Wal-Mart doesn’t block the entrance to its stores by making you watch a movie or make you listen to someone who explains the history of the company. That’s what a splash page does. It blocks your visitor from getting to the meat of your site. Also, certain search engines give a higher ranking to the contents of your root page (where the splash page is located) and splash pages rarely have any information. A splash page can hurt your rankings with a search engine.
A point Father Flanders would later reemphasize with a brilliantly irritating parody splash-page on America’s Website this past December.
Unfortunately, the good folks at Shady Grove Baptist Church in Bossier City, LA don’t appear to be aware of this point as they greet users with a rather grainy 22kb splash page that offers nothing more than their name for an obligatory five seconds. Which is just enough time for someone to hit the back button before getting blasted by a MIDI file of “Glory to His Name” — DON’T DO THIS!
If I had only 10 minutes to fix this site, I’d lose the splash page and the MIDI file within the first 5 seconds. I would also drop the counter at the bottom of the page that reads exactly 1 visit, along with the 30kb header JPEG atop their page bearing the name of the church crowned with a yellow banner that reads “Over 10000 Hits” — like this is a McDonald’s or something.
Yeah, I know, that last remark was a little bit on the Strong Bad side, but if you strip away the above objects, lose the beveled buttons and the grainy background that give the page that 1997 look, you eventually find a page with content that is organized. The problem is, the good stuff is hidden under a bowl with contrivances that won’t bring a single person into your church. If anything, they inspire seekers to find their back button as quickly as possible. Remember, people are visiting your site to because they’re members and need something quickly, or are seekers and want to find out more about your church’s personality and purpose. Anything that gets in the way of those messages should be stripped from your site immediately.
No, splash screens must die. They give the first impression that the site cares more about its own image than about solving users’ problems. It is true that a site needs a homepage that immediately communicates what the site is about and what users will get out of visiting, but one of the most important feelings to communicate is that of respect for the users’ time. People need to feel that a site is there for them and that it will be easy and worthwhile to spend more time on the site, or they will leave. An attractive visual design helps, as does one that prioritises the available information and features and guides the user’s eye toward the most important stuff. Still, this is a different goal than a magazine cover design, which only has to communicate excitement.
People know that they will be able to operate the magazine’s user interface, so a magazine doesn’t need to communicate ease of use on its cover. In contrast, one of the biggest contributions of a website to a company’s brand reputation is the ability to increase the score for “it’s easy to do business with Company X” on the annual customer satisfaction survey.