Source: Quick & Dirty Records
A lot of people don’t know how to evaluate web creative, so here’s a quick and dirty guide.

Before You Begin
First of all, go back and read the creative brief with a highlighter. Highlight the communication objectives and what the brand is all about. Put the highlighted portion of the brief to the right of your computer (assuming you are right handed).

Now look at the comp. Comp stands for “comprehensive” – meaning all the copy and artwork is supposed to be in the right place in the layout … but not necessarily all the copy and artwork will be final. In fact, with a web design at the comp stage the majority of artwork is close to final … except for “spot visuals” such as screen shots and masthead visuals. Copy may or may not be final – as copy is easy enough to change on the web.

Evaluation Proper
The 10 Questions You Must Ask When Evaluating the Home Page

  1. Can I immediately tell what this company does?
    The number one complaint end users have about a home page is that they get there and can’t tell what the heck a company is all about. Google also optimizes its search around finding copy that describes the company.
  2. Is there a strong brand impression?
    If I took the logo off and put my competition’s logo in its place would it look “right” or “wrong”. (Hopefully wrong – a strong brand impression would make anyone else’s logo look dead wrong.)
  3. Does the page have stopping power – in 3 seconds or less?
    The average visitor to your website makes a decision to stay on your page or go elsewhere in 3 seconds or less. So your home page has to stop visitor in their tracks and convince them – in 3 seconds – not to click elsewhere.
  4. Is there a well-thought out information architecture?
    The information architecture should be apparent from the home page. The best way to do this is with simple, straightforward navigation. I can’t emphasis this enough. Put the pages that you want most people at the first level of navigation and pages of somewhat less importance at the second level.
  5. Is the page set up with SEO in mind from the get go?
    There should be news and other text-based content that changes frequently on your home page; Google and other search engines put a premium on timely content.
  6. Attention to the basics
    Navigation needs to be simple and straightforward and remain consistent through out the site. There needs to be navigation on the top and bottom of the page. Your logo needs to appear in the upper left-hand corner. Ideally, you should have some branding on the bottom of the page. In most states, California included, you need a Privacy Policy. An “About” page is expected and should appear on your bottom navigation bar. Likewise, a Sitemap is expected and should appear there. Trust me … these are standards. Violate them at your own risk.
  7. Does the copy pull the visitor through the page?
    Are there headlines and subheads to break up the copy into chunks? Are the sentences short? Are there visuals with captions? Is there enough copy … you want to make sure there is enough copy on the page that the page gets indexed by Google? Are you using h1 – h6 tags appropriately for the different types of headlines (again, Google likes these)? Improve readability by using dark text against a light background whenever possible.
  8. What are the main messages being communicated?
    Do they align with the brief? Are they simple and clear? Are you being redundant on purpose? In today’s cluttered environment, it really helps to say the same thing the same way multiple times. Are you using images with words to make your message faster to process? The brain processes pictures faster than it does words – so for a quick read, use visuals with captions.
  9. Are there strong, benefit-oriented calls to action (CTA)?
    These are things that you want visitors to do when they come to your website – beyond clicking to go deeper into the site. For example, contact us to get a demo. Are the CTA simple and clear? Do they align with your business / marketing objectives?
  10. Have you avoided the kitchen sink?
    Don’t try to cram everything you want to say into your home page. It rarely works. Instead, work backwards from the analytics you will use to measure success.

    Most professionals measure success on the web with detailed analytics that tell them – among other things – the abandon rate (how many people jumped off their home page immediately) as well as the average number of pages viewed and time spent on the site. The quickest way to get your abandon rate up is to make your home page a jumbled mess, packing it with every single message you can think of. (“Everything including the kitchen sink.”)

    Likewise, if you are going to measure success by time spent on the website (the more time the better) and number of pages viewed (the more pages, the better as this gets to depth of engagement), you don’t want a “kitchen-sink” home page.

Final Words
Don’t reject creative out-of-hand just because its look and feel is radically different than what you were expecting to see. The difference between good creative and great creative is that great creative challenges our expectations. That said, navigation is not an area where you want to spend a lot of time pioneering new ground. The rule with navigation – as it is with other UI elements on the web – “don’t make me think!”.