Homepage Politics

One of the silliest games that firms play is

What should we put on the home page?”

In many firms, you would think that home page real estate was more valuable than oceanfront property in Malibu. Product managers and LOB execs often believe that their products have a “right” to be on their company’s home page. How they decide what goes on the home page usually comes down to politics, negotiation, and compromise.

Forrester wrote about how Wells Fargo used Web site metrics, customer survey data, and internal search information to develop its home page. While it’s hard to argue with this approach, it still reflects a potentially erroneous assumption: That site visitors who hit the home page are browsing (i.e., “window shopping”), and open to suggestions about where to go from there.

Some observers equate a home page to a retailer’s store window. The store window contains items (and anatomically appealing mannequins) to entice potential shoppers to come in.

This is not a good analogy. When site visitors hit your home page, they’re already in. The home page should make it as easy as possible for them to get where they’re going — and let the product-specific landing pages do the merchandising and selling.

Conceptually, this is no different from someone walking into a bank branch and sitting down at a manager’s desk. What’s the first thing the manager is going to do? Start pushing product brochures at the customer? No! S/he is going to ASK QUESTIONS to find out why the customer is there.

Few sites do this. Some home pages are like psychedelic concerts from the 60’s. There is so much going on — tabs, navigational choices, boxes, menu options, flashing graphics — the visual stimulation is overwhelming. It’s a wonder anybody can find what they’re looking for.

A few years ago, Charles Schwab’s home page had little on it except a large graphic on the left side of the screen and a pulldown box on the top right with the question: “How can we help you?” Below the pulldown box was a phone number for people to call, and an Investor Center locator. (The Wayback Machine confirms this — it was in November 2002).

That’s what a financial services firm’s home page should do. Ask questions. Get site visitors where they want to go. If your home page does that, not only will you improve the online customer experience, you’ll eliminate a lot of the silly games your firm plays.

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7 thoughts on “Homepage Politics

  1. Ron – great post! It speaks to crafting online experiences that have both simplicity and great user insight. Get rid of the competing noise and just give people a simple way to get to where they are going, and try to keep it compelling along the way.

  2. Amen, brother!

    The only thing I would add is the search channel drives a lot of visitors to enter your web site through a page other than the Home Page. So it follows that all pages should (as best they can) make it easy for people to “go where they want to go”.

    You can find pages that need particular attention in this area by easily in web analytics tools. Look at “Top Entry Pages” – the pages most often viewed first – and then the “Bounce Rate” for these pages – % of visitors who view the page and then leave the site.

    Most often, Top Entry / High Bounce Rate pages look like “psychedelic concerts from the 60’s” or the opposite – there are no clear navigation options at all. A high volume Entry Page with a high Bounce Rate is an easy fix just sitting there waiting to happen – provided, of course, you don’t need approval from 100 people to make the change…

  3. @Anna: Thanks for your comment. Glad you agree that getting people where they want to go is the best approach. But what I don’t get is why you [given your URL] are against landing pages? Seems to me that’s a great way to continue the “conversation” that was started in some other channel.

    @Jim: Excellent point about the metric. Would you recommend looking at the referring page as well to those high bounce pages? Seems to me that could help tell the story of what’s going wrong.

    Also, in retrospect, I hope I didn’t disparage “psychedelic concerts from the 60s”.

  4. JT – I agree completely. Seems to me that it would be easy enough for the home page to also be tailored to the demographic of the visitor/customer/member – i.e. I would think that a Gen Y member/customer might enjoy a bit different content, ads, etc. than a Baby Boomer…

  5. From Ron: > Would you recommend looking at the referring page as well to those high bounce pages?

    Sure. A word of caution: get prepared to have the sources with the highest bounce rate be your display / banner campaigns. Search users bounce a lot less since they generally are in “active mode” and get the content they are looking for when they click…

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