I answered a question on Quora today dealing with long home pages. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and having recently used this type of layout again for Build I decided to share my thinking.
There are three types of marketing home pages:
Sparse home pages with a call to action. I have a strong dislike for these because they never tell me why I should care. They just shout “Buy!” or “Sign Up!” at me. Start-up and social media sites are notorious for this.
Short-form home pages tend to push you to other pages on the site where there is more room to give detail. However, when you split content over pages you have no ability to know a) what page a user will land on, b) which order of pages they’ll choose to explore, and c) whether they’ll explore all the pages. This results in a broken narrative structure which is counter-intuitive to the goal of most home pages: tell the story and sell the product.
Long-form home pages aim to provide the bulk of the site’s content in one place. This provides a pair of benefits: a) you can ensure the user will experience the content in a linear manner (starting at the top and scroll to the bottom), and b) most people want to finish a short story, and the scrollbar tells them there’s an end in sight. As long as your initial content is engaging enough for them to scroll, they’ll most likely stick it out for the ride. Don’t worry, people scroll—it’s the easiest interaction with any internet browsing device—both on mobile and desktop.
When you know you have a linear narrative, you can set things up and tell a more cohesive and engaging story. I like to structure pages like this as follows:
Establish the what, where, when and top-level why with a visual wow to hook the viewer. It would be advisable to include a call to action if they’re already sold or visiting the page with an intent to buy.
Convince and educate the viewer by fleshing out the reasons why they should care and how you’ll do it. This is where you make your case.
Provide a conclusion to your story. Summize. Repeat the call to action or offer alternative action steps. If users have made it this far they’re now deciding if they care enough to go forward. Make it easy for them.
You can see these principles applied on http://2012.buildconf.com/teaser/ (now archived version).