I went down a bit of a rabbit hole when friend of the list Kyle Bowen of SuperHelpful.com emailed a question about “Start Here” pages this past weekend:
What are your thoughts on the differences between a home page and a “start here” page/section?
I sometimes wonder why there is a home page if there’s somewhere else you’re supposed to start? Maybe the “Start Here” content is a tad too heady — like you’re signaling that you’re a bit committed if you click on “start here,” whereas the home page is more like a basic intro. But I still wonder if in, some cases, they can’t function as a single thing: home and start.
When it’s your homepage, laying it out is a weirdly personal and intimate thing.
Sometimes we treat it like a living room you wish you had more time to clean before an old friend came over.
Sometimes it’s that one conversation we want to have with everyone.
Sometimes we treat it like a status updates page. Or even a storefront.
But for the user, it’s more like a subway transfer station in another country. They don’t want to be there. Not really. They’re just trying to get where they want to go.
Ideally our job with a homepage is just giving them enough signals to so they can quickly discern:
- am I in the right place? (what value for who)
- do I believe this site can help me? (credibility, trust)
- where do I go next? (navigation)
So to you, your homepage is a showcase of all the important things as you see them, but to the user it’s the “Now what?” page.
In that way, “Start Here” is a bit of a misnomer. It more means, “Now that you’re here, this is where you should go next.”
Traditionally at least, designing a homepage isn’t an exercise in trying to figure out what the user wants.
That’s why I’m such a big fan of designing a Start Here page or homepage section. It’s a really good exercise in developing some empathy for your users.
As to homepage “Start Here” section on homepage or “Start Here” page linked as a menu item, I don’t think it much matters as long as it’s readily visible.
If the hotel lobby is the homepage and the concierge is the Start Here area, then all that really matters is that you can see the concierge desk when you walk in.