What is this site for?Posted February 4th, 2009 by David Hamill
When you’ve spent lots of time planning a website, it’s easy to forget that most of the people who arrive at it for the first time, will never have heard of it. You need to make the proposition obvious on the homepage.
Rather than pointing out sites that get it wrong, I’m going to provide some good examples of clear propositions on homepages. My first example is from BBC iPlayer.
If you’ve seen the iPlayer ads on UK TV, you’ll know that the advertising tagline is “Making the unmissable, unmissable”. This won’t tell new users much about the website if they put this tagline on the homepage. So the BBC uses a different tagline on the website itself. “Catch up on the last 7 days of BBC TV & Radio”. Immediately it’s possible for me to understand what I can do with the website.
Despite lots of TV advertising, some people won’t know what they can do with this website so the tagline has a huge benefit.
A good tagline is short enough to be read quickly whilst being specific enough to explain the purpose of the site. “Watch TV on the internet” would not be very helpful on this site for example.
Last.fm is another website that explains itself upfront. “Based on what you listen to, Last.fm recommends you new music”
Last.fm goes a step further than iPlayer by giving an example. People who listen to Madness also like The Specials, Bad Manners and The Selecter.
It also invites me to begin using Last.fm, by telling me to “type an artist”.
Hubdub is a website where you bet on the outcome of the news with pretend money. The image below is from the homepage. The tagline “Predict the News” is short and descriptive.
The site goes on to feature an event for the new user to bet upon. So like Last.fm, it tells me how to begin. Hubdub could do more elsewhere on the page to sell the concept and the page could do with a clear single sentence explanation. But otherwise the basic proposition is quite clear.
Won’t my users understand my site by playing with it?
It’s best not to presume that visitors to your website will eventually work out what the site is for, simply by playing around with it. It’s more likely that they will leave because they don’t really see the need to stay. If your site’s visitors can’t instantly understand your offering, why would they hang around to work it out?
Now have a look at your own website
It’s no accident that all of these examples are all relatively new concepts. Your own website might be more traditional, but the proposition still needs to be quickly obvious.
Why not print off a colour version of your homepage and show it to a few people who’ve never seen it. Then ask them to tell you what the site’s purpose is. If they have no idea or get it completely wrong, consider making a few changes to your homepage.