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Splash Pages: Do We Really Need Them?

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 Screenshot
Splashpage Screenshot17

Splashpage Screenshot
Splashpage Screenshot18

Splashpage Screenshot19
Splashpage Screenshot20
Splashpage Screenshot21

Showcasing Designer’s Creativity Link

Splashpage Screenshot22
Splashpage Screenshot23
Splashpage Screenshot24
Splashpage Screenshot25
Splashpage Screenshot26

Splashpage Screenshot27
Splashpage Screenshot

Choice Of A Language / Site Version Link

Splashpage Screenshot28
Splashpage Screenshot29
Splashpage Screenshot30
Splashpage Screenshot31
Splashpage Screenshot32
Splashpage Screenshot33
Splashpage Screenshot34

The selection of a language with a Flash-effect.

Splashpage Screenshot35

Splash Pages Explain What The SIte Is About Link

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

Splashpage Screenshot36

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

Splashpage Screenshot37
Splashpage Screenshot38

Minimalistic Solutions Link

Splashpage Screenshot39

Splashpage Screenshot40

Further Solutions Link

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

Splashpage Screenshot41

Two projects share the same domain.

Splashpage Screenshot42

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

Splashpage Screenshot43

We Have No Idea Why The Splash Page Is Used Link

Splashpage Screenshot44

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

Splashpage Screenshot
Splashpage Screenshot45
Splashpage Screenshot
Splashpage Screenshot46

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.toygun.com.au/
  18. 18 http://www.im-jac.com/
  19. 19 http://www.zarovka.de/
  20. 20 http://www.biteandsting.com/
  21. 21 http://www.256greys.com/
  22. 22 http://www.non-format.com/
  23. 23 http://www.zipdesign.co.uk/
  24. 24 http://www.lesinvasionsephemeres.com/
  25. 25 http://www.salboma.com/
  26. 26 #
  27. 27 http://www.ayakato.net/
  28. 28 http://www.aksident.be/
  29. 29 http://www.gloriaquiroga.com/
  30. 30 http://www.atutiplen.es/
  31. 31 http://worldwidedesigners07.free.fr/
  32. 32 http://www.agenciatudo.com.br/
  33. 33 http://www.christianmontenegro.com.ar/
  34. 34 http://www.hail-stone.co.uk/
  35. 35 #
  36. 36 http://www.jelizalde.com/
  37. 37 http://www.artnatomia.net/
  38. 38 http://www.ikwordjournalist.be/
  39. 39 http://www.screenvader.com/
  40. 40 http://www.aalex.info/
  41. 41 http://www.mba-multimedia.com/
  42. 42 http://www.benji.hu/
  43. 43 http://www.subraumstudio.com/
  44. 44 http://www.takeshape.it/
  45. 45 http://www.startdrawing.org/
  46. 46 http://philbrown.bc.ca/
SmashingConf Barcelona 2016

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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.

  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

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

    Great article guys!

    -2
  16. 16

    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
  17. 17

    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
  18. 18

    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
  19. 19

    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
  20. 20

    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

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