The Content Page Gets Priority

Christine Perfetti

February 10th, 2006

In a recent article on A List Apart, Derek Powazek, an expert designer and past User Interface Conference speaker, describes how he goes about designing a web site:

When I set out to design a website, I do it backwards. I start with the design of the smallest, deepest element: the story page or search results. Then I work backwards to design their containers: section pages, indexes. Then, lastly, I work on the home page.

Derek’s approach to site design is consistent with what we’ve seen work most effectively. All too often, clients tell us they spend the majority of their time focusing on the design of the home page when we’ve found that it’s actually the least important page on the site. As Jared mentioned in his post, Is Home Page Design Relevant Anymore?, the home page serves only two purposes for users: it delivers the content, or it provides strong scent to get users to the content page they want.

We’ve seen that the most successful design teams focus on designing the content pages first, ensuring they have all the information that users need on those pages. They understand that the content page is the most important page to users for a very simple reason: this is where users find the information they’ve been seeking.

Does your team spend a large amount of time and resources focused on the homepage? Which page gets the highest priority with your team?

6 Responses to “The Content Page Gets Priority”

  1. Lar Veale Says:

    We fully follow this technique and regard the homepage as a signpost (or give scent) to content that visitors are actually looking for.

  2. Marcia Says:

    I was misled by the singular “page” in your title. I clicked on this article to find out what the heck this one “content page” could be (thinking maybe this was a term related to a “table of contents page”). I see now that you are talking about “content pages.” I understand that grammatically a singular term can be used this way, but the ambiguity in your title doesn’t buy you anything.

    As for the premise of the article, it makes total sense and is actually in keeping with age-old practices. Few authors would write the intro to a book of any kind before writing the book. You have to know what you are introducing.

    Thanks for all the great articles — love you guys.

  3. nortypig Says:

    Yeh I agree entirely. Focusing on the home page design before understanding the full content of the site is a mistake we naturally make in undisciplined thought. But often in the cloak of development of the content you realise stuff that may well change how you would develop a home page.

    The worst feeling in the world is sitting there looking at a blank home page too… what do I do here? But doing bottom up gives you time to let the juices settle and by the time you get to the end you have all this stuff and its just about presenting that content and message…

    I’ve only worked on smaller projects but have learned by my own mistakes on this one that bottom up development saves a lot of hair pulling and frustration.

  4. Small Multiples, a blog by Dmitry Nekrasovski » Blog Archive » Bi-directional web design? Says:

    [...] A recent UIE article talks about the need for web designers to put more of their attention on content pages and less on the home page. So far so good, but the following quote from an article advocating the same approach on A List Apart made me wonder: When I set out to design a website, I do it backwards. I start with the design of the smallest, deepest element: the story page or search results. Then I work backwards to design their containers: section pages, indexes. Then, lastly, I work on the home page. [...]

  5. Ryan Says:

    Content is of top priority for a website. It is important that you design a site keeping in mind the no. of content pages and the volume of the content. There shouldn’t be too much content on the homepage, just the important points and user friendly navigation. The complete details should be on internal pages of the site.

  6. Larry Says:

    I would spend more time on the home page because for most that is the starting point for your visitors. It is from the home page where visitors decide to leave or stay at your web site.

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