The professional web designer it responsible for creating an effective website for it’s owner and of all the pages on a website none is more important than the homepage. The homepage of a website is normally the one which a person lands on, or visits quickly after landing on another page. The perspicacious web designer will therefore spend more time thinking and designing this page than any other on the site. University research into Human Computer Interaction (HCI) has identified several recurring themes that need to be addressed by any person undertaking web design.
Research has shown that most web users will return to the home page even if they land on a page within the site. It is important therefore to make the users navigation to the home page as effortless as possible. Many pages on a website use the logo in the top left hand corner of a web page to take people to the homepage. However it has been found that not all users are always aware of this fact, especially novice users. It is advisable therefore to have a link labelled home to help those particular users.
Display All Options
The sagacious web site designer knows that you should present all major options that are available on the home page of a website. If the web design relies on the user clicking several times in order to find out the full extent of the site then the web design is fundamentally flawed. So when creating the home page think about the major sections of the site and ensure that the appropriate links are on the homepage.
First Impressions Count
What ever it is, people tend to make there minds up very rapidly and quite often for trivial reasons on the first impression they get from landing on a site. You might have highly relevant important content on your website but if the user is put off by your presentation on the home page the user will never discover it because they have moved on rapidly. You never get a second chance in these matters so invest time in the web design for the home page and create a good impression. Furthermore, it is best not to rely on your own judgement, produce several options through a variety of designs and get independent people to assess if you have accomplished your design intentions.
State Your Purpose
When surfing the web quite often I come across a site and I do not understand what the sites purpose is and the effect of that is usually to navigate away to a different site. Consequently the savvy web design will clearly state, in no uncertain terms, it’s raison d’etre. It is important not to rely on web users to read a lot of text to determine what the site is about – a visitor will make quick decisions not long and informed decisions Be clear, be brief, tell the user what the site can do for them.
Given that it has already been established that a web design should display all the major options available and state the sites purpose, one must remember that brevity is key. The amount of prose on a home page should therefore be limited otherwise the homepage will rapidly bloat into something where the user will be put off because of the amount of reading that is required for them to find what they are looking for. Keep it to major headings and link titles is the insightful web designers brief.
Does It Look Like A Home Page
We all know what a home page looks like don’t we? So make sure the home page looks like a home page. Many graphic designers like breaking the rules, presumably because they can and it makes them feel as if they are different from the rest. However they are doing this to the detriment of the users browsing experience. An effective web page is one where a user can find things in the usual place – so place things in the usual place.
Limit Page Length
Research has shown that users don’t like scrolling. Consequently an astucious web design will therefore try to limit page length and importantly place the most relevant items towards the top of the page. If you think about it for a while and view your design from the users perspective – would you really scroll a web page you had just landed on on the off chance that what you are seeking was hidden at the bottom of the screen?
Display Recent Changes
If the web site has changed a canny web design will tell the user that on the home page. There are various reason for incorporating this feature into the home page ranging from not surprising the user before they navigate users, or to get existing users to visit the new pages.
Consider Panel Width
Page and panel width issues can be the better noir of many web designs. The width of panels on a web page seems to be essential for assisting users comprehend the overall layout of a website. In one research based study, participants rarely selected the information in the left panel because they did not understand that it was intended to be a left panel. In a follow up study, the panel was made slightly narrower, which was more consistent with other left panels on other websites experienced by users. The newly designed left panel was used more.
If you are undertaking a web design for your client or you are a client employing a web designer then make sure the above points are adhered to for a successfully homepage design.