Homepage Politics

One of the silliest games that firms play is

What should we put on the home page?”

In many firms, you would think that home page real estate was more valuable than oceanfront property in Malibu. Product managers and LOB execs often believe that their products have a “right” to be on their company’s home page. How they decide what goes on the home page usually comes down to politics, negotiation, and compromise.

Forrester wrote about how Wells Fargo used Web site metrics, customer survey data, and internal search information to develop its home page. While it’s hard to argue with this approach, it still reflects a potentially erroneous assumption: That site visitors who hit the home page are browsing (i.e., “window shopping”), and open to suggestions about where to go from there.

Some observers equate a home page to a retailer’s store window. The store window contains items (and anatomically appealing mannequins) to entice potential shoppers to come in.

This is not a good analogy. When site visitors hit your home page, they’re already in. The home page should make it as easy as possible for them to get where they’re going — and let the product-specific landing pages do the merchandising and selling.

Conceptually, this is no different from someone walking into a bank branch and sitting down at a manager’s desk. What’s the first thing the manager is going to do? Start pushing product brochures at the customer? No! S/he is going to ASK QUESTIONS to find out why the customer is there.

Few sites do this. Some home pages are like psychedelic concerts from the 60’s. There is so much going on — tabs, navigational choices, boxes, menu options, flashing graphics — the visual stimulation is overwhelming. It’s a wonder anybody can find what they’re looking for.

A few years ago, Charles Schwab’s home page had little on it except a large graphic on the left side of the screen and a pulldown box on the top right with the question: “How can we help you?” Below the pulldown box was a phone number for people to call, and an Investor Center locator. (The Wayback Machine confirms this — it was in November 2002).

That’s what a financial services firm’s home page should do. Ask questions. Get site visitors where they want to go. If your home page does that, not only will you improve the online customer experience, you’ll eliminate a lot of the silly games your firm plays.

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