Friday, 20 November 2009

Using Landing Pages in a web site

What are Landing Pages?
To be clear from the outset, I am not referring to advertising Landing Pages used in pay-per-click ad campaigns. Instead, I am referring to the lower level Home Page variety of Landing Page. This is a Home Page that sits beneath the main web site Home Page in the overall hierarchy or structure of the web site. To differentiate between a web site's root (or top level) Home Page, and a lower level Home Page, these lower level pages are typically referred to as Landing Pages.

Every web site has a home page, or root page. This is the page that loads when you first navigate to the web site, and without specifying any other criteria, and without navigating there from a search engine result (which may take you to some other lower level page on the site relating to your search criteria).

In the hierarchical structure of a web site, a Landing Page would be positioned beneath the main Home Page. It's purpose is to form a portal for related information, so that all content that is related to a particular subject or item, is grouped together into a suite of pages which collectively are called a Landing Page.

The Landing Page does not in itself necessarily need to contain all the information related to the subject or item, but it should at least provide the portal from where all information that relates to the subject or item can be found. So a Landing Page may be composed of content, links, downloads, images, FAQs and so on. A Landing Page should provide a one-stop shop for its chosen subject or item.

Using Landing Pages is different to the document centric approach, where the web site is built from many related, but separate web pages. Instead, all related information is grouped together into a single Landing Page, so it is obvious that the content is related, and is easier to signpost and navigate.

So just to quickly recap, a web site will have only one Home Page, and one or more Landing Pages.

Why use Landing Pages?
As should be clear from their description, Landing Pages provide a one-stop shop for related information, and therefore allow a user easy navigation and signposting for searching and finding the information they are looking for.

Rather than have related information spread over various parts of the web site, giving no clear signposting that it is in fact related, the user will quickly become confused, and give up trying to find what they were looking for. If your web site is a web shop, and the user has left without making a purchase because they couldn't find what they were looking for, then this should spell disaster!

Designing a web site that uses Landing Pages
The web site design will largely dictate what information gets grouped into the Landing Pages, so it's well worth taking the time and effort to think about how you want your web site's content to be structured, what information should appear on the Landing Pages, and how the Landing Pages are signposted to get the maximum traffic.

I find that mapping the web site structure out first, using a hierarchical or family tree type diagram works well. Each Landing Page should be represented, and all links between them should be clearly displayed.

Using Landing Pages in Local Government web sites
Local government web sites provide a natural fit for a Landing Page approach. As local government web sites use structured taxonomies such as the LGNL (Local Government Navigation List), where the services that they deliver are broken down hierarchically into a service related structure, then clearly each service can have its own Landing Page. For example, you could have Landing Pages for Waste and Recycling, Councillors, Planning and so on. While a document centric approach would still work, a Landing Page based approach is perhaps a better fit.

So when designing a web site, it's worth considering how you want it to be structured, how you intend to group information together, and how it should be linked for easier signposting and navigation.

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