Splash Pages are the Devil

Filed under: Website Design — Brian

Back in the early days of the web, many websites did a lot of things that were horrible for usability: among them scrolling or blinking text, animated gifs, auto-play music, and the dreaded intro or splash page. While all of these are far less common as designers grow more savvy to usability, the intro page is one bad web design technique that is holding on for all it’s worth.

It’s also a bad web design technique that, strangely, is highly requested by clients and one that any good web design company will steer you away from.

Pro Tip: If you’re considering using a splash page to welcome users to your website: don’t.

Splash Pages and Usability

Splash pages are the speed bumps of the internet. Users have already made a decision to go to your website: they clicked on a link from another page, or a search engine result — they want to see your site now. They don’t need a welcome screen asking them to click yet again to enter your site, but for real this time.

Your intro page will not wow them, it will not fascinate them, it will not make them think you are more professional or more cutting edge. In fact, 25% of web users leave a site immediately upon reaching a splash page.

That’s right: one quarter of your potential customers will hate it so much they don’t give you a second chance.

Why? Because it’s like walking into Home Depot and ending up in a waiting room where someone stops you and explain how cool Home Depot is before showing you a door in the back that lets you into the real store. You just drove to Home Depot. You know why you came and what you want. You don’t need someone to tell you what the store is or what it does — you want to start browsing around.

Except while that would annoy you if you went to Home Depot, you’d probably grumble and get on with your shopping — but on the internet when a splash page stops you it may well take you less time to go to the nearest competitor than it takes to get through the pointless welcome page. Especially since many users assume that if you are interrupting and annoying them with a splash page, the rest of your site is likely to be similarly unfriendly to users.

Splash pages look cool, but don't add value. Users and search engines both hate them.

Remember Jakob’s First Law of Web User Experience: “Users spend most of their time on other websites.” They expect your website to work the way that other ones do, and they become frustrated when it doesn’t.

Also remember Brian’s First Law of the Internet: “Internet users are lazy.” They will click the back button in a heartbeat if your site isn’t instantly giving them what they want.

Splash Pages and SEO

Splash pages are also horrible for search engine optimization. They are a black hole whose gravitational pull sucks in SEO juice, light, and your soul.

To begin with if your splash page uses Flash, as so many do, search engines won’t even be able to index it. Your Flash content is a giant void as far as search engines are concerned — it carries no value other than slowing your load speed (for which your site is penalized). I remember back in the early days of Flash when people were predicting that it was the future of the internet, that within five years every site would be Flash-based. Turns out being found in search engines was more important than a showy online presence, and no surprise there. Who cares how fancy the site looks if no one sees it.

But even if you’re splash page isn’t Flash based, or if it has indexable content in addition to the Flash, the splash page is still a parasite sucking SEO value away.

By their nature, splash pages tend to be content light and graphic heavy. They look awesome but don’t have paragraphs of text (which is to say, the stuff search engines care about). But the home page of your site is the page that carries the most search engine authority of your entire site — it is the page that will attract the most inbound links, and the page that lets you direct that authority across the rest of your site.

If your home page is a splash page, there is not nearly enough content to optimize to take advantage of that page authority. And since you have to link to a lower-level page that’s the real home page, all of your link authority is going to be one level diluted.

Simple Splash Page Takeaways

Put simply: a splash page makes it much harder for your site to rank well in search engines. When users do find you, a quarter of them are so annoyed by the splash page that they instantly leave without ever seeing your actual site. A splash page detracts from usability and SEO value.

Put more simply: splash pages are the devil. Don’t use them.

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