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I have a client who insists on having a splash screen on their website and I'm trying to persuade him against it. I'd like a listing of reasons against the use of a flash/silverlight-based splash screen as the main entry point to the website.

One reason per answer, please.

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I think the real question is, what are the reasons for using a splash screen for a website? –  Leonardo Herrera Aug 25 '10 at 20:53

17 Answers 17

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Ask them what business objectives having a splash screen fulfills or how it enhances the main purpose of the website. A website should be subordinate to its business objectives (I'm using business objectives as a general term here, meaning overall objectives for the site). If you can get your client thinking in those terms, it'll make your client relationship a lot easier.

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And if that and the testing argument both fail, you can always try to explain the prohibitive costs of building a time machine to go back 2001. If all else fails, build the splash page, redirect it to the home page, and proudly tell the client, "Yes, it loads that quickly." –  Virtuosi Media Aug 25 '10 at 7:27
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Agreed, follow up question to the user would be, "What would the splash screen enable the user to do that they can't already do?" –  awithrow Aug 25 '10 at 12:27
    
I originally intended to get a list of reasons, but these answers are actually much more helpful. +1. –  Ryan Shripat Aug 26 '10 at 2:36

A splash screen is just a fancy decorator that forces me to wait to get to the content I care about. No one cares about the splash screen, they care about what's behind the splash screen. And displaying a splash screen wastes my time to get to that content.

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It's terribly annoying. Personally, I close sites with intros without even bothering to see whats inside.

No one and I mean No One enjoys it after the first visit to the site.

The only thing worse than an intro flash is an intro flash that plays music. These should be outlawed!

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It's fine on band websites... –  OverMachoGrande Aug 26 '10 at 2:01

If the client doesn't have the necessary components, they'll be prompted to install them!

Waste of time, might seem suspicious and will definitely drive clients away.

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+1. Soooo true. –  sharptooth Aug 25 '10 at 5:25

Simple. People hate them.

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+1 What is especially annoying is that the damn splash screen prevents me from getting to the website immediately. And then it turns out is requires some fancy version of fancy plugin and pops up error messages on me. Just don't try to show it to me in the first place. Thank you. –  sharptooth Aug 25 '10 at 5:24

Use logic (like VirtuosiMedia suggests) or use cold, hard data: A/B test the site with and without the splash screen. Then show the client the bounce rate. Google Website Optimizer is great for this.

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+1 for testing. –  Virtuosi Media Aug 24 '10 at 20:38

Assuming it isn't pure html, it makes your website useless on iphone/ipad/non-flash mobile devices.

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Discuss with them how search engines mean that people no longer typically enter your site via the home page, instead they will increasingly land on individual pages within the site instead that were relevant to their search. If they have an existing site show them the trends in their own analytics.

They thus need to balance the returns on their budget from spending on a splash page that most people won't see (and will choose to skip anyway) vs spending more on making individual page designs more compelling so that people who land on an internal page will be encouraged to stick around and browse to more pages.

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The cost argument (time + money) - great! –  Ryan Shripat Aug 26 '10 at 2:38
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This sounds slightly dangerous as in given this knowledge the client will now ask to have the splash screen show regardless of what the site entry point was ^^ –  Oskar Duveborn Nov 21 '10 at 19:56

You might try giving him an example based in the real world. Choose one:

1) Go to a store that let's him get right inside and finish his business.

-or-

2) Go to a store that requires him to stop and listen to the sales guy standing in front of the store, telling him how awesome the store is that he's about to enter before being allowed to enter.

If he feels that a splash page is necessary for customer growth, suggest that he provide an intro on the front page in a prominent spot which people can turn their attention to if needed. This would be similar to walking into a store and seeing the greeter - you can stop and chat with them, or you can walk past without even making eye contact if you are already familiar with the place.

While the web is different than real life, it turns out that humans still operate on the same basic level. Forcing a person who is task oriented to go through the experience a meandering person might enjoy is simply going to irritate, and ultimately turn potential leads away.

Try to strive for a design that acts as a good entry point for everyone.

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+1 I love a clear analogy. –  mickeyf Aug 25 '10 at 13:57
    
@mickeyf I concur. –  Ryan Shripat Aug 26 '10 at 2:37

One thing you forgot to mention was what kind of splash screen is the client wanting?

Does he want one of the vapid "welcome to x" intros that were so popular once upon a time (and that they may seem to recall being vogue at one point in time)? If that's the case, then you're hearing a lot of relevant feedback that is often echoed in User Testing. (see also: the gather data answer - most likely still way above mine)

Or, does he want something that highlights a deal of the day, or offers some sort of useful information? (a round-about way of considering the business case answer - also most likely way above mine) You'd be surprised at the increase in sales a well-written, properly executed, audience-appropriate pitch can make.

Either way, the answer to those questions will help you figure out the most appropriate way to dissuade the client from using a splash screen - assuming its still the most logical approach.

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My quick answer is, splash pages aren't SEO friendly. Robot crawlers are end users too!

An important thing to consider about a splash screen (if you have to have one) is the SEO impact it may have. Make sure if the splash screen uses Flash that it degrades to an HTML friendly version. But having a splash page doesn't always get you the proper keywords/content on the homepage that you really want for better SEO performance.

I recently had a client that used a regional map splash page (to select region/language) remove the Flash and go to a simple hyperlink layout that uses imagery and link positioning to give users the click-through clues. Search engine crawlers will have an easier time moving pass that splash page now as well.

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+1 for getting to the point! –  Ryan Shripat Aug 26 '10 at 2:34

Set up some kind of A/B marketing test (or multivariate) with versions of the website (with and without different splash variations) available. There are several ways to do this with several 3rd party resources.

Since a Splash page is a Marketing tool, encourage them to do this Marketing Testing and then you'll have real stats to present that are specific to the splash the client wants. If this doesn't convince them to drop the splash screen, it may at least point them to one with the least annoyance.

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Follow these steps and you'll be fine:

  1. Make a list of 10 websites - half of them with splash screens;
  2. Sit with your client in front of a computer;
  3. Ask your client to visit the "About us" page of each site.
  4. Make sure your client visits all 10 pages.

Then explain to your client that - users visit much more than 10 pages in a single session. - users are impatent - bounce rates are up because of splash pages.

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  1. Inaccessibility. Screen-readers (used by people who are blind, etc.) have no idea what to do with Flash, and neither do a lot of mobile devices.
  2. They're obnoxious. If I arrive at a site and the first thing up is a splash page, I close the window. They're obnoxious enough to dissuade users from accessing the valuable content of the site.
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When a request starts out with 'You know what would be cool...' it's not.

-- I wish I could give the proper credit for this, but I can't remember who said it.

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If you're customer wants a splash screen and is willing to pay for it, why wouldn't you do it? In the end, its the client that pays who and he has to like the page. People are allowed to have bad taste and bad manners.

It just has to be clear to him, that you wouldn't recommend it. If you don't have the credibility so that he believes you, when you tell him it sucks, work on your credibility.

After he sees, that he can trust you and you support his ideas although you don't approve them, maybe he starts listening to you....

And there are people who like splash screens, maybe only 1% of all users and most of them never leave msn.com, except for sites with fancy splash screens....

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Blizzard makes the best of flash screens. When they have a new game out or an expansion pack, they make all their sites display a teaser of that as a splash screen. They have a huge audience and most of it care to see that splash screen. If a site implements that rare kind of splash screen - it may be ok with users.

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