Splash Pages: Do We Really Need Them?

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Yes, sometimes we do. Should we use them? No, we probably shouldn’t. Splash screen (or splash page) is a front page of a web-site that don’t provide the actual content, but offers visitors some kind of intuition or background information for what the site is about. Designers use splash pages in their portfolios to impress potential clients with eye-candy. Companies tend to make use of them to draw users’ attention to their latest products. And users literally can’t stand them, because splash pages usually take a long time to load and provide (almost) no navigation options — except of “entering the site”.

Depending on designers’ creativity, splash pages use more or less attractive visual elements, sometimes with interactive Flash-movies which sometimes start to play automatically1. Splash pages usually have a very simple structure — mostly just an image with few text lines and links.

The design of these pages sometimes isn’t related to the overall site design. And although most sites don’t use them, splash pages are sometimes necessary and therefore remain popular. In fact, there are some situations in which we might want or might even need to use them. Even although we shouldn’t — for our visitors’ sake.

12 Common Reasons For Using Splash Pages Link

  1. Splash pages display disclaimers or warnings which are supposed to restrict access to content such as pornography, advertising, or gambling (as is required by law).
  2. It is necessary to draw visitors’ attention to an important message such as approaching deadline, critical update, latest release, news, slogan etc.
  3. Visitors are supposed to select the language they want to use or the country they come from — to direct users to the appropriate version of the site.
  4. Visitors can choose between a low-bandwidth version (HTML — Dial-Up) and high-bandwidth version (Flash — cable, DSL). Sometimes one can also choose the “accessible” version containing only text without images.
  5. The designer informs visitors about site requirements such as used browsers, screen resolution as well as used Flash, Java, Quicktime etc. and suggests to choose the “right” configuration and download plug-ins for “optimal” site presentation.
  6. Visitors can select the preferred view mode – for instance, standard mode and fullscreen mode.
  7. Multiples sites share the same domain. Or a large site tries to communicate its most important sections directly.
  8. Splash page is supposed to include hints for browsing the site and explains the main sections.
  9. Designers use splash page trying to awake excitement for the actual content of the site.
  10. Sound is announced. Visitors are asked to turn on their loudspeakers to enjoy the Flash-show or Midi-experience (yes, apparently Midis are still alive).
  11. Splash pages are used as an additional form of advertising.
  12. The decision to use a splash page is design-driven and realizes some designer’s idea.

How To Lose Your Visitors: Case #1 Link

Users don’t like splash pages, however if designed creatively, splash pages can also really get on users’ nerves. Petr Hrubes has an informative and attractive web-site with an absolutely unusable splash page2 (sorry, Petr). The design of Petr’s splash page offers precise information and is visually appealing, but it has one of the most significant mistakes a splash page can contain — it’s obtrusive and just not user-friendly.

Splashpage Screenshot3
Hrubes.com4: this is not the way a splash page should be designed;
the main page opens in a new tab, in fullscreen mode.

If you are using Firefox or Opera you’ll find out that the mouse click on “Enter” opens the main page in a new tab in your browser. To navigate through the site visitors may want to close the “splash page”-window first and then change to the “main page”-tab. It’s neither necessary nor helpful.

The fans of Internet Explorer (is there anybody out there?) or Safari (Windows) have even more fun. Not only doesn’t the page open in a new tab (although IE7 should be capable of it), both browsers also open a new window which is automatically displayed in the fullscreen mode. Without warning. It doesn’t have to be like this.

How To Lose Your Visitors: Case #2 Link

It can get worse: creative designers tend to offer their visitors problems of a different kind. For instance, sometimes users have to move the mouse among the splash page to recognize what elements can actually be clicked and what should be done to finally get to the content of the page.

Splashpage Screenshot5
Splash Page at FunkyPunky6: can you recognize the linked area?
Hint: take a closer look at the top of the page.

Not every visitor is patient, in most cases the page will be closed right away. Or the visitors land on the Adobe-page where they are asked to download the latest version of Flash plug-in. Or they are directed to some design-award web-site where they can observe dozens of beautifully designed web-sites. You can be sure that they won’t get back. Here you go – an optimal way to lose a visitor in few seconds.

A Showcase Of Splash Pages Link

Whether minimal, useful, beautifully illustrated, colorful or animated: the design of splash pages is a challenge designers can take to impress their visitors with creative approaches. Whatever decision you make please make sure that you really need a splash page and that it is designed with a purpose in mind.

There are literally millions of them out there. Below we’d like to present an overview of splash pages which are supposed to showcase their basic purposes and common design solutions (mostly non-Flash-based splash pages are presented). These pages make use of the 12 common reasons we’ve listed at the top of this article. Here are some ideas:

Splash Pages As Additional Advertising Link

Both Apple7 and Zune8 use a hybrid of a splash page with basic navigation functions. What do you think, is it still a splash page? (Bonus: find the difference between both of them!).

Splashpage Screenshot9
Splashpage Screenshot10

Classic: multimedia-related sites offer audio and video on the splash page; however, sometimes basic navigation is also included. Ice Age11 also provides “special” entry points for users from United States and outside the U.S.

Splashpage Screenshot12
Splashpage Screenshot13

Showcase For Important Messages And News Link

Splashpage Screenshot14
Splashpage Screenshot15

Disclaimer, Warning, Requirements Link

Splashpage Screenshot16

Splashpage Screenshot17
Splashpage Screenshot18

Splashpage Screenshot19
Splashpage Screenshot20

Splashpage Screenshot21
Splashpage Screenshot22
Splashpage Screenshot23

Showcasing Designer’s Creativity Link

Splashpage Screenshot24
Splashpage Screenshot25
Splashpage Screenshot26
Splashpage Screenshot27
Splashpage Screenshot28

Splashpage Screenshot29
Splashpage Screenshot30

Choice Of A Language / Site Version Link

Splashpage Screenshot31
Splashpage Screenshot32
Splashpage Screenshot33
Splashpage Screenshot34
Splashpage Screenshot35
Splashpage Screenshot36
Splashpage Screenshot37

The selection of a language with a Flash-effect.

Splashpage Screenshot38

Splash Pages Explain What The SIte Is About Link

So much text, so many references, but none of them can be clicked.

Splashpage Screenshot39

An intro explains what the site is about. This is typical for many splash pages.

Splashpage Screenshot40
Splashpage Screenshot41

Minimalistic Solutions Link

Splashpage Screenshot42

Splashpage Screenshot43

Further Solutions Link

Flash-based splash page. There is some kind of navigation, however it doesn’t really work.

Splashpage Screenshot44

Two projects share the same domain.

Splashpage Screenshot45

The splash page explains how the page is supposed to be used — here the navigation is possible only with keyboard.

Splashpage Screenshot46

We Have No Idea Why The Splash Page Is Used Link

Splashpage Screenshot47

Splash page for a weblog? Yes, it’s possible.

Splashpage Screenshot48
Splashpage Screenshot49
Splashpage Screenshot
Splashpage Screenshot50

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 http://philbrown.bc.ca/
  2. 2 http://www.hrubes.com/
  3. 3 http://www.hrubes.com/
  4. 4 http://www.hrubes.com/
  5. 5 http://www.funkypunky.ru/
  6. 6 http://www.funkypunky.ru/
  7. 7 http://www.apple.com
  8. 8 http://www.zune.net
  9. 9 http://www.apple.com/
  10. 10 http://www.zune.net/
  11. 11 http://www.iceagemovie.com/
  12. 12 http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/ratatouille/
  13. 13 http://www.iceagemovie.com/
  14. 14 http://www.mmparis.com/
  15. 15 http://www.pierremarie.fr/
  16. 16 http://www.theircircularlife.it/
  17. 17 http://www.ondesignestudio.com.ar/
  18. 18 http://www.toygun.com.au/
  19. 19 http://www.handmadeinisa.com/
  20. 20 http://www.im-jac.com/
  21. 21 http://www.zarovka.de/
  22. 22 http://www.biteandsting.com/
  23. 23 http://www.256greys.com/
  24. 24 http://www.non-format.com/
  25. 25 http://www.zipdesign.co.uk/
  26. 26 http://www.lesinvasionsephemeres.com/
  27. 27 http://www.salboma.com/
  28. 28 http://www.jasonchanart.com/gallery.htm
  29. 29 http://www.ayakato.net/
  30. 30 http://www.dirtylipbalm.com/
  31. 31 http://www.aksident.be/
  32. 32 http://www.gloriaquiroga.com/
  33. 33 http://www.atutiplen.es/
  34. 34 http://worldwidedesigners07.free.fr/
  35. 35 http://www.agenciatudo.com.br/
  36. 36 http://www.christianmontenegro.com.ar/
  37. 37 http://www.hail-stone.co.uk/
  38. 38 http://www.conceptio.lv/
  39. 39 http://www.jelizalde.com/
  40. 40 http://www.artnatomia.net/
  41. 41 http://www.ikwordjournalist.be/
  42. 42 http://www.screenvader.com/
  43. 43 http://www.aalex.info/
  44. 44 http://www.mba-multimedia.com/
  45. 45 http://www.benji.hu/
  46. 46 http://www.subraumstudio.com/
  47. 47 http://www.takeshape.it/
  48. 48 http://www.evilgrin.nl/
  49. 49 http://www.startdrawing.org/
  50. 50 http://philbrown.bc.ca/

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Sven is the co-founder and former CEO of Smashing Magazine. He's now writing at his Conterest Blog, where he focuses on blogs, content strategy and publishing — all in German.

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  1. 1

    Juan Manuel Lemus

    October 11, 2007 10:51 pm

    Simply WoW!. Great post!

    -2
  2. 2

    Guys you’ve missed a real annoying one http://www.eweek.com/

    EGA

    0
  3. 3

    Really good article. I think as long as there’s some basic navigation on there then it probably shouldn’t really be considered a splash page. Something like the iTunes website provides a bit of advertising but users have probably come to this site to perform an action so the navigation allows them to perform this task without the splash seeming obstructive.

    Interestingly, I think sites that usually have an “enter here” splash are usually created by designers originally from the print media who are maybe more used to slapping a front cover on things.

    I’m not doubting print designers ability for design as in a lot of cases they’re better graphically but they must be adaptable as the web is more a source of information for the majority of users and not something that a casual reader would tend to sit down and flick through in the same way they might a magazine.

    Nice site by the way :)

    1
  4. 4

    Most of the reasons are ‘open doors’.

    5: The designer informs visitors about site requirements such as used browsers, screen resolution as well as used Flash, Java, Quicktime etc. and suggests to choose the “right” configuration and download plug-ins for “optimal” site presentation.
    If a user lacks Java, Quicktime etc. etc. your site should still be usable.

    8 Splash page is supposed to include hints for browsing the site and explains the main sections.
    If you need a splash page to explain how to navigate a site, you have some serious usability issues :). However, if you have some explaining to do, I would put that under the “Help” or “How to” section.

    0
  5. 5

    A regal. Keep on, keep on

    -1
  6. 6

    Love this blog/mag. Follow the RSS as soon as posted. Great tips! Keep it up guys!

    -1
  7. 7

    Nice one – hate splash pages – delete them all >:)))))

    0
  8. 8

    We I must say apart from the odd annoying one or two, I love splash pages and the extra element of design they can add to a web site, just like the front cover of a book or an album cover.

    0
  9. 9

    NO!

    Seriously though, great article. They are just slightly less irritating than pop-up ads.

    1
  10. 10

    Splash pages should be outlawed.

    0
  11. 11

    I never understood it.
    Lots of people want them, but almost everybody just wants to find the ‘skip this’ button as fast as possible.
    They can be entertaining the first time, but the second time you just hate them.

    Please stop asking for splash pages!!!!!

    1
  12. 12

    Another great article. One thing I didn’t see mentioned was the detriment to search engine optimization caused by splash pages. Sometimes getting clients and designers to do the right thing is (unfortunately) easier if you put it terms of SEO or lost-traffic e.g. lost opportunity.

    2
  13. 13

    Agust Gudbjornsson

    October 12, 2007 2:04 am

    Love the post, simply great!

    0
  14. 14

    Sorry, splash pages = a “no no” of modern web design. Dont make me sit through a flash splash page for no reason, I want information and I want it yesterday… oops, you lost me, im moving onto the next site.

    0
  15. 15

    Another quality article from SM – but I wanted to quickly comment on some of the replies above. In SOME cases it IS necessary to have a splash page for a website. I create websites for theater companies, and when you have more than one location but only one website, and want / need to offer only relevant information to a visitor ie their local theater, the best, simplest and most user friendly way is to use a splash.

    Take this site I am currently creating for a client http://www.galaxyfunplex.com. We have a splash page to choose you local theater – you have the option for the system to set a cookie to remember your location and automagically make it your “home page” the next time you visit – but once you do this, what if you move to a new house in a new area? Simple we add a message next to the welcome message near the top of the page – which takes you to the splash to choose again.

    Obviously splash pages are not good, and I started creating websites when it was the CRAZE to get one – flash websites with splash pages – yuk! Still get asked for them today but refuse to do them by explaining the pit-falls to clients and making them understand – only use when NECESSARY.

    Thanks again for the wonderful website SM and keep up the great reading material for all freelancers!

    2
  16. 16

    Yay first to comment (well, i was when i wrote this!)

    Great article guys!

    -2
  17. 17

    I always thought for location stuff like interenational corporations national websites you can get the IP adress of the visitor and forward them to the appropriate site. like good old google does. I wouldn’t know how to do it, but i’m sure it could be done. maybe.

    but it is annoying when i have to pick a location out of europe, america, and asia, flipping heck. what happened to the pacific. i mean i’m from tiny new zealand and all, but there are more than three continents. and one of those continents is not australia. :D

    I think for artists websites (web/graphic/print designers, photographers, artists, etc) splash pages are fine, because you want to see stuff on such websites

    My personal site is not even a splash page, just a ‘business card’ at the moment. waiting for the summer break when i actually have some time to code the thing.

    1
  18. 18

    While I hate splash pages I find I don’t mind the language selection splash page so I can choose to view the site in a language I can read. That being said I think that there could be more information on a language splash page besides just choosing the proper language.

    0
  19. 19

    I hate splash pages. Specially at work: slow network+splashpage=pain

    Specially when it is a cheap flash animation with no sense and no extra value. I just close the page when i find one.

    I only find them interesting on movie websites, music bands or that kind of entertaining stuff

    0
  20. 20

    If you are using Firefox or Opera you’ll find out that the mouse click on “Enter” opens the main page in a new tab in your browser.

    Minor quibble. This is only true if you have gone in and told Firefox or Opera to behave this way. It’s a preference to have Firefox open new windows in a new tab instead.

    Interestingly, I think sites that usually have an “enter here” splash are usually created by designers originally from the print media who are maybe more used to slapping a front cover on things.

    Agreed. I teach web design to undergrad graphic design majors and one of the hardest parts is teaching them to think of the web as its own medium, instead of just designing for a physical medium and adapting it to the web. It’s also self-perpetuating. The designers they like (who are primarily print designers) all use splash pages, so they feel that’s “the way to do it.”

    In SOME cases it IS necessary to have a splash page for a website. I create websites for theater companies, and when you have more than one location but only one website, and want / need to offer only relevant information to a visitor ie their local theater, the best, simplest and most user friendly way is to use a splash.

    Personally, I don’t consider this to be a splash page. When it performs a necessary function of the site, it’s more of a configuration utility than a splash page. As long as (and I’m sure this is the case for you), you provide a means for automatically skipping that page once it’s been configured.

    0
  21. 21

    I like them for entertainment or portfolio sites…I think they look good and often showcase a designer’s ability to code HTML / CSS if their site is full Flash.

    …I think a far more egregious error is the unnecessarily long Flash intro. Granted, I haven’t seen as much of this in recent days, but every now and then you’ll hit a site with such a long one it’s mind numbing.

    0
  22. 22

    An very interesting topic. To my mind, Splash pages that are used to determine a user’s technical set up are deeply suspect for 2 reasons:

    1. There are perfectly viable methods for automatically working out technical set up, such as JavaScript for plug-in detection and geolocation for national / regional location. Where possible they should be tried first to make a decision on the user’s behalf. Too often, offering choices is just a sympton of lazy or inept programming.

    2. The idea of asking a user to confirm something before they enter is deeply unappealing, plus a non-technical user (i.e. most of us) have no idea what plug-ins we have or what the options mean. Imagine a High Street shop that employed a dress code, or asked people to give their inside leg measurement before entering.

    In particular, I question the Ice Age example, which gives the option of entering a regional territory if you are not in the US. Film Studios have a major problem in this area and this is the typical lazy and unsatisfactory result; assume you are in the US, though make the user state otherwise. Geolocation is a perfectly simple solution to this problem, where at least the site can hazard a pretty good guess at where you are in the world, whilst still giving you the option to move around.

    0
  23. 23

    I use one at my blog – ideally to give visitors a quick, four-second visual summary of what my site is all about.

    0
  24. 24

    Your list of reasons for using splash pages is a good reminder that they are not all evil. However, there is not a single instance that requires the page be Flash based. Apple uses Flash, but embedded. That seems to be a reasonable compromise. Flash only splash pages may be interesting but aren’t necessary and in most cases do more harm than good.

    1
  25. 25

    I’m going to put my hand up here and say that I enjoy a good splash page.

    Great article and good list of “Reasons For Using Splash Pages”!

    1
  26. 26

    I have to disagree. Splash pages serve a very valuable function when implemented correctly. More often than not, companies have “invested” in a very expensive, cluttered, poorly designed website, and don’t want to change anything for fear of incurring costs. At the same time — they run advertising that is intended to inform — and hold ad agencies responsible for their sales. See the disconnect? The only workable solution is to craft a landing/splash page that matches the campaign and offers a few simple options on an otherwise impossible to navigate site. Users are happy because they find what they need, client is happy because (for sites that are sales oriented), sales go up.

    1
  27. 27

    great stuff, i love the post, and agree

    -2
  28. 28

    Another great post…

    i don’t know how many times I will write this…

    ;)

    -2
  29. 29

    A splash page means one more click for the user, which is also one more click than a competitors site. Whos site was easier to use?

    0
  30. 30

    Splash Page == Coding by the Boss’s Daughter’s Finace’s younger brother.

    -1
  31. 31

    nice splashs :-)

    0
  32. 32

    good post, splash pages can be useful but I would say that 90% of these you shown are useless. So a good list of showing what not to do…

    0
  33. 33

    Forget splash screens… go back 5 years in time. You should have seen the number of flash intros every site had. There used to be one loading screen and a % loader showing you the loaded bytes. You wait endlessly and a there it loads after an hour, quick images which you never get to see and fast music to scare your office neighbor!

    http://dharma.indviews.com

    0
  34. 34

    What defines a ‘Splash Page’ really?

    On our current site, I have what I consider to be a Splash Page, in that it looks entirely different to the rest of the site and gives a bit more of a visual, but it also provides a link to every page on the site.

    At the moment I’m currently re-designing the site, and have gone for an option without the Splash, but part of me is considering designing a fresher one for the new site, or should I just drop the idea altogether?

    Nice article by the way, I agree with some of the comments above that on a porfolio/designer site, it can be nice to see an unobtrusive but stylish peice of work to show off some skills before entering more of a standard layout.

    0
  35. 35

    Nice inspirations! Thanks for the resource!

    0
  36. 36

    I too need a splash screen for my blog. I need a splash screen like those – “Loading …” screens. It should hide everything in the background until all is loaded. Can you please tell me how to do that?
    I’d really appreciate it if you can mail me regarding this.
    Thanks.

    1
  37. 37

    As mentioned before, if your site has a splash page specifying a resolution, you need to redesign your site.

    If it has instructions on how to use the site, you need to redesign the site.

    If the splash screen is telling the visitor they MUST download Flash to continue…you need to redesign the site.

    The only place I want to see a Splash screen? On a porn site.

    0
  38. 38

    Forget splash screens… go back 5 years in time…?

    I notice a certain arrogance from those who decry all splash screens because of useability issues. Yes useability can be important depending on the context. But personally I think these critics have lost track of what many people actually want. There is a reason many clients want a splash screen. Because they’ve been to sites where they’ve noticed and enjoyed them. Using the web is not always about extracting maximum content as fast as possible (maybe unless you’re a web designer!) – shouldn’t it be enjoyed as well?

    Twenty seconds too long to wait to enter a site? Amazing how many waited 5 hours to get an iPhone on the first day – and enjoyed it. Yes I could avoid the trip to the theatre by watching a DVD at home – much better useability! But not the same experience. Of course if I’m banking, or looking for something, or paying a bill, I want that over as soon as possible.

    By all means try to make your clients avoid splash screens “because they were so bad 5 years ago” – but don’t be surprised if your clients start avoiding you.

    3
  39. 39
  40. 40

    One click is too many, wouldn’t they? Still, splash page is way too cool to forget. And i agree with paulie. :)

    0
    • 41

      Hello, you used to write great, but the last few posts have been kinda boringc2a1K I miss your super wginitrs. Past few posts are just a little bit out of track! come on!

      0
  41. 42

    “Yes I could avoid the trip to the theatre by watching a DVD at home – much better useability!”

    It is? You like how many DVDs these days force you to watch all of the previews before you get to the menu? At least with video tapes, you could fast forward through them. Instead, I get “that action cannot be performed”. I’m not being entertained, I’m being annoyed. I already watched those previews last time I watched this movie (or I had to switch disks with the rental place because the first one was skipping).

    Splash pages are 99% bad. Yes, 1% of the time it *is* appropriate for some sites (disclaimers, audio warnings, pages to set local settings, language/region selection). Most sites use it because they are pretentious dinks who think making you wait for content is a form of entertainment, not making the connection that what they’re doing is little better than what the DVD designers do.

    Splash pages should not be confused with the home page of the site: some sort of summary, branding, navigation to the major sections, and/or highlights of what’s hot/new/popular. The home page is supposed to have an overview of the whole site. Apple and Zune do a home page right; neither is an example of a splash page.

    0
  42. 43

    There is NO PROBLEM AT ALL to have a new window opening on mouse click. You make it a big deal but it is not and furthermore the standard users DO NOT CARE. Waiting? WTF? A splash screen of 400kb is waiting but watching youtube is ok? Come on, you can do better. I agree that the authors use a lot of arrogance and try to make things black and white. I really doubt in the design abilities of the author of this article!

    -1
  43. 44

    Thats why I did not even make a “home” page!
    In my website http://www.designrific.com
    The website has no homepage. every page is considered a home page.

    0
  44. 45

    I njoyed lot by seeing these SPLASH PAGES

    Good work!!!

    0
  45. 46

    Are you kidding? There’s no reason to ever have a splash page.

    0
  46. 47

    beautiful example! an ad splash page!

    0
  47. 48

    It’s an intro, a greeting, a brief “hello” in a world full of impatience.

    Like the cover of a book or album.

    Websites today vomit information all over you.

    0
  48. 49

    nice article.. and gr8 examples…
    But I am sorry ,I beg to differ in “How To Lose Your Visitors: Case #2 “..
    actually i guess its his personal website and its not any kind of business or official site.. that design is mind-blowing.. you could have taken a better example for illustrating that point..
    I am sure that design will fetch him more visitors rather than decreasing the count :)

    0
  49. 50

    This article is so good, thank you for this useful information.

    0
  50. 51

    Nice work…..Thanks

    0

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