Friday, March 23, 2012

The Welcome Page For A Tea Company Website - Don't Have It

This post in my series on Best Practices for Tea Company Websites highlights a little thing that a lot of websites, including some tea company websites, do, which I think is silly, unnecessary, and slightly detrimental. This is to have a welcome page, entry page, or gateway page, a webpage that greets the user without having any real content and without having the full functionality of normal pages of your website.

It's great to welcome visitors to your site, but, in keeping with my advice about having consistent navigation schemes, I think it is a best practice to make the main part of your website, including navigation bars, available on the homepage.

Example of a welcome page:

Here is an example of a welcome page for The London Cuppa, a brand of British-style black tea:

As usual, I have chosen to give this company a hard time because I like a lot of the other things they are doing with their website, which I will discuss below.

What is the purpose to this page? The page as-is does not even make clear how to proceed. It took me a little time to notice the discrete link at the bottom that says "come in for a cuppa". This link is in plain black text, not underlined or highlighted in any way, so it is not clear that it is a hyperlink until hovering the mouse over it. Upon following it, I reach the following page:

This is now a fully-functional website. It is easy-to-navigate and visually pleasing. It even matches the visual look-and-feel of the tea's packaging (always a plus). There is a self-explanatory navigation bar at the top, and, not visible in the screenshot, a footer navigation bar as well. This whole setup begs the question: why not just direct the user to the full website initially?

I wish I had access to the statistics or data about the webserver. I would be curious to see how many users reach the welcome page, only to leave without entering the website.

What do you think?

Do you share my feelings about welcome pages? Do you think that there are any possible advantages to a welcome page that I am overlooking? One thing that I thought about was that possibly slowing down your users and inducing them to search through a page to locate a link, and then follow that link, would get them into a mindset that would make it more likely for them to explore your site. But that thought seems highly speculative to me, and I know that personally, as a user, I don't react well to these pages. Can you think up any other sort of benefits to them?


  1. Yes, this makes sense. This is like what they say in webcomics - to have your content be the first thing that people see when they get to your site, and to minimize the amount of clicking they need to do to get there.

    1. That would be my intuition too.

      There is one thing I've read, however, which suggested to the contrary. Do you remember a while back when Google turned on that "Fade in" feature for the links at the top of the page? I remember there being a FAQ or official blog post somewhere about it, in which Google claimed that they had done research and found that the momentary pause and fade-in feature resulted in an increased likelihood that users would actually click the links at the top.

      Interestingly, it produced such a negative backlash from users that they soon removed the feature. I know that I, for one, found the feature annoying.

      I think this whole thing highlights something interesting...sometimes you might get some sort of objective data, like improved click-through-rate on some link you want users to click, which suggests that a given change is "good", but the overall effect on users might be negative.

      I think in large part because of my background and master's degree in statistics, I tend to be very skeptical of data, and I tend to be more trusting of people who give detailed verbal feedback about sites. And, to that end, I tend to trust my own intuition about layout and web design issues more than I do numbers. There are so many ways numbers can trick you.

    2. I don't remember that at all. Maybe I wasn't paying much attention to Google when it happened.

    3. Here's Google's announcement of the fade-in. Interesting, they did not announce it when they got rid of the feature, as this blog, Google FadeIn - A Silent Death to a Loudly Protested Feature explains. That post also explains how there was a quick and very negative reaction to it.

      Now I'm having a negative reaction to the clutter on my Google homepage. I don't like having Google search integrated into Google+, a social networking site. There's a reason I go to google search (which is my homepage) and not Facebook, I don't like seeing a bunch of crap on my homepage. And now Google is using their power to advertise new products, like Google Play (which I thought was useless, it's just like an iTunes clone) at the top of the bar...another feature I don't want. And they've buried google scholar, which I use almost daily, way in their stuff...anyway, I'm just complaining now.

  2. Although I don't understand it, I suspect there must be some purpose that websites make an entry page. Many fashion websites do this, and sometimes I have to search all of the screen for the button to exit it. It could be even more annoying when the music is suddenly on! For many fashion websites, I feel they take you as captive audience for their commercial moment. But I agree tea websites don't have to do this. Well, unless it's very cute. Here is a cute one: (but as you can see, it's not just a welcome page, and you can get into categories by clicking the menu). Here is another cute one (but it could be annoying when it downloads slowly):

    1. I have had that exact same thought when visiting sites like this, that I am being treated like a "captive audience" for their "commercial moment"--that's a wonderfully accurate way of articulating it. And I find that to be...well, I don't like that feeling. Unless I absolutely need some bit of information, it nearly always makes me close out of a site. The harder to close out of a site is, the stronger my negative impression. It's a fine line between bad web design and active browser hijacking. Any site which makes their website difficult to close out of, I consider borderline malware and avoid linking to, because I don't want to reflect badly on my site by referring users to a site with that sort of behavior.

      There's a reason I browse the web, and don't watch television; I don't even own a television. I want to research information, I don't want to have it spoon-fed to me in the form of advertisement clips. The more a website looks like conventional TV advertising, and less like an informational resource, the less I like it.

      I do really like the cute Japanese site you link to. I find that welcome page, however, to be very inoffensive. It doesn't have consistent design with the rest of the site, but it does have a fully-functional navigation bar, and it loads fully without flash. Also, one thing that I really like about that site, their use of flash is rather relaxing. Rather than presenting the user with distracting or busy imagery, there is a sort of natural stimulus--the flower petals fluttering in the wind (presumably cherry blossom petals?) and the cat walking by...nothing demands your attention, but it's rather soothing to look at...quite the contrary to the way a lot of people use flash, with busy things popping up in your face.

      Like most things in life, I think there are exceptions, even in my opinion, to a lot of the advice I'm giving here. Maybe this could be an interesting topic for me to write about! Thanks for sharing this example!

  3. Alex - I think you're right. The link into The London Cuppa is hard to find. Very odd, they should choose this design. Plus the music..oh dear. Have you written any posts on "music on sites" yet Alex?
    Gingko - had fun looking at your links. These entry pages are both animated, with clear navigation. I think that makes them quite attractive. Static images don't work, but these pages awaken my curiosity.

    1. Haha...the music is rather...campy?

      I think it can be great fun to use silly music marketing like this, but I think it's best relegated to Youtube videos, special pages on a site, or widgets where people have to click it. To strike the unsuspecting visitor so forcefully with such a song...perhaps not the best approach, especially embarrassing if someone is sitting in a public computer lab somewhere or, worse, a semi-open office cubicle.

      Do you think that topic warrants a separate post of its own?

    2. Do a lot of tea website have music in the background? If so, I think it would be a good topic. I think auto-play music on websites is ALWAYS a deterrent, even if the website is about music. Sometimes I'm listening to music already and it's annoying.

    3. I am not sure, but I agree, auto-play music is, to me, a big no-no. I find it is very inconsiderate of the user, both because they may be listening to music, and because it may disrupt other people in their environment. And it's made worse by the fact that you often can't close out of music-playing pages as quickly or easily as other ones because the flash or other software on the page to play the music slows down the web browser.

  4. I really dislike websites that play music right away. I get irritated before I've even looked at the site. So, if I"m not highly motivated to begin with, I just click out. Yes, Alex how about a post, probing the effects of music and site traffic :)