Five things you should remove from your website homepage

March 21, 2014


#1: Weather widgets

Unless you have a meteorologist on staff, you really shouldn’t put weather reports on your site.  Weather widgets might give your site the “feel” of a professional news site, but that feel is just a cheap imitation, and not even a useful one at that.   Your readers are visiting your site for your stories, photos, and videos, not a weather report. If they want to learn what the weather is, they’ll check the weather app on their phones, or if they’re real die-hard weather junkies, they’ll be at a full-blown weather website.  Besides, your readers are most likely coming from around the country or even the world, and there’s no way that little weather widget on your site will be useful or relevant for them.

#2: Hit Counters

Not only are hit counters inaccurate, but they also make your site look like it belongs in 1996.  They don’t capture any useful data other than that the page was loaded (which may or may not have been by a spam bot crawling your site).  What you need is robust and sophisticated data; fortunately, Google Analytics provides this for free.  Google Analytics will show you where readers came from, how long they were on your site, how they interacted with your content, and almost anything else you want to know about their behavior. If you’re really a data junkie, subscribe to Chartbeat — for a modest monthly fee, they’ll provide you with great real-time data about active visitors and help you monitor your site’s uptime and performance.

#3: Twitter Feeds

Readers who visit your website want to read your stories, not your tweets; if they wanted to read your tweets, they’d most likely be checking their Twitter app on their phone.  Twitter is a powerful tool for a news organization –– it’s a great way to deliver news instantly to your audience wherever they are, to tease to new content on your site, or even to engage with your audience in conversation.  If you’re using Twitter to tease to your stories, then it makes even less sense to put a feed of these tweets on your site, because your readers are already there.  The best thing you can do with Twitter on your site is to provide sharing buttons that allow your readers to do the sharing and tweeting for you. 

If you’re putting your Twitter feed on your site in hopes of getting more Twitter followers, you’ll find more success by following and engaging your audience on Twitter itself, rather than hoping they’ll find your Twitter feed on your website and then follow you. The same is true for Instagram photos –– they’re best viewed in the Instagram app where you can interact with the content.  Your website doesn’t need to be a catchall for everything your staff is doing in the digital world.

#4: Tag Clouds, especially the rotating ones

People who are looking at your site aren’t deciding what to read based on a random collection of swirling words.  They most likely got to your site by clicking a link to a specific story.  A better use of tags is to have a select few tags for each story that will alert readers what other stories are connected or similar.  Tags work best when viewed in the context of a story, not in a random widget on your homepage.

#5: PDF Flipbooks

It’s time to rethink that PDF flipbook as well.  They aren’t indexed by your site, they aren’t searchable, and if you’ve ever tried to read one, they provide an awful reading experience.  The text isn’t formatted for the screen, and you have to zoom and scroll between columns just to finish a story, and you can’t actually interact with the content.  The stories that are in those PDF flipbooks should already on your site as individual stories, where the reader can not just read them, but interact with them.  Think about how that time spent uploading and embedding the flipbook could be better used enhancing the story page with more design and interactive features.

PDF flipbooks can be useful for sharing design ideas and letting others see how you present your content in print, but if that’s the purpose, it doesn’t belong on your homepage.  If this is why you’ve been adding a flipbook to your site, add a page to your menu and put your flipbook there.  That keeps it accessible but also out of the way.