Some websites are built to show the same thing at all times, but more and more sites now are offering featured content in one way or another. This means that your home page, in addition to the static (unchanging — no negative connotations in this context) content, also has fresh content on a regular basis.
Our lab site, shown here, uses a rotating banner. We change the slides each week. We use the same basic look for all the slides in order to maintain a consistent look at the site, and choose topics that are of current interest to our visitors.
FreshPlans appeals to teachers, who have a very seasonal mindset. It makes sense for us to change our homepage to suit the topics coming up in the school calendars, and we match the banners, the featured content thumbnails in the left sidebar, and the videos each week. We see a rise in traffic on Sunday and Monday which suggests that people are coming to see what’s new.
Trout Fishing in America’s new website uses a different approach, pulling new blog posts and concert dates automatically into the News and Tour Date sections on the home page. They also have a rotating banner, but it uses the same images.
This is a practical approach, since the site owner does all the updating. They add new information when they have something new to say, and their home page is automatically updated.
It’s possible to have a slider pull images from each new blog post automatically. The designs for the two sites shown in this post aren’t suited to that arrangement, but it can work well if you plan your blog images with that in mind.
More ways to add featured content:
- Have a box which pulls the title from your latest blog posts. We do that, having a modest “recent posts” box at both FreshPlans and HadenInteractive which lets us show the latest posts even if they’re not part of the topic we’re featuring this week. This can also be done on an otherwise static page, adding a little dynamic content without affecting the design.
- Pull your latest Twitter posts. If you use WordPress, you can do this easily with a plug-in. This works best if you Tweet fairly often and don’t have a lot of semi-private conversations at Twitter. Frankly, we’ve seen this really zero in on bad spelling and “OMG this meeting is so boring!” types of posts, so this approach requires a Know Thyself attitude.
- Show featured products. If you have an e-commerce or affiliate site, this lets you highlight sales, special offers, and new things in the store. The TFIA site spotlights new and best-selling albums (with square ads) and songs (in the playlist). This can convert home page visitors to buyers without requiring that they actually visit the store.
Content management systems can make this kind of dynamic content easy, but a skilled designer can achieve the same effects with a traditional site as well.