The Home Page
What should appear on the home page? The first question to ask is about its purpose. What do we want the home page to do? It has four functions:
Greeting New Visitors
When a visitor arrives for the first time, the home page has the important job of convincing that visitor in just a few seconds that the site has the information the visitor is seeking. The home page needs to make it very very clear, in large type, what the site is all about. The home page also needs to present very clear navigation so that the new visitor knows how to find information on the site.
Navigating for Repeat Visitors
Returning visitors are important! They have taken a step toward doing business with you by returning to the site. Perhaps your excellent newsletter brought them back–or they remembered your domain name–or they found you again by searching. But they’re back! So you need to make the navigation very clear with direct links to the major categories of information on the site. They want to know who you are, what you offer, why you are the best choice.
Rescuing “Lost” Visitors
Visitors can get lost in your navigation, and click on “Home” to get back to the starting point. Clear navigation on the home page will help them. But you don’t want this to ever happen–make sure they always see links to all the major categories of information on your site. It’s also a good idea to display “breadcrumbs” at the top of the screen, so that they can go back up the path of navigation that they’ve followed.
Provide Google the Big Picture
Some overall discussion of your organization, what it does and why it’s best on the home page is a good opportunity to use high-level terms about your business so that Google can index your site on those terms. Use those terms in your URL, your page title, the page meta description, H1 and H2 headings, as well as in the text on the page. And include them in the alt text of any images on the page, especially your trademark.
The Bottom Line
Paying attention to the multiple purposes of the home page, and designing for those purposes, is important for maximum effectiveness of the site.