It's Not All About The Home Page

First published on September 26, 2007 by Gilbert West. Context is important.

How To Manage A Website

Your web site isn’t a book. It’s not linear like a book. People don’t necessarily start at the beginning and take a series of predictable paths through your web site.

Once established, it is high likely that the majority of your visitors will not enter your web site via the home page. That’s a good thing. From the visitor statistics that I collect on client sites I usually see that the home page is the entry page for between 20-30% of their visitors. This is particularly the case for those sites publishing regular and useful content.

Now, this often comes as a surprise to many web site owners. Some of them find it a bit difficult to get used to, but, again I say, it is a good thing. It means that your web site is doing well. It means that people are finding exactly what they want via a search engine such as Google and clicking directly through to the relevant page. It probably also means that other sites are linking directly to useful pages on your web site.

The natural inclination of a web site owner is to place new or important information on the home page and be done with it. This type of strategy can actually reduce the potential visibility of important information.

Let’s illustrate this with a scenario.

Imagine you sell digital cameras on your web site and your site has been well designed so that it’s optimised for search engines. You are about to have a sale and want all visitors to your web site to know about it. If you are a big name brand then people may well just type the address of your web site into their browser or search for your company by name. However, most companies are not in that luxurious position.

Many people searching for information about a digital camera would use a specific brand and model e.g. Nikon D80 as their search term. In this case, when links to your web site appear in the search engine results, it is likely that they will choose to click through to the page on your web site that deals specifically with that camera. If the information about your sale only appears on your home page then this information will only be seen if the customer also visits your home page.

Now you could argue that the customer has found the information they want and will buy the camera and doesn’t need to know about the sale, but they may not just be visiting the site with the intention to buy. If the information about the sale is placed in a part of the site that is common to all pages such as the masthead, navigation or a sidebar then everyone will see it no matter how they enter your web site.

So remember, placing something on the home page provides no guarantees that it will be seen by all your visitors.