The Home Page Showdown

By June 21, 2016Blog
17471982 - two different ideas in confrontation. concept drawn with marker on transparent wipe board.

When planning a new or redesigned website, there is always a great deal of time and energy focused on nailing down the home page answering questions like: What belongs there? How should the real estate be divided? And, what will appear “above the fold?” These are all valid questions, but the amount of effort expended on the homepage often outweighs its importance among today’s habits of content consumption on the Internet, and some of the popular solutions fail to create a better user experience.

A good number of readers will land on an interior page rather than the homepage, having accessed the site from a search engine or through a social media link. The New York Times reported in 2012 that only about 49% of visits to their site started on the homepage — that’s less than half. It’s important to keep this in mind as individual stakeholders go head-to-head over a few pixels give or take. Time might be better spent making sure that users have onward paths available to them from any high-traffic interior pages.

Homepage sliders or carousels are a popular way for organizations to appease several masters by giving various players equal screen time. This can be a useful tool for negotiating internal politics, but sliders aren’t actually that popular with users.  Many users won’t wait for the sliders to advance through their cycle, so the third or fourth slide won’t get any airtime. Or, worse yet, the slide advances just as the user realizes that they want to know more about a topic, and then it’s gone. This ultimately creates frustration, which is not ideal. The homepage should help people understand your organization’s core reason for being and make it easy for them to find what they need rather than barrage them with too many details about specific programs, events, or promotions.

Some stakeholders will put disproportionate emphasis on what appears “above the fold” on your homepage and how it looks on their own display. This concept is becoming more and more outdated as time goes on and as your organization’s web presence matures beyond the brochure-style site. First off, with the huge array of screen sizes it is impossible to pinpoint exactly where that fold will land in many instances. Add to that the fact that a user may have different settings for their display or browser and all bets are off about what will be visible upon landing. In addition, research shows that users begin scrolling before a homepage even finishes loading and that more clicks are generated from material placed just below the initial screen view and in the footer than from material at the top of the page.

When dealing with each of these scenarios, it is helpful to remember that your website is not a static brochure. The way it will be experienced by different users is dynamic, so it is important to be flexible about some of the smaller details and make sure the overall goals and business strategies are clear. Understanding the goals and strategies will help you evaluate every idea before it goes up on the homepage to make sure that the site’s precious real estate isn’t being hijacked by an individual stakeholder with their own agenda.

Our website kickstart package is a great way to formalize these goals and strategies and lay the groundwork for better digital content management across the entire site. Get in touch today to learn more!

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