The homepage is dead. Long live the homepage.

Or, more precisely, the homepage is not as popular as it once was. But, it’s still quite important, at least for now. Not such a pithy or, er, linkbait-y title though is it.

Everyone uses Google to navigate, right?

Well, yes. Based on my observations while carrying out various site reviews and analytics reviews over the past few years, it does appear that users are, more and more, using Google to find the specific content they want. Makes sense. Local site searches are notoriously rubbish and, frankly, why bother navigating two, three or four clicks when you can type a choice phrase into Google and, hey presto / boom / [insert appropriate exclamation here] you’ve arrived at exactly what you were looking for.

Trouble is, quite a lot of the time, people don’t arrive at exactly what they’re looking for. Or, they want more than one thing. So what’s their next move? I reckon it’s the home button/logo.

We bang on about the importance of good calls to action and their placement on pages, but I think a good number of the people who have arrived from Google; who find what they want, and are then curious to find out more, click on the homepage button/logo.

I think it has to do with trust. Users know that clicking on the logo will take them to the page where they’ll find all the options. It has become a convention. It’s something you can trust, unlike all these different types of complicated navigation.

They might use the navigation and/or beautifully crafted calls to action that are available after that but they head to the homepage first.

What do the analytics say?

Looking at some stats from five randomly selected clients – so, not exactly rigorous research, but hopefully quite interesting – comparing 2011 to 2015, it appears that homepages aren’t as popular as they once were. The homepage was the most popular page for all sites in 2011 while only remaining first for two of them in 2015. That said, the share of total website traffic went up for three of the homepages. So, I’m not really sure of how much help statistics are in this case.

Conclusions

Homepages appear to be a kind of backstop for users. They link to them, often I suspect, without even taking in any other signposts or calls to action. The thinking goes “I need more from this site and the homepage is the right place for me to start my journey because all of the options will be there for me”. This happens whether or not “all of the options” were available to the user on the non-homepage that they landed on.

So, we need to make sure that homepages provide “all of the options”. By this I mean – somewhat ironically – providing good signposting and calls to action.

We have recently been working with a client where we discussed reducing the homepage to a kind of “this is us” and not include all the usual highlights. We soon realised that even though most of their traffic doesn’t come via their homepage, we needed to make sure it included the types of content and signposts that users expect.

  • Something Vicious

    Hi Marcus. I think what you say has a lot of credence. I’ve been a web designer for 10 years and always start with a homepage concept, but after starting an e-commerce business three months ago have realised SEO, Social Media and Google Shopping has all but rendered my homepage a vanity project (albeit a highly enjoyable and greatly functional one!). Great article anyway.

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