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The only plus it looks pretty :)
What are your practices?
That top page must:
a. communicate what the visitor can expect to find and buy on your site
b. be easy to absorb and clearly understood
c. quick to load
d. clearly identify navigation and winnowing tools for the visitor to use to locate a product
e. make available a way for the visitor to identify you
g. and it must be appealing
That's a lot to put into a one page. To accomplish this I focus on categorization of the products to be sold. I want those categories in the main content section and I want to reflect them in the navigation - as a way to reinforce the structure of the site with the visitor. It's also a must that I provide clear and intuitive navigation with at least one or two winnowing tools to help the visitor get to what they want.
In addition, I make it a point to have any sales/specials/closeouts on the top page - but not as the main content. These take a back-seat to the main navigational tools.
the problem is that we already have this all on our fron page. It identifies us (logo with clear site activity slogan), show various product categories and service links. It greets the customer. It looks pretty (without noisy "cool-designer's-bells-and-whisles", but clean and pretty professional, I think).
All this takes left column, right column, header tabs and footer links. The center is nothing to fill with.
We think of headlines of last shop news, hot topics (sales and closeouts), etc. And thinking of new ideas :)
Product categories with pictures is what I use. I also include any hot sales in a smaller section of the center. You could also include a "Featured Product" or product line. The nav sections are textual - the center is your chance to display some of the products you sell. A photo is worth a thousand words.
The front page of any ecomm site is THE MOST IMPORTANT page of the site. It has so many tasks to perform...
The homepage of an (mid-size) e-commerce site has only one primary function: to upsell. The rest is secondary.
There are a lot of people that get to the product page, add a product to a cart and then start looking for something else - just in case they find something they like. And one of the places they often check is the home page (sometimes more often than a site map or a catalog listing page).
If you employ typical ppc/affiliate/jv combo marketing for a catalog site, then most of your visitors will enter your site at either category or product pages. And absolute majority of those that add something to the cart will see the cart before they (might) see the home page.
So when you are designing your home page - think of those visitors that added something to a cart, but have not finished their order yet. Selling more to those guys will make you more (extra) money that anything else you might do with your site.
If you can convince someone to get back to the cart and go through with the checkout process - that's good. But if you can convince that someone to add more items to the cart before checking out - that's (much) more profit right there.
HINT: Try not to use static home pages when you can, but have some space that is being linked to the cart and upsells the visitor based on the items he already has in his cart. So if a visitor has added some widget to the cart, and then went to the home page - it would not hurt to display a few related widgets to the one widget that he has in the cart. And not just a list of best-sellers.
Another possibility is to display a picture of that very same widget (that's already in the cart) and a sign like "Buy two and we'll take 10% off."
Think of the psychological effect that would have on the visitor, when he sees a "special" offer for the exact item he really wants.
If you decide to go with the related widgets, then make up a special offer of "the widget in the cart + another related widget=10% off."
There are many different things you could do, but the point is the same.
I would also suggest that the existing few top selling products are put on the home page where buyers can make a "quick purchase". Many visitors arrive at a site with a definite purpose and if the past sales figures point that specific products are selling well then that's where (more) focus should go. If there isn't a specific product then its an opportunity to try out different products over a perod of time and see which one does better. It's a bit of an iterative process to find a layout that works well for you.
You'll find this is suggested by Neilson Norman Group (pp 55-61 of E-Commerce User Experience) as long as the upselling doesn't get in the way of the checkout process and is set up as an opt in.
But anyway, the question was not if it's better to put some feature on the product page, but what features should go on the home page.
I guess you missed my point about people adding to the cart and the going to the home page.
If you have the capability, then try tacking click-streams for those visitors that start session with a home page vs those who get to cart before the home page. You'll be surprised at how much your data will differ from what you expected.