I read a lot of websites.
The reason I do this is twofold:
- Because I love the web and spend much of my time reading it, surfing it, considering it.
- Because working with online content is what I do: day in and day out, I write websites, form strategies and ask myself the hard questions about content: is it relevant, is it useful, does it answer the important questions?
As I'm reading these tens and hundreds and thousands of websites, I've noticed some common themes. The most prominent (and possibly the most detrimental) is this: people are not sure what to put on their homepages.
Your homepage--the first page that most users will see--is the anchor point of your website. Yet, most of us cannot figure out what belongs on it and what to leave off.
Today I'd like to help with that. First, let's talk about priorities.
What Belongs on My Homepage?
There are two answers to this question. The first is that, no matter who you are, what community you represent or what you do, your homepage should always communicate to users:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why should I care?
- What should I do?
Now, none of the information above has to be all-inclusive (you don't need your whole mission statement on the homepage). But each answer should be present.
Let's take a look at a practical example of this: Greater Phoenix. Click on the link and visit their homepage. Skim over it and notice that, very quickly, you can answer all four of the questions posed above.
Who are they?
The logo in the upper right introduces the organization and the main headline introduces the place (Greater Phoenix). If you are a user (particularly one who has come to the site from Google), you immediately know that you're in the right place.
What do they do?
The main paragraph tells us that GPEC (the organization) is there to introduce us to Greater Phoenix. They also provide a local news source (Opportunity Greater Phoenix) and GIS sites and buildings database (Phoenix InSite).
Why should I care?
Because the cost of living is low, the quality of life is high, they get tons of sunshine every year and industries like advanced materials, bioscience and aerospace are thriving. They illustrate these benefits with both their industry flash piece (at the top of the screen) and the intro text under their main headline.
What should I do?
In addition to a simple navigation that helps users figure out what to do next, GPEC has also placed links to their GIS and news sections just below the main paragraph. They want you to learn more about Greater Phoenix and search for a building or site that suits your needs.
When you start thinking about what to put on your homepage, start with those four questions. If you're auditing an existing homepage, ask yourself if it answers those questions--and quickly. If not, it's time for a re-write.
Stay tuned tomorrow for part II: How to Write Your Homepage for Your Goals.