I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity but I’d give my right arm for simplicity on the other side of complexity.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Attention is a valuable commodity on the internet.
A cluttered site is a random experiment rather than a measured strategy.
Working through your own confusion about your sites aims is a crucial part of both your own confidence online as well as a way to respect the time and attention of your visitors. The average internet users attention span (guardian.co.uk article).
Often what happens is a website is built like a Lego castle with no plan. We add stuff if we feel it will “get people’s attention” until it becomes so confusing for our visitors that they have no idea what to click on or how to find what they are interested in.
So they leave.
You’ve done it plenty of times so why act like your visitors could or should be any different?
What we need to do instead is boil down the essence of our site’s focus and present only those elements that are most central to those aims.
We as the owners of the site need to ask some all important questions in order to uncover what that focus is, and then we make effort in reducing distractions.
Uncover your website’s Mojo
Every story must have a central character, or focus.
The first three Star Wars movies had Luke Skywalker. We followed him from late teens on to become a warrior in Return of The Jedi.
The last 3 Star Wars movies however, had no central character, and a series of unconnected scenes made us care less and less about the characters.
And the most insulting thing?
To then throw in Jar Jar Binks with his disturbingly black slave sounding accent, and expect the kids in the audience to think he was hilarious.
Don’t make the same mistake with your marketing, and with your website.
Take the time to define what it is, by using some skillfully crafted questions, such as:
1. What is your site about and what will the benefit be to your visitors?
This is essentially the beginning of your all important tagline. You must keep exploring this question until you settle on something that ideally articulates:
- what it does,
- who it’s for and
- how they will benefit.
When people first arrive at a website they’re asking themselves one crucial question: “Is this for me?”
Don’t be shy in describing who your site is for and even who it may not be for. If you fail to do that you’re alienating both your target audience and the errant visitors. I cannot count how many sites I arrive at and even after a full minute still do not have much of an idea what it is and who it is for.
2. What action do you want people to take?
Narrow this down to a few important things such as:
- Sign up to your newsletter
- Become a Facebook fan
- Register for a new course you may be offering
- Read articles and engage with your content.
If you want people to buy from you, they must first engage with your content. This is why capturing their email address or attracting more likes on your Facebook page is a good first step.
3. What content or graphics are potentially confusing my visitors?
The strategy advocated by Ben Hunt at WebDesignFromScratch is one of stark simplicity with one goal in mind: To increase conversions by ruthlessly removing any elements that detract from your overall message or that could confuse your potential customers or readers. It’s a fantastic course called Save The Pixel and is highly recommended.
Instead of thinking about adding ‘features’, focus on removing distractions and having a clear call to action. You’ll get more sign ups or conversions while also showing respect for the time and attention of your visitors.
Think Apple not Microsoft
One of the reasons Apples technology is so user friendly is that they have not separated the design from the functionality of the device or the software. They still have some products that are guilty of poor user interface choices but for the most part they stand apart in their ability to understand and anticipate their users needs. The more features or content you have the more the interface becomes important.
What would happen if Microsoft redesigned the iPod packaging?
This video answers this question and shows you what happens when a company (even a multi-billion dollar one) understands so little about this need for simplicity.
Some Excellent Minimalist Website Designs
These two sites are some of the best resources for website effectiveness as well.
- Don’t focus so much on adding features but instead on removing distractions
- Make it possible to figure out within a few seconds of visiting your site who it’s for and how they can benefit.
- Keep in mind always that people are busy and respect their time and attention by making your site clear and easy to navigate. The more information in your site the more this process is needed.
- With the new Google update and the increasing competition for people’s attention your site will also load faster if it is simplified.
- Aim for a layout and navigation that serves your visitors by removing all distractions while also creating a user interface that is elegant.
The upside of all the sparing down and refocusing of course is that you become much more appealing to your target audience and less to anyone else.
By narrowing your focus you intensify it.
May the force be with you.