Is The Death Of Website Home Pages Eminent?
Technology is always changing and nowhere else are the changes so drastic over short bursts of time than on the Web. The world Wide Web is an ever-changing landscape of people and technologies interacting in ever unprecedented ways.
Amidst this complex interplay of change is a process that underlies all things- the old giving way to the new. Nothing can stay the way it was without losing its appeal and so we are always trying to improve things.
When we improve things, several possibilities are apparent. We can create completely new things or we make old things better. When we create new things we have to learn how to efficiently use them but when we make old things better we tend to throw away old paradigms and adopt new ones.
A significant change on the technology landscape as it applies to the Web has to do with search. Search has seen tremendous innovation and growth since the 90s. The developments in search technology have evolved so much that they have fundamentally altered the way we perceive and interact with websites.
One such altered interaction is the concept of the home page which everyone who has ever used the Web is familiar with. A homepage concept is the idea that visitors to a website will have a specific entry point designed to welcome them to the website.
The Homepage Page Concept
Traditionally, the homepage, being the intended point of entry for a website has received more attention than any other page on a website. This is the page that is usually designed to pique the interest of the website visitor.
Since it is designed to generate and hold interest, the homepage often receives a disproportionately large amount of attention in terms of design and usability. The design of the homepage is often immaculate and sometimes at the expense of the rest of the website.
The main objective of the homepage is to sell the website to visitors with the assumption that this is the page they will first get to see. It showcases deep-level links to other relevant and important sections of the website. It curates content and produces teasers for what people may find once they go deeper into the website.
The homepage also has another critical function; It lets people know what the website is all about. It highlights the salient points so that the objectives of the website are clear to the website visitor.
Enter The Search Engine
Before the search engines reached the prominence we are so familiar with today, people navigated the Web remarkably differently. To visit a particular website, you had to know its actual address.
In fact, before search engines you only had two hopes for finding a website. You either had to know its web address or you had to know another website, known as web directories, that listed the website. This meant that you could only access websites you are already familiar with or at least ones that have submitted their address to a web directory you are familiar with.
Since web directories and early search engines only indexed the top-level path of a website- the homepage, it was in almost all probability that the homepage will indeed be the first page that website visitors get to see. Search engines have changed all that.
Search engines have evolved from simply indexing the homepage to indexing deep links into a website. This now means that content that sits very deep into the hierarchy of a website has a better chance of being found through search engines.
To get a better grasp of how search engines like Google operate, read through the blog post The Anatomy Of Search,
The Implications and Does It Spell the Demise Of The Homepage
With the current capabilities of search engines, it means that a website can no longer count on the likelihood of people landing on the homepage most of the time. This means that the homepage should no longer be considered the primary entry point of a website.
Potentially, this might mean the demise of the homepage or at least a major shift in how we perceive it. In light of these new developments, the homepage can no longer be treated as the star of the show.
I am uncertain if the paradigm shift is sufficient to warrant a demise of the home page but I am certain it guarantees a radical shift in perception. The other pages on the website have to also be treated as potential primary entry points by the web designer. One thing is certain however, the homepage is still significant but it’s status and prominence in the scheme of things should be reevaluated.
This loss in status however is not sufficient to warrant its demise. Since web addresses and giving them out are still a thing, it is to be expected that a lot of people will still land on the homepage by entering the web address in their browsers.
Furthermore search engines and web directories still index the homepage as the main entry point to a website today. Therefore, even though search engines may link deeper into a website, they will still display the homepage as the primary link when people search for a business or person’s website.
The Paradigm Shift
Rather than focusing on the demise of the homepage, it is better to look at the opportunity that search engine’s ability to link deeper into a website present. And the opportunities are many. Change is always an opportunity to re evaluate and improve.
A good place to start is to redistribute the focus of design efforts to equally apply to all web pages and not just the homepage since you never know which will be the first page website visitors land on.
Rather than only making sure that people can get to other relevant sections and pages of the website through the homepage, design the websites structure in such a way that they can easily do so from any page on the website.
Instead of making sure that the objectives of the website are only clearly stated on the homepage, make it easy for visitors to quickly grasp the objectives either from every page or with minimal clicks from any page. This means the efficient and strategic placement of links on the website, thereby having an evenly distributed navigation potential across all pages.