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.