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Your homepage isn’t nearly as important as you think it is

Yes, the website’s homepage is important. But it’s not nearly as mission-critical as many staff think it is. Why?

If you were to ask me which page of a website library staff spend the most mental energy on, the answer would be easy: the homepage.  Why?

  • The library website is often the default homepage for many staff and even on many public computers.
  • When it comes to designing/redesigning a library website, the most emphasis is usually placed on the question “What goes on the homepage?”
  • For years, usability experts have extolled the value of the homepage as a site’s most valuable real estate.

Yes, the website’s homepage is important. But it’s not nearly as mission-critical as many staff think it is. Why? Two immediate reasons spring to mind:

  • The reality is that most our our libraries’ patrons don’t spend the time constantly staring at it, the way that we likely do.
  • Visitors don’t have the emotional investment that many staff do in the library’s website.

But, even more importantly:  the bulk of a site’s visitors don’t actually enter your library’s website via the homepage any more. User behavior has changed significantly over time. Years ago people might start at the homepage and then figure out where to go on the site. Now they will often use search or external links to get closer to the place they actually want to get to. Users may be more likely to type “example public library storytime” into Google than simply the name of the library. Visitors are task-driven: they’re usually looking for something specific.  Check your referral traffic; chances are you’ll be able to see this truth in action. Many of your users (especially those external to the library building) won’t be seeing the website’s homepage as the first stop.

What does this mean to me, Laura?

If you want to see your site the way your users do, look at the most common landing pages in your library’s site. What do you see? If a page is the first (or maybe even only) page someone sees, are you happy with how it looks and what content is there? You can learn more about this by reading Myth #17: The homepage is your most important page .