I love white space too, but…please do something with your homepage

It still amazes me when I receive a list of firm websites from someone – and more than 50% of them are dysfunctional. Perhaps even more surprising is that I usually receive them as a list of aspirational competitors, top-notch designers, distinguished panelists, etc. Basically, “these are people that we look up to, so go check them out.”

One thing I see entirely too much of is completely useless homepages. Literally, the face for what could impact 97% of your client’s decisions is a barren wasteland of a screen with a cleverly placed firm name…maybe an address if you’re lucky. Fifteen years ago, as businesses were clamoring to “just get something up there” this might have cut it. But today, it’s a shot in the foot to architecture firms everywhere.

Regardless of where your architectural sensibilities fall on the form/function debate, your website doesn’t have to prove your point. Your homepage has a few seconds to impress people (to be read: potential clients) and convince them to hear or read what you have to say about design. USE IT. Here are five reasons why your homepage might not be doing its job.

  • The majority of traffic to your website starts at your homepage, unless you’re doing a great job with custom landing pages and marketing campaigns for your architecture firm. Keep in mind that likely 40% or more of that traffic “bounces” immediately from the first page they see. Translation: 40% of the people that came to your website saw your firm name on a blank page, then left.
  • If you have a one HTML page website with a bunch of Flash embedded circa the 90’s/early 00’s – you can likely assume that search engines see one page with very little (or no) info about your firm. That’s pretty much killing your firm in the SEO department.
  • Thumbnails alone don’t cut it anymore. There’s nothing wrong with using the images themselves, but if your homepage is 95% empty with a few images on the screen – the impact of those thumbnails has been diminished significantly by current monitor resolutions/sizes.
  • You may be unconventional, but most of your visitors probably aren’t. They need things like links back to your homepage and consistent positioning of nav. Hiding your navigation or making it difficult to stop a swooshing, sweeping, portfolio to see one project description won’t help even the most creative of clients realize how much they like you.
  • Last, but not least – don’t make people wait! If you have a Flash (shudders) or heavily scripted homepage that takes a few seconds to load for you, assume it takes much longer for a first time visitor to your site. This is because, depending on how your site is built, certain aspects are saved or cached to speed up your browser’s load on the next time around. Compound that with the fact that all of your homepage content is contained in that fancy animation and you have potential clients looking at a blank screen for several seconds.