More than the other pages of a website, the homepage is the most visited as it acts as a portal bearing general information about the company or institution it represents. The homepage represents the company as much as the whole website does. It also leads web visitors to the other pages of the site. However, a homepage can only play its part efficiently under several guidelines and specifications. This has been the scope of the article entitled Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage Usability.
Jakob Nielsen discussed ten ways in which companies and webmasters can utilize their homepages to thoroughly serve the institution the website represents and the clients it strives to impress. Nielsen asserted that an effective homepage reveals the purpose of the website, is user-friendly, shows what the website contains, and uses creative yet relevant visuals. In revealing the purpose of the website, Nielsen suggests creating a tagline and putting it in the homepage. There are two things that a tagline can do for the company—create brand register and recognition, and summarize the activity of the company.
Another way is to create a window title that will help the site be more visible in search engines. Thus, Nielsen discouraged using irrelevant words in the window title. Lastly, corporate information is not always the first thing that website visitors want to know. It is better to collate all information about the company, its departments, and subsidiaries in one page or area that website visitors can link to instead of putting them in the homepage. These are favorable because they take out the fuss and the waste of space in homepages, which can mean waste of time for the website visitors.
When homepages follow these specifications, the homepage becomes definitive for the company and its clientele. To promote user-friendliness, the homepage should encourage visitors to do something—to contact the company, to buy something, or to participate in a survey or a contest. This way, the homepage creates activity for the web visitor. Putting a search feature in the homepage also increases the homepage’s usability for its users. Through these, users will find ease of use and purpose for visiting the homepage and exploring the website.
This is likewise favorable because web visitors strive to get the most out of their time online. While they want to get information, many web users also love interaction and homepages and websites which offer these certainly get more traffic. It also helps that the homepage contains a bit of what the site contains, such as beginning paragraphs of articles, or thumbnails of pictures that users can link to. Keywords may also be utilized to help website visitors find what they want faster and easier.
This way, readers will get a view of the relevant contents without crowding the homepage and sacrificing homepage space. Dedicating an area for finding recent features and links can also help the users of the site navigate easily through the website from the homepage. This is a positive step for homepages because it gives a visitor a chance to peak at the contents of the site without navigating away from the webpage, as well as allows the visitor to only link to the items that really interests him.
Lastly, form should follow function even in terms of homepage design. Graphics should be kept at a minimum, and should involve only the most relevant. First, too much graphics slows down the loading of the page. Secondly, graphics eat space that could have been dedicated to relevant texts and links. Again, this is a constructive tip as it teaches webmasters and owners to dwell more on the efficiency of simpler homepages rather than its intricately laid-out counterparts.
All of Nielsen’s suggestions in improving homepage usability cannot be points of contention. As each were aimed at impressing the visitors through information and the drive of purpose and not through mere visuals, it cannot be argued that Nielsen created a fool-proof list. When followed, institutional websites are sure to benefit as much as their prospects does.
Nielsen, J. (2002). Top ten guidelines for homepage usability. Retrieved June 19, 2007, from http://www. useit. com/alertbox/20020512. html