Every page is your start page (so write that way)

Your home page is no longer your start page.

It’s a home base, for sure – a quick escape to the front, an ejector seat for a lost user – but it’s no longer first contact. And it hasn’t been for a while, actually.

The fact is, your start page is different for every user.

  • User #1 comes via a link from a co-worker.
  • User #2 comes via Google.
  • Users #3 and #4 saw your special promotion landing page.
  • User #5 has been bookmarking your products page for three years. He doesn’t even KNOW what your home page looks like.

Oh no! Your carefully crafted home page copy! Your crazy linkable text! Your beautiful carousel images!

All of it: ignored. So, the question is: “How do you provide your user with any sense of location or company spirit?”

The answer is easy. The process is not. You simply have to create compelling content that explains your company. At the same time that you’re explaining the subject of your Web page. And you need to do this on every page. Every time. All the time.

Tell Them Who You Are On Every Page

Your mission and your history and your entire product line are fantastic and we know you’re totally devoted to whatever it is that has brought you this far. But when I come to your Web site, well, sorry. I don’t care.

I want to know who you are. What you do. Most importantly – why I am supposed to care.

Conventional wisdom says you’ve got about three seconds to capture a visitor on any page of your site, so make it count. Make identity and personality a part of the site design, and give big-picture context to every page.

Don’t have an identity or personality? Don’t have any big-picture context? Well, that’s what your content strategy is for.

The Right and Wrong Ways: Or, “Stop Assuming They’ve Been Here Before.”

There are right and wrong ways to do everything. For writing Web copy, here are some examples: First, some vague copy you might find on a company’s Web site under the heading “Development and Design.”

“We’re here for you no matter what you need, from custom development and design to marketing solutions using tomorrow’s technology.”

The questions start popping up. Who’s here? What do you think I need? Development and design of what? What technology?

Compare it to this:

“Blend Interactive offers custom Web development, marketing and design through a dedication to Web standards and best practices.”

Let’s go through those questions again.

  • Who’s here? – Blend Interactive is.
  • What do you think I need? – Custom Web work.
  • Development and design of what? – A Web site.
  • What technology? – Not so much technology as a best practice through Modern Web standards.

It’s not the front page. Still, within one sentence, I’m already aware of who Blend Interactive is, what they offer, and why I should care. Explaining these three things should be the focus of every page on the site. It doesn’t have to be the same copy every time. But it should be focused on pretty darned quickly.

One More Thing: Headlines Matter.

Your headings aren’t just there to serve as truncated navigation links – they’re designed to call attention to the best and brightest points of your content.

Wanna know something else? Your top headings become the first thing a new user sees, regardless of the painstaking design you made on the home page. It’s in the search results. It’s the name of a link.

See, here’s the thing: people are lazy Web readers. It’s not an insult – it’s a fact. And they look to the headings to give them a quick description of what that page offers. Why read it for yourself and craft your own headline if the person who wrote the site has already taken care of it for you?

What this means: not only is a user going to gather all he or she needs to know about your company from whatever random page they land on, they’re also going to use your own copy to explain that randomness.

Don’t let their experience be random. Tell them who you are. And tell them on every page.

(Originally posted at the Blend Interactive blog.)