I keep coming back to this article in the Linux journal. Not only is it an interesting and motiviational piece about starting a music label (not something I'd normally be interested in, but they make it sound so cool) but it's also a terrific description of what should go into a home page.
This article gives you a nice checklist of things that should be on the landing page of any site. Sure, you can add or remove elements suggested, but I consistently turn to this list as a good first start.
The items are:
- Where am I? - a graphic logo on the top left or top right does the trick. It's even better if you have a catchy line. For Magnatune, it's "We are not evil".
- Why should I care? - a one-line description of what you do and, if possible, why someone should be interested. For Magnatune, it's "Internet music without the guilt" followed by "Magnatune, the Open Music Record Label".
- What do you want me to do? - for first-time visitors, it should be clear what the next step is. For Magnatune, I want people to listen to the music immediately, so it says "Explore a music genre: Classical, Electronica, Metal & Punk, New Age, Rock, World, Others".
- Why is this cool? - there are way too many sites on the Internet, and people have a limited amount of time. You've got the visitor's attention for a few seconds, so you need to explain quickly why this is something he or she wants to support. If you're doing e-commerce, expect that your visitors are jaded. If you answered the second question well, you've got another 30 seconds of their attention. Magnatune starts with: "We're a record label. But we're not evil. We call it 'try before you buy.' It's the shareware model applied to music." The concepts of record label, not evil and shareware are an odd combination, so now they're interested.
- What's new? - give people an incentive to come back to your site by making it easy to see what's changed. There's a lot of new stuff at Magnatune (new press coverage, for example), but most people care only about our new artists and albums, so that's what's on the home page.
- Newsletter signup - every Web site should have a newsletter. If you put the signup on the home page, you can expect 2% to 5% of Web site visitors to sign up.
- I want to know more - an "about" section also is crucial. The founders should explain why they created the site, project or company.
- I want to steer - despite all these hints on what to do next, visitors often want to decide for themselves where to go. On Magnatune, 15% of people coming to the home page click on the Artists tab. Make the major site navigation options clear.
Is there anything you would add or change about this list?