Joel also makes a good point about the difference between the company page and the product page in terms of their goals. Nice willingness to go with entirely different styles, as a result. A brave decision!
I've been involved in a few home page design discussions the past year of consulting. They tend to be wicked problems (i.e., ill-defined, messy, and circular). Some of the reasons for this:
- There may be a difference between who you are and what you do, which may be important and hard to describe. Or hard to recognize.
- There may be a difference between who you WANT to be and who you are. This is hard to design for, because when you stray from what you are, you tend to confuse people.
- Conveying who you WANT to be in a clear fashion can only happen if you have a clear idea of who you want to be, and test your methods of conveyance on people to see if it flies. This is different from usability testing as usually understood.
- A bunch of company stakeholders who disagree on these things (who we are, who we want to be) can't communicate this to a designer very successfully. Design will then take a longer time, with more iterations, and may turn into a committee consensus nightmare.
- Design directions can be contradictory -- sometimes you can't say two or more complicated things, and you can't do both well enough to succeed at either. Let alone 10!
- If your business is confusing or going through a change of some kind, it's almost inevitable that the design reflects this, without a very strict control on it. No designer will succeed in clarifying confused input when the underlying problem is actual confusion. The designer may see this going on and be able to point it out, but that won't get it solved. The problems may be too high, too deep, and too wicked themselves. Solving them is much harder than the simple design problem at hand.
One client was working on a new project that was barely outlined in a development spec. He asked me "What do we do for our home page? We're really worried about that." It was premature for this, because most of the business plan didn't exist yet. The design input they REALLY needed was "Your business idea is a little too complicated right now. Can you simplify it first? Here are a bunch of others in your space with successful 3 bullet explanations on their home page. Can you meet that level of simplicity?"
Sadly, most designers aren't in a position to spur you to clean up your entire business plan. Or to make it clear that this might be needed because it's hard to make it sound simple when it's not. (At least, without lying.)
I think design is a strategic activity - requiring hard, brave, high level decisions in order to direct the minds and hearts of customers; and a creating a good business plan is therefore partly a design activity. To create a business that is clear and attractive to prospects, and therefore portrayable as such, requires high-level decision making inside a company. If more business leaders thought like designers, or more designers were in business roles, the execution of the home page would be a lot simpler.