Controlling your Home Page: The Designer as “Smothers’ Mother”


Image of Record Album cover, Smothers Brothers, "Mom Always Liked You Best!" with one brother having an overabundance of gifts on his side and the other brother only having a chicken.

© Smothers Brothers All rights reserved.
Accessed on December 5, 2013

Deciding what to feature on a “Home Page” is challenging. Bringing organization stakeholders to participate in that discussion can make this even more complex. Multiple perspectives provide information, but too often disparate stakeholder agendas enter the discussion. Similar to Tommy and Dick Smothers’ mother, a designer for an organization page cannot usually accommodate all interests equally. Consequently, designers can face conflict or resentment over who gets picked for Home Page “top billing.” By being aware of this risk, and by taking early steps to address it, designers can diminish the effects of unproductive stakeholder agendas.

(1)    Steve Krug, in “Don’t Make Me Think – A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability,” emphasizes that above all, the designer must have a concept of “the big picture” that drives the Home Page content. Krug cautions against adding any Home Page content that distracts from a big picture of “what the site is.” Developing and communicating that picture sets the context for development decisions of what to include.

(2)    Explain to stakeholders that the purpose of the home page is to deliver the user to the featured (stakeholder) content pages, not to establish a hierarchy of worth.

(3)    Establishing and following systematic decision-making processes helps to legitimize organizational decisions on Home Page content.

(4)    Communicating that process to stakeholders before making decisions should lead to better control of Home Page content.

Thankfully, Smothers’ mother did not follow this advice, leading instead of one of the funniest comeback lines in comedy. For an information design, however, designing a purposeful and productive Home Page requires us to be kind to all of our “children” by considering and addressing organizational stakeholder interests.

—Brian Wyneken

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