Just Say No to Splash Pages
Splash pages are a popular request web designers get from their customers, and one many designers still concede to since it can be an opportunity for them to be a bit more creative using tools like Flash that they may not get to use as often as they like.
I'm here to tell you today that in just about every case splash pages are a bad idea. If this is even a question in your mind, if you can't prove that you need a splash page for a specific reason, then I intend to show you why that's a sign to just say no.
First, let's be fair and look at some of the positive aspects of splash pages. For starters, they're often smaller than your actual home page and so they may load slightly faster. Splash pages also allow you to present a choice, if that's really necessary (it shouldn't be) as to how your visitors want to see your website. And finally, you can guarantee that a visitor sees whatever graphical presentation you make to them on your splash page, or at least the first few seconds of it before they click through to your main page.
I'm afraid that none of these are good enough reasons for a splash page. Here's why:
A clean, standards compliant website should be fast enough to load anyway. If not, fix the problem, don't just put a bandaid over it.
If your website has certain minimum requirements for display, you're cutting off potential visitors.
If your website requires an alternate version, you could be doubling your maintenance work, and time is money.
If your website requires an alternate version, perhaps that should be the version you go with in the first place.
If you must have a special (eg. Flash) version of your website, use an automatic Flash detector, not a splash page.
Finally, you can guarantee a visitor sees your homepage too if they visit you. Just put your important message at the top.
Splash Pages and Search Engines
Search engines don't like splash pages either, and with good reason. They're devoid of any real content. I saw a splash page just yesterday with not a single character of indexable content, including the window title (it was left blank).
And if you try to hide content on them, search engines may even penalize you for it. So if you care at all about your rank in search engines, a splash page is a definite no-no.
The Brutal Truth
You may love your fancy splash page, but your users will hate it. If they have to visit your site regularly, they'll hate you for it too.
Put yourself in your users' shoes for a second. Your users came to your site to find information. The less clicks between them and that information, the better. A splash page is an extra -- and even worse, useless -- click for them. It's worse than a poor navigation system in that regard. Some visitors will even leave and stop coming to your site if they are presented with a splash page. Not good. Expressed another way, a splash page is one more step they have to take for you to make a sale.
The Only Exception
Design companies, for your own sites only, you're excused. Well, sort of. We still really just want to know about you, and more importantly, what you can do for us. Show us how you will portray us with elegance, simplicity and professionalism by showing us these same things in your self-portrayal.
If you can pull it off though, at least take a few steps to be considerate. This article has some ideas as to how to improve splash pages (towards the bottom) for those of you in this very small minority.
If you're looking at getting a website or changing your existing website, it's in your own best interest to just say no to splash pages.
Designers, next time you're asked about doing a splash page, I know it's a few extra bucks in your pocket, but are you really that hard up? Take the high road and advise your customers as to the pros and cons of splash pages. Let them make an informed decision, and help them improve their website performance. A more successful customer who you helped to become more successful is going to be a better return for you in the long run than the extra few bucks you make on that fancy splash page guaranteed.
Related Tags: search engine optimization, web design, splash page, website design, best practices, splash pages
John Luxford is the creator of the open source Sitellite Content Management System and the founder/president of Simian Systems Inc, a Canadian content management system vendor based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.Your Article Search Directory : Find in Articles
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