CMS Tip: Make Every Page a Landing Page

Posted on 9/22/2017 4:53:27 PM

This is part of a series of tips for web maintainers. The Digital Team posts hints and tips about the CMS, MyIUP, IUP Mobile, to assist our users of our services.

Over the last year, we’ve heard a lot of web maintainers talking about their landing pages. That is awesome. It means more of us are thinking about our sites from a user’s perspective. This tip is a reminder to take that one step further and remember that every page is a potential landing page.

Home Page ≠ Landing Page

To understand why every page is a potential landing page, you need to first know the definition of landing page: a landing page is the first page a user visits when visiting IUP.edu. It’s “where they land.” And most users don’t land on a home page.

Consider this:

  • In the last year, only 21 percent of visits to IUP.edu included the university home page. While the IUP.edu home page is our most popular page, most site visitors never see it.

  • Out of our top 25 landing pages, less than half (44 percent) are department or office home pages.

So, while home pages are still important and are still frequently visited, you can’t assume that your visitors have seen it. In other words, just putting something on the home page doesn’t mean that your site’s visitors will see it.

Questions to Ask

Is your page ready to be a landing page? Here are some questions to ask as you evaluate your pages.

Imagine that your page is the first time a visitor experiences your department or office. Does it offer them something of value? Does it answer a question for them?
Most of your users who don’t start at the home page will arrive from search engines. That means they are looking for answers—and Google, Bing, or Yahoo! has told them your page might have the answer. Does it?

Is your page just a single paragraph? Just a video? Just a link to somewhere else?
When you’re looking at your site from the home page down, it’s easy to start categorizing and sub-categorizing and sub-sub-sub-categorizing things. It all makes sense when you look at the whole site. But what about the visitor who arrives on a page titled "More Information about Topic X" and finds just one sentence that says “Please contact johndoe@iup.edu with questions”? They haven’t seen the whole site. How likely are they to stay and figure it out?

Would your page make sense if a visitor didn’t look at the navigation?
A third of our visitors (and more than half of our prospective students) are looking at your site on a phone. Like many mobile-ready sites, on IUP.edu visitors have to tap the menu button to see the navigation. But, that means that their first impression of your content will happen without looking at the menu. Is your content ready for that?

What to Do

You can make better landing pages—and improve your site—with these tips:

Think tasks, not information

While we often think of our sites as sources of information—and they are!—it’s often more productive to think in terms of visitor tasks. Ask yourself, if someone visits my website, what are they trying to get done? Register for an event? Change their major? Find sources for a research paper? Apply for an assistantship? (Hint: these tasks are probably the same ones people might visit your physical office to complete.)

Once you know those tasks, think about organizing your site around those tasks, rather than by audience or topic.

Combine small pages into one

If a visitor has to visit several pages to carry out a task, there’s always the chance that they miss one of those pages. Or that they give up without finishing. Or that they do the task incorrectly.

Using page layouts, web maintainers can easily combine several related content blocks into one longer page. Put the most important, task-related content at the top of the page, and avoid burying important content at the bottom of the page.

Avoid deep, deep site structures

We have a robust navigation system on our current site that allows users to see their path back to the home page as well as one level down on every page. But it’s still possible to bury content so that visitors miss it. In general, more shallow site structures are going to be easier for visitors to navigate.

We’re just scratching the surface here. As usual, contact the Digital Team if you have questions. And remember: we don’t get to choose where visitors enter our site—they do!

—Mike Powers