Platforms change, jobs change but your website is the one asset you own, no matter what. That makes it one of your best career assets.
It doesn’t matter if you work for yourself or have traditional job. Your website is your home on the internet which means the home page is the front door. Everything flows from there.
The home page is the most visited page on a website so spending time on it is well worth the investment. In my work, I do a lot of online audits for technical experts so I look at websites all day long. When I do an audit, I focus much of my attention on the home page. You can tell so much just by looking at this page. What do they care about? What’s their expertise? What are they "selling"? Do they have a strategy? Again, this is true even if you're not officially "selling" a product or service.
Two Common Home Page Problems
1) The home page is an outdated blog
A home page blog that hasn’t been updated in more than six months is like advertising your digital cobwebs. The harshest critic might even judge you for a perceived lack of productivity. An outdated home page accidentally showcases what might be perceived as a weak area rather than a strength.
Blog home pages are perfect for consistent bloggers who want to show off their writing. A blog might be the right thing for your home page if you plan on keeping it up to date or if you consider writing one of your strong suits. If your goal is to sell a book, a product or services, or just getting started writing, a home page blog might not be right for you.
2) There’s too much going on
Home pages with lots of links that don't seem to be connected can come off like a laundry list. Visitors facing so much information they don't where to focus quickly leave. A busy home page can be the sign of a cluttered mind. It might mean that you haven't taken the time to come up with a home page strategy, or maybe even one for your career.
A crammed homepage is also common problem for those with a great deal of expertise and experience. Instead of coming across as experienced, it can come across as overwhelming. Remember, you don’t have to list everything you’ve ever done or link to every talk you’ve done or article you’ve written. At least, not on the home page.
A home page is one place where less can definitely be more, even for technical experts.
Why the home page is so difficult
The home page is the trickiest part of the whole darn thing. And yet, too often it gets the least amount of thought. We pick a platform because we see others using it — be it WordPress, Jekyll, or Octopress. We don't give it a ton of thought. The problem is taking this route means it’s easy to defer to the default rather than developing a strategy. When considering a career change — a new job, going to work for yourself — this set and forget non-strategy will come to bite you. If you want to use your website as an asset, you're gonna need a strategy.
A home page is sneakily hard to get right because they require clarity about what we want to accomplish with our site. They get to heart of our career or business strategy. Being clear about the purpose of your site makes creating your home page much easier.
Our home page falters because we’re not actually clear what we really want most. You need to step back. Start with what you want next from your professional life.
Do you want to…
- get a new job?
- be hired for freelance gigs?
- sell a product?
- gain support for a particular project?
- get asked to speak at conferences?
What do you want your site to help you do? Once you know that, you’ll understand what’s most important to communicate on the all important home page. Now you can use that to turn your website into an asset that propels you in that direction.
Your new home page strategy
Take a look at your home page. What do you notice?
- How long has it been since you’ve updated it?
- How focused is your home page?
- What story does it tell? Does it tell a story?
- Does your home page capture who you are today?
- Does it communicate where you're headed?
- Are there any relics from your past that you can remove?
Another reason our home page doesn't reflect us well is because it's hard to see ourselves and our creations objectively. An outside perspective can be incredibly helpful. If you find yourself unable to put your subjectivity aside, ask a friend or even better, a relative stranger to look at your home page. Don't lead them -- just ask them what they notice.
After you know the primary purpose for your site and what needs to shift, you can begin making changes to your home page. Think of your home page as telling a story. Remove old, outdated links, update information and streamline where needed. Again, less is often more in this case.
If you're having a hard time updating your home page, you could turn it into a "Now page" as inspired by Derek Sivers. This page aims to give people a big overview of what you're up to right now. Although I don't use it for my home page, if you want an example, here's mine.
Once updated, be sure to retain your home page as a powerful career asset. Don’t let your home page become set and forget. Adjust it as the needs of your business or career changes.