If you're running your own Web site, then as far as visitors to your site are concerned, you only live once
unless your Home Page stops people dead in their tracks and says "Hey, look at me!".

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You only live twice
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face.
Basho, Japanese poet 1643 - 94

That was quoted in Ian Fleming' book You Only Live Twice. OK for James Bond, maybe, but if you're running your own Web site, then as far as visitors to your site are concerned, you only live once unless your Home Page stops people dead in their tracks and says "Hey, look at me!".

At the risk of offending you, I'll generalise and say that users of the World Wide Web tend to fall into two categories:
  1. They get bored quickly
  2. They are busy people
And if your Home Page, the entry point into your site, does not please them, they will:
  • Not look at the rest of your site
  • Go away
  • Not come back
... and all that in very rapid succession. To prevent that from happening, here are a few simple guidelines to help you:
  1. Fast loading. Make your page as fast loading as possible. This means a fairly short page (not too much text) and no huge graphics (see our archived article on Shrink Your Gifs).
  2. Information. Tell your visitors right up-front what the site is all about, and what they can expect to find in different parts of the site.
  3. Navigation. Make it easy right from the Home Page for people to find their way around your site - and explain on the Home Page how they can do it.
  4. Text alternatives. If you're using navigation buttons or an image map for navigation, always give clickable hypertext links as an alternative. Remember, about a third of Web users surf with the graphics turned off.
  5. The first screen. Try to get essential information on the first screen that people will see. Don't make people have to scroll down to see what's on the site. And design that screen around the 640 x 480 pixel screen, the one that's most commonly in use.
None of this will guarantee that every visitor will read your Home Page and then go on to visit other parts of your site. But if you follow these guidelines, it will increase the chances of this happening.


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