One does not need to be a devotee of Jakob Nielsen, nor a student at MIT to understand that users don’t READ web pages, they SCAN them, in much the same way those of us in the United States “flip channels” while watching TV.
Closer to home, imagine showing up at a new church, only to be pulled aside and forced to endure a 10 minute musical vignette performed by the welcoming committee that is nothing more than loud 3 chord re-iteration of the church’s name and slogan? Or imagine a pastor starting out his sermon by slowly, and painfully spelling out each word of his opening paragraph? How fast would you run for the door? Yet this is exactly what we do when we present our online visitors with a functionless splash page.
Point in case, Ocean State Baptist Church.
Flanders, Nielsen, and host of other usability experts all say the same thing in their books and articles – the home page is the most important page of your site. This is where users are either made to feel invited or are compelled to evade the rest of the content on your site. If you force them to spell words, phrases and concepts they already know, if you drag them into an assault of churchy-sounding slogans, listen to the latest creation of your hip-cool-really-swinging-praise-band or sin above all sins – a snippet from your state-of-the-church address, then you are giving them an excuse to ‘flip-off’ your site by getting in their way, wasting their time, you are boring them, insulting their intelligence, and needlessly consuming their bandwidth and cache – all because you’ve discovered the joys of FLASH.
DON’T DO THIS! If you must have a splash page, make it functional. Make sure it includes, short-n-sweet tagline, links to the rest of your content, sample content, a search mechanism or a link to a search page. Include the name, address and phone number of your organization. Make sure the user can easily get to directions and obtain information as to when services and other events are held.
Anything else is the virtual equivalent to hiding your lamp under a basket.