Getting a website’s home page right

Getting the home page right is one of the hardest things to do in a website’s development. At least, it must be, because so many websites get it wrong. What the designers fail to do is to put themselves in the shoes of the visitor. To get this right, we need to brainstorm the answers to two questions:

  • Where has the visitor come from?
  • Why did they decide to visit the site?

Only if we answer these questions well can we decide if the home page we’ve got (or are creating) does the job properly.

Now, faced with such vague questions, this is the point at which most readers will switch off and get on with something more pressing. But it’s an exercise which is worth persevering with.

The first question seems pretty easy, but don’t forget all the sources that make up the “direct/none” row in your Google Analytics report. People who typed in your website address directly, for example. Where did they see that address? Where have you quoted it? Magazine adverts, business cards, data sheets… the more you think about things, the more potential sources you’ll identify.

Go through everything you’ve listed, and try to work out what the visitors from those sources are likely to expect from the site. Some sources, such as search engines, might have several different types of visitor, all wanting different things. All of them are important. Others might take a bit of thinking about; what is a visitor copying the website address from a business card likely to be after? Company contact details? No, they’re on the business card. Think about it.

Once you’ve done this complete exercise, you can move on to answer the big question. Does your website’s home page satisfy every requirement, at a glance?