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A Man's Home is His...

A Mans House Is His...

Something that keeps coming up lately is this issue of the appropriate way for people to enter your website. So essentially, what will someone see when they type www.yourdomain.com into their browser? Do we create a fancy flash animation, write up some welcome text or just plonk visitors down in the company profile page? Well, get set, because we’re coming to your house, and you’d better be ready for us.

The Groundwork

Before we get too far into this, I need to lay some groundwork. I’ve had many a conversation with clients that refer to their entire website as their ‘homepage’, and if I don’t clear this up now, some people are going to be confused the whole way through this article. I’ve decided an analogy is by far the best option, so for the rest of the article, you need to think of your website as your house, and all your website visitors, as people that are coming to visit.

The Façade

The first place thing we see when we arrive at your house is the façade, or the front door. This is your ‘Splash Page’, it’s what people see first when they arrive at your website. You could have an award-winning, architecturally designed façade to your house, but if you’re looking at it, you’re still outside the house. Splash pages are sometimes Flash animations, movies, nice graphic images, or even just a simple logo with a small amount of information, but the key point is that if you’re looking at one, you’re not yet inside the website.

This is of course the place that the analogy breaks down, because most websites have an ‘open door’ policy; everyone is welcome. So the main reason for having a front door, keeping people out, is moot in this case. Add to that the fact that Search Engines simply don’t like splash pages, and you’re under the pump trying to find a reason to put something else between your website visitors and a sale. However, don't write them off completely, some websites are actually made better by the inclusion of a Splash Page, but I'll write more on that in a future article.

The Entrance Hall

OK, so we’ve seen the front of the house, we’re standing at the front door, we’ve knocked, and you’ve opened the door to the Entry, or ‘Home Page’. It can be as formal as an actual Entrance Hall, or simply the area of bare floor around your front door. In any case, you’re inside the house, and hopefully, there’s something or someone there to welcome you.

This is where the character of your website really dictates what happens. As in the analogy, there are different types of houses with different types of entries. If your website is very formal, it may require a very formal “Entrance Hall” homepage, with a greeting welcoming you to the site, then presenting you with the options available to you. Other websites are better served by the “bare floor around the front door” style of homepage, shouting “hey, what’s up” from the bedroom and telling you to grab something out of the fridge if you’re hungry.

The Kitchen

I’d say that most of us know people whose houses we can rock up to and just walk in the backdoor into the kitchen. I have a few of these houses, and I’m comfortable knowing that I’ve traded my right to a formal greeting in for the freedom to make myself at home. However, I’ve known all these people for a long time, and have earned the right to do this through friendship. My point here is that if people have been to your site enough and they know their way around, they can come in through the backdoor by book-marking the articles page or the news section. But for all the new people, you really need to greet them at the front door by providing a specific entry point. Dropping someone straight into the Company Profile page is a little like dropping your relational history on the guy with the clipboard that tries to convert you to Optus.

The Biscuits

Essentially, as long as you’re welcoming people to your website and giving them some options or direction, the rest is really up to you. If you want to put some product specials, recent news, your latest blog entry or links to articles on there, go for it, it’s all good. I will say however, that it can be overwhelming to be provided with too many options. I think we’ve all been inside someone’s house that you’re afraid to move in for fear of stepping on something. So go easy on the clutter, we want people to feel comfortable so they’ll come back next time and bring some bikkies ;-)

Jason Harper
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Jason Harper

Jason Harper

Run Web Design is a Geelong based company committed to providing businesses with a complete, professional web site development service.

With services covering all aspects of web site development, including website design and construction, search engine optimisation, domain registration and web hosting, and online advertising advice, Run Web Design is able to provide clients with a web site that works for their business.

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Marathon is Run Web Design's webzine containing information and articles on Website, Internet and Business related topics. Also included are some websites from around the world that are making some noise.

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