Don’t put everything on your homepage.
I’ve noticed a repeat offense on Catholic homepages over the years. It’s a temptation that needs to be intentionally resisted. Every. Day. ⚠️ Don’t put everything on your homepage! ⚠️
Being the manager of a Catholic website is a tough job. Everyone wants their “stuff” on the homepage. A tangible fear exists: If we don’t put something on the homepage, nobody will see it.
This is a false fear. Don’t let it influence your decisions!
Here’s why everything ends up on your homepage
Why does everything get thrown onto your homepage? Because it’s the easiest option.
Imagine this all-too-common scenario. You’re the manager of the website and a colleague walks into your office. (Maybe it’s your youth minister, your pastor, or your principal.)
Colleague: “We’ve got that big event coming up next month. You’ve got it on the homepage, right?”
You: “…uhhh, yeah! Of course…”
We naturally follow the path of least resistance. In this case, it’s much easier to say yes than no. Yes = happy colleague. No = potentially awkward conversation about why your colleague’s big event might not be worthy of valuable homepage real estate.
Most of us prefer fewer awkward/uncomfortable conversations in our lives. Hence, everything is on your homepage. (Side note: This is why everything is in your bulletin, too.)
Here’s why you shouldn’t put everything on your homepage
Now that we understand why everything’s on your homepage, let’s think about why this is bad. Before you said yes to your coworker in the scenario above, did you:
- Stop to think about the bigger picture?
- Analyze the current elements on your homepage and whether this new item could smoothly fit in?
- Consider the limits of your audience’s attention span? (aka: the reality of information overload?)
A cluttered, unattractive homepage sends a distinct (read: negative) message to your visitors.
I often tell people to think of the homepage as a storefront window. Imagine you’re window-shopping down Main Street when you suddenly stumble across a store with items packed in the window from floor to ceiling. Great…they’ve apparently put their entire inventory on display in the front window!
You see dozens of items for sale. But what do you really see? Chaos. Disorganization. A mess.
What do you feel? Overwhelmed. Anxious. Repelled.
Does your homepage have your entire inventory on display?
Here’s how to make sure your homepage stays clean and tidy
Putting everything on your homepage isn’t a good strategy. To be safe, just assume your visitor will generously loan you five to 10 seconds of their attention. Yes, a max of 10 seconds. Choose wisely…and use these tips to make better decisions.
1. Keep it simple
You’ve got a limited amount of time to make a big impact. Select three to five clear priorities. (i.e., things you want to instantly communicate to your visitors). These will vary from organization to organization, but here’s some sample priorities for a Catholic homepage.
- Who we are
- Where we’re located
- The most important upcoming event/initiative
- How to get connected
Make sure all your homepage content (including your homepage slideshow) stays simple and supports the priorities you’ve set. If it doesn’t, keep it off the homepage. Protect your turf!
2. Build a great sitemap
If it can’t go on the homepage, where should it go? These once-agonizing decisions can be quick and easy if you simply have an organized sitemap.
We’ve written extensively about the art of building an awesome sitemap. Essentially, creating an effective sitemap comes down to four steps:
- Identify your audience. What are their needs? What are your goals?
- Brainstorm all the types of pages you envision having on your website. Do any natural categories form?
- Define your priorities. What makes the cut for the main navigation menu?
- Choose intuitive headings. How can your website be easiest to navigate?
3. Have an information gatekeeper
Jesus gave the keys to Peter. Once that happened, he was The Man. (…actually, he was the Pope, but “The Man” sounds cooler.) Nobody second-guessed his decisions.
Likewise, someone needs to hold the keys to your website. Once christened, the information gatekeeper’s job is to decide:
- What to communicate
- How to communicate
- When to communicate
If it’s you, be confident. Get feedback from trusted sources. But at the end of the day, don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions.
If it’s not you, trust the information gatekeeper. Engage them in spirited dialogue once in a while. But always help build their confidence.
Boldly move forward.
There you have it. Now you know why everything ends up on your homepage, why this is bad, and how to fix it. So please, go ahead and fix it! Cluttered homepages are the plague of church websites. Having a clean and attractive homepage will truly help your website stand out.