Don’t start with the home page
~ 27 November 2006 ~
…if you’re building a web app.
Too often it’s the accepted modus operandi to begin image comping, rapid prototyping, or iterative design by designing the home page first. While this practice works well for “brochureware” sites and other forms of brand-heavy design, it’s often a myopic approach for applications that are more utilitarian in nature.
If you’re comping the UI of a web app, forget the home page for now, as you’ll find the design of such will fall into place once you’ve mastered the UI for the more critical components. For nearly all web-based apps, the pre-login home page is merely marketing speak; a means of converting visitors into users. The post-login home page is almost always a dashboard; a summary of changes to important data since last login, and a springboard for new actions. Occasionally the home page is the primary raison d’être, e.g. Mint, in which the dashboard is the primary destination. But this is typically the exception rather than the norm.
Instead, begin with the core action(s) of the application and its interface. If your app facilitates recipe storage and retrieval, start with the Add Recipe and View Recipe screens. If your app offers invoice creation and management, start with the Create Invoice or Send Invoice screens. These screens and their siblings will inevitably dictate what should and shouldn’t appear on the dashboard or home page.
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