I edit a small non-profit magazine for local residents. It only goes through 4000 letterboxes. Yet I know from my days as a trade magazine editor that the cover image is everything, and I still play around with several ideas before we go to press.
When we relaunched Industrial Technology magazine in 1992, I knew we had one shot at getting it right. If readers didn’t open up that first issue, it would forever be “one of those free magazines I get every month and never unwrap”. I insisted on us foregoing the revenue which a front cover advertisement might generate, despite us needing every penny at the time. I put a fabulous picture of a beautiful new sports car on the cover (with a rather thin story inside to justify it!) and the response was fantastic. The magazine went on to become the biggest in the design engineering sector during the 1990s, thanks to a brilliant editorial and sales team which continued to allow the rulebook to be torn up.
My point is that 25 years on, first impressions are still everything. Online, the top sales sites nearly all feature a simple photo of the siteowner and a bare call-to-action.
Your site may not lend itself to showing an individual in this way. But the thought which needs to go into the image every home page visitor sees at first glance is critical. It needs to be simple, recognisable, representative and above all, eyecatching. It doesn’t need to be a product: it could be an installation, a representation of customer service, or even a photo of your manufacturing facility. Just give it lots of consideration, and spend the money on getting a really high quality image which is exactly what you want.