Most of the successful landing pages we've designed weren't necessarily our homepage.  We were a financial education company so we generated most of our traffic and leads by publishing special one-off reports on various investing techniques and topics that had their own dedicated landing page.

However, the following are the core principles we'd use when creating such pages and I think you'll see most of them represented on any successful (i.e. "high converting") homepage (note: these principles weren't invented by us...they've been written about and documented in many books, white papers and blogs that we've shamelessly copied which I'll list at the end):

1.  Clear Headline That Draws the Reader In - This is probably the single most important element to any successful landing page and for some reason gets wildly ignored on many start-up homepages I've seen.

It was either Jakob Nielsen or someone from MECLabs that put out a study on the number of seconds a website has to grab a first-time visitor's attention...I think it was somewhere in the 2 - 3 second range.

Bottom line, you need to have a clear, powerful and emotional headline to pull the reader through the computer screen (within their first few seconds on your page) and make them want to stick around.

When writing headlines we'd try to answer the following questions:

  • What's the primary benefit of our product/service for this reader?
  • How can we write it in a way that incorporates as many of the "4 U's" as possible? (Useful, Unique, Ultra-specific and Urgent)

Remember, "benefits" are NOT "features".  It's important to keep that in mind while you're writing or designing elements for your landing page.

Here's a good way to think about it that's always helped me:

Product:  iPod 64 GB
Feature:  64 GB of Storage
Benefit:  Holds 10,000 songs so you can party all night!

We'd go through multiple rounds of peer edits and ultimately A/B tests for each headline idea.  It was a lot of effort, but totally worth it!

And I know it's fun to read about how changing a button color increased click-through's by 300%, but that's not what commonly boosts conversions on a landing page -- by far and away, the headline and initial body paragraph have given our pages more of a lift than any other variable over time.

2.  Rule of One - We use this concept in everything from our editorial, marketing copy and even landing page design. 

The rule basically says that for any piece of content, there should be a single action you want your user to take.

Therefore, write all of your content in order to move people toward that action and design the page so that it's as easy as possible for them to take that action.

That means, having clear copy on your button/link/email submission form.

It means making sure the button, the copy, etc. are large and bold enough to draw the user's eye.

And it really means that you shouldn't have multiple calls-to-action on your landing page. 

The worst thing you could do is make someone THINK!

It'll make them question what they're even doing on your site, it'll make them second guess the purchasing decision they were about to make, etc.

Designing for the "Rule of One" eliminates all of that indecision, stress and anxiety for your users.

3.  Reduce Friction - This principle speaks to some of the concepts I discussed in point #2 but it's worth breaking out on its own.

In addition to making sure you have legible fonts, your call-to-action is above the fold, etc., reducing friction also means getting inside your user's head.

It means understanding the things that will typically hold someone back from downloading your app, signing up for your email list or purchasing your product.  What questions or concerns will typically come to their mind?

  • Do I really need this? or, Is this product any good?
  • What else is out there?
  • Who else is using this?
  • Are these guys a real company? 
  • What are they doing to do with my email address?
  • Will they steal my credit card?

Thinking about all of these concerns will allow you to design a page that helps speak to each of them in an efficient and concise way.

For instance, when it comes to questions like, "Do I really need this?" or "Is this product any good?", showing testimonials or endorsements from respected 3rd parties is always a good way to boost conversions.

And for "trust" related questions, showing security seals, SPAM policies, credentials from the management team, etc. all work towards reducing anxiety in the mind of the user.


If you break out the three principles above I think you'll see that they all come down to the following simple equation:

Motivation - Friction = Probability of Conversion

Your goals should be to:

1.  Increase Motivation
2.  Decrease Friction

A sample landing page analysis below -