saas basics homepage featured image

By In Growth Marketing, SaaS Basics

[SaaS Basics] Homepage – Above the fold

SaaS Basics is a series of research-based articles for specific parts of a SaaS customer journey. Filled with industry-specific examples.

From Acquisition to Revenue, I’m going to create robust guides for the essential building blocks like landing pages, onboarding sequences, re-engagement emails, downgrade pages, and so on.

A good homepage is the starting point of any strong SaaS brand. It’s only fair to start my series here.

In this article, we’ll try to identify and expand on the purpose and the goals of a SaaS homepage and go through the best practices of offering a 5-star experience to your visitors.

I’ll give you plenty of examples and statistics that I’ve gathered by looking at 209 websites from a broad spectrum of company size. 

That way, you won’t be stuck thinking, “Wait, but I don’t have $100M in VC funding, and I can’t afford to promote a Michelle Obama company speaking event”. 

To make this as readable as possible, I will split this article into two parts: above the fold and below the fold.

above below the fold homepage

In this part, we’re going to do a deep dive into the above fold. We’re going to focus on UPS, CTA, hero image, and other essential elements.

I’ve written an equally extensive article about SaaS website menus, so I feel like I shouldn’t add more unnecessary complexity to this article.

The homepage is not your main landing page

You should not overly rely on your homepage to be your PPC landing page or your primary source of organic traffic. 

Given that it’s your index page, it will have a lot of page authority and will have a lot of SEO traffic. It will naturally rank for a large pool of keywords.

If left unchecked, your homepage will become a massive gateway for most of your leads and you will have sweaty armpits every time you want to do an A/B test.

This is painfully real with Seed or Series A companies. They become too reliant on the homepage being their main (or only) source of traffic. 

This becomes a massive pain in the ass when you start ramping up marketing efforts and start scaling. You will become a pool of sweat every time you want to do A/B testing or redesigns.

I repeat, if your homepage is your main gateway for conversions, you have to start looking at diluting some of that traffic and create more landing pages.

channel and page breakdown

Depending on the stage you are in, the objective of the homepage may change slightly. But overall, the main roles it needs to fulfill are:

  • An elevator pitch for new visitors that are coming from their first feel for the product
  • A navigational starting point that guides and self-segments visitors based on their pain points and needs
  • A landing page for word-of-mouth, PR, brand search traffic

Of course, in the later stages of a company, the focus shifts from specific and descriptive to flexing and showboating. 

When you have a well oiled Marketing/Sales process, the homepage becomes a dog and pony show for potential investors and enterprise customers. 

Answering two simple questions

In terms of copywriting, your homepage should be answering two simple questions for new visitors:

  • How does it help me? Most of the time, this is the unique value proposition and talks to the brain’s motivational and emotional part. It addresses the pain points. 
  • What is it that you’re selling? This is the logical part of the brain, and it’s usually the subheader for your USP.
homepage questions

While these are the main questions you need to address with your copy, that doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to do just that.

There’s a lot of work behind answering these two questions yourself. Particularly, doing a lot of customer interviews and surveys. You should be doing this on a constant basis anyway.

The 2-5-8 seconds you have to wow your customers

This is something that I’ve been bombarded with times and times again since I was getting my Marketing degree. 

We’ve been comparing people with goldfish for quite a few decades now, regardless of the situation.

golden fish

While going at it with my research on homepage copywriting, I kept seeing this recurring topic. “You have X seconds to grab the attention of your visitor.”

If you’re going to do a quick search on Google for [ “8 seconds” copywriting ], you will get 165,000 results. 

Next up, [ “5 seconds” copywriting ] garners 419.000 search results!

There’s quite a lot of content written on this topic based on anecdotal evidence. 

Do you think it can’t get lower?

Well, here’s a quote from Brian Dean I found on an article about SaaS copywriting.

You only got 2 seconds to convince a visitor to stick around ?!?!

Unless your page is selling human sacrifice software, the hero image is a pentagram, and the visitors are looking for team management software, you have more than 2-5-8 seconds to make your pitch to visitors.

You can’t even properly measure this in Google Analytics. Time on a page doesn’t always measure the actual time on the page.

The most obscure and skewed metric in GA, your average time on page, is only considered if your users click through to another page.

All other visitors who land on the homepage and don’t visit other pages on your site will be recorded as 00:00:00 regardless of how much time they spent. (unless they just leave the window open for more than 30 min).

avg times spent on page illustration

Let’s look at an example from a SaaS website.  Here’s a screenshot with a Google Analytics segment of new visitors on the homepage, with a secondary dimension as Page depth.

The avg. session duration for 92k new visitors is around 00:00:02. 

There are better metrics to qualify the engagement with your homepage besides conversion rate, like pages/session or scroll rate.

You can easily implement scroll depth tracking in your Google Analytics.

But you shouldn’t even be focusing on optimizing your site to cater to visitors that sit a couple of seconds on your website. It’s fucking insane!

Creating a visual hierarchy

People rarely read online; they scan.

Information seeking behavior created the habit of page scanning. There are multiple page scanning methods, among which the most common are the Z-pattern and the F-pattern.

We seek structure – proximity, similarity, continuity, symmetry.

For aesthetic and selling purposes, the homepage needs to be as clean and as straightforward as possible.

You need to make sure that the elements on your homepage don’t battle each other for attention. 

A good homepage leads like eyes like this:

  1. The headline is your most important value proposition. It’s the first thing that the visitor needs to see.
  2. The subheading offers some useful context to the hedonistic benefits displayed in the headline.
  3. Depending on the layout choice you are making, your visual hierarchy’s next element is the image/video/GIF or the CTA button. 
  4. And the last part is social proof. It can be the number of enterprise businesses that have an account on your platform, the rating from a noteworthy directory, or the logos of your most worthy clients.

Here is a screenshot from Pandadoc. The numbers show how many times more noticeable the selected areas are, compared to the rest of the image

You can see the copy; classic black on white text is going to be very noticeable.

And of course, you want your CTA to be colourful and eye-catching.

Maybe they could make the notification bar up top a bit less distinctive so it won’t fight for attention with the primary CTA.

But you can see how they are using font-weight, colors, and whitespace to create a visual hierarchy among the main elements of the homepage.

Pipefy tells a different story. A more confusing one.

Elements are crowded and fighting for attention, and the visual hierarchy is all messed up.

Whitespace is very important when trying to create a clear visual hierarchy on your homepage. 

The importance of whitespace

You don’t need to create a layer overcrowded with text and images to paint the full picture for the user.

On a webpage, the whitespace is the space between the elements of a page. 

There are two types of whitespace that we need to consider:

  • Macro whitespace – the space between the main elements of the web page
  • Micro whitespace – the small spaces between elements that have proximity to each other like line-height between rows of text or the gaps between the elements in an image.
micro macro whitespace examples

Whitespace is very important when creating a clear visual hierarchy and guiding the user.

The ideal length of a homepage

Every page on your website is split into two essential parts – the above the fold and the below the fold.

The above-the-fold is the part that is immediately visible to the visitor when the page is loaded. 

This is the part that hooks you in, gives you a promise, and excites the visitor to learn more.

The below-the-fold expands on that promise.

When I see clutter on a homepage, there’s only one thing that comes to mind: little to no customer knowledge.

homepage breakdown


This is where it’s essential to answer the WHY and the WHAT.

SaaS homepages range from 1 to 19 scrolls in length.

Your homepage length will depend on the go-to-market strategy and your sales process.

Usually, your common no-pricing-lemme-get-all-your-info-to-schedule-a-demo-100k-a-year SaaS homepage lacks information. 

That’s mostly because Sales/Revenue executives lead the Marketing/Design process.

The average word count for the copy on a homepage is 738 words (including footer).

In this chart, you can see the distribution of homepages regarding their word count and the number of scrolls.

word-count-and-scroll-depth

The impact of the above-the fold

Let’s compare two SaaS companies that are direct competitors in the visual collaboration space: MURAL and Miro.

mural-vs-miro

It’s a massive difference in the language and intent of the copy. 

Miro starts selling from the first line of copy by talking about benefits. And it also uses subheading to expand on its hedonic promise with a more practical copy.

The MURAL headline feels more generic and ambiguous.

And it follows up with a social proof statement, “9M+ users trust Miro worldwide”.

It’s also important to invite the user to scroll and find out more about your proposition.

Around 77% of the researched SaaS homepages had a visual cue for showing users there’s more information below-the-fold.

You can see the elegant line going down on this tray.io homepage, visually nudging visitors to scroll down; without actually saying scroll down for more info.

Around 22% of the homepages have what designers call a “logical end.” When the bottom of the above-the-fold does not have any clues to lead the user to believe there’s more to see.

sertifi-homepage

In a mobile world, people pretty much inherited the habit of scrolling, but it’s usually good practice to offer continuity in your design. 

The headline

The headline is the first part of the copy that is meant to get attention and generate interest. 

The purpose of this piece of copy is not to be creative or clever. You need to remember that your goal is to convince the visitor to try your product. 

It’s the most overcomplicated piece of copy in the history of the copy. 

Many SaaS companies make the mistake of using the headline to showcase what the product does or just make a statement.

  • Feature: “Here’s what our product can do”
  • Benefit: “Here’s what you can achieve with our product”
  • Statement: “Our product is changing the industry”
  • Tagline: “Our product. Speed. Momentum.”
  • Flexing: “#1 product in the industry”

Instead of saying, “Here’s what our product can do,” you can say, “Here’s what you can achieve with our product.”

You can see how easy it is to make the headline more appealing.

Benefit headlines

The headline should be a simple value proposition that conveys a benefit. It needs to speak to the needs of the user.

Simple as that. 

Yet, only 45.33% of the analyzed headlines speak to the benefits the visitor might get from using the product.

Here are some examples of SaaS companies with great benefit headlines:

  • Generate more leads by seeing which companies visit your site – Leadfeeder
  • Understand how users are really experiencing your site without drowning in numbers – Hotjar
  • Real-time accountability for sales teams, in-office, or remote. – Ambition
  • The Fastest Way to Analyze Your Log Data – Logentries
  • Finance teams, get full control and visibility over ALL company spending – Spendesk
  • Crush your quota from propose to close – Pandadoc
  • Message your customers, they’ll love you for it – Tawk
  • Create and automate visual marketing reports in minutes – Whatagraph

A unique value proposition has its benefits. It’s memorable and impactful. But there are some cases where a simple, generic benefit headline can also be impactful.

  • Increase user engagement. – Clevertap
  • Convert More Leads – Unbounce
  • All-in-one workspace – Notion

It’s not for anyone, though. You need to have a solid brand to afford to oversimplify your headline to a broad, generic benefit.

The bigger the brand, the broader the targeting. It makes sense for companies that need to throw a wider net beyond their ideal use cases.

You are not selling software. You help the user save time, get more money, coordinate better, simplify work, put out fires – you name it!

And your headline should reflect this.

If you’re familiar with Pandadoc, you know they have lots of functionalities. But none of them are mentioned in their value proposition.

Every salesperson wants to crush their quota. 

It’s not even grammatically correct – “crush your quota from propose to close. “ But who cares?

They have a unique and memorable headline.

The main focus is set on the value proposition, and the hero image is there to complement and reinforce that statement.

If it’s possible, you can even call out your target audience by name. 

They are not afraid to own their niche. They leave no room for guessing. If you are in a finance team, this product is for you! 

You got to remember; these are not visitors from a specific organic search or an ad campaign.

They are mostly people who heard about your brand name at a meeting, talked with one of your colleagues at a conference, or clicked on a Forbes article.

Feature headlines

Feature headlines are not as effective as benefits in terms of impact, but they do a solid job in highlighting (right away) what they are selling.

Lack of inspiration or customer research? You can use a feature headline.

Here are some examples of feature headlines seen in the wild.

  • Talkdesk Cloud Contact Center Software – Talkdesk
  • Workforce Productivity & Analytics Software for Teams – ActivTrak
  • Simple Video Interview Software – Spark Hire
  • Meet your Cloud Directory Platform – JumpCloud

Some of these SaaS homepages can easily improve their appeal by just switching their headline and subheadline.

headline-and-headline-headline-and-subheadline-swapand-subheadline-swapsubheadline-swap

With a simple tweak, ActivTrak can improve their rapport with homepage visitors.

Usually, SaaS companies already have their best headline buried somewhere in their copy!

Tagline headlines

Way too many people confuse the headline with a tagline. Like Apple’s “Think different” (also, you wouldn’t see that on Apple’s homepage).

Taglines are usually more suited for B2C big brands, not really for B2B SaaS companies selling software products. 

15.33% of the SaaS headlines are simple taglines that communicate little to a new visitor.

  • Prepare for takeoff. – Sendinblue
  • Graph and Beyond – ArangoDB
  • Ignite Your Potential – FireStart
  • Great data teams start here – Databricks

I see no use for a SaaS company to push for a tagline in the homepage header at any maturity stage.

Some taglines aim to communicate the benefit, like “Hit Your Number” from Zoominfo.

While it’s pretty to the point, it feels very generic and broad in targeting. They could make this even better by making it a bit more unique.

Even Salesforce, that’s a billion SaaS years old, has a very benefit-centered headline – Connect to your customers in a whole new way with the world’s #1 CRM platform.

Statement headlines

This is an interesting find. 8.67% of SaaS headlines are simple statements?

I just had to create a different category for this type of headline.

It’s not news, boasting, or tagline. The use of passive voice defines them.

Here are some examples:

  • The sales, marketing, and CX playbook have changed. – Sendoso
  • Customer Success Teams Need To Be More Aware, Agile, and Customer-Centric Than Ever. – Churnzero
  • Automation is the new growth engine – Tray.io
  • Work is changing. So are benefits. – Guild Education

They are generic, and they do not talk directly to the homepage visitor.

Brag headline

This one is obvious. This type of headline can work as long as you have legitimate bragging rights, and you can support those claims.

There’s no other landing page on your website that’s better suited to boast with being number one.

Here are some examples:

  • THE #1 PLATFORM FOR REMOTE SALES TEAMS. – gong.io
  • The leading web form platform for you. – FormAssembly
  • #1 Cloud LMS Reimagine learning. – Docebo
  • Simpplr named a Leader in Intranet Platforms 2020. – Simpplr
  • The #1 Digital Asset Management platform for Enterprise Usability. – Brandfolder

The caveat to this type of headline is that it might rub some people the wrong way.

It needs to be supported by numbers, stats, reviews.

Docebo claims it’s the top cloud-based LMS, but there’s no supporting information.

You should aim to create a headline that’s around 6-10 words long.

That way, you make sure it’s easy to remember, and it’s not overwhelming.

Asana’s homepage has a lot of macro whitespaces.

And they made sure that the above-the-fold area has enough whitespace so that you’ll let your eyes rest and process the information. 

Almost all SaaS websites have a sans-serif font for their headline and subheader. This ensures that the headline is readable on any device and any resolution.

Also, the average font size for the headline is 52px, and the line-height is 60px.

This is 30px bigger than the average subheadline font height of 21px.

font size and height

Most SaaS websites have their headline font size between 40 and 60 px.

Couple that with a font-weight of 700-900, and you are ensured that the header is clear and prioritized in your visual cue.

With such big and robust fonts, you also have to make sure you make room for micro whitespace. This makes the text more readable.

Drift is using a 72px font size and a 58px line-height. It just makes the headline look like a literal “wall of text.”

The subheadline

The subheadline is a piece of copy that follows the headline and reinforces the message.

While the headline appeals to emotional reasoning, the subheadline has a practical purpose.

It starts expanding on the offering, functionalities, and the target audience. 

Almost 90% of the analyzed websites had a subheadline, in one form or another.

The average length of this type of copy is usually around 18 words long.

It’s the real unique selling proposition. While the headline can be generic, the subheadline can speak on the differentiators.

All the subheadlines have a sans-serif font, which is ideal for the web. 

You have to make sure the font’s height and weight make the text readable but are not competing for attention with the headline.

The average subheadline has a font size of 21px. It’s 31 px smaller than the headline.

In this example from JumpCloud, you can see an example of a subheadline of 16px.

Having such a small and light font could make it hard for visitors to browse through your page and easily access information.

You’ll usually have around 2-3 rows of text. You want to ensure the optimal micro whitespace between rows, so the line height is around 10px higher than the font size used for the text.

Most SaaS websites have a font height between 18-28px.

Sprinklr’s subheadline is rocking a font size of 20px and a line-height of 30, ideally spaced for maximum readability.

The hero image

Visuals are not as important as the primary copy, but they help keep the visitor engaged and reinforce the message. 

I’ll get a lot of hate from designers with this one.

But you have to remember you’re selling a software solution. 

Still, having aesthetic product images and illustrations boost the chance of success.

Around 61% of the 209 SaaS homepages in my research had an image.

No surprise here – an image is the least risky option. 

Only 17.88% of homepages had a GIF as a hero image.

I feel like SaaS companies are staying away from GIFs just because they are scared that a video rolling in a loop will distract visitors too much.

But, if done tastefully, it can provide a better engagement.

Around 10% of homepages have a text-only above-the-fold.

Without a hero image, the copy does all the heavy lifting. But there’s also no distraction.

The most notable example would be Basecamp’s redesigned homepage.

basecamp-homepage-text-only

Without a hero image, the copy does all the heavy lifting. 

The most disruptive option I’ve seen in the wild is a GIF as the background.

Huge moving elements that distract you from focusing on the copy or the CTA.

Just…why?!

While there’s a trend among SaaS brands to overuse illustrations in their web design, it should only be considered as a serious option if your product is straightforward.

hero image breakdown 2

33.56% of visuals are product screenshots or minimal illustration of the product UI.

This is the best use of hero image in the SaaS industry. It’s giving the potential user a teaser about what the product UI can do and look.

podium homepage screenshot

Avoid putting small screenshots of your whole product UI. They are useless and confusing.

formassembly-homepage

Only 2.01% of the homepages have a combination of real people and product UI illustrations.

This combination is ideal for SaaS products for people or team-oriented niches like productivity, accounting, HR, customer success. 

freshbooks-homepage-screenshot

Product UI illustrations offer a glimpse into the product while removing all unnecessary elements. And images of real people help create an emotional connection and increase likeness. 

16.11% of hero images are illustrations. It’s mostly used in the early stages of the company. It’s easier and cheaper to implement than having a product and people shots.

Another major benefit is that you can be creative with the reuse of the artwork in all marketing materials.

I’ve seen many SaaS companies with an Enterprise-first strategy chose to go for a GIF background that plays in a loop.

The amount of no f*cks given for Marketing from these SaaS companies is always disheartening.

Cut that shit out! It’s annoying and renders your value proposition useless.

The call to action ( CTA )

After the heading, the subheading, and the image, comes the call to action. 

It’s usually the button in the above-the-fold that asks you to try it for free or schedule a demo. 

But I’m going to briefly talk about pop-ups and chatbots as well just because they steal away from the focus of the primary CTA. 

On average, most SaaS homepages have either one or two buttons above-the-fold.

1-2 buttons CTA homepage

Usually, you want to go with a 1:1 attention ratio, but the homepage is the one place where you can squeeze in another call to action.

Most SaaS products rocking the freemium strategy will want to maximize the potential out of the automated, self-served funnel.

But suppose you target medium to large customers. In that case, it’s good practice to test adding another CTA button – something that offers a more customized way of experiencing the product and finding more information.

You have to make sure to maintain the same visual hierarchy as in the other elements to ensure that the conversion to your primary funnel does not get affected

To avoid the conversion rate’s cannibalization, you should try either a hollow button or a text link as a secondary CTA.

secondary button

Reviewtracker decided to go for a text link on the second CTA. That way, it does not steal the spotlight from the main CTA.

From this example, you can clearly see that this SaaS company prioritizes a multi-touch sales process over the free trial funnel.

docebo homepage.png

The Docebo homepage has two CTA buttons leading the visitor on two different paths. However, they are clearly battling for attention. There’s no main path of action. 

The preferred colors of choice for master button creators are green, blue, orange, and red.

CTA button color breakdown

Of course, the optimal button color depends on your background color. So you have to have that in mind.

To create a good flow on your homepage, you should maintain the same CTA wording and color with other buttons on the page that have a similar action.

formassembly-homepage

In this screenshot from FormAssembly, you can see the same issue with buttons fighting for attention. 

On top of that, the wording and the colors are not consistent with the CTA in the menu.

You need to be consistent with your wording and color throughout the page.

In my article about SaaS navigation menus, I discovered 78.10% of websites have different CTA buttons on their menu than on their landing page.

This time is no different.

One of the biggest mistakes SaaS companies make is not matching their wording with their correct strategy.

If you have a freemium product, you should use “Create a free account” instead of “Try it for free.” 

Or writing “Try it now” only to get to a form where you have to request access to the platform. Not cool!

Reducing friction on sign-up

I’ve written about this in my article about reducing friction by leveraging cognitive dissonance.

There’s usually a lot of cognitive dissonance on the homepage if the visitor hasn’t really interacted or heard about the brand before. 

Around 13.16% of the SaaS homepages had micro-copy underneath the CTA meant to lower cognitive dissonance.

It’s the most useful for SaaS companies that have free trials.

They also have some nice social proofing underneath.

This way, they reduce the friction related to putting your email in.

The usual copy used in reducing friction on sign up:

  • No credit card required 
  • Free ( N-day ) trial
  • Cancel anytime
  • N companies/teams signed up in the last week alone!
  • Free forever
  • No coding required
  • Easy set-up

You can be as creative as you want and experiment with this micro-copy. 

Leadfeeder has a beautiful example of this. They reassure the potential user that they won’t need a CC, the user will sign up for a free trial, and they will instantly receive info on their leads.

The Social Proof

An integral part of a successful homepage is social proof. 

Nobody wants to be the first to try the food in a new empty restaurant. 

And you might say, you haven’t had enough time to gather some essential logos that you can flex with.

That’s ok!

In today’s tech landscape, there are many ways to create social proofs on your homepage:

  • Logos of relevant or important clients
  • Number of companies/teams that are using your product
  • Ratings on popular review platforms like G2 or Capterra
  • Forrester reports
  • Mentions in high profile publications like TechCrunch
  • Testimonials that are relevant to your target audience

You can use one or multiple methods to reassure the potential customer that they are not wasting your time on your homepage.

Most visitors are very allergic to scrolling too much past the above-the-fold.

Livestorm goes above and beyond to erase the clouds of doubt from visitor minds.  

By adding your social proof as up as possible, you make sure they don’t miss out on this crucial element.

Only 68% of the SaaS homepages had social proofs in the above-the-fold or right below it. 

The other 32% usually prioritize copy about the different features and use cases. 

Always test the f*ck out of your homepage

Like any other research that I’ve done, there’s no guarantee of “best practices.”

The SaaS world is an unbalanced one.

Just because your famous SaaS brand does something today, it doesn’t mean they are doing the right thing.

It just means they got enough VC money to play around.

I love the Miro brand, and I wanted to refer them to the article as a reference.

miro before homepage

Meanwhile, they’ve changed and tested their above-the-fold to a more conventional one.

miro-homepage-after

It’s quite the shift from their initial homepage that they’ve had for a while.

Many people praised the Slack page’s simplicity and minimalist design until they grew and made a more conventional homepage filled with information.

Don’t rely on your gut feeling and unicorns when it comes to best practices.

Always A/B test the f*ck out of every change on your website.

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One Response to [SaaS Basics] Homepage – Above the fold

  1. […] This is the follow-up article to Homepage – Above the fold. […]

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