SEO

Home is Where The User Is

Out with the old ways of designing a website where there is a traditional landing (home) page and more basic interior pages.  We all know that search engines have been ranking individual pages rather than core domains for a long time now. So why are we still designing sites with static interior pages?

Our interior pages, posts, archives, download pages, login pages, including anything and everything on your site has to be more dynamic and be ready for direct traffic from users.

If you’re running a frequently updated site (blog, news site, etc…) a user is probably among the minority if they arrive on your homepage.  Instead they are arriving at your site either from searching a specific topic or asking a specific question which gets answered by a post you’ve written or someone they know / trust is sharing a link with them.  Either way they are bypassing the homepage.

Why Are Homepages So Important?

They aren’t, because homepage is an arbitrary term. In the past we went “home” to find our way back to the content we were looking for.  Now I can arrive at a site and spend minutes on it (in internet time that’s like hours) without every going to the homepage.

I honestly couldn’t tell you if Wikipedia, About.com or IMDB have revised their homepage in the last year or so.  I live inside these sites and rarely spend any time at home.

How Do We Make Our Pages More Dynamic?

Internal linking strategies, widgets, related posts lists and more all strive to help us find the next best thing on the site.  Give me as many non obtrusive reasons to stay on your site, show me interesting articles, or what other people are commenting on and I will be more than happy to stay on your site all afternoon.

I’ve arrived at this page for a reason, once I’ve successfully solved my problem I’m gonna leave.  Unless… you provide me with a reason to stay.  All I need is a provocative headline or proof that my peers find something interesting.

Try some of these ideas, most of them can be easily implemented as widgets or plugins in any great cms (like WordPress *wink*)

  • Trending Posts
  • Related Posts
  • Most commented on
  • Recent posts
  • Recent Comments
  • Specials or Coupons
  • Supporting Posts (posts previously written that support your current argument)
  • Powerful imagery
  • Newsletter, email or RSS sign up
  • Social Network streams
  • Links to Social Media Landing pages (pull in your social streams on your site so we know how active and popular you are)

Prime Example

While SEJ does a great job with this, you’re already here so let’s take a look at another site.

Mashable does a great job with this.  Take a look at the two images below.  One is of their homepage and one is an internal post page.  If I were to flash these in front of you for a brief second I’d bet you’d have a hard time stating which one is the homepage and which one is the post page.

The posts main content starts at basically the fold of the page.  This is a good strategy because you’ve already made the decision to click the link that brought you here.  At this point you know why you are here so we don’t need to give up prime above the fold real estate to reassure you that you’re in the right place.  Instead I want to spark your interest to what else this site offers you.  That way you’re more likely to hang out a while after you’re done reading this article.

mashable homepage Home is Where The User Is

mashable Home is Where The User Is

Take a look out there and find some other great examples.  They are out there and you can find easy ways to improve your interior pages to promote longer “on site time”, subscription conversion and social media sharing / bookmarking.

 Home is Where The User Is
Jesse Friedman is a veteran WordPress developer. In 2012 he wrote the “Web Designers Guide to WordPress“. With years of experience as a speaker and a Professor at Johnson & Wales University he delivers impactful and educational talks. Currently Jesse is the Director of Web Interface and Development at Astonish, the premier Digital Marketing Company for the Insurance Industry. Jesse co-organizes the local WordPress meet-up and is very active in the community. He works closely with his students and others to share knowledge and bring forth a better future for web design and development.

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13 thoughts on “Home is Where The User Is

  1. I do think it is an interesting idea to ponder about , designing a site that has alternative structure and where visitor can enter at any point and feel equally welcomed. Since it is valid point made in the article about search engines targeting individual pages and not your domain name/homepage and users coming to sites form different points of entry, even if using traditional site structure one must make sure there is enough inter-linkage between all pages of the site so user can follow/ brows along.

  2. That is exactly the correct point. Home page is the landing page of many websites and its the camp for most of the visitors. So, maintaining the home page with perfect design and easy navigation will make your visitor feel better, also if there are somethings that will make them feel good will be appreciated.

  3. I don’t think homes pages aren’t important! And I do not completely agree with this concept (sorry but…) this concept fairly applies to the giant websites or blogs where content is updated may be multiple times a day like the examples you have mentioned SEJ, Mashable and let me include some giant e-Commerce websites like Wall Mart or Best buy if you consider the examples they are either blogs or giant ecommerce websites.

    I personally don’t think this applies to small business website who may or may not have blogs… due to the following problems…

    1) Even if they have blogs they do not update it regularly (may be once or twice a week)
    2) Visitors when coming to Ecommerce or blogs website they do spend more time then commercial websites…

    I do believe that internal pages should be more interactive but home page is fairly important… To increase the visitors and they time on the website (specially commercial and small business websites) I guess one should include articles related to services and more detailed information about what you offer (do not over doze), discounts, coupons and others…

    1. Hi Moosa, some great points, which I kind of eluded to above, “If you’re running a frequently updated site (blog, news site, etc…) a user is probably among the minority if they arrive on your homepage.”

  4. It is as why the internet is the world wide *web*.
    It is build and functions as a web. You should have access to all (important) aspects of a site from each page within that site.
    The home page is only the introduction page, but once you’re passed that – either as a repeat visitor or because a link directly to a resource further in the hierarchy – you shouldn’t have to visit the “home”.

    However I am unsure how many people and sites actually do expect people to visit the “home page” and keeps important navigational functionality located there alone.

  5. It’s amazing how many designers/webmasters still miss this point. As you say, the homepage has become somewhat useless these days, and the landing/interior pages are where the focus needs to be.

    1. Derek, thanks for the comment. The homepage isn’t as much useless as needs to be ubiquitous.

  6. I don’t think you should count the homepage out, especially for smaller sites. It’s a little different for them as compared to an e-commerce site which has users searching for specific products. They don’t care about the homepage, they want the product page. But cross linking is a must-do, not only to keep the visitor intrigued and make it easy to click through the site, but also to pass link juice side-to-side as well as top down. The goal of a website should be clear on every page, so a visitor has all the information they need regardless of what page they land on.

  7. Great points, which are so often missed. Every page should nearly be a home page or at least the same feel and functionality as one. Give the consumer what they want quickly and easily, don’t make them navigate and go looking for it. If SEO and site structure, is done correctly, consumers never need to even land or vist the home page e.g. Amazon

    1. Thanks Simon, the biggest thing is to avoid “work”. Don’t make them work to find what you want them to find.

  8. I like how Mashable’s homepage is set up. But, in my case, whenever I want to find the post or article I was viewing before I got into the present page, I always go to Home and look for it again.