The Secret Recipe for Home Pages

Eclairs close up photo
(Banner photo by Aliona Gumeniuk on Unsplash)

First, for those with email lists:

Google and Yahoo recently made changes to better protect inboxes from spam. That means that if you send emails using an email marketing tool like Mailchimp, it’s a good time to make some updates to your settings.

We’re talking about home pages over here!

And eclairs!

My usually non-sweet-tooth husband recently developed an unexpected taste for French pastries. So, for his birthday this year, my niece and I decided to try our hands at baking eclairs. 

At 13, my talented niece is already a much more experienced baker than I am. She owns her own cake decorating supplies, she makes and sells fancy cupcakes to raise money for her college fund, and she and her mom bake most of the treats for our family get-togethers.

Lucky for us, my sister (also an experienced baker) gave me a ‘foolproof’ cookbook last Christmas— Baking with Dorie by Dorie Greenspan.

Dorie educated us with clean how-to’s that pâte à choux is “a recipe that might be five centuries old” and “is the only dough I know that is both cooked and baked.”

We followed her clear instructions as best we could. Did we skimp a little on the initial boil because four minutes seemed like a long time to stir? And did we fill our eclairs with homemade whipped cream because that seemed simpler than pastry cream? And did we pipe things a little flat and with wobbly hands?

Why yes. Yes, we did.

But was my husband’s Francophile family duly impressed, and did we all exclaim that our eclairs were the best we had ever had?

Unequivocally, yes!

As in eclair baking, as in home page design: authentic attempts are certainly fine.

Unlike in baking though, there aren’t foolproof recipes by Dorie out there. We may want certainty and right answers and assumptions backed up by test kitchens (or analytics numbers), but after almost 20 years designing home pages, I don’t believe in any of that.

I do believe that websites (and home pages in particular) are still the best way to attract the right customers. They are still the primary gateway that people will pass to gain first impressions, develop trust, resonate with offers, and make big purchase and engagement decisions. In addition, I’ve found that the task of creating a website often helps businesses gain much-needed clarity. Other mediums simply don’t offer the same level of communication and connection.

I also believe in keeping things simple, looking at inspiration, figuring out what you like and don’t like, following examples and frameworks if that’s helpful, breaking the mold if that’s your thing (but only after consideration), holding the numbers loosely, doing your best, and making changes over time.

Most of all, I recommend imagining yourself as a visitor—try to really put yourself in their shoes. Then ask yourself what information you would need to make a decision, a purchase, or an engagement. How do you a want someone to feel when they visit your site? What mood can you set? What story can you tell?

All this said, it’s still nice to have some Dorie-like how-to’s. So below is my simple recipe for a good home page. Take it with a grain of salt.


A Simple Recipe for a Good Home Page

Bon appétit!

Home page mockup

Now for those with email lists:

Google and Yahoo recently made changes to better protect inboxes from spam. That means that if you send emails using an email marketing tool like Mailchimp, it’s a good time to make updates to your settings.

The Gmail/Yahoo security measures are targeted at big email marketers (anyone sending more than 5K emails to Gmail or Yahoo addresses within 24 hours), but if you have a smaller list, these updates can still help prevent emails from bouncing. 

I know this can seem like complex stuff, and I’m not really an expert on email setups, but I found this to be fairly straightforward for my own list (I have a domain registered with GoDaddy and use Mailchimp for emails).

  • Check your email address: If you use a free email service like Gmail or Yahoo for your ‘from’ address (ie,, you will need to switch to an email from a private domain (ie,
  • Authenticate your domain (by making sure your emails contain DKIM, SPF, and DMARC records): If you use Mailchimp, you can find information and instructions here. If you use another email marketing tool, Google the name of the tool and “domain authentication” to find instructions.
  • Add your domain to Google’s Postmaster Tools: this will help you see your domain reputation, spam rate, and more.
  • Use good email list etiquette: Consider a double opt-in for your sign-ups (that asks people to confirm before subscribing), include a clear unsubscribe link in your emails, and don’t oversend to your list.

Many thanks to Calm Business for alerting and educating me.

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