What Makes a Good Homepage
Some simple things that make a good homepage.
The first impression matters, just as clothes and dressing are to interviews, so are homepages to websites. The way information is structured and the positioning of the layout plays a critical part in keeping your potential visitor on your website long enough to explore the rest of your website; basically it is one of the main factors that makes them want to linger on longer on your website.
First things first, a homepage should not have too much information cluttered together; making it difficult to read and know what is happening. You would not want to "scare" away any potential visitor the moment they enter your homepage and are bombarded with tons and tons of information. The key is simplicity.
In the words of Jakob Nielsen (2000), "web users want to find want they are after quickly and if they don't know what they're after, they nevertheless want to browse quickly and access information they come across in a logical manner". And that is just what a homepage does, from the positioning of the information to its layout, introducing visitors to the website and what it is all about.
A homepage is the most visible part of the web design and plays a critical role in giving that first impression, whether any visitor wants to stay on or leave your website; has information been presented to them in an efficient manner that will keep them coming back?
A good page design is an important factor for optimal user experiences under realistic circumstances - a gorgeous looking website that has too many high quality images or intensive usage of flash elements takes a longer time to load then one with lesser or compressed images, especially for those with slower internet connections: would visitors be willing to wait for the page to finishing loading or would they get impatient and just go somewhere else altogether?
Usually the homepage of any website should contain information that introduces visitors to what the whole website is all about. Having a whole blob of information that is unformatted makes it hard for the visitor to scan through what they are looking for. Information should be summarized and categorized into a pleasant and easy to read layout, making it easier for visitors to scan through for what they want; letting them browse through quickly and access to any relevant data.
One good way for ideas when creating or improving the homepage would be to research on (visit) other websites that are similar to your own: put yourself in the shoes of potential visitors; would the manner in which the information is displayed (layout) on these websites help you achieve your objective?
In order to make a palatable website, a good page design is not enough; content and site design also play a critical role.
Once you settled how you want your homepage to look like, it's time to think what you want to put into your selected layout. After all, even with a good design, what visitors want from your website is not the pretty backdrops, but the meat of it all - content. Content is your website's heartbeat and what makes it tick, thus it plays an important role in keeping visitors coming back to your website. Only display relevant information that would be useful to the visitor at the first glance.
Unlike newspapers, content on any website, especially the homepage should be kept short and presented in a pleasant manner that is attractive. Simply short texts on your home page that have no "personality" make it boring for any visitor.
Being a visitor to any website, you definitely would not want to be bombarded with tons and tons of advertising that obscures the content upon your first visit. It would be overkill, keeping you away from the website site in the future. Remember that everything should be done in moderation.
Once you have settled what content you want and how you want to display it, it is time to look at the icing of the homepage - the site design. Although a good page and content design is what gets the most attention, the website is a collection of pages with more information in relation to and accessed from the homepage.
Site design is what pulls together the whole website and would be where visitors to your website go to after the homepage - it can either make your website or break it. Usability of the site's design is more challenging and imperative than page design.
Navigation should be easy for any visitor to your site; it helps them know where to look for what they want with just a simple glance. For example, common links to pages within your website such as "About Us", "Contact Us", "Help", "FAQs", "Terms and Conditions", should be placed in such a manner and position that is easy to locate.
For websites with more information, categorizing the content and links also helps make it easy for visitors easily locate what they are looking for.
References: Jakob Nielsen, 2000, Designing Web Usability, New Riders Publishing