By now, we all know how important a company’s website is. A well-built corporate site can perform a whole slew of invaluable functions such as improving discoverability, showing that your company is an authority in relevant topics, and providing a single location where customers new and old can find the information and tools they need to engage with the company and the services it offers.
While it’s common knowledge that websites are basically a necessity for modern businesses to have a chance at competing, many business owners have no clue where to start. Generally, the advice for people in this situation has been to start at the beginning: the homepage. But the first question we should always ask ourselves before doing or making anything is, “Why?”
Why are homepages important?
The homepage has long been considered the most critical page for basically every website since the beginning of time (or at least the internet). But what is the purpose of a homepage? What does it actually do?
For the most part, the answer to this question seems reasonably self-evident: the homepage is responsible for creating first impressions. It’s where people begin their journey of discovering who your company is and what you’re all about. But do homepages still serve this function in today’s world of search results, QR codes, and direct links that often lead to first-time visitors never even crossing the homepage?
Many years ago, users would type URL addresses into their browser’s address input field, tap the return key, and then get zapped away to the homepage of their destination. Nowadays, people are discovering sites through direct links to specific article posts or resource pages. Many organizations use landing pages that are custom-tailored for specific marketing campaigns so when customers click a banner ad, they are directed to a page that features information related to the ad they clicked—bypassing the homepage yet again.
This begs the question…
Do homepages still matter?
The other primary reason people give when arguing for the homepage’s deserved place at the pinnacle of importance in website design is that the homepage is the most visited page on basically every site. And they’re not wrong. For most websites, the homepage is by far their most visited page.
But that doesn’t mean your homepage provides the most value to you or your visitors compared to the other pages on your site. Joshua Porter from UIE.com broke down their website page views to demonstrate that while their homepage was the most viewed page on their site, it still only accounted for roughly 10% of the time people spent there.
While the homepage is very likely your single-most visited page, it probably doesn’t hold a candle to the attention the rest of your website receives in total. It’s easy to be distracted by the relatively huge number of views your top-performing pages are getting. But it’s important to realize that when you alter your perspective and compare single-page performance to total-site performance, that relatively huge number suddenly becomes relatively insignificant.
Understanding that many users may never even see your homepage is vital because designing a successful website requires a user experience (UX) centered approach. After all, we must first understand where we came from in order to know where we are going. This is especially true for UX design, which tries to view interactions through the lens of the customer to determine what information or resources the customer might need at each step of their journey.
But this brings us back to our original question: does the homepage still matter?
The True Purpose of a Homepage
Today, homepages act less as a first impression and more as a hub or launching pad that visitors utilize to navigate to the specific parts of your website they actually want to visit. Think of the homepage as a bus station where visitors arrive with an explicit purpose and a specific destination in mind. A well-designed bus station will have clear signage that allows visitors to quickly find the bus that is headed in the right direction just like a well-designed homepage will help visitors find the resources they’re looking for at a glance.
Ultimately, homepages still play an important role in the performance and effectiveness of company websites. However, all the other pages on your site play a vital role as well, and you can’t ever be certain which page will act as the user’s first impression. So design every page with intention and always keep in mind why you’re making it in the first place.