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DESIGN OF HOME PAGES FOR LARGE CORPORATE WEBSITES

November 8, 2008

A few random thoughts regarding the design of home pages for large corporate websites.

By looking at homepages of large corporations ( HP, Xerox, IBM…) I am convinced that having just one global navigation at the top of the home page can greatly limit your web ROI not mentioning frustrating your web visitors.

Let’s take a look at a couple of home pages to see what links are displayed there and how they are clustered.

HP.COM HOME PAGE
HP  sport a very robust global nav which takes drop-downs to the next levels adding visual guidance in addition to multiple  levels of navigation. That’s not the end. At the bottom of the page there are three clusters of links including HP Corporate and Resources

HP home page

HP home page


XEROX.COM

Same with Xerox’s home page which sports robust global navigation based on three brand pillars + 6 other clusters of links including strong new media presence in the Helpful resources section. I recently read an article in B2B magazine by Michael MacDonald (a person responsible for Home Page redesign at Xerox) who explains that “the objective was to reposition Xerox by establishing a strong brand architecture that made sure that Xerox maximized its brand power between our brand and non-brand assets […]”

xerox_home

Xerox Home Page


IBM.COM

Even IBM whose home page, in my opinion, could use a design refresh (the tabs look a bit outdated) sports a very robust global navigation with multi-layered drop-downs and a set of tabs revealing carefully chosen sets of links.

IBM Home Page

IBM Home Page


WHAT LINKS TO INCLUDE ON YOUR HOME PAGE?

Most  companies with large web presences go about  deciding what links to display on their home page and how to cluster them  by going through a careful user research including several rounds of concept testing before settling on the navigation structure that is right for their web visitors. Read HP’s web experience blog posts by Nandini Nayak, (Director, HP.com Site Design & Research) describing how HP arrived at the current home page.


DO I CHANGE LINKS ON MY HOME PAGE OVERNIGHT?
The answer is NO. Proceed with caution in favor of many smaller tweaks rather than introducing major overhauls to the home page overnight. There is an interesting article in the NYT “Changing That Home Page? Take Baby Steps” describing how Yahoo went about redesigning their home page and doing it though several iterations.

SUMMARY
Let me summarize my thoughts by giving the following five tips:

  1. Examine your website’s visitors to understand major navigational paths and how to streamline them right from the home page
  2. Don’t be afraid to introduce multiple navigational schema on your home page, but don’t change your home page navigational structure overnight
  3. Make sure links are not scattered aimlessly thought the home page. Cluster them based on your user research
  4. Don’t overwhelm your visitors. There are plenty of tricks: drop-downs, overlays, tabs to maintain clarity yet provide navigational depth.
  5. Again, take many small steps overtime rather than drastically redesigning your home page overnight
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