13 February 2008

Website Homepage Contents Checklist — Part 1

A homepage is the face of a person or an organisation and hence this week let us identify contents and guidelines for designing this homepage. This checklist can also be used by organisations to organise their website content before they engage a professional web designer to design a website. It is also a guideline in the sense of placing different web components in a website in a way most online visitors normally expect.

Plan beforehand

A website may be a mere single page website or even a 3,000 pages website, but the visitor’s first impression is made based on the homepage. So this page has to present the right contents in an aesthetic manner. The first thing to consider is the nature of the site whether it is content rich of visually rich. Based on this nature the balance between graphic and text in the homepage will be achieved. Avoid simple ‘Click to Enter’ pages or plain branching pages for different language versions of your website. This choice can be achieved by choosing landing language and giving option buttons for other language versions or pure flash/text-based versions of your website. If there be an introductory flash keep it very short along with a textual description for those who do not have the required software to view the flash. This can also include a link to the website from where to download the plug-in software.

Corporate identity

First element of a corporate identity is the organisation’s logo. Use a high-resolution image scaled to the required size without changing the aspect ratio of the original design. It is also possible to bring in subtle animation effects in the logo but let that not repeat boring the visitor. Normally the corporate logo is placed either in the top left corner or the top right corner (commonly in Arabic websites). Sometimes it can be part of the main graphic which is positioned centrally.

The corporate identity also dictates the colour in the website theme as well as the use of relevant graphics that denote the tone of the business. This can be people oriented, product oriented or even fun-featured. Even the business objective of your website can dictate the design and the navigation aspects. For example the website may be to show creative talents/innovative products or simply serve informative public relations and sometimes even provide meaningful interactions with your visitor for offering some of your services electronically. Add a tag line or the vision statement which tells what your goal is. This helps visitors to understand your business and also read your unique selling proposition in this business (USP).

Structured navigation

It is certainly not possible to show the entire catalogue of contents of a website in the homepage. So the web pages need to be classified into few categories and these links can be placed either in the left vertical section or as a drop-down menu bar on the top. Certain visual design allows the links to be placed within the main central graphic element.

In all the above cases make certain each link works and the mouse-over text explains the visitor what to expect in that section. Avoid scrollable homepages as most people will make their choice based on what they see in the screen without even thinking of scrolling.

A search box is a must for a website because it gives the power of landing in the most relevant page immediately to the visitor without having to go through navigation links. This location of pages can also be made easy with a site map section.

The Site Map also gives search engines easy ways to catalogue your website for word based queries. In case you require your visitor to register or login then provide these on the right-hand top corner. Give the option to register if they do not already have a login id. This location may also be used for subscription to RSS feeds, Newsletters which can be e-mailed or even downloaded from the website.

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