Sometimes, while your new website is being designed, you need to put up a simple placeholder page until the new site is complete. This doesn't have to be a minimalist "new website coming soon"—it can give customers and potential customers the information they need to stay in touch, find your physical location, or know what to expect and when.
Obviously you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by putting up something that isn’t going to help, or worse – could actually hurt your business! And it would be nice if you didn’t have to spend a huge amount of time making it, wouldn’t it?
There are some basic principles you can follow that will help you put up a useful, attractive placeholder page that can also get the ball rolling on your SEO and social media engagement.
1. First Impressions
Branding! Now is your chance. Make your logo prominent and be sure to stick to the same style guidelines you’ll be using for the site proper. Typeface, colors, feel – you want the visitor to be sure they are in the right place and to expose them to your brand. Eventually, when the new full website is up and they do come back, it'll look familiar.
2. Content Is King
Just like with your complete website, the content you put on your placeholder page is really what dictates its success as a business tool. After your branding, this is the most important part. I like to use a concise, SEO-conscious introduction paragraph (including your main keywords) that outlines the high points of your products or services.
From a design perspective, around 75 to 100 words seems to be the sweet spot for balance between presentability, given the generally small space provided on a placeholder design, and saying what needs to be said.
According to Google, website pages need to have between 250 and 300 words to get their deserved SEO ranking, but you probably won't be focusing as much on traffic and conversions until your full website is live. When it is, read our post about writing SEO-friendly home page content!
3. Lines of Communication
Include any appropriate contact info, including phone number, street address, and of course links to your social media pages! Keep the layout simple and clean to make it easy for folks to find what they are looking for.
4. Internet Standard
For speed and ease, I do most placeholder pages as simple HTML documents. For maximum compatibility, I usually go with good ol’ HTML 4.01 Transitional and CSS2. This gives you great compatibility but still allows you to use media queries. You can get some great info on those standards at www.w3.org.
5. Keep It Simple, Silly
I like to use centered layouts with a minimum number of images. This presents the information on the page well and minimizes the time you spend on the layout. It is a good idea to include at least some simple media queries for making sure your layout presents well on mobile devices. Starting with a centered layout makes it even easier to adapt your layout for those devices and usually requires very little additional CSS.
6. Testing, Testing
Just because it is only a placeholder page doesn’t mean that you don’t need to test it out on different devices. If you kept your layout simple and clean, you shouldn’t have too many problems getting everything looking just right. It’s nice not having a menu to deal with, isn't it!
7. Don’t Forget the Analytics
Be sure to include your Google analytics code (and HubSpot, if you’re that lucky) so that it can be gathering data while your placeholder page is active. This can give you a great head start on the SEO and strategy for your full website.
8. Design on a Dime
Even though it is just a placeholder page, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend some time making it look awesome. You don’t need spend hours and hours tweaking every last detail; use good typography practices, color theory, and a clean layout to make it look snazzy instead of leaning on tricks or gimmicks that might take ages to get formatted properly.
9. Under Construction?
You absolutely must include a pixelated graphic of a construction worker digging a hole. If you can find an animated one, all the better. Ha! I kid! In all seriousness, it is generally a good rule not to point out that your site isn’t finished. You want the user to think “this looks cool” not “I wonder if they’ll ever finish this thing.”
I hope this not only helps make designing your placeholder page a little easier, but also helps you end up with a placeholder page that does its job, and does it well.