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Website Design: Why Starting with the Homepage might not be the Right Answer

Mike Larson, Sandra Fancher

Across our client traffic, only 20 percent of visits ever view the homepage. Repeat, only 20 percent will even see your homepage, EVER. With excellent organic content and deep linking, most searches will land directly on the appropriate content and few visitors will have the need to visit the homepage if the structure is intuitive.

That leads us to consider, is designing the homepage first still the right answer? As with most things, it depends. Consider our evaluation checklist before beginning your next project.

Home first: Following the traditional, familiar path

Buy-in Process: Knowing your internal approval process, do you have executive leadership that will require signoff on the homepage before moving forward?

Priority Assignment: Starting with the homepage can force the discussion on the key priority tasks for the site early in the process. If you are in a highly political or matrixed organization where everyone wants to be on the homepage or in the top navigation, beginning this conversation early could save headaches in your project later.

Align Branding Vision and Tone: The homepage can help align the team to how the brand should be interpreted on the web. This is especially important if you are rebranding or recently have gone through the process.

Comfort Zone: Starting with the homepage follows the standard process, which could lead to less change management.

Out of your entire site, the homepage is only one page. Starting with the homepage requires a timeline that can support this investment in time before moving to other key areas.

Interior first: Establishing patterns with your content in mind

Content, Content, Content: If your project has a large content portion with a timeline that doesn’t allow years or an army of writers, you need to start writing quickly. For efficiency, writing should not start before a layout and page tables are defined, which means an interior structure has been created.

Technical Specifications: Once the interior structure is created, the BA, UX and technical team can begin crafting functional layouts for key areas of the site such as Find a Doctor, Forms and Calendar.

Images: The often-forgotten task of images can be time consuming. Long, narrow images or square images will determine the types of images the team will select. Knowing these specifications early will allow for image selection and photo shoots to start earlier in the process.

Fonts, Spacing and Everything In Between: With more content, a team can make more informed decision on fonts and spacing since they will see more broadly applicable representation in the design.

Taxonomy Strategies: There is no longer “a page of content.” Web content is a collection of content elements driven by taxonomy, proximity and user behavior. Before beginning content, a taxonomy structure and how it interacts with a page layout should be defined.

If you have a large project and timeline is a priority with the benefit of high autonomy, starting with interiors would reduce bottleneck pressures.

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