How to design a Start Page that works
If you have a website or blog, you need a start page. It’s usually the first impression people will get from your website, your work, what you represent. If people enter through an article or a different page, they will go to your start page for orientation, to find out what your website or blog is about.
What is a Start Page?
I find that people often struggle with the terminology. Do you know the difference between a Start Page, a Home Page and a Landing Page? Start Page and Home Page can be uses synonymously, though Home Page is also often used to refer to the whole website; hence Start Page seems a little clearer. It is also a very descriptive approach because it is THE page to give your visitors direction and clarity about where they are and what you offer.
A landing page is a page that only directs people to a certain call to action. You create a landing page if you’d like to sell a book or a course, for example, or if you want for people to sign up for your newsletter. All the information on that page leads them to just one thing.
The start page, however, is something that every website needs and has and that should contain certain information.
What is the purpose of your website or blog?
If you have a service-based business, you will probably want to sell your service with your website. If you have a shop or a product, you most likely have a website to sell your product(s.) These are relatively easy because your whole website can centre around this.
If you write a blog post, it is usually centred around a certain keyword people search for to tell them that you offer what they are looking for. And it might as well lead people to check out your start page, to find out more about your offers.
If you have a certain interest that you want to share with other people, you usually create a blog. Or you might have a magazine with articles by different people.
The question of your goal is a bit more complicated here. If you’re doing it for fun and don’t want to monetize it, you can just go ahead and share whatever you like – but if you do want to make money with your blog, it’s good to have a clear call to action as well.
I’ve written another article about how to find your Core Values as a basis for deciding the purpose of your blog or website before.
There are different ways to monetize your blog. One way could be to sell a book or course, both of which you can promote with your blog. Or you offer a membership programme and only give access to certain information to non-paying visitors. Or you work with advertisement. I would always prefer the first three over the last one because you’re not in danger of getting ‘bought’ and only posting about what companies pay you for. But that’s a topic for another time.
Whatever you decide, once you are clear about the purpose of your blog, you want to make sure that people are encouraged to either sign up for your membership programme or course or to buy a book or other product or service. For advertisement, you’ll want them to stay on your website for the longest possible time so that they can see and click on the advertisement. Again, nothing I’d want to encourage, but the choice is yours :).
Structuring your Start Page for Success
There is a simple Z structure that we as humans use to scan the information on a website (at least in areas where people write and read from left to right, this might be the other way around in Arabic-speaking countries for example).
Starting from the top left (Logo) to the right (menu and or contact information) over a nice picture and compelling and explanatory sentence to the right (call to action). Go and take a look at websites that you like. You’ll find this structure again and again. Why? Because it works.
So choosing the Z structure for the beginning of your website or blog, no matter what the purpose, is a wise choice. You should also make sure that people can see this whole area at once, when they land on your website.
After that things are a bit more lose. If you have a service or product-based business, you might want to give an overview of your service and products and tell them about you and/or your company.
If it’s a blog you will most likely present the highlights – either the newest posts or the different categories that you offer or a bit of both. And you will also want to give them a chance to find out about your business and invite them to join or buy whatever you offer.
I wouldn’t necessarily count the footer area as part of the Start Page, as it most likely appears on all of your pages. But it is either way a great place to give visitors an overview of your site structure and invite them to check out categories or pages that didn’t make it into the main menu or body of your Start Page. Above or in the top part of your footer is also a great place to repeat the call to action.
Use a clear and easy to follow structure. Give people bite sized information, use compelling pictures, or just keep it plain and simple. Work with links to lead your visitors to places to learn or engage more. Don’t confuse them with too much information or options, make a selection of your best offers and selling points.
Don’t tell your whole story – use the start page as an invitation, the place where you welcome people and show them what you have to offer. Make it a great first impression.