Do you Need a Splash Page?

Posted May 5th, 2005 by Mike Cherim

To splash to not to splash? That is the question. And do you really need another page between the visitor and the content they are requesting? For those who are reading this thinking what the hell is he babbling about this time?, let me clarify things a bit. Do keep reading. *The subject of this post may reveal why only 50% of your site’s visitors are actually checking out the site.

A splash page is another name for a welcome or information page. I would be an index file and the first page a web visitor would see if visiting a so-equipped site. But why? Is it needed? And a better question might be is: Is it hurtful to the site it’s serving?

First of all it is an undeniably a click-through, a page that needs to be downloaded and interacted with before getting to the real site. Wow, in that regard it might seem like a pain to deal with and a bit of foolishness. It really is, but there are reasons for having one.

1) Flash sites with HTML splash pages might be well-served, but the page must be HTML. Splash pages here give visitors an opportunity to bypass the Flash site altogether, in favor of the full HTML version (there is one, right?), an opportunity
to see the Flashy bleeding-edge intro, or not, or to opt-for/adjusted the site’s audio, to download needed plug-ins, etc. Call it a “warning page” if you will.

2) Multilingual sites might be well-served by a splash page allowing the visitor to chose their native tongue.

3) Sites that are so vast that they benefit from a splash page of sorts so visitor’s aren’t overwhelmed. Almost thinking of a portal. However, a cleaner, better organized Home page might serve the same purpose without the click-through. This one is pretty debatable.

4) An artist’s site, perhaps, as the splash may be a good canvas for more work. Hopefully things like the splash page will be the kind of thing the visitor is looking for. Same with a Flash designer’s sites — but a good web developer will do more than the dedicated Flash-only desinger to make sure the content is deliverable. I mean, maybe someone wants a Flash site and is looking for a designer, but does this mean the prospctive customer should have Flash, or broadband, or a larger monitor. I doubt it.

Aside from the reasons noted, there’s not much else out there one can offer as justification to force the visitor through another page, an unnecessary one at that.

Okay, you’ve read all this and still just love the idea of a splash page. Hey, I’m not here to say you can’t, just suggesting that maybe you shouldn’t. However, if you must, do try to avoid these splash page faux pas:

1)” This site requires the Flash MX Plug-in, a 1024×768 resolution monitor, and a broadband connection.” (Does this really seem like a good “welcome to my site” statement? A better way is to make the site viewable on various monitors (beside offering a plain HTML version) and then saying something like this site is best viewed of 1024×768 instead of making it mandatory. But then again, if you do start thinking of being accommodating, you might end up not needing the Splash page to begin with.

2) A splash page hit counter: Is it useful for the visitor to know they are visitor number 23? In fact, with a number like that I gave as an example, does it do you much good either?

3) Offering no visitor options. Make a simple HTML version of your site. You may have a cool flash site, but maybe the visitor isn’t there to see that part, or can’t. Maybe they’re there for something else. Allow the visitor to go where they want, when they want.

4) Opening the intro or site in a new window. You may have a splash page, fine, but let it close and take the visitor to the next step. I recently went to a Flash site that had a splash page. Clicking the “Enter” link opened a new full-screen intro window leaving the splash page open. After the intro I was presented with a new link to open the site itself, which also opened a new window. Gimme a break, three new windows just to enter one site?!

5) Making a Flash splash page with a Flash warning on it. Think about this one long and hard. If the person has a Flash deficiency, will they (can they) read and heed the flash/splash page warning? Or will it be too late?

Remember what a splash page is: a welcome page or info page. So, in light of this make it so. If you’re going to have a splash page, if you must, make it welcoming or make it provide useful information. Being derogatory about a person’s browser, connection, or monitor size simply isn’t good for business. If you can’t do this, or have no information to pass along justifying the splash page to begin with, you might want to reconsider having one in the first place.

*I did an experiment recently having people do a site check on a two page site. A splash page and a home page. There was a hit counter on each. Approximately half of the people who did visit the site left from the splash page, never going to the home page at all. I found this very revealing.

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