We spend a lot of time researching, planning, designing, testing, improving, editing, and updating our clients’ website homepages, and, why shouldn’t we? It’s the “main event” and the “key entry point” for new visitors to your website – isn’t it?
At the risk of sounding like the internet geek that I am, I have to ask: “Have you ever taken a good look at your website analytics?” I’ve been reviewing user data for hundreds of websites for over 10 years. Call me obsessed about visitor/user data, but understanding what people do on websites is important to me and my clients.
We are in the midst of redesigning our website for Design The Planet, and this project is reminding me again about the functional purpose of a homepage and how the remaining website pages come into play.
What is the homepage?
It is the page that you land on when you type in a URL – like https://old.designtheplanet.com/ or https://www.nike.com. This page is still very valuable and worth the time and effort to optimize it. Statistically, it will still get the most number of hits/visits to your website, but, the point of this article is to talk about and discern all of your other “Home Pages”. To that end – most websites I look into have at least five other main pages where we know the visitor is experiencing your website for the first time on that page.
We used to have to type in a specific URL to get to a website and would always see the homepage first – remember those days? Now we have search engines that can provide us links to the exact content we are looking for, bypassing the homepage entirely. Because of Search Engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube and blog sharing websites like Medium – and even your social media feed – any page can be a homepage. People are arriving at your website for the first time through all of your website pages, so it is important to treat every page like your home page.
Joshua Porter capitalizes on this concept of “multiple home pages” in his article Prioritizing Design Time: A Long Tail Approach. He assumes that at least half of your visitors come to your website for the first time through lower level articles other than the home page. He also says that while the home page often gets the most views, it is the other pages that have proven to be more valuable and contain the highest conversion rates.
We see a need to stop thinking about the Home Page as the only front door to a website. It’s like renovating the exterior of your house, paying no attention to the interior and someone enters in through your bathroom. Is your bathroom nice enough for visitors? We believe that web design must have equal efforts put into all website pages in order to optimize your website’s effectiveness; the doors are open on all sides for new visitors.
What does it take to make every page a home page?
What should we do differently? I’d suggest you start with a healthy review of your website analytics to see where your visitors are coming from and how they landed on your website. You will gain insight on what the majority of people are searching for when they come to your website, providing you with guidance on what’s important to them. This can be a guideline on how you construct your multiple home pages.
Bottom line… rethink the concept of your homepage as the end-all be-all of a site’s visitor engagement area. While you should recognize its function and importance as the showcase for your brand and the navigation touchstone to the rest of your site, be aware that very often, your visitors will enter your site through a backdoor having searched for something of specific importance to them. Plan to engage them and hold their attention no matter how or where they start in your site.
How many home pages do you have?