This scenario happens to me at least once a week if not more often. I see a name of a product, project, movie, video game or just an unfamiliar brand name of some sort and I proceed to google it to find out more information. I find the link to the official page, click on it, spend a full minute trying to figure out WTF is this thing. Then I back out, and click on the second link in Google which is usually Wikipedia or IMDB entry for whatever I was looking up.
You have probably noticed that whenever I review movies here I tend to link to their IMDB pages and when I review video games I link to their Wikipedia entries. That’s why their home pages are completely useless. They start with some sort of crazy flash intro which sometimes can be skipped. Then they forward you to some difficult to navigate contraption that puts style and visual flair above content. Not only that, but they are very low on actual useful information. Most of them will have some sort of news feed, screenshots, blurbs from reviewers and information about release dates. That’s about it. You know that they are missing though? A fucking about page!
All I’m asking for is one paragraph description that will answer one simple question:
WTF is [xyz]?
In place of [xyz] you put whatever comes before the “.com” part in your domain name. That’s it – that’s all I really want to know when I visit your web page. One paragraph, which you can squeeze between the news feed and the rotating Flash gallery or whatever else crappy animated component of your page.
Most commercial products are pretty good about this – especially if they sell their wares online. They have a succinct description right there on the landing page and informative screenshots that show what their product does. Very large number of Open Source projects however, totally neglects their about page. When you visit them you will usually see a news feed. Great! I’m really happy your server migration went well, and that you finally released version 2.7.6 and that nightly builds now include the vertical vector span discombobulation feature that users were asking for all this time. It’s all very interesting, but it does not help a random visitor to figure out what is your project all about. What is worse, all these projects do have a very informative about page. Only it is buried in some navigation menu and not easily accessible.
Here is a PROTIP: switch your about page with your news page, and you are good! Or better yet, put the news feed below your about blurb. There are many ways to do it really. But you do want to inform new visitors what you are all about.
Oh, and while we are at it, can we please, please stop with the flash intros? Unless your intro is absolutely riveting, clever or so funny people will actually link to your page for the intro alone, no one cares about it. Most people will skip it. I know that you are doing this to give the visitor an interesting experience, but trust me – when they see a flash intro, their first impression with your site is annoyance. People have no attention spans these days. I know, because as soon as I see flash intro loading up, I immediately hit the back button because I assume the website is all style and no content.
Using a flash intro, a splash screen or a spiffy flashy entry page of some sort is like putting a wall between you and new visitors. It is a big, nasty looking brick wall and it has ugly signs posted all over: DO NOT ENTER: NO CONTENT HERE! No matter how awesome that entry page is – it still fails to convey any useful information to me. I don’t have time to click through your intros and splash pages. I want to know what you are all about at a glance. If I can’t get that information immediately after I click your link in Google you have failed.
PROTIP #2: if your product/project has a Wikipedia entry, look it up. Then make sure that your entry page new visitors see is MORE INFORMATIVE than the FIRST PARAGRAPH of your wikipedia entry. While this does not guarantee an increase in traffic, you will probably see a decrease in your bounce ratio (ie. the number of users who hit your front page and then leave).
That is all. In the comments please post your website design pet peeves.