The Perils of the Homepage Redesign
Redesigning the homepage of your website may seem like an inexpensive and quick way to freshen up your website, and this could be true, but it can also quickly lead you down a rabbit hole to a much bigger project. This can become a perilous endeavor for a few reasons.
A homepage change inevitably leads to changes in the main navigation, header, footer, and sometimes main feature area (usually a space in the top third of a Web page used for a designed promotion or branding area). Once the design update touches any of these areas, it needs to be carried out globally or throughout the entire website. A smaller page redesign becomes a larger project in the blink of an eye. A hungry Web agency will soon begin selling you on wholesale changes to the website once design elements are updated on the landing page.
If the entire website needs a reboot, it will quickly become apparent once the discovery and strategy phase of the design takes place. All too often, dissatisfaction with the homepage is a reflection of a deeper issue with usability, functionality, and content of the entire website.
A facelift to the homepage will do almost no good if the website has poor usability or the content does not do much to sustain what the homepage promises. You will quickly lose customers as they navigate interior pages of the website and become disillusioned with what you have to offer. Trying the quick fix with an updated homepage may cost money with absolutely no benefit in the end.
When It Is Right to Redesign the Homepage
First, the site’s information architecture should be solid and the overall user experience satisfactory, with no glaring issues. If this is true there are a few scenarios when updating the homepage makes sense:
- When the homepage fails to tell the story of your company
- When important information, like a phone number, is not quickly accessible
- When the update doesn’t entail significant changes across all of your pages
- If analytics reveal that some key information buried in the website would best suit users front-and-center on the homepage— or at least the availability of direct links to that content
- The addition of needed functionality or widgets, like a newsletter sign-up or appointment request, cannot fit elegantly in the current layout
- If a new strategy is devised, and the implementation of a new homepage now works in the upcoming iteration with only slight modifications
The biggest support for a new homepage is derived from the first bullet. User testing of your website could reveal that people don’t understand who you are or what you do as a business after only a quick glance at the homepage. The website’s interior works fine once people make it past the homepage, and conversions for those who do are strong, but the homepage has a high bounce rate or doesn’t draw people into your sales or information “funnel.” A homepage redesign is perfect for this scenario. The redesign should define what the business is and what it does quickly and clearly, by communicating the three to five things you want users to know about the site. It should also support the three to five things you want users to accomplish once they land on the page, present the phone numbers and necessary contact information, and relay the mission statement alongside a tagline that sums up the website/company’s purpose.
A recent case study by Basecamp developers and Web culture gurus 37 Signals showcases one powerful scenario and positive outcome for a homepage redesign.
If there is a marketing push or need to ramp up sales quickly in the interim between the two designs, then a targeted landing page may be the answer until some of the larger issues are sorted out. It is important to understand, though, just how far a homepage redesign can go, if you’re not prepared, so plan wisely.
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