In spite of all that brainwashing about not judging books by their covers, every one of us goes by first impressions at some level. And why not? First impressions are very important, especially on the web. There are two kinds of people on the net today. There are those with broadband connections, who will see the first page of your site quickly and dismiss you immediately if it is not satisfactory (this is assuming your first page is not a 1MB monster – even broadband has limits). And, there are those who still dial in with modems, 56K at best. These people will need to wait a little just to see your main page. After all that waiting, if the impression you create is not a positive one, why would they spend any more time looking through your site?
Main pages (index.html for us HTML geeks) come in many forms and colours. There is the Yahoo and Amazon school of “lets put every thing on the first page” design. This makes sense for large complex sites, which is why it is almost the standard format for web portals. I’m simply going to ‘skip’ the Flash extravaganzas, because I don’t even consider them an option. With personal sites, front pages come in two basic flavours: with splash page and without splash page.
Pages without a ‘splash screen’ either open with an introduction to the site’s content or with news/what’s new page. I’m not a big fan of the text intro page because it gets dated very quickly. This blog is going to be the news page for the new site, so starting with this page might not be the best idea. Firstly, it is not representative of the content of the rest of the site, and more important is the fact that most viewers might never get to the rest of the site.
The splash page adorned web site also comes in two varieties. First, there is the pretty picture splash page which requires you to click on the image to continue, or sometimes even scroll down and click on an insignificant link to continue – some do not even indicate what needs to be done to continue. Anyway the second and better type of splash page has visual elements to impress and also menu links into the sections of the site. This way you get to have the best of both worlds. On one hand the visitor is not immediately thrown into long text pages, and at the same time they are given an idea of the sites content and sections – something more than “click here to continue”.
The last option is what I have used in my old site, and I plan to use the same in the new one. This time the splash page will be made more intuitive by eliminating a general ‘portfolio’ link and replacing it with the links to the subcategories, as I have mentioned in an earlier post. Overall, this is the best way to go.