Few companies are thinking as hard as Walmart about what a home page is for - and how to make it work on both computers and mobile phones.
The Walmart corporate home page has a carousel of three picture stories at the top. At the time of our review the default story was headed ‘Time, Together: One Family’s Experience with Parental Leave’. The piece is bylined, and the first few words of the introduction are included: ‘Bringing home a new baby is a time filled with adorable snuggles, sweet moments and quite …’.
Below this is a teaser for the next frame of the carousel: ‘NEXT: We have a goal of 10% of Home Office Associates to Commute to Work on Bicycles by 2023. Let’s ride!’
The rest of the page repeats these stories, among many others. They include several soft stories, but also harder ones, for example on Walmart’s payment of a fine to the Department of Justice.
The Walmart corporate site has much strong ‘magazine’ material. So it makes sense to think of its home page as its front cover, and to do as much possible to persuade visitors to click and begin reading. In the past 18 months it has been tweaked twice. Starting with a ‘standard’ carousel with an image and arrows pointing left and right, it moved first to a single image with a teaser for the next story, and then to the current version, which has much more editorial in view. Small moves, but with real benefits.
First, when the page is viewed on a laptop or desktop screen, there is much to engage without making visitors scroll: an attractive image, a headline designed to appeal to parents, and the start of a story that ends with three dots - all are designed to make you read on. There is evidence that links below the fold - out of view without scrolling - are much less likely to be clicked.
Second, it also works on a mobile phone. ‘Below the fold’ means nothing to phone users, because they will naturally scroll. So Walmart has provided a range of stories right down the page. It does not matter if few desktop users ever see these, the steadily growing percentage of mobile visitors will.
Third, the carousel does not rely on visitors clicking an arrow, or waiting for a new story to rotate into view. Why should they do either? Instead strong teasers are used to get them click backwards or forward, with each click increasing the chance they will find something that engages them.
The main weakness lies in the headlines: Walmart needs to get a journalist or copywriter to make them much more engaging. Perhaps that will come with the next tweak? Meanwhile, others wondering what to do with their home page should look and ponder. The home page is still the most visited page on most corporate sites, and possibly even - as people used to say - ‘the most valuable square foot of real estate a company owns’.
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