The role of the homepage
The homepage has a special role to play in your site’s navigation. As the page that people see when they type in your domain name, it’s the official first page of your website. Visitors expect it to introduce them to what the site’s about, and give them some pointers towards content they might want to explore.
If somebody follows a link from another site or search engine, the first page they see might be deep within one of your content sections. If they feel lost, they know they can visit the homepage to reorientate themselves.
There is a simple convention in website design that you should follow to make this easy: put your company or site logo in the top left corner of the screen, and make it a link to the homepage. It helps to add a “Home” link to your navbar, too, perhaps with an icon of a house to represent it.
Your homepage should include:
- A short, clear statement explaining what the site is about. Write a short paragraph near the top of the page. Provide an About Us page for the detail.
- Navigation options that help people find content relevant to them. Depending on how your site is structured, you could use short snippets of articles with links to the full stories; selected products; or links to the different categories. While most pages of your site will be dominated by content, the homepage can be almost full of these navigation options.
- A prominent search box. Some people are happy to click around the site exploring, but many people want to search. The search box should be near the top of the screen. It’s often placed on the right hand side.
- The standard navigation bar. Because people understand the homepage is different to other pages, you can get away with not having the same layout and navigation bar. But, if you standardize navigation from the homepage onwards, you can start teaching visitors how to navigate your site from the very first page.
Fiction writers are always advised to “show, not tell”. In many ways, the same applies to your homepage. People only need enough context to get started. Don’t tell people you have lots of special offers. Show them the offers. Don’t tell people you enable them to watch videos. Put your most popular video on the page and let them stop reading, and start watching. The goal of your home page is to get people to start interacting with your site, not to be an instruction manual for it.
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