What’s the point of a home page?

Posted on 07 March 2014 in Web

Or more precisely, what is the point of your home page?

After a very interesting office discussion on the subject of ‘The problem with carousels’, spurred by some great articles by Erik Runyon and Brad Frost, Mark proposed the following question:

What is the point of a home page?

It’s a great question, one that can be easily overlooked when starting on a web project but one that can have huge bearing on the final result if left unconsidered.

The answer should be different every time, each business is unique and their website should reflect that. The home page is often the highest traffic page the user hits, getting it right is of utmost importance.

What are you aiming to portray

Whilst thinking about this question, I came up with some attributes, values and features that a ‘generic business’ might wish to depict on their home page:

Personality

Are you fun, creative, traditional, fresh, well established? First impressions are a big deal on the web.

Intention

Set tone of how the website fits into the business model. Is it: - To inform? - To sell? - To advertise? - To advise?

Authenticity

‘Does this website belong to the company I think it belongs to?’ Don’t compromise on your brand to the point of user confusion. Strike that:

Don’t compromise on your brand at all.

Integrity

‘Do I trust this website with these weight-loss advertisements and pop-ups?’ I’ll leave you to be the judge…

Benefit to the user

What will the user gain by reading the home page? Is your home page just going to be a funnel to pages with useful content or are you going to give the user the content right away?

Commitment

A fresh and up to date website shows a company that cares about their online presence. Blog feed looking a little ancient? Maybe it’s time to give it an update.

Knowledge and USPs

What makes your website different. Why should the user stay on your site.


Although these items should be included in the brand of a business, it’s far too easy to settle for ‘another website with a sticky navigation, full-width carousel, summary paragraph, services panels and a footer full of dull copyright information’ - we’ve all done it. Don’t get me wrong, none of these are wrong, but they must be there for a reason. Question your home page, justify each element, don’t just jump to the defaults. Consider the following:

  • Do you need a carousel taking up most of your page?
  • Why are the services panels situated where they are?
  • Do you need an opening paragraph on the home page if the About us page says the same thing?
  • What function does each element have? - If there isn’t a valid reason, should it be there?

Your research is the best research

When you start to analyse your average and target user and the way they interact with your website, you may well be surprised at what they class as a ‘good’ home page. Industry statistics can give a reasonable understanding of user interaction but the best statistics are those gathered from your own website.

If you have a site up and running and you’re looking to replace or update it, add Google Analytics tracking events to your home page and watch how your current users interact. It will give great insight into the pitfalls of your current design and although it won’t necessarily give ideas on how to improve the page, it will stop you making the same mistakes again.


Posted on 07 March 2014 in Web