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Website Workout: Home Again

– Posted in: Design

Home baseAlthough the home page of your website may not be seen by every visitor, it is still vital as the face of your site. Think of the hostess in a restaurant. As you come through the door, she needs to make you feel welcome, determine what you need (bar or restaurant, table or booth, how many to seat), and direct you to your destination. Your home page needs to do all those things and more.

Among the many tasks of the home page, it needs to make clear–at a glance–what the purpose of your site is, what visitors will find there, and what they can do, with a general understanding of how the site is organized. It needs to promote content and features found within the site, and provide quick access to the most frequently accessed pages. It may need to convey current deals or display timely content. Most of all, it needs to help the visitor identify what he’s looking for, become aware of new things he may not have been looking for (but will be glad to find), guide him on how to start, and convey trust and credibility.

Wow. That’s a lot to ask of one humble page.

There’s really only one way to find out how effective your page is: ask. Consider usability testing, or at least a website review by a trained designer. Also, consult people you know, have them look at it and answer some basic questions. You need new eyes. Of course, you should look at it with that second paragraph above and the previous Website Workouts (purpose, design, home) in mind.

There are endless books and articles about web design, and there’s too much ground to cover in a few words here. But these concepts at least give you a starting place. For all aspects of web design, I strongly recommend Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. The book is a little dated now, but the ideas are still sound.

Should Your Blog or Feed Be Your Home Page?

Current general thought is that if you have a blog or other changing content such as a news feed, that should be your home page. This is largely based on the thought that search engines will rank it higher. Keep two things in mind, however. First, while search engine optimization (SEO) should always be a consideration, it should never be the primary driver of content. Second, go back to the first workout: what is the purpose of your site?

If the primary purpose of your site is to blog or provide news, then yes, that should be your home page. If it’s important, but not the main purpose of the site, then consider using teasers or excerpts on the home page, but not having it be the home page itself.

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