Thursday, October 16, 2008

19 Days: Lose the Landing Page

Last month, I started having UX Office Hours at StartPad. For four hours each month, I'm available for whoever walks in to get some free advice on the user experience of their product. It's UX, not UI, because we cover a lot more than just the interface --it's about improving how users experience the product.

Today, one of the people was Mark Puckett of KExplorer. It was immediately obvious that he had done a lot right. He'd built something useful and, unlike a lot of things I see, it was neither ugly nor cluttered. Well, not very cluttered. He started with a very simple question about a feature that he wanted to add and how should he do that. We expanded the question to how could the whole page be redesigned to not only make it work better but to make the feature fit in naturally. I think we came up with some good improvements and a good design.

After we finished with that, Mark offered to show me the home page. I was a bit surprised because I thought we had been looking at the home page. It turned out that the front page was a landing page -- an introduction to the site with a bunch of information on it. The information might even be useful information, but the fact that Mark skipped over it when showing me his site is an indication of the problem. The landing page is an obstacle. It's in the way from the portion of the site that is the most interesting and the most valuable. My vote: get rid of it. Take the content in that page that is useful and integrate it into the new home page -- the page that we'd spent most of the time discussing.

Groupthink has no landing page. When you go to Groupthink, you're ready to get started. After all, that's why you're there. There isn't a page extolling the benefits and a "click here to get started". You just get started, whether it's your first visit or your one hundredth. This doesn't mean the home page (or the first page a user sees) can't do some promotion -- frequently, you need to do this, and Groupthink's does, under certain conditions. But, if your home page is a "landing page," you'll have a lot of users land there and then go away. This isn't what you want.

Landing pages aren't always a bad idea, but I'm hard pressed to provide examples of where they're good. If you're even considering having a landing page, take a good hard look at whether it's the right thing for your site.

Update: Lose the Landing Page, Redux


Mike Koss said...

There is always a lot of tension about what the home page should be.

* A Description of the site
* A Demonstration of the site
* Social Proof
* 3rd Party Reviews

An example is It started out being purely descriptive - a bunch of text about the site. But we recognized that people don't really read, so we changed to show a simulation of what a user might see if they joined. But we went too far with that approach, because people were not sure what they were looking at.

Today we have a mixture of some simple value propositions (bullet points), showing some user generated content from the site, and featuring some of our more popular users.

I think the main purpose of the home page is to create the right impression. You are trying to convince a potential customer that you have a high quality service, which other people are already using (social proof), and they they should be using too.

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