Showing a homepage on the first meeting is too much, too soon

Imagine you’re having your first meeting with a client looking for a website redesign. Before you’ve even had the chance to learn more about the company and their target audience, you’re asked if you can supply a sample homepage. Sounding like an all too familiar situation?

From the other side of the table, requesting to see a sample homepage before commissioning an entire website from an agency seems like a good idea. Naturally, you want to see what the agency can do before committing your budget. However, this isn’t the best first step for a number of reasons.

It’s not that designers don’t love diving head first into a project, experimenting with colours, fonts, and graphics. The problem is with it being a homepage. Sure, an attractive visual could be knocked up without many questions, but ultimately this would be a hollow experience.

Homepages need to meet clear objectives

Homepages need to be designed in order to satisfy the needs of the client’s target audience. In order to fulfill this objective, you need to get to know the client. You need to learn about their customers, their goals, and their personalities.

There are so many factors to consider when designing an effective homepage that one small piece of insight would be enough to completely change the final design. This is why delivering a sample homepage so soon is so shallow and frankly unrewarding.

So what is needed before being able to deliver a homepage that is worth the time designing? Usually questionnaire results, customer interviews, sitemaps and possibly user testing. But all of that is too time-consuming to do before a website has even been commissioned.

So what sort of visuals should we provide?

But, the problem still remains: the client wants to see something visual. It’s what designers do, right?

One solution that satisfies both parties is to provide a sample. The sample is not a full web page, but rather bits of web page, the structural and visual elements that will eventually piece it together. Headings, buttons, lists. Fonts, colours and interface elements that communicate the brand’s visual presence on the web.

Every website is composed of these elements and they can be presented with limited research and brand guidelines. A conversation to establish some fundamental themes and wishes is enough to be able to provide something that provides both a visual demonstration of an agencies skills and a rewarding piece of work which will actually come in useful later down the road.

There are more elegant solutions

This is why we believe revealing a homepage on the back of the first meeting is too much too soon. There are more elegant solutions that fulfill everyone’s needs, and do a better job of it too.

Do you agree – is a homepage too much to ask for?

By Matt Reid

About markmaking*

mark-making* is an award-winning creative agency specialising in branding, campaigns and communications