Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz had a great presentation on how homepages are designed now, compared to the pre-mobile days. Here are the basic changes in homepage design that have taken place in the past few years.
1. Promoting sections of the website.
Then: It used to be that homepages were the primary landing page for a website, so if the visitor didn’t see what he wanted there, he would never see it. For that reason everything needed to be promoted on the homepage.
Now: Since users are more likely to find the content they need directly from the search engines, the homepage is no longer the “table of contents” of the website. It should be used more for branding, and giving a focused experience, with the most important users and most important products and services in mind.
Then: Back in the day your homepage had the highest PageRank, and it made sense to try and optimize for as many keywords as possible.
Now: Homepages are no longer the primary target of backlinking and social promotion, so their link authority is not always more than that of internal pages. Focus on mainly brand related keywords, and those of the most important 2 or 3 products/services, and let the internal pages grab the more specific targeted keywords directly related to individual products and services.
Then: Tons of text was needed on the homepage to promote all of the products and services with their related keywords.
Now: Of course nobody ever read all of that text, and with mobile use expanding, and attention spans contracting, a clean visual experience on the homepage is now the order of the day.
Then: Assume all the users would land on the homepage, and funnel each type to the content they are looking for.
Now: Realize that visitors looking for specific products and services will be going to those pages directly via web search. The homepage is the place to make a strong statement about your brand to the most important users to your company.
Then: Keep all important content above the fold. People hate to scroll.
Now: Apparently people now love to scroll, based on most of the responsive designs you will see. That may be more true on mobile, but I think the cost of doing entirely separate designs for mobile and desktop is prohibitive, compared to being able to use one design for both. So don’t keep it above the fold, but obviously give users a cue there is more content below the fold at every screen size for every device.
That’s all the time I have for now. Any comments? Feel free.