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The slow death of the homepage is underway, in the sense that there no longer is a “home” page i.e. a page that acts as the only entranceway for visitors to access a website and its vast content.
The emergence of side doors generated through search engines, social media, mobile devices and more has morphed the homepage into a way for companies to brand themselves online rather than act solely as an access point.
This isn’t all that surprising. With the emergence of search engines, social media and mobile devices, the way consumers interact with websites has drastically changed. It’s now about searching for key terms, sharing socially with friends and accessing bits of information from anyplace, anytime.
Take the New York Times, for instance. While the site received more than half of its visitors through its homepage in 2011, today it is seeing more than half of them entering the site through internal pages mostly due to search engines, Nieman Lab reports.
If the most popular news publication in the United States is seeing a huge reduction in homepage visits, it seems likely the situation is even more drastic for lesser known websites.
This makes it more important than ever for websites to treat every page as if it’s the homepage. Visitors accessing side doors can be so far submerged in websites that they may never surface on the homepage...ever.
We shouldn’t panic though. Spending a lot of time and energy on building out a homepage while leaving other pages ungroomed and dull is very fixable.
Below are a few tips to keep in mind when designing (or redesigning) a modern day website.
Up the visuals
It’s no secret that our attention spans have waned. We’ve grown to love colorful visuals and catchy excerpts of words, so long as they remain short.
When branding a homepage, it’s important to avoid using long, drawn out descriptions and to make sure the homepage visually represents the brand we want our company, product or service to convey.
The homepage and internal pages should combine professionalism with beauty, which means using little content to say a lot and creating a layout that’s intuitive and easy on the eyes.
Navigating should never be difficult
Many websites have excellent navigation menus on the homepage, as they should. However, now more than ever it’s vital for websites to also have excellent navigation menus on every subsequent page.
If people click on a news article tweeted by a friend and enter a site through that side door, they should be presented with more ways to easily engage with that website (e.g. where to access the blog).
It’s important to make sure each page features the main navigation bar so users don't have to jump to the homepage in order to get somewhere else on the site.
Ready, set...provide action
In addition to including navigation menus on every page, each website page should also include action items. These items can include anything from signing up for a company’s newsletter to sharing a particular page with friends on Twitter.
Or maybe it’s a way to contact the company. Each page, no matter how submerged in the website, should contain ways to interact and engage with the business.
Make a great first impression
Given that the homepage now serves as a branding mechanism for businesses, the brand should carry over to all pages so visitors can get a clear grasp of where they are and who they’re visiting at all times.
This can include an intro header or quick greeting to welcome visitors to a website, whether accessing through the homepage or one of the many side doors.
Creating a great first impression, whether on the homepage or a subsequent page, is key in grasping and maintaining attention.
Track, enhance, repeat
When a website is up and running, it’s vital to track its web statistics. This information is key in discovering what visitors like and don’t like about websites.
By tracking website analytics, we can get an inside look into the most popular pages, how visitors are accessing these pages (e.g. social media) and what search terms drive them to click.
It also tells us what devices are accessing what web pages the most, and if it’s mobile devices, what a perfect time to make them more mobile friendly.
Being able to cater our websites to visitors’ likes and needs can make all the difference in enhancing business online.
Since the homepage no longer serves as the gateway through which all internet traffic flows, many now just access it to visually get a sense of what the company is all about.
Apple’s homepage is the perfect example of this transformation. Its homepage is extremely clean, simple and minimalist, perfectly reflecting the company’s brand.
Additionally, all subsequent internal pages are easy to navigate and visually heavy with little written content.