Home Pages Are Irrelevant: Here’s What They Can Teach Us About the Future of Content

by Emily E. Steck

Home Pages Are Irrelevant: Here’s What They Can Teach Us About the Future of Content

How did you get to this article?

Did you see it on one of your social feeds where you follow Quietly? Your Facebook feed? Did a friend comment on it? Do you subscribe to our newsletter? Did you click on one of the suggested lists in another article and it took you here? Did my mom send it to you (I’m sorry)?

However you got here, the chances of it being from perusing our blog home page may be slim. (Or maybe not… potential publisher/user interested in using Quietly—welcome!). The chance of you using our home page (or any for that matter) is so small because more often than not, home pages are becoming irrelevant.

Let’s back up. In the beginning of digital, the invention of the homepage was a logical carry over from print with the added bonus of having an infinitely refreshing cycle of content on the “front page” of a newspaper. Designers designed accordingly. The intention was clear that consumers would head to the website’s home page and consume content by entering the front door of the site.

Then, the big bang of social media exploded.

Consumers have outgrown the home page model of digesting content and publishers are seeing that users enter their site from a “side door” to read content. Where is this side door coming from? The mother of all traffic referrals: social media.

In Shareaholic’s recent findings, Facebook drives nearly a quarter of all traffic to sites. Pinterest comes in at number two for being responsible for 7.10% of all visits for sites,thanks to its visual nature. Social media’s referral traffic is only growing.

The next obvious reason the home page is dying is this important question. After you read content, where do you click to read more content from the site: the home page or links to suggested content?

Discovery is also killing the home page, with users preferring to spend more time on sites with compelling “Suggested Content” features. The death of home pages coincides with why session duration has become a better metric.

Social and discovery became more important sources of traffic than a home page ever could be for current publishers. The New York Times mentions in its leaked internal report that, “our homepage has been our main tool for getting our journalism to readers, but its impact is waning. Only a third of our readers ever visit it.” . The internal report and recent layoffs and hirings show that NYT is beginning to invest in a more social newsroom, which suggests that even one of the most respected newspapers in the world isn’t immune to the failings of home pages.

What Can The Failure of Home Pages Teach Us?

  • Websites like Vox, Quartz and The Independent’si100 eschew the traditional homepage to focus on pushing important content that may be overlooked. Publishers are turning to designers to focus on longform content (another assumed casualty of the digital age) because they realize the power of social media traffic.
  • Home pages are dying for publishers, but not consumers. Homepages have evolved into highly niched, customized news feeds. A third of users under 30 are getting info from what their friends are posting on social networks rather than from traditional business homepages, according to Pew Research. But even that may change as it has been reported that current teenagers aren’t on Facebook as much.
  • Timely content is affected by the irrelevance of home pages. Many home pages housed breaking news and stories; they are now replaced with “What’s Trending” on social media. Publishers will need to create timely content that can be optimized for evergreen content.

What We Can Learn from the Demise of the Home Page

By Emily E. Steck

The home page's necessity for publishers is becoming increasingly more useless. There is a bright side: the demise of the home page signals a path for the future.

  • We Still Rely On Print Design Too Much

    By Emily E. Steck

    Home pages are the refreshed front pages of digital. But our reading habits no longer require us to head to the home page. There's still much to be done to make web design even better.

  • Evolutionary Design

    By Emily E. Steck

    The home page is now the news feed, where users can customize what they do and do not want to read. This could hurt user's discover good new content if it weren't for their friends' on the feed.

  • The Rise of Mobile Plays A Part

    By Emily E. Steck

    Home pages will become seemingly obsolete thanks to the rise of mobile, where home pages will need to be scrolled continuously. Aggregator apps and social feeds could also kill them.

  • A Different Way to View Timely Content

    By Emily E. Steck

    Checking the home page for breaking news will be replaced by "What's Trending?" on social media. Timely content could come from trusted news sources or the first publisher to post.

  • Evergreen & Long Content Favored

    By Emily E. Steck

    Evergreen content lives longer on social feeds than timely content ever could. Expect to see a lot more evergreen content and even long form content floating around than before. Look at [Quartz.](http://www.qz.com/)

Image Credit: firefox_community via Flickr

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