Who is updating their home page, how are they doing it—and why it might not matter.
2011 is turning out to be the age of the home page. We’re seeing updates in record numbers– and some designs are actually breaking new ground. On the other hand, few of these designs are actually making it down to lower levels of the site—which is a big no-no in our book.
I’ll leave that point for a future rant. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at who’s producing these new home pages, the important design points and strategies they bring to the party—and explore the age-old question: why only the home page?
I’ll start with the “who” and “how” and leave my humble opinions for the end.
Juniper.net: An end-to-end refresh, plus a savvy F1. Design-wise, Juniper.net’s boasting a more monochromatic color palette these days that’s carried across the entire site. This attention to detail isn’t much of a surprise. Juniper.net is one of few sites that is persistently refreshed from top to bottom and end to end.
But the real feather in Juniper.net’s cap is its deft F1 feature, which features its CTO in a series of inline videos discussing the issues and questions important to potential buyers. Think of it as the first home page that actually tells a complete story.
Like Juniper.net, the new Level3.com home page F1 centers on addressing common questions—with a huge focus on differentiating Level3 from its competitors. How it achieves this, however, is different. Instead of using execs or employees (a la Juniper.net) Level3.com opts for three fictitious characters who step in to discuss questions selected by the visitor. The feature is professionally done, but doesn’t feel as authentic as Juniper.net’s.
HP.com: Watching an interesting design wander off the rails. I wrote about HP.com’s new and evolving home page in our most recent Don’t Miss/Don’t Bother column, so I won’t bore you with a second rendition of who shot John. With two Don’t Bother votes, there’s plenty to learn from HP.com’s home page launch.
SAP.com: A home page design that is as revolutionary as it is attractive. This re-design tips all the previous home page and Website architecture designs on their heads. To learn more about this launch, read my blog about how SAP.com’s home page re-defines Website architecture. Let’s just say it’s not for the faint of heart—and will require a complete site revamp to pull it off.
IBM.com: Playing catch up, but moving in the right direction. IBM.com’s latest home page redesign is a bit like watching a launch in slow motion. This transformation started this spring with the addition of a fat (and I mean fat) footer, a slightly darker palette, savvy graphics, and an inline mega menu that allows visitors to drill down into the Smarter Planet zone (read my POV on this great zone here). Last week, we saw IBM.com’s take on the mega-menu revolution. My POV? Eh. Check our latest Don’t Miss/Don’t Bother review.
In a turn away from the trends, all mega-menu style navigation is out—and static (pull down) navigation is in. Also new: site information organized in colorful decks instead of floating in space. Not better or worse—just different.
Adobe.com: Variations on the theme clobbers consistency. Adobe.com’s new design keeps its graphically rich heritage, but does away with the impressive flash animations. Is this a response to the recent backlash against Flash, or just Adobe.com maturing? Hard to tell.
Other changes include a darker color palette and a page shift from the left to the center. The latter may seem like no big deal, but it is affecting overall site consistency due to lower-level pages that still display a flush-left design.
So, why are we seeing so many new home pages? Well, when you can’t afford a facelift, buy some better makeup. But here’s the catch. A redo might give you a feel good boost and bragging rights with your execs, but if your lower-level pages are aging badly this isn’t money well spent.
Why? Because a home page is only a fraction of the user equation. In the real world, most of your visitors spend their quality time inside your site—wandering through those aging designs, navigation structures, and dreadful content you are ignoring. That’s not the promise these cool new home pages are selling. Which means you just invested in an expensive game of bait and switch.