Companies are realizing their home pages are one of their most important pipelines to the world. What’s their response? To try to shoehorn evermore material into them.
To an outsider, this content overload might not be so obvious. But ask the people behind the corporate sites, and they’ll tell you about internal disputes between brand managers and divisions as all vie to secure home page visibility.
Disney, General Motors, and Sony have clearly been through a careful process to determine what to expose on the home page and what to relegate to second place. Most corporate sites have concluded their primary URL is their chief conduit to customers, investors, suppliers, employees, and potential employees. The realization has made the home page vitally attractive to department managers, who compete to secure as much home page real estate as possible. The result? Messy, unstructured home pages that are difficult to visit. Visitors can feel they need a special road map to navigate to what they seek. Everything the company stands for is squeezed onto that first page. Internal disputes and home page disasters will worsen if companies don’t get the selection process under control.
Why promote everything your brand has and stands for on the home page? Newspapers don’t promote every news item on the front page. Editors select, prioritize, and bundle news. They never assign the same priority to more than one or two stories. They feature one story and let that article drive the rest of the paper’s content. Stories that are semi-important, or important to some of the paper’s readership, can receive front page space, but less exposure than the lead. These smaller items are big enough to be noticed, yet small enough to prioritize readers’ interests.
The parallels between a newspaper’s front page and a home page don’t stop there. When did you last read a paper with the same lead story, the same headline, and the same photos, day after day? Were this the case, you’d never pick up the newspaper, thinking it was out of date. So why do most brand sites display the same home pages visit after visit? Go to Levi’s, Mattel, or Fisher-Price, and you’re greeted with the same message, the same graphics, the same features… The same old home page loads every day. Why?
Don’t tell me these companies don’t have any news for their visitors, because they do.
Go to a site such as LEGO, and you’ll see a change every visit: a new brand, a new theme park, a new toy, a new idea. Something new makes the site attractive and interesting for kids to visit every day.
The work necessary to achieve this is not big at all. It’s easy. Create 10 home page designs and have them appear randomly over a month-long period. Then, develop another lot of designs and have them run for another month. The trick is simple, the effect huge. Your brand will occupy a dynamic space instead of a static message board. This will distinguish your home page from the rest of the corporate world.
Your home page is your brand’s face. Keep it as fresh as you want to keep your brand for your customers.