Just a few years ago, I was talking to clients about “the fold.” The imaginary line on the web site separating information viewed as soon as the page loaded from less important information lower down on the page. We carefully constructed web sites with all critical information and calls to action strategically placed “above the fold.” Rotating banners became popular because they allowed us to present multiple messages without requiring visitors to scroll.
That concept made sense when all computer monitors were relatively the same size. Then monitors got larger and the fold would appear in different places on different computers. As people have switched more of their internet usage to mobile devices, scrolling has become the norm. It seemed counterproductive to try to enforce an imaginary fold and web pages got longer.
It took awhile for us to convince our clients to stop worrying about the fold, give up their rotating banners and eliminate the clutter at the top of the page. Now we have another problem. Since clients know we can always add another row of attractive buttons or detailed information at the bottom of the page there is no reason to edit the content on the home page, right?
We can always add more content, but should we?
How much is too much information for a home page? I set out to find conclusive evidence to support arguments for or against long home pages. Unfortunately, there isn’t much research on this topic. And what there is, tends to be inconclusive.
The advice in articles like this one from Neil Patel start off strongly in favor of longer pages for the SEO and conversion benefits. But, if you read the conclusion, he starts to qualify his result saying it won’t work in every business.
Ultimately, how long your home page should be is dependent on your business, your customers and your goals for your website. So how do you decide? Start by looking at what you really want people to do when they arrive.
Short home pages work for companies with multiple products, services or audiences – In this instance, people come to your home page for many different reasons. If you try to answer all questions on the home page, many prospective customers will leave before they scroll all the way down to find their answer
Your home page needs to be a jumping off point as you introduce visitors to the most common choices. Links or calls to action quickly direct them off the home page to a section of the website which contains more relevant and detailed information.
Long home pages work for a single product or event– The longer home page, or even an all in one home page, is a great way to deliver a lot of information quickly. When there is a logical flow from section to section, your audience is more likely to stay engaged if they can simply scroll rather than returning to the menu to navigate to the next section.
In order for this design to work, each piece of information on the home page must serve a specific purpose encouraging the visitor to keep scrolling. When you simply tack on an unrelated row of information, it interrupts the flow and usually sends them back to the top of the page, or worse yet, back to Google to find another site.
View your website the way a retail store owner views floor space. Every square inch is precious. Everything you put on your page needs to serve a purpose, supporting your business objectives. When you look at each space critically it is easy to spot when your page has become too long.