A web site's home page is its identity, its most important page. It's also the biggest source of conflict and the hardest thing to get right. Don't Make Me Think chronicles the challenges -- and the politics -- of a good home page.
Don't Make Me Think has a great chapter on home pages. One of my favorite parts is the little carton between the project manager, the developer, the designer, and the marketing person. Being a developer, I was particularly amused by the developer playing the technical trump card. I don't know if Steve Krug really knew just how true that is. When a designer plays the "I know what the user wants, not you" card, you are almost forced to up the ante with technical content.
What is great about both the home page chapter and the navigation chapters is that they give you tangible ways to evaluate your current home page and navigation elements. The dissection of several popular sites is really interesting, even if it is a little harsh at times. Of course I had to give this a try for the site that I know best, i.e. the one that I work on eBay.
First, here's the navigation breakdown for one of our mostly highly viewed pages, search results:
So how did we do here? Pretty good I think. The subsections is found under the Categories. There is a little down arrow to indicate that if you mouse-over it, it expands. The page name is part of a breadcrumb, something that Krug specifically spells out as a mistake. I think he would be pleased with everything else though. Now on to the home page.
Home pages are crazy, and eBay's is certainly no exception. However, the important features identified by Krug are all there and prominent. Krug mentions that "household names" don't need to have bylines and purpose statements, and specifically lists eBay as an example. Indeed such information is still noticeably absent from the eBay home page. Even if you had never heard of eBay, I don't think you would have to think much to look at the home page and realize that you can buy stuff on eBay.