A lot of people equate their website’s home page with the magazine’s cover, but this really isn’t the case.
Probably 99.9% of magazine readers see the cover before they see any content, so you can be fairly sure that the cover is their entry point into the issue. The benefit of this is that you have full control of their first experience of that issue; the downside, of course, is that a cover never has enough space for everything you might want to put there.
On the web, on the other hand, it’s likely that the bulk of your readership enters the site through a subpage, not through the home page or even a channel page (if you have them). You really can’t count on site readers seeing the home page at all.
So what can we learn from this?
• Don’t take it for granted that readers know your brand. They might be coming from a link, or from Google. They might be from another country. But even if they’re a local, they may not have ever read your print magazine.
• Don’t take it for granted that readers meant to visit your site. It’s just as likely that it was an accident. Think about what kind of impression you want to give these new readers.
• You can’t put all your effort into your home page. Make it look pretty, certainly, make it functional, and keep it updated regularly. But pay equal – if not more – attention to navigation and related links on subpages, not to mention the millions of other things that need to be done to make a website work.
• Your home page is not that big a deal. When developing strategy (whether on the ad side or editorial), think of the whole package, not just the cover.
Of course, all of this depends on the profile of your site’s visitors. Make sure you know your stats and how readers navigate your site, which is the true lesson in all of this. The pages visitors enter on most regularly are your home page(s), official or not.