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Often when I don't fully know what to say on the main page of a website or app I'm making, so I instinctively write "Welcome to [website/app name]". However, I also wonder if this is just a silly, unprofessional thing to write, or if it is good to continue this practice.

Is it important to make users feel welcome by giving them a big welcome on the main page? Is it a good or bad experience for the user? Are there some cases in which a welcome might be good and other cases where it might not? What better alternatives are there than saying "Welcome to ____"?

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This is a question I used to wonder myself a lot so glad to see it brought up!

If you're promoting a product (e.g. an app) that's meant for achieving a specific goal, "Welcome to __" seems too generic a statement in setting clear user objectives a.k.a. "What am I spending my time on/What will I get out of this visit?" The common practice in this case is to start with a marketing tagline that's short, quirky and provides the user an immediate understanding of what they're being sold on. Ambiguous opening statement, especially when designed with large visual impact (e.g. header element that takes up most of the page upon initial load), carries the risk of increasing a product website's bounce rate and is not desirable in this case.

On the other hand, if you're promoting a people-based service and want to add a more personal feel to the overall design, or if your website offers great variety in content and cannot be categorized as one type of work, "Welcome to __" is not necessarily an ineffective way to start as you're trying to make your user feel welcomed in the literal sense of the word. One example would be designer/developer portfolios with different types of works: having "Welcome to __" on the index page is able to introduce the designer/developer properly without giving him/her a specific title.

In a nutshell, whether "Welcome to ___" as an opening statement for a website is good or bad really depends on the site's overall content strategy. What is the tone? The purpose of the website? Etc. There's certainly nothing unprofessional about it: many social media websites like Facebook have "Welcome to" as part of their opening message, and in many occasions simplicity = the most powerful solution. Playing with fancy words is not always the best way to get a point across :)

P. S. There's always the simple option to put down "Welcome" in a variety of languages to increase the level of engagement if your audience is international.

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I wouldn't call "Welcome to..." passages silly or unprofessional. I would call them valueless to the user. There are better ways of introducing your content.

Jakob Nielsen addressed this very issue some 7 years ago in "Blah-Blah Text: Keep, Cut, or Kill?":

The worst kind of blah-blah has no function; it's pure filler — platitudes, such as "Welcome to our site, we hope you will find our new and improved design helpful."

Kill the welcome mat and cut to the chase.

However, it doesn't mean that all useless text needs to be removed. Nielsen warns against leaving pages without context in the process of cutting down the copy. He recommends keeping the absolute minimum needed to answer the question: What's the page about?

In a more recent article "The Fold Manifesto: Why the Page Fold Still Matters", Amy Schade of Nielsen Norman Group touched upon not only on users' scrolling habits but also on how to encourage them to explore the site and the content:

Webpages need to build a solid story. Users can be encouraged to scroll by giving them good reason to do so. Visual elements can draw the eye down the page. Compelling content can draw the user in. If the most interesting information is at the top of the page, users may be enticed to visit the bottom of the page as well.

and

There are certainly designs that successfully offer very little at the top of the page while enticing users to scroll. Successful designs encourage the extra effort —they offer a glimpse of interesting content, a compelling introduction, engaging imagery.

The translation of these recommendations into your own copy depends on the purpose of your site. If it's simply an informational site, write some bold and compelling headlines or taglines. If it's an e-commerce site, calls to action and marketing copy will do the trick.

  • I'm not sure these passages are "valueless" to the user, although I like the rest of your answer. The same Nielsen articles you reference make the point that although the semantic content of a welcome mat may not have a lot of value, its role as a device for providing context or anchoring visual flow on a page has value. I also believe a welcome mat can help set tone: one might argue that 'hi', or 'best regards' are platitudinous ways to start and end conversations, but there is a good reason they are still used commonly today/ – tohster Feb 15 '15 at 19:01
  • @tohster: I guess you skipped the paragraph that follows the quote in my answer. – dnbrv Feb 15 '15 at 19:02
  • No i read the entirety of the answer including the linked articles (which were good). The following paragraph is a non-sequitur to the idea that welcome passages are "valueless". e.g. it'd be a non-sequitur for me to say that car airbags have no value, but then to follow up with a paragraph that points out that they actually do have some value in some cases and should not always be removed. – tohster Feb 15 '15 at 19:08

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