in the back of their mind and may result in a missed conversion opportunity.

The sooner you’re able to overcome these obstacles, the lower your cart abandonment rates will be. Think about your audience and what they’re likely to worry about. Is it your shipping costs or the quality of your products? Do they want to know if you’re able to solve a specific issue?

For example, understand their audience very well and know that they’ll be worried about customer support, shipping, pricing and the effectiveness of the product. By addressing these four issues, the brand has managed to put their visitors in a trusting headspace, from which they’ll be much more perceptive to the rest of the messaging.

Shop solar kits example of addressing worries in a website header


Highlight your current offers

Finally, you need to keep your header interesting and change it up. Return visitors will get bored if everything stays the same. You will be missing out on the opportunity to promote your seasonal deals and your new products, as well as to adapt your marketing strategy to everything you’ve learned about your audience in the previous period.

You don’t have to keep reinventing yourself; merely test out different wordings and different conversion avenues. Once you pinpoint the category of header that works best, keep switching things up within it.

ModCloth, for example, currently features a banner advertising their Valentine’s sale. It won’t stay there forever, and they’ll draw your attention to a different discount when this one expires. It’s a great but very simple way to stay fresh and interesting without having to redesign your entire page every time.

Modcloth example of highlighting current offers in a website header


Final thoughts

Consider improving your website header with these tips and see how they impact your conversion rates. Take your time to think it through and analyze your previous and current header’s performance, and base your redesign decision on data you already possess about your audience.

John Hurley

John is a professional geek. He loves to overdeliver for his mostly SaaS & eCommerce digital marketing clients. Romantic comedies are his not-so-guilty pleasure. 


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