There are a lot of creative people on the web with a lot of talent for creating amazing looking pages. In recent years, one of the most important kinds of pages to find their way into commercial web sites in particular has been the splash page.
The splash page is different from its more functional cousin the “landing” page in one very important respect: When a web site sets up a splash page, the purpose is to identify the content and source of the site. A landing page, on the other hand, usually has some specific function attached. For commercial sites, the purpose of a landing page is to convert visits into sales. The content on the page is therefore designed to serve that purpose.
The splash page, on the other hand, has a more generalized function in that it must communicate what a site is and what it contains before it invites visitors to become customers.
The Book Cover Metaphor
In the publishing industry, covers on the books sold from a shelf or table are absolutely crucial in attracting the right kinds of readers and customers. The purpose of a book cover is not necessarily to demonstrate how cool the title is or to include a really attractive picture. The purpose of a book cover is to communicate to a prospective reader what genre the book is in and what the story is likely about.
In other words, the cover describes what’s inside, very much like any other retail packaging. A splash page on a web site has to do the same thing. It is a page that communicates to an audience what the site is about.
Art as Genre
It is vitally important any splash page have appropriate art. If you are running a site for Wall Street analysts, and you are publishing page after page of mutual fund statistics, having a brightly colored cartoon scene on your splash page probably isn’t going to do a lot for your credibility.
At the same time, if you are running a site about comic books and your first page is a photograph of a corporate board meeting for a law firm, your audience might be a little confused. It is very important to remember the style of your art and the mood and tone it depicts will go a long way towards demonstrating the purpose and character of your site to your audience.
It will also make it much easier to convert your readers into customers if you are running a commercial site. Having an audience of sixth graders isn’t going to produce many sales if you’re running a menswear store.
If you study book covers from the earlier example, you’ll notice many of the most effective titles will be extraordinarily efficient when it comes to their design. This has a great deal to do with the principles of graphic design which emphasize clean and uncluttered presentation.
Your splash page should be exactly the same. Work towards efficiency of presentation rather than trying to communicate too much at once. Large amounts of dense information are why books consist of more than just covers. Your site should be no different. Leave the detailed information for other sections of your site and concentrate on one powerful line, logo or slogan on your splash page. The purpose is to make your title and logo memorable so your audience will come back more than once.
Again, if you’re running a commercial site, having repeat traffic is vital to your success in converting your visitors to customers.
Web design is far more sophisticated now than it was even as recently as five years ago. Because of the advent of content management systems and a fairly well developed standardization effort by manufacturers of web software, the potential for an effective splash page has advanced considerably.
Make certain to keep it simple, colorful and punchy, and you’ll find your audience is far more enagaged than the average.
Guest post by James Gorski:
In addition to being the editor at designrfix and writing about tech, web and graphic design among other subjects, I love “unplug” and be outdoors hiking and enjoying nature. If you can’t reach me, it’s probably because where I am at doesn’t have cell phone reception.