Iceberg Principle

Many websites need more than just 1 page. But they often fail by having tons of secondary pages (beyond the front page) and then making them all immediately visible on the home page. This becomes a distraction and hurts conversion rates heavily.

The solution to this is the “Iceberg Principle”. By having secondary page content, but not making it immediately visible, you control the amount of “traffic leaks” and potential conversion point failures. This means the user interaction funnel is more streamlined and productive.

Bad Sitemap

Good Sitemap

Notice how the bad sitemap has tons of options straight off the home page? This leads to a lot of decision making requirements for the visitor, which isn’t necessarily healthy for them right after they landed there. And it usually represents a lack of critical thinking about the ideal user experience.

The good sitemap by contrast has only a couple large genres of items so the decision making needs are low. This allows the user to make a more gradual series of decisions that are lower cost initially because not everything is presented all at once.

This means that some of the pages aren’t even immediately or highly visible without something like a direct link. It means doing some heavy mental lifting during the site construction process about what should and shouldn’t be directly accessible.

But because of the “iceberg principle”, you can have extra pages to use for things like sales tools, but don’t have to sacrifice conversions on your home page.

They’re essentially “hidden pages” or “unpublished pages” that you can still send traffic to or work on SEO, but don’t compete with your main calls to action on the home page.

For example, you might want to have a live page with sample content for a client, but don’t want it easily visible, so that counts as an “underwater” page.

Pure Web Services is a heavy proponent of this idea, as we have dozens and dozens of “under the surface” pages that we link and reference (like this one in fact), but aren’t immediately visible from the home page to prevent distractions.


What items can you keep live, but disconnect from your home page?