Q: Rob, I have seen animations on my competitor’s homepages and like how they look, but have concerns whether the cost to add one to my website is worth it. Are these slideshows all style and no substance?
A: First of all - I’m glad that you are taking a look at your competitor’s websites! I highly recommend taking a look at their sites regularly so you can be sure your site is the best and most user-friendly site in your market.
Regarding adding slideshows on your homepage, or any other page on your site, they are definitely more than just pretty pictures that decorate the page. They are an integral part of "the user experience" on your website.
Before I explain exactly what purpose the slideshow serves besides wallpaper, let me introduce you to three of the users that will visit your site:
Edna needs a job. She’s a skilled administrative assistant who’s been out of work for some time and had several interviews with no offers. After speaking with a friend, she’s decided to see if a staffing agency can help her in her job search. She types ‘administrative assistant jobs in Gotham City’ into Google and your site shows up on the first page (because you’ve committed to search engine optimization, right?). She clicks the link to your page and sees your site for the first time.
Conrad heads a local shipping company whom you talked with in his warehouse. You made quite an impression on him and he kept your business card handy. Now that he has a need for temporary forklift drivers, he’s typed your website’s address into his browser and is looking at your site.
Remy, the principal at a large local accounting firm, has been one of your top clients for many years and regularly uses your site to request employees and leave feedback on the candidates you’ve sent over to him. He knows exactly where to go to do his business (because your site is easy to navigate, right?), and once done, he moves on to the rest of his day.
When a user like Edna, our beleaguered job seeker, sees your site for the first time after arriving from a search engine, you only have a few seconds to make a good impression and educate her as to the services your agency provides. She’s desperate and will make some very quick judgments about your company and your fit for her based on what she sees on your site. She’s considering working with other companies and it’s very important for your site to immediately tell her what you do, whom you serve and why she should trust you with her job search.
A slideshow accomplishes all of these in a short period of time without expecting the user to do much work (many people just don’t read copy – they click until they find what they need or give up). Regularly changing imagery combined with targeted messaging can educate her and assure her that you are a good fit. Once she can see herself working with you, she’ll continue to explore your site and fill out your Contact Us form, maybe forgetting about your competition.
Conrad, your new client, already knows what you do and because of your productive meeting with him has decided to feel you out further. When he gets to your website, he sees your slideshow first. The content and the imagery in the slideshow reaffirms his reasons that he decided to reach out to you and, like Edna, may even educate him on other services you provide. The slideshow confirms his earlier impressions and he confidently picks up the phone to give you a call.
Remy, your favorite client, knows your website inside and out. He’s happy working with you, but he fields call after call from your competitors who want his valuable business. Even though he clicks the same links when he heads to your website, he sees the slideshow each time he arrives and it subtly reminds him of his reasons for doing business with you. The next time a competitor calls, he’ll send them to voicemail.
Educate. Confirm. Remind.
Your website is your 24-hour recruiter, receptionist and salesperson. An interactive, attention-getting slideshow that includes straightforward, informative copy and images that allow your clientele to see themselves gives you one more inexpensive tool in your arsenal to get a leg up on your competition.
And best of all, if your website is designed on an easy-to-use content management system, you can update your slideshow without having to call in a web developer. This gives you the ability to do some very cool marketing--for very little cost.