I’m in the middle of a huge redesign for a web site that gets hundreds of thousands (and sometimes millions) of monthly visits.
It’s a big deal. And it’s pretty stressful.
But if you’ve ever done any sort of redesign (maybe you’ve redesigned your online portfolio?), you know that it’s also exhilarating.
And the best projects seem to be just that: exhilarating, yet exhausting. That’s how I know I’m doing work that matters and work that I love.
As I go through this huge redesign, I’d like to share my thoughts on web site design processes and today I’d like to discuss what comes first in terms of design.
Once you’ve really nailed your audience and superniche, once you’ve determined what “jobs” your site visitors are hiring your for, and once you know exactly who you’re talking to and how, it’s time to jump into the design.
And I almost never start with the home page design anymore.
Why you shouldn’t start with the home page
It seems natural for some designers.
Everything’s going to stem from the home page, so of course it should be designed first.
Makes sense, right?
Maybe not….let’s dig in a little more.
Take a step back for a moment and answer the following question for me:
Which page do my visitors come to first?
That’s the page to design before anything else.
ANYTHING else. Seriously. Here’s why:
If you’re truly designing with your audience in mind (as any decent designer will tell you to do), you’re imagining not only how much margin they’ll like around their text, which fonts will really please them, and which color schemes will speak to them, but you’re also thinking about how a visitor will use the web site.
At the end of the day, a well-designed web-site is a tool people use to access information. Your design should focus around building a tool that does the job right.
So think about the first place a visitor comes to your site.
On many sites, the home page is rarely the first place your visitors come.
On ecommerce sites, it’s usually a product sales page.
On a blog, it’s usually a post getting traffic from social or search results.
On a news site, it’s a news story.
So if your visitor gets their first impression from a page other than the home page, why would you want to design your home page first and retro fit the other pages into a similar template.
You’re painting yourself into a corner.
Which page you should design first
So if not the home page, which page should you design first?
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.
First, design the first page your visitors will see.
Take your web site goals and make sure every single one of them can be achieved from this “first” page. If you’re trying to get more email subscribers, make it easy to subscribe from your “first” page. If you’re trying to get more clients, make it extremely easy to hire you from your “first” page. If you’re looking for more traffic, make it easy to navigate the site from the “first” page.
Death of the “homepage”
It’s not the “homepage” that wields the power any more. It’s the “first page.”
So make sure you’ve got the “first page” perfect in terms of appearance and function before you move on to anything else.
You’ll be amazed how easy the rest of the design comes when you’ve done that first step right.
What do you think? Comments here.