This is Part 1 of an ongoing series – Dismantling the Homepage
Over 60% of most sites’ traffic comes from search. And, for a variety of reasons, a good chunk of that search traffic increasingly is not going to your homepage. This blog outlines how this has fundamentally changed the role of both your website’s homepage and its underlying content pages.
We talk a lot about content around these parts. We talk about how the right content, or to use Google’s words, “Quality Content” is a necessity in this day and age to rank high and be found in search results. We talk about how that quality content is often linked to or passed around on other websites. And how this too helps to rank you higher in search results or PageRank. (Also Google’s words) We also talk about how this content is usually a gateway into your site from search.
If I search the right keywords, a blog post or article from your site could be one of the top search results. Someone clicking on that link ultimately starts their journey through your website through your content. So it got me wondering, is your homepage even relevant anymore?
The Créme de la Créme: What the Homepage Was
The homepage was once considered the most important page of your website. The heart and soul. The entry point to everything you had to say. A flashy billboard of what’s new, a bit of who we are, a dash of what we do, a sprinkle of why you need us and maybe a let’s get in touch to close it out. A little bit of everything. Outside of your primary navigation it was the only place you could really get a larger sense of a company as a whole without having to look very far. But that was also when visitors typically entered your site from the homepage. Y’know, when people actually typed a full URL into a browser. But really, who does that anymore?
Nowadays most people type a little bit and let Google do the rest. If you are looking for a specific company, Google will break down the search result with the basic sections of the site so you can quickly navigate to the services page or any page you choose. You go directly where you wanted to in the first place and completely bypass the homepage. Or, like previously stated, you are searching for a topic and find a blog post or an article in your search results about that subject and click on it. And again, now you have entered a site through a content page — not the homepage.
Now: Every Page is your Homepage
So if your content is the gateway into your website, you don’t want to give your visitors an isolated and siloed experience do you? Where they don’t learn more than what brought them there? No, of course not. You want them to get a good picture of what you are all about. You want to give them access points to multiple sections of your website. Just like you would normally do on your homepage. It’s why in some strange way, every page is your homepage.
Think about it. If every page can be the starting point for a visitor, you might as well give them some version of the experience you would want them to have if they began on your homepage. Like a train station. Your visitors should be able to hop aboard any train that’ll take them to any number of sections/directions on your site without ever clicking on the main navigation. Having the ability to navigate through calls-to-actions like a related project, an upcoming event, a meet our people or a list of relevant services would be all someone would need to start taking a deep dive through your site. Once they get that train a rollin’, who knows when they’ll stop or how far they’ll travel. The more you entice them, the more you give them something that’s intriguing and relevant, the greater chance they’ll need to pack an extra suitcase for the trip. Maybe even a return visit. And of course, after they’ve hopped aboard a few trains and navigated to multiple sections of your site, they will probably (out of pure habit) click on your logo to finally be taken to your homepage. But in a strange way, it could be the LAST page they visit, not the FIRST.
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
So if this is the new way for visitors to journey through your website, is your homepage all that special anymore? Probably not. (At least functionally) Important? Yes, of course. Special? No. As designers, we often place a lot of importance on the overall aesthetic of the homepage for a very good reason. It’s part of the process in terms of setting the tone and overall look and feel of the website. It’s often the starting point. Especially in concept form when presenting a new design to a client. The canvas we have to work with design-wise can be and should be handled a bit differently. Even if it is strictly because users expect it and are accustomed to it feeling different. But once we get past the fact that the homepage visually looks different, we have to understand that at it’s core functionally, it should act like every other page on your site. And vice versa.
It appears the day of the homepage being the center of your web presence universe is fading. It’s just the reality of the times and a reflection of the way search has altered our traditional ways of getting to where we want to go. Which, in essence, isn’t a bad thing. Right? It’s just a different thing. Especially if you approach every page like it’s the homepage.
My series – Dismantling the Homepage – is part exploration and part experimentation. So I’d love to hear your opinion.