The UIE Brain Sparks blog has a good article on the relevancy of homepage design. It discusses something I’ve been having a hard time with both on our personal site and on some client work I’m working on.
In most personal homepages the homepage is a scent-finding tool giving a short description of about who the site is and where different types of information can be found. However, our site is quite varied in its contents and I don’t just want it to be a long list. As such it may not offer too good of a scent of what’s where. Maybe I should give the whole homepage a better thought as I’ve had a hard time figuring what to put on it.
For business sites the homepage is very important. But as the Brain Sparks article points out, most newsitems on the homepage are ignored as the users search for the information that is relevant to them. The same applies to other informational sites, or sites that should be informational. I guess that the homepage on an informational site should serve as service that highlights the most requested information, thus providing shortcuts to users. In addition, the homepage should serve as an unlabeled help-page giving users hints on where to find different types of information.
While to most of us geeks and active Google, RSS, etc. users the homepage may seem trivial and mostly unused, my experience shows that most actual users of a site (that is non-IT site) will access the site and its contents starting from the homepage. Hell, it’s what I do when I need to access something from a corporate site that I know has the content since in most cases the content is hidden behind forms and such as isn’t available in search engines. However, as feed usage and getting content into search engines increases even average users will access the site direct from sub-pages. Therefore the navigational support of subpages needs to be addressed as well.
Whatever the case, homepage design is still important and relevant. In fact, it may be of increasing importance as novice users and new users to the site will access it through the homepage where more experienced users and recurring visitors use other methods to access relevant content directly.