Does a website need a place called home?

The central thing people nitpick over in designing a website is the home page. I’m working on a home page right now on a project, so I’m ranting about it, see. It’s often viewed as the first impression: the place where you big things up and make a huge to-do over whatever spangly thing you or your business or org (or whatever it is that you made a site to bang on about) is up to. It’s still an utterly print concept, though: That your site needs a front page. It doesn’t. What it needs are more un-home pages. The concept works like Lewis Carroll’s un-birthdays: You have far more of these than you have birthdays,. so how much are they doing for you?

Working with web designers and in design, a home page is kind of the hallmark to any project: One develops a home page. Often, design assets from that leak into the other landing pages, templates and the often overlooked and underpaid article-level page. But ask any reasonably informed web architect, and it emerges that homepages are a sort of vestigial concept from digital’s print ancestors… an arrector pili for websites; they neither accomplish anything special, or really work against the sites they grace. If you now have one: No big. If you’re building a new website, then how much time should you really be working on this in comparison to the things that are really going to pawn your wares?

you have more unbirthdays than birthdays, and more web pages than home pages
You have more unbirthdays than birthdays, and more website pages than home pages.

The piece of website furniture we call home is actually a file called “index.” This sits on your web server and gets dished up whenever someone clicks or types YourSpiffyDomain.Com without any ensuing “/” and a string of some-text.html or whatever. But most people aren’t finding websites through front pages anymore. They look at them, sometimes, after looking at the content containing something they originally found interesting.

More often than not, a site is found because an article on it was interesting enough for someone else to pass around. Or there was some slightly entertaining bit of interactive what-have-you with a share-me button at the end. More likely than not, it’s because someone was searching for whatever it was that you happened to publish on a page that a search engine that’s probably Google said seemed to fit their needs. All your pages are home pages, the user experience experts expound.The individual article is the most homey of them all. I’m not going to plunge into the variables of quality web design and user journeys here, but one of the things I’d love to see more of are a homepage-less websites with an index file that pulls more of its own weight.

I don’t mean in a gimmick kind of way or a self-aware, ironic method to get clicks. Outside of inane blogs such as this, workhorse websites (the ones that exist to sell something or convince you of something) aren’t there for themselves; They’re doing something to serve some external purpose. In these instances, web pages are transitory devices driving clicks toward action. Every page should be aimed at achieving the goal for having the entire site: See this > Do that > Get someone else to do what you just did.

This is kind of a flip side to the notion that every page is a home page. If that’s the case, then no page is really a home page. So let’s call them un-home pages. What do they do?

Workhorse sites need more focus on un-home pages. With enough of these, your home page becomes the afterthought, if needed at all.