Web Design Mistakes: Splash Pages

What’s the first thing you see when you go to Amazon.com? Is it… a splash page? (You know what a splash page is. It’s a web page that appears before you get to the real home page of a website. It’s usually accompanied by a link like: “Click here to skip the intro”.)

Some splash pages are static – maybe with a logo and a picture and a link that says ‘Click here to enter’. Some splash pages make you wait for a Flash movie to load, and then make you sit through the movie itself.

There’s a very good reason why you won’t see many splash pages in the top 500 websites. The reason is simple. They annoy people. They don’t do anything useful. Most people will click on the link within a few seconds, to avoid waiting for the splash page to load. Or, of course, they’ll just leave. Sorry, that’s 3 reasons.

What it really comes down to is simplifying the user’s life. Get them straight to your meaty content as quickly as possible. People are less patient than they used to be. If it takes more than 15 seconds or so for your page to load, there is a good chance that they’ll click away.

So why on earth do people still use them?

There are a couple of good reasons to use splash pages. If you want to give visitors a choice of languages before they enter your site, a splash page is one way to do it. If you are running a porn site, you may need a splash page to inform visitors of the legal terms of use of your site. If you’re a graphic design artist, you can use a splash page to show off your abilities.

But there are many reasons to avoid using splash pages. As I said, visitors don’t like them. Search engines don’t like them, either. Having just a graohic or Flash movie on your home page doesn’t help the search engines work out what your site is about. You may find that your entire site can’t be indexed by the search engines because your designer decided to use JavaScript-based navigation. You might also find that your visitors don’t like to link to them, which results in fewer incoming links to your site.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, read what Marketing Sherpa has to say about Flash intro pages.