The 2016 Webby Awards have been announced and the winners of the best homepage feted.
But what makes both of these homepages stand out from the rest? What makes them the best examples of what web design gets right? Why are these homepages so much better than yours.
While we’re not about to go through every homepage everywhere in a search for answers to these questions, we can point to the things that both National Geographic and BBC America get right.
And, by emulating their strategies, you might just find your site chasing its own success in the year to come.
Webby Award: National Geographic
The homepage that the Webby judging team identified in presenting the award to National Geographic was the ‘Climate change is here’ page. As depicted above, the foundation of the page is a stunning full-screen video of the Earth that rotates through the Earth from space, fires in the energy industry, and collapsing glaciers in polar regions.
All of the attention of the reader is drawn to these videos and, when the text pulls the focus, the statement is clear: climate change is here, period. At the bottom of the page are three menu buttons that scroll the page and provide access to more detailed information. As the buttons serve to scroll rather than act as links to other parts of the site, the reader is kept on the page longer and has more time to explore the information presented.
What’s more, if the reader likes what they see then there’s a chance to share the site from above the fold § note the Twitter and Facebook buttons which are prominent though not overwhelming – and regular users of the site can also log in with ease or peruse a hamburger menu in the top left of the screen.
It’s clean, it’s easy to negotiate, and it keeps the reader on the page.
People’s Choice: BBC America
The BBC America homepage is structured similarly to the National Geographic homepage, perhaps a sign of a trend in web design?
The homepage is dominated by an image from one of BBA America’s television programs and the link structure on the page is understated so as not to overwhelm the image. There’s a shadowed bar at the top of the page with categories and a search bar, there’s program identification (series, episode) on the lower right that draws the eye, and schedule details filling in the bottom of the screen.
Scroll down the page and it’s more in the same style: a large image, a minimum of text, and schedule details. The shadowed bar is static at the top of the screen and the homepage is more of a visual experience than anything else – and this is exactly what you’d want from a television station trading on its quality programing.
It’s easy on the eye, it’s clean, and it doesn’t overwhelm with text.
What the Best Homepages Have in Common
What do these sites have in common? Let’s start with the obvious.
Show, don’t tell.
Both of these award-winning sites are dominated by images. For the National Geographic site it’s a video, for BBC America it is a still image, but both let their images do the communicating. While there is some text on the screen, it is limited and intended to add to the messaging of the image rather than overwhelm it.
When building your homepage, it is easy to do the same. Find an image, buy one, or create one that communicates your core message. Let the visual creatures that are your readers understand what your business or product is about with a glance, not a close study of your copy.
Need more inspiration? Here’s Vesper using a background video and just six words to communicate their value.
Make Navigation Easy
Both of the Webby Award winners make navigation easy for visitors. Whether it is a static bar at the top of the screen or the familiar hamburger menu in the top corner, both sites make it easy for people to know where to go from the homepage. They might be cutting edge in terms of design, but they aren’t trying to reinvent the way that people interact with webpages.
Your business might not be as big as National Geographic or BBC America, and you may not be a Webby Award winner (yet!), but you should follow their lead. Make navigation buttons appear where readers expect them to be: at the top of the page, at the bottom of the page, and in the top corners. Functional beats inventive here no matter how impressive your ideas might be: no one will stick around to see more if they can’t figure out how.
Need more inspiration? Check out Google’s homepage next time you visit and note the menus top and bottom of page.
Let it Scroll
Something both pages have in common is their length. While the ‘above the fold’ sections are visually stunning and win the interest of the visitor, the pages are actually long – really long. Long homepages allow the reader to absorb a lot of content without having to click off the homepage. No sub-site, no category page, no blog post to click over to, just scrolling for more content.
Building these long, scrollable landing pages is easy. Modern CMS’s like WordPress (our favorite here at DOZ) offer you the choice of hundreds of themes that enable long, scrolling homepages. You can load these long pages up with video, audio, text, images – whatever you like and that will keep people rolling that scroll wheel on the mouse. You might add some navigation if the page is particularly long, but otherwise you can trust the interested reader to keep moving lower – and deeper – into your content.
Who else is doing this well? Take It is a great app that has a strong visual and scrolling game.
There might be more than just three things that separate a Webby Award winning site from yours, but these three are a great place to start when considering the design and layout of your site all the same. Presenting your company, your product, and your values with clarity, cutting down on text, highlighting visual content, making navigation easy for visitors, and taking advantage of long, scrolling pages are some of the best ways of adapting your site to the expectations of your readers.
And who knows: make the right changes and maybe it’ll be your Webby we’re writing about next year!