Website hero section: Best practices and ideas

Website visitors are extremely quick to form a first impression about your website and business. That can be either highly useful or detrimental for you, depending on the first thing you present your visitors with. A first impression doesn’t generally provide much information about your business, but it’s an impression that lasts and sets the tone for a visitor’s future relationship with you. Therefore, it’s a very good idea to invest some additional effort into creating an excellent one. That’s where hero sections come into play. So stay with us until the end of this article, as our web design agency in Chicago explains all about hero sections. What they are, what to use and avoid when creating them, what are the best website hero ideas, and how to achieve your best results.

website hero ideas

Table of Contents

What is a hero section?

A website’s hero section is the large banner image just below the logo and menu. It’s the first thing visitors see when they arrive on the website and, as such, carries a great worth for presenting your website’s values and forming an opinion. An optimal hero image should clearly point out what you offer, why customers trust you, and what actions they should take next. It consists of a website hero image and a short text and can be either static or dynamic. A dynamic website hero image design most commonly uses a slideshow of images or a video.

Previously, it was considered just a temporary web design trend that may not prove very effective and may not last very long. However, nowadays, hero sections have become an integral part of good web design and have proven to be highly effective in presenting a business’s unique selling point. A wide array of website hero ideas enables anyone to customize their own according to preferences.

The power of a well-designed hero section

A website hero image uses compelling visuals to attract visitors’ attention. As humans, we are by nature programmed to primarily respond to visual content, and if it’s strategically positioned, we can’t miss it. The short text is, as such, easy to read and understand; combined with the visual information provided by the image, it tells a story. And stories are what people want to hear. So instead of just coldly presenting your business, you should seek to communicate with your audience to establish a connection.

People want something they can relate to, and marketing is, in its essence, nothing more than the quest for establishing connections. A good presentation has to make a customer emotionally involved, not so much with your products and services, but with the idea that lays behind them. That’s why hero images must be relatable; they have to be personal, especially if they feature a human face and some storytelling about your brand. That’s the power of a well-designed hero section.

Hero section ideas and best practices

Designing hero images is a complex task which at the same time, includes both art and science. On the one hand, a certain level of emotion and artistic sentiment have to invest into the design, which the audience will recognize and reflect on. On the other hand, precise measuring of results has to be conducted in order to filter out effective practices from those less so. A wide array of ideas and practices can be featured on hero images, depending on the type of business you do, the visual style you want to establish, the message you want to send out, and other factors.

Hero images have to be polished to perfection, which can’t happen at once. It’s an ongoing process. Try out new features and see how well the audience receives them and how many conversions they bring. Keep refining your hero image design until you reach your optimal results. Therefore, in the following section, our web development company in Chicago discusses various website hero ideas, which have proven to be highly effective in captivating the audience’s attention and bringing many conversions.

Create a visually captivating hero image

For instance, let’s start with the fundamental concept behind hero images. Whether you are using a photograph, an illustration, or just a color pattern, it must be captivating. It has to draw attention to itself. Highly specialized websites that target only a narrow specific audience can go by with plain text on a blank background, but pleasant visuals are a must for everyone else. Use an attractive and relevant background image with minimal (but meaningful) text. If a website hero image doesn’t make you stop and look closely at it, it’s not doing its job. 

Make an interactive image slideshow

The advantage that animated hero images, such as an image slideshow, have over a single background image is that it additionally attracts attention by moving. Movement draws our eyes to it. That doesn’t mean that a slideshow is ultimately better than a single image, but if used well, it can provide a significant benefit to your website. There is also the interactivity component, as website visitors can flick the images left and right at their own pace.

The tricky thing with a slideshow is to choose adequate images. If they look too similar amongst themselves, there’s not much point for a slideshow. At first glance, it might look like a single image is being moved left and right, especially if the color schemes are identical. On the other hand, if they are too different, or at least if they don’t somehow fit in together, it will look chaotic and senseless. So there has to be a certain artistic sense in how they are chosen and arranged, similarly to arranging different clothes into a stunning outfit. If you are wondering how much design features such as this one cost to make, don’t miss our website design cost calculator.

In addition to that, there must be some storytelling continuity in their rotation. That is, after all, a slide show – a story being told through photos, chapter by chapter. Now, this may look like too much complexity behind something as simple as a slideshow, but that’s precisely what sets a good slideshow apart. It looks so simple and natural that you might think it took the designer no effort at all to create it.

Add a background video

This is one of the boldest website hero ideas. Using a background video means taking your animated hero image design another step further than with a single image or a slideshow. Once again, that doesn’t mean that a background video is under every circumstance better than a single image or a slideshow, as it all depends on the context and the designer’s skills. There is never a single best option. But if used right, a video can engage visitors in a unique way.

Filming and editing a short, captivating, and informative video is a topic by itself that exceeds the extent of this article. But the point is, the video you include has to be just right by all standards. The impact of a video on visitors is immense. Statistics shared by Forbes show that a video can increase conversion rates by up to 80%. Watching a moment in motion can get a tight grip on a visitor’s attention, and that’s when you get to present your idea and message and create a powerful impression.

Use illustrations instead of photographs

Most of the time, photographs are used to create website hero images. That gives the most realistic visual experience and frequently might be necessary to present what exactly it is that your business is doing. For example, a construction company specializing in apartment buildings may use a slideshow with photos of apartments they have built. But other times, a photo might not be 100% necessary, and that’s when you get the option to use an illustration instead.

Illustrations give you more freedom over how you can express your website’s message. You can choose what to show in the hero image, how to show it, and under what color scheme. Also, the range of businesses that can use an illustration for their websites is quite interesting. From arts and entertainment, it can reach all the way to software development and business solutions.

Experiment with color gradients

Another increasingly popular option you can use for your website hero image design is a color gradient. A color gradient is essentially a background that gradually transitions from one color to another, passing through different tones. Furthermore, a super gradient is when more than two colors transition, giving you an exciting visual experience, mimicking moving to and from a light source. That can also be used for your website footer design.

The primary benefit of a color gradient is that it can very boldly set an emotional tone. Different colors possess different emotional codings, so a gradient of adequate colors can do the job well if you aim to send an emotionally powerful message. You can also match the colors of the gradient with the general color scheme of your brand’s logo and visual identity.

Add some texture to the image

If you want to give your hero image some depth and realism, you can do so by using different textures. That may not be amongst the most common website hero ideas, but it’s definitely a useful one. A pronounced texture gives the hero image a sense of three-dimensionality, and the visitors will feel as if they can almost touch it. Depending on what you want to achieve, you can make the surface granular, linear, brushy, rough or smooth, and so forth. Combined with colors, textures can create a strong impression and make a bold statement.

Be mindful of space

While hero images should aim to provoke attention in slightly unusual ways and even cause a little bit of a pleasant shock, they shouldn’t be a sensory overload. A good hero image design is not all about overusing colors, shapes, and filters. Instead, aim to devise a creative but harmonious design. Organize information in a way that’s approachable, understandable, and logical. Don’t fill up all the space of a hero image with details. Make some space for the important bits and let them have enough room to breathe. Still, keep in mind that achieving your optimal design is a continuous process and should be monitored through a design QA checklist.

Match your message with adequate typography

The typography you use for headlines might not sound like a critical factor for hero images, but in reality, it presents enormous potential. Let’s just lay out all the features you can use when creating a headline:

  • Font type
  • Font size
  • Font color
  • Uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Emphasized individual words
  • Line widths
  • Bold, italic, underline, strikethrough
  • Hidden messages, etc.

The total number of combinations you can get using different values for each category is enormous. Therefore, the freedom to express your ideas and values using typography only (without even considering what the headline text itself says) is immense. Try out different designs, and don’t be afraid to redesign, but make sure to redesign without losing SEO. Like any of the previously mentioned features, typography, to a certain extent, sets an emotional and communicational tone, which you can use to send out your message.

Write a powerful headline

The headline is the first bit of text your visitors will read on your website. It’s the first bit of direct communication between you and your audience. Hence, it is needless to say how important it is to make that headline powerful. Aside from all the website hero ideas you may utilize for your design, its significance is so big that it is often the sole factor differentiating whether the visitors proceed further or leave your website.

Words have power, and within the headline, every single word is important. There aren’t, after all, many of them since a headline that looks more like a paragraph is guaranteed to make visitors lose interest. Therefore, aim to present your business in one or two sentences. However, that shouldn’t be taken literally. If you are a dentist, everyone is pretty much aware of what services you offer. Therefore, you should strive to present the idea behind your brand, the approach, the tone, the sentiment, etc. If you succeed at doing so, you are bound to grab your visitors’ attention, and they will be eager to find out more.

Follow up with a strong subheading

After getting your visitors interested by greeting them with an intriguing headline, proceed to give a bit more information about your business in the subheading. This section gives you a bit more space to expand your message and a bit more detail. It still has to be brief, tho, but more informative than the headline, which primarily aims to be captivating and interest-provoking. That’s the place to get your visitors’ trust. What sets your brand apart from others that offer the same products or services? 

Focus on your product

Sometimes, your product is all you need as the central theme of your hero image. Use a high-resolution photo of your product combined with some short but relevant text, or if you have more than one product you would like to highlight, make a slideshow with photos of several of your most important products. The photos can be a bit artsy, of course; there’s no need for the utmost formality. It may sound oversimplified, but sometimes this is all it takes to make a good hero image. Of course, this depends on the type of product or service that your offer. For example, you will have to use something more abstract if you provide business consulting services.

Utilize the human factor

As humans, we all like to see other human faces in marketing campaigns. Whether we consciously prefer such a campaign or not, subconsciously, we are all attracted to the human factor; especially human faces. Having photos (or videos) of people in hero images enables visitors to experience a deeper level of connection with your website and, therefore, your business. That can give you legitimacy and trustworthiness within your audience. It’s natural, so if circumstances allow it, use it in your web design. However, avoid using stock photos; they look cold, artificial, and impersonal, creating the exact opposite effect.

Evoke emotions in your audience

We have already mentioned emotions throughout this article, so how significant is their contribution to establishing communication with your website’s visitors? Well, the truth is, it’s pretty big. While logic and rationality play a part in both the way you present your business and the way visitors perceive it, none of that is ever devoid of emotional background. The more you manage to make your audience feel your ideas and your message, instead of just thinking about them, the more they will connect to your brand on a deeper level and the more trust you will build.

That’s closely connected to the above-mentioned human factor; people seek to establish connections. Most likely, many brands offer the same products or services that you do but make yours the one that people can relate to. There are various website hero ideas you can use to incite emotions. From headlines and photos to more subtle features such as colors, shapes, and textures – it all adds to the overall emotional atmosphere you are making.

Include a Call-to-Action

Last but not least, a call to action (CTA button) of some sort is an integral part of any hero section. It has to be clear, straightforward, and inviting. Your website’s visitors should never have to scavenge around your website for clues on what to do next if they are interested in proceeding. Make it clear to them from the start. There’s nothing more confusing and frustrating for a potential customer than not having any guidance on how to reach out to you. So the best way to avoid this is to add a CTA button to your hero section. Often, a simple but visible email CTA button will be enough.

Final thoughts

The hero section of a website carries truly immense potential. A well-designed hero image can be one of your most powerful conversion tools. It stands at the top of your website; it presents your message and sets the atmosphere for visitors, so make the most out of it. We have presented several creative and valuable website hero ideas which you can use to design your best hero image that will deepen your connection with your visitors and contribute to establishing your authority within the field. Experiment with slideshows and videos, try out different color schemes and typographies, and come up with a striking headline. But most importantly, aim to involve your customers emotionally and establish a connection with them.

If you are having problems designing your hero section and would like to hand that task over to an experienced professional, schedule a call with our agency, and we will create a hero image that will present your business in the best way.

Brian Djordjevic
About The Author

Brian Dordevic

Brian is Marketing Strategic Planner with a passion for all things digital. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or schedule a consultation call with him.

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