Is your homepage really that important?
28 February 2012
Is your homepage really the most important page on your site? Yes and no.
Yes it is
Your home page is your shop front, and often the first thing people see when they visit your site. It’s a big opportunity for you to capture their attention. But not that big.
Research (see reading links provided below) shows you have a very short amount of time to capture attention on the web before the visitor backs out or goes somewhere else. Between 8 to 10 seconds, in fact. So make sure customers can get what they have come for, quickly and easily.
If you don’t know what your customers want when they visit your site, find out immediately. Why do you have a website?
Don’t waste time with “Welcome to our web site…“, the history of your company, or explanations about how your site works. No one will read it anyway. Cut to the chase and make it easy to find your catalogue or list of services.
And don’t be fooled into thinking just because your webstats show your homepage is the most visited page, it’s working. Google gives more priority to a company’s homepage, so people will most likely find it first. But then they can do two things: visit another page on your site, or leave. Check your bounce rate on your homepage and try to find out if your homepage is working for you or against you.
No it’s not
At the same time, the homepage is not that important. Like a shop with many entrances, your home page is not the only way people can get into your website.
In general, most of the visits to your site will come from search engines, in New Zealand mostly from Google. Using Google, people will find all the other pages in your website, and will very likely bypass your homepage. They may land on a product page, right in the middle of your site, or they may discover some page you had forgetton about and hadn’t updated the prices on in twelve months.
How can you plan for this? Here’s a simple test: imagine being transported, Star Trek-like, randomly into the middle of a large shop. You’d want to get your bearings quickly, right? Whose store are you in? Where are you in the store? Where’s the service desk? Where’s the door?
Now run this test on your website. Pick a page somewhere in your site and see if you can get some context as to where you are. What can you do from the page? Where can you go?
Better yet, run this test using real people, not your staff or best mates. Get honest feedback about what it is like to use your site. You’ll be amazed what you will learn, and the improvements you can make from that feedback will give you a better website and more business.
Links for more reading:
- Home page design guidelines
- How long do users stay on web pages?
- 50% of visitors leave after 8 seconds
- 8 second to capture attention (3.3MB PDF)
- Your homepage is your store front