Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How to design the First Page of your website?

Typically ads on the web are supposed to be relevant. At least that's been the cry and the claims so far. Though of course, as happens in life, so on the web; we'll take a while before we master the art of being relevant. Anyway I click on ads nonetheless out of sheer curiosity. I like discovering new stuff. So here's one such incident.

A Google ad on top of my gmail inbox threw a name of a website selling baby products. I clicked on the link and landed on the site. And as soon as the first page opened, an ad popped up offering me some discount on a certain product on the same site. I closed the ad. And I see the page showcasing various baby-products with bubble bursts announcing some offers with some of them.

I presume the site is for young mothers and probably bright colors attract. But what I couldn't quite get is the number of things calling for my attention on the first page itself. My reflective side kicked in.

I was ready to explore.

I typed 'buy baby products' in Google and decided to check out the first few sites of baby products thrown up in the search results. I noticed the similarity in all the sites. Bright colors. Lots of messages. Lots of products. Right on the first page.

Unless someone's really really clear about what she's looking for - which I don't think is often the case - these sites do not do much to help. In fact the best impact these first pages have on the visitors is perhaps adding to the lack of clarity.

I need not ponder on the importance of the first page for any website meant to do business. But I sense the first page should at least do the following:
  1. convey what the site is meant for
  2. induce action
  3. help bring clarity to visitors' minds
The 3 points overlap obviously. But that doesn't mean that they are incorporated in the thinking about building the first page.

Here are few thoughts to aid our thinking about building the first page.

If button is symbolic of 'call to action', can the button be the message? Yes, you read it right. Repeat. Can the button be the message? The oft-studied Google home page is an example of that. The 'Google Search' button carries the message and the action. And I needn't remind how it brings clarity to visitors' minds. The lack of things on the home page leaves visitor only one main thing to do. Type. And search.

Contrast that with Yahoo's home page and we know what we are talking.

A worldwide flower-delivery portal I worked for, mainly had links of prominent countries under the heading 'Send flowers to...' on the first page. And that kind of first page has been adopted by many a site meant for flower delivery. Of course, the task for the visitor is just so crisply cut out. No confusions.

I wonder what stops book-stores on the web from making a sharply focused first page. I observe that Flipkart added more categories of products instead of building on its success as a bookstore. Obviously the first page is filled with everything now. Ditto for many many e-commerce sites that have sprung up in India.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that first page is a reflection of the company's product strategy (indirectly or directly, its business strategy too). And if the first page doesn't quite help the visitors, it doesn't quite help the business either.

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