Home Page: How many links?

Mathew Quilter  

April 13, 2008

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I’ve taken to counting links on home pages, probably for no good reason other than a somewhat odd curiosity. What I’m finding however is that over the last few years the pendulum has swung significantly between home pages that look like laundry lists and home pages that offer as little as possible. We’ve all seen the former and we all know Google as the perfect example of the latter. And for some reason most of us think we want to look like Google to some degree, and yet we know we can’t. Our interests are usually more complicated and cannot be resolved by search alone.

But there is a middle ground, a means to make your site look simple enough but still expose a significant amount of content at the top-most level. Here is where I point to IBM — those of you who have sat with me recently know I tend to do this often. IBM’s home page reveals nearly 200 links and yet on first glance you don’t see links, ie, you are not struck by an extended list of these. Instead what you notice is a compelling graphic that speaks to the IBM brand, their position as innovation and collaboration leaders. Headers and footers are muted, presented in a very narrow band. And the extended list of links in the bottom third of the page are grayed out slightly allowing the graphic its prominent place. The page is deceptively simple — it looks simple and yet offers robust navigational options. GE is somewhat similar — for a corporation of its breadth and complexity the home page could not look simpler — quite frankly it’s almost plain looking. To be sure it does not expose the volumes of content IBM does largely because its drop down menus don’t work quite so hard, but it does permit access into each corner of its corporate interests.

Simple is sharp. It’s good for the eye. It moves you to click.