Q:I own a commercial website called "Virtual Sheet Music": http://www.virtualsheetmusic.com and we are working to revise our website design and structure. Our index page is a sort of "splash page", an "introduction" to our website but that maybe could be a barrier for our users... friends suggested me to delete it and replace it directly with the Home one. Do you think that our entrance page, a kind of "site map", should be really deleted? Really splash pages are to be considered as "barriers"?
A:Splash pages are almost always barriers to customer sales. You need one navigational structure not two...especially in a business like your that might have diverse offerings for a visitor to explore. You need to help them find what they want. That doesn't mean you can't create many different kinds of online presentations for different specific purposes. In general, the fewer clicks a customer needs to take before buying, the better. This isn't really a splash page as much as an introduction page or a menu page. None of the buttons justifies the lengthy explanation you've given them. You might want to replace FAQ with 'Help' or something more intuitive to everyone, but the rest all make sense without needing further explanation. The most powerful websites don't have to explain what they do: they just do it and it's obvious. If you go to Amazon, Ebay, Google, MSN etc - you can see at a glance that it's a shop, auction, search engine, portal or whatever and you can get going with it quickly. As a quick fix, I'd suggest just making your homepage into the first page people see when they arrive at your site and then offering links to any instructions that first-timers might need. This will stop repeat visitors having to go through the same non-content page. A previous respondant's point about having a single navigation bar is important too: at the moment your 'become a member' link is hard to find and belongs naturally with the log in/log out buttons. I've just looked again and you've got a big banner promoting membership, but I just see through banners now and don't read them because I assume they're adverts (this is not uncommon). I only noticed the text link on the right. This navigation box should be removed and this space can then be used for songs so that people can see straight away what sheet music they can download. It is worth redesigning the screen so you can fit as much as possible in the first screenful. At the moment you're promoting something coming soon at the expense of something that's already there. People will only scroll if the first screenful suggests there's something of interest to them. Deleting the duplicate navigation box and replacing it with the songs box will do a lot for the first page's impact.