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The Importance of Stupidly Simple Web Sites

When it comes to Web site design, there is one important rule to remember: Keep it simple, stupid.

While simple may seem unsophisticated, uninteresting or frill-free, it is also an approach that drives a Web site’s accessibility, usability and effectiveness.

Since starting my consulting business, it has been amazing and troubling to see many Web sites feature too much information, poor navigation and ineffective messaging that they make it difficult, if not impossible to be used.

Rather than pulling in people to read more content, get more information, register or make a transaction, these Web sites drive people away because they they seem too complicated, intimidating or not user-friendly. In other words, they don’t make things simple for people to use.

So why does simplicity matter?

The harsh truth is Web users are lazy and time-strapped. As a result, they want Web sites to be delivered on a silver platter. They don’t want to think about what they should do; it has to be blatantly obvious and intuitive. And it needs to be obvious with seconds, otherwise people will quickly click to the next Web site or search engine.

Many companies fail the “keep it simple, stupid” approach because they buy into the idea that by showing or telling as much as possible, it will provide visitors with a variety of options to make a decision.

Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work.

It’s like going to a Denny’s restaurant with a menu featuring dozens of choices. It can make ordering an agonizing process. An easier option is going to a diner that only has a handful of items on the menu. It’s easy and quick for people to order because less (fewer choices) can be more (quicker choices).

So how can a Web site be simple yet effective? There are three key considerations:

1. The overall design, which takes into account the use of colours and whitespace, graphics and icons, etc.
2. The navigation, which needs to be intuitive, dead simple and obvious. People shouldn’t have to think about what to click on next; instead it has to be straightforward and easy.
3. Messaging, which means having text that effectively articulates what a company does and its benefits, as well as nomenclature that is easy to understand and intuitive.

Coming up with a good-looking, well designed and easy to use Web site can be a major challenge, which explains why so many Web sites are, at best, mediocre. In many cases, it comes down to money because effective Web site isn’t a cheap proposition.

But I believe that it’s an attractive investment that involves short-term pain but long-term gain.

About Mark Evans

I'm the principle with ME Consulting, which provides strategic and marketing services to startups and entrepreneurs. This includes strategic and tactics plans, core messaging, brand positioning and content planning and creation.
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  • http://www.newpathconsulting.com Alex Sirota

    Mark,

    I agree with you 100%. One of the design approaches I take with clients is to built the structure and content WITHOUT a look and feel and apply the skin later. Modern content management systems make changing the “skin” of a website as easy as putting on a new pair of socks. This forces people to focus on the text and navigation which is so much more critical than green vs blue from the outset.

    Now many are USED to the approach where the design is set out in Photoshop or Illustrator to “sell” the idea of the designer/website creator. This is a mistake of the worst proportions. It sets in stone something that should easily be changed as the content evolves. It usually restricts the creative process unnecessarily.

    Later when we do apply colours and look and feel I am for spot colours and ability for people to find important calls to action. The website for NewPath Technologies is an extreme example of just one colour element — the banner. I notice your site is similar in design. Good job!

  • http://davidbitter.com davidbitter

    Good designers know how to keep it simple. But most people aren’t designers and most designers aren’t that good.

    This is why most projects end up with way too much on the menu.

    Thanks for the reminder Mark!

  • Jon

    Simple is good. BTW I had to block the track.mybloglog.com domain so I could even load your page. Since the request is in the header it fails to render the page while it’s waiting. Thinking of keeping things simple, your tracking code should be in the footer to make sure it doesn’t impact your page loads.

  • Michael

    Part of that simplicity is not using light grey text on a light grey background….

    http://contrastrebellion.com/

  • http://www.thenextmarketingrevolution.com Free Social Media planning

    Good designers know how to keep it simple. But most people aren’t designers and most designers aren’t that good.