Suppose someone interested in whatever you have to offer finds your website (Google, a link from another site, a friend). When they land on your home page, what do they see? A page that says "Click here to enter"? A page that makes them either click "Skip Intro" or wait for a large Flash file to load?
In web design, these are called "splash pages".
Why Not to Use Splash Pages
The reasons not to use splash pages have been known for a long time.
- They drive away website traffic. 25% of visitors leave immediately. More if it's a Flash intro screen, even if there's a "Skip Intro" link.
- They are ineffective. Visitors motivated enough to continue usually click on "Skip Intro" or "Enter Site" immediately.
- They are irritating. By coming to your site, visitors have already shown they want to enter. Why make them say so again?
- They particularly irritate repeat visitors. Even if a visitor thought your splash page was interesting the first time, they get tired of having to click through it on each visit.
- They hurt your site's usability. Visitors are impatient. You want to minimize the number of clicks to get to your content or business proposition. Splash pages add an unnecessary step.
- They hurt your search engine visibility. If present, a splash page is the first page that search engines see. Since there is no useful content, they may reduce your site's search ranking. Some search engines will only search a few levels deep into your site. A splash page adds an extra level, which may cause them to skip important content. A splash page can really hurt your search engine visibility if it is completely based on Flash or similar multimedia technologies. In that case, search engines might be unable to find your real content.
The Logic (or Lack of It) Behind Splash Pages
If the arguments against splash pages are so compelling, why do they still exist? Two common reasons are:
- Clients like them. They think they're sexy. And the splash page often contains pictures that the client likes and wants to show off.
- Designers like them. It gives them an opportunity to show off their design creativity or Flash expertise.
This is self-centered web design. It violates a key principle of designing for results: keep the visitor in mind.
Visitors come to your site for a reason. Looking at your pictures is seldom that reason. The more obstacles you put in their path, the less likely they are to take the action you want (buy your product, subscribe to your service, etc.). Splash pages make it less likely your website will achieve the results you want.
When Splash Pages Might Be Appropriate
Are there valid reasons for using a splash page? A few.
- You want to intentionally discourage some visitors. For example, if your site contains adult content or access to gambling, you might want to (or be legally required to) warn visitors before they enter.
- Your content is subscription-only or member-only. You need to ask for a password before granting access.
- You're a designer. This is one of the few cases where you might benefit from showing off your work.
If you have a picture or a Flash animation you want to show off, put it discretely on your home page. That way visitors see your marketing message and site navigation immediately. And those interested can still look at your multimedia. If you have a lot of pictures, create a photo gallery.
The key: Don't use a splash page unless you really need it.
What do you think? Comment back and let us know.
Note: This is a re-publish of a post I originally did on the Vintagefactor blog.