One of the major information architecture and interaction design challenges is in determining the perfect content balance for a website's home page. The home page is packed with potential — by balancing just the right amount of high-level content with appropriate, contextual details, the home page for a public-facing website can influence a user's perception of a company's trustworthiness, capability, and suitability. In an intranet environment, home-page content can affect how efficiently employees work, whether they buy into a bigger corporate vision or goal, and their sense of belonging to the corporate community.
Needs analysis, user research, and usability testing can take the guesswork out of determining what content users need to see. However, one still needs to figure out the best way to present this information to the user. How do companies appeal to all users without overcrowding the page, diluting key messages with too much detail, or pushing the user deep into the site too early? Typically, sites force users to make a commitment to a navigation path from the home page to access specific content. But recently, we've seen a different approach gaining traction out there. And we like it!
Right now, we are really heated up (argh, bad Habanero pun) about a snappy style of homepage widget, as seen on marthastewart.com and microsoft.com. (Apple recently had one on their .Mac site, but just changed it).
On rollover (or click), the content in the main area of the "widget" changes. The user can access and interact with a large amount of content on demand without refreshing the page or navigating away. Did I mention that there's no page refresh? While it seems deceptively simple, it has a lot of impact.
The widget works as well for intranets as it does for public sites. Public sites can push marketing campaigns, products, or features while intranets can push organization-wide topical alerts, updates, events, etc. So far we've specified this widget in four projects-in-progress...
It's a good thing!