Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Analysis of 200 Business Homepages

For my upcoming book on corporate web design, I surveyed the homepages of 200 companies. This focus of the study was to see what kind of content businesses felt important enough for their homepages, from product spotlights to copyright information, plus a bit of general usability as well. In all, 13 unique points were evaluated.

While general concepts and development practices are applicable to businesses of all sizes, working through the detailed nuance of a site design requires particular attention to the unique ways a company markets themselves in their sector. This is particularly true in regards to the homepage design.

To offer a broad overview of how small and medium businesses present themselves, part of my upcoming book’s research involved analyzing the homepages of 200 small companies. These companies are pulled from the 2006 Inc. 500 list, and represent a diverse set of industries — staffing services, coffee shops, technology consultancies and more.

Most of the candidates were pure brochure sites, and a few incorporated e-commerce. The selection was deliberately random; the only discriminating criterion was the exclusion of pure e-commerce sites like Zappos.

Below is the diagram collecting the survey results. There is also a short description for each aspect of the study to better explain what was required to qualify for a particular item.

Content for 200 homepages

  • Global navigation [98.5%]: The criterion was simple — is the global navigation on the homepage consistent with the rest of the site? The audience should not be surprised by a different menu when they actually click beyond the homepage.
  • Logo links to homepage [74.5%]: Fairly self-explanatory. This is very encouraging to see. On most sites, the logo link was universal, including the homepage; on some, the functionality was just internal and the homepage logo did nothing.
  • Design above the fold [51%]: This was met if the website homepage did not produce vertical or horizontal scrollbars when viewed in the Firefox browser on a PC, in its default state, at a resolution of 1024×768.
  • Company description [67.5%]: The number of companies including a short description encapsulating what they did was disappointingly low; there were too many sites that simply left me scratching my head.
  • Billboard [60%]: The precise requirements of this item are a bit soft, but my definition of a billboard is compelling graphic that incited a click. Large, non-functional photographs do not count.
  • Testimonial [11%]: This is an actual quote provided by a customer, represented as a complete sentence, with proper attribution (name, company, and possibly position) included.
  • Featured product [28.5%]: If any type of product or service received a special highlight, it was included. This was especially popular for sites that had e-commerce functionality, as they were advertising products they wanted me to buy right there.
  • News / press releases [51%]: This includes one or more news or press release headlines linking to the news section.
  • Search field [21.5%] / Login fields [8%] / Newsletter subscription [10%]: Websites only met these criteria is the actual field and button was present. Many sites, for instance, had a login link going to a separate page, but that is just another item in the navigation so it does not count as homepage content.
  • Properly written copyright [80.5%]: Many websites did not have any copyright at all; others were incomplete.
  • Out of date copyright [32%]: Too many copyright notices were painfully outdated, some going back to 2001 and 2002. (Keep in mind this survey was conducted in May of 2007, so these companies had months to update this information.) 32% represents all of the companies surveyed; a more pertinent statistic is that of the 161 companies that did include a copyright, almost 40% were out of date.

I’ll be the first one to admit this study is not particularly scientific, and may not even be that useful; some of the metrics are definitely more useful than others. But for some casual numbers, or to reinforce a point to a client (“The logo should really link to the homepage … see how many others do it?”), it might be of use.

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commentary + criticism

Walker Hamilton

wrote the following on Saturday July 14, 2007

I work on the Digital Web site and we had this debate the other day. Nick Finck took the position that is reflected on the site (a date range).

Other folks take the position that the copyright date on the site you be the current year. And still others take the position that the copyright date should be for the site-launch.

I find the range acceptable, the current year preferable, and the site-launch year ridiculous.


wrote the following on Sunday July 15, 2007

I can see the point of copyrighting a site by its launch year (like a book is copyrighted on its publish year), but websites are (usually) udated fairly often, so the copyright information should be as transient as the medium.

The range is simply redundant — there’s no point in telling people how long the copyright has been in effect. People only need to know that the copyright is in effect right now.

Rommel Chico

wrote the following on Friday July 20, 2007

I would contend that while the most significant information should be provided above the fold, the rules on limiting vertical scrolling should be relaxed because of the following trends:

  1. Proliferation of the scroll wheel
    Every mouse designed within the last few years has a means of providing vertical scrolling capabilities with minimal user movement (thereby reducing motor load) – making the old argument somewhat weak.
  2. Size increases and commoditization of LCD monitors
    Best Buy sells monitors with sizes ranging from 17 inches (viewable) up to 22. This increase in size allows for an increase in resolution display without sacrificing readability. And as these monitors become cheaper, I believe that in a year, 1152 × 864 will become the new 1024 × 768.



wrote the following on Sunday July 22, 2007

Greetings, Rommel. I do not disagree with the first point — scroll wheels are very much ubiquitous and certainly reduce the work to move down a page. (One could also argue that hitting the space bar is just as easy.)

As for the second point, larger screens are definitely the trend — which is a good thing. But they are not the majority, and not even close. I track the stats of about ten websites with different audiences, and 1024×768 is by far the majority. I think a year is wishful thinking — a better bet would be two to three years before it starts really waning.

I don’t perpetuate the idea that designs should stay above the fold. I just figured it would be a nice number to report on.


wrote the following on Tuesday July 24, 2007

An interesting thing to consider is that even with the advent of the larger screen, people do not necessarily use that extra real estate to maximize their browser.

As a 24” Dell LCD user, I NEVER use my screen to maximize browsing. The same might be said for those not as pixelaly-endowed. Even when I used to run a 1600×1200 monitor (back in the 1990’s), I rarely maximized my browser window. I doubt I’m alone in that practice.

Kevin, I’m looking forward to the new book. If you could please get it out before I have to redesign my other site, that would be great.


Rommel Chico

wrote the following on Wednesday July 25, 2007

Thanks for the response. Best wishes, and I’m looking forward to the book.