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The homepage is traditionally where your client will want to start working on this project, right after they talk with you about color choices, instead of starting with strategy. However, you should think of the homepage as the cover of a book or the introductory paragraph to a research paper. It's one of the last things you should work on. Get clear on what's happening inside the site and hone your message there first. Once it's clear what's happening within the site, then go back and think about what elements should be on the homepage.
Some clients claim they want a clean home page in which there is very little content at all and just maybe a lot of photos. This works for some very image-heavy clients, like architecture firms, fashion sites, and other sites where photos tell the whole story. However, for most sites, a series of photos doesn't work well at all, at least as the only element of the homepage. For search engines, you'll want to include some keyword rich text that clearly spells out what the site is and what it does.
That text will also help some first-time visitors. You may want some content that turns over frequently to keep the homepage fresh. Good options are your most recent blog post, your most recent news post, or a recent photo posted from your photo gallery. You may want to feature a product or service on the homepage as well. In the case of Hansel & Petal, they've been working hard with a graphic designer and they have come up with a homepage design that looks like this. Across the top is the keyword rich text that I just described.
It's a brief introduction with a link to Read more, if you wish, along with some sample photographs. Underneath, is a blog posting from Kirk Hansel, about a recent pink centerpiece that he created for one of his favorite clients. Over on the right-hand side is a photo from their photo gallery. In this case, it's a flower on some restaurant plates. We are also including some information about how to sign up for their newsletter and we're featuring a call-out linking to their commitment on the environment.
This will link to keen on green page in the main navigation. It would have been very hard to design this homepage without designing all of the inside pages first. We wouldn't know that we would have a blog that we could draw from to put content on the home page, nor would we know that we had a photo gallery available to us. Because Content Management Systems make it easy to include content from other areas of your website, it makes sense to design your homepage last, after you've thought about all of the other pages on your website.
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