Too often, the answer to this question is, "EVERYTHING."
Home pages that are jam packed with content scare visitors off rather than drawing them in. If what they're looking for can't be found in a few seconds, they will go away frustrated.
Trying to find Waldo in a crowded scene can be fun, but making visitors hunt for things on your website ... not so much.
Here are a few tips to help you decide what content to include on your home page:
- Think about the audience you're trying to reach.
Narrow it down as far as possible. Resist the temptation to try to reach lots of disparate audiences. It will dilute the impact of your page.
For virtually all of our academic websites, the primary target audience should be prospective students.
Don't be distracted by concerns about secondary audiences. You can put a link in a secondary location on your home page that will take those visitors to a page that meets their needs.
- Clarify your communication goals.
For academic sites, your primary goal should be to attract prospective students to want to come to your school/department.
Other sites will have other goals, but the point is to focus on a narrow audience then define your goals specifically for that audience.
- Get rid of content that doesn't support your goals.
You don't have to kill it, just get it off of your home page. If this exercise leaves you with nothing left on the page, pat yourself on the back and move on to step 4.
- Make a content plan.
Come up with no more than five things that you think will help you accomplish the goals you set for this page.
For academic sites, what are the five most important things that will attract prospective students to your school/department?
Here are the top five things they want to know:
• Do you have the major I want?
• Can I get in?
• Can I afford it?
• Are the location and size right for me?
• Will I fit in?
If you make it easy to get on the path toward the answers to those questions, you're well on the way to having a home page that works.
- Arrange the content on your page.
• Create a content hierarchy to make it clear what's most important. Use the H1 heading and top-left placement for the thing you want visitors to read first, then drop down to H2, H3, or H4 headings.
• Keep the page light and the writing succinct. Web users don't mind clicking through for more detail as long as they feel like they're making progress toward getting what they want.
• Use photos to make the page come to life. (See previous entry on photo editing.)
You can also view this sample page at: https://preview.cua.edu/www_prototype/newsletter/sample-home-page.cfm
We need to move away from depending on the left navigation menu for two reasons:
- More and more visitors are using smartphones to view our pages. The left navigation pane does not appear on those devices.
- On many sites, the navigation menus have become virtual site indexes that are so crowded with links that they no longer function as a quick way for visitors to find their way to the major categories of content on the site.
What to do?
Develop an internal navigation strategy. Guide visitors step by step to the key content areas on your site. Start with links to top-level pages, then progress to more detailed layers of content through a series of contextually relevant links. This may require some reorganization.
Organize your site into a finite number of major content categories, such as Academic Programs, Student Life, Faculty, News, and Events. These make up the second layer of content on your site, with the home page being the first.
Create landing pages for each of the major categories of content that serve as a jumping off point for visitors to delve more deeply into that area. Include clear pathways to the various content subcategories, such as Undergraduate Programs, Graduate Programs, etc.
Use related links boxes, such as the one at right, to guide visitors to logical next steps.
Create a site index for visitors who want to do directly to a specific page. Here are two examples:
If your site is one of those that depends heavily on the left navigation menu, please consider implementing some of these ideas. Visitors to your site will appreciate it.
The campus visit is often what "seals the deal" with students deciding whether to come here for undergraduate studies, according to our Admissions office. One of the greatest selling points for CUA is that our campus offers "the best of both worlds" – a beautiful residential campus AND a big-city environment.
Some of our academic website include prominent invitations for students to come visit, but many don't.
Q and A
Yes! This is little-used feature in Topaz that could save time and avoid errors.
Here's an example: the School of Business and Economics has a separate page for each of its majors. On every one of those pages, they include a box linking to all seven major programs. Instead of retyping or copying and pasting, they simply used the "Import Content" function to make that box appear on all seven pages.
1. On one of your pages, create the content object you want to use on multiple pages. Remember what you name it.
2. On a different page, click on "Add Content to this Section."
3. Click on the "Import Content" button. (Note that the "Choose Site" box defaults to your site, but it is also possible to import content from other sites.)
4. Click on "Get Shared Content" button. This will open a VERY long alphabetical list of every content element on your site. Scroll down to the one you want to import. Click on it, then click the "Add Content" button.
NOTE: One of the advantages of using imported content is that editing changes need to be made on only one of the instances where the content appears. The change automatically takes effect in all instances. So, in this case, if a new major is added, that change can be made on all seven majors pages simply by editing the "Link box - Majors" content object on one of those pages.
It's a browser thing. Some browsers support this function in Topaz; some don't. The same is true if you try to copy or cut by using the right-click method with your mouse to copy or cut highlighted text. Some browsers will allow that in Topaz; some won't.
The good news is that your keyboard shortcuts – Control-C on a PC or Command-C on a Mac will work on all browsers.