Websites: Why Simpler is Better

‘Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”
-John Maeda

This quote should be in the back of every web designer’s mind. In a lot of ways we are taught that complexity is synonymous with value. But that doesn’t have to be true. Simplicity in design and marketing is making it’s comeback, as more and more consumers appreciate companies who offer a no-nonsense approach to their products and services.

We see the rise of this “minimalist” trend in many different market niches. It’s become a trend in home living, technology, art, lifestyle and most recently, web design. Simple, bold websites are in higher demand, in part because they make a statement but also because they make for a better user experience. Even big brands opt for simpler websites to keep their visitors engaged.

Take for example YouTube, the second-most popular website in the world (behind and in front, surprisingly, of Facebook). Though YouTube hosts millions of user-uploaded videos, their site is surprisingly simple in design. It has one sidebar navigation, one search bar, and a gallery of suggested videos on the homepage. There’s plenty of white space, too. But their navigation and elements are easy to understand, and everything on the YouTube page has a purpose.

When a website user can see and easily follow a website’s design by the creator’s intent, they feel more satisfied with their visit. This leads to lower bounce rates and increased repeat visits. Remember, subtract the obvious and add what’s meaningful.

A simple site is also a more powerful marketing tool. Consumers are more likely to purchase or provide lead information when they’re not bombarded by unnecessary information and site elements that don’t add value. Marketers know that a strong campaign speaks for itself, without flashy or fake distractors from the marketing material itself.

What is the purpose of your website?

This is the first thing you need to ask yourself. Is your website trying to sell a product, collect leads, educate your consumer, or build a network? You must tailor your site’s design depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Everything you put on your website should work towards that purpose.

An ecommerce website should make it easy for your customers to compare products and offer a simple check-out method. A search bar is essential. Your site’s main page can display your best-selling products, or have an introduction to your company. Call-to-action buttons work well for ecommerce, especially if you are only selling one product or a subscription package. Depending on what type of product you’re trying to sell, you may also want to offer consumers the option to sign up for email updates.

If your company is service-based, your website may be a channel for lead-generation. If so, you should provide plenty of information about your services, and a way for visitors to contact you or submit an inquiry form. You can also generate leads by offering exclusive content or a free trial in exchange for an email. You can then follow-up about your paid services in a newsletter or confirmation email.

Some sites are meant to simply educate or entertain their audience. Blogs are a great medium for these informational websites. Your homepage could include a list of popular or latest articles. It should be obvious to the visitor where they can find the most useful content. Provide suggestions for similar content to keep them on your site longer.

Easy to navigate

Easy navigation is the biggest advantage to simple sites. Visitors are less likely to get lost in your site and lose the content they’re trying to find. Provide them with a clean funnel of options so they don’t leave, and can easily backtrack to other pages of your site. Difficulty with navigation is a top complaint from users of complex websites. You don’t want anyone to feel lost or frustrated while trying to learn or shop on your site.

Websites should still be interactive, but the system should be clean and efficient. If you look at YouTube layout, the navigation is simplified, regardless of the fact that it has over 80 million videos to browse. Make use of search bars and navigational elements within page design. Using buttons that lead to subpages is much cleaner than including a long list of dropdown choices in your main navigation. You want the main menu to be consistent and simplified, and to lead visitors to other areas of the site once they’ve clicked on a page.

Websites have simplified the customer experience for multiple industries. Mobile banking eliminates the need to call a teller. Many online subscription services allow people to purchase a variety of consumables – from beauty products to groceries – on a month-to-month  basis rather than visiting a store. These models make transaction easy, and promotes customer loyalty. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Simple is faster

Site speed not only enhances the user’s experience, it’s a ranking factor for many search engines. Technical aspects of SEO focus on site speed because it can reduce bounce rates and help sites rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs). A simple site will often load faster than one with a lot of complex code and content to display.

Simple sites have fewer JavaScript files, and require fewer HTTP requests. If you add a lot of stylistic design elements, site will require more files. Truthfully, most sites can do without many of their stylistic elements and perform the same functions. Users prefer sites that have better functionality, even if the pages aren’t as colorful or interactive. Prioritizing function over form can help you decide which elements to strip from your site’s design.

You can increase site speed without eliminating elements from the pages. Reducing image size and content helps the site load faster. If you have a thousand words on your home page alone, consider editing down and removing the superficial stylistic elements that don’t aid in the customer experience.

On mobile, users are far more likely to return to the search engine and choose a different site if yours doesn’t load quickly. The optimal load speed for a mobile site is ten seconds or less. If your site doesn’t load quickly, or if transitions from page to page are slow, you may deter mobile customers from your site. A simple mobile version of your site will eliminate these problems.

Simple allows for both reading and scanning

Some people tend to read everything, while others scan quickly to see if they found what they want on a page. Short and simple web design appeals to both types. You want your website to be easy to read, but give enough detail that visitors don’t have to leave the page to find out more.

The length of your copy depends on the purpose it’s serving for your site. Most of your site’s main pages should be short and to the point. But articles, resource pages and even some blog posts should contain long-form copy. Pages that contain 1500 to 2000 words rank well in the search engines, but are hard to read on mobile devices. You should have a mix of short and long-form content to give your audience options.

If you do include long-form content in your strategy, use bullet points, headers and bold text so readers can easily scan the content for its highlights. List posts are especially useful, because they allow readers to skim the content quickly and get the details on the information they find most important. Bullet points and headers can also be used to highlight specific sections or important pieces of information in your copy.

Easier to design, build, and troubleshoot

You will spend less time on designing your site if it is made simple. Many complex elements are added only for the benefit or preferences of the designer. But, this can cause problems if the backend of your site is too complex to make adjustments in the code.  If it doesn’t enhance the user experience, don’t bother with the complex design elements.

If someone else is building your site, you won’t be waiting as long to have it up and running if you chose a simple design. Complex or custom-built sites can take two to six months to finish. In some cases, these custom sites don’t add any benefit to the user. Unless your site requires extra protection of user data, a complex system is often unnecessary.

Simple sites are also easier to modify If there’s a problem with your site, you won’t have to test as many elements to figure out the issue. If your site design is simple, the web developer will be able to make changes to it more easily.

Ways to Simplify Your Website

If you have a complex site you’d like to recreate, or are creating a new site from scratch, there are several ways you can make it simpler. Remember, just because a site is simple, doesn’t mean it loses quality or functionality. Oftentimes you add to the quality and functionality when you eliminate unnecessary components in exchange for clean and easy-to-use designs.

Easy Navigation
You should only use one main navigation bar, and  replace dropdown menus with on-page navigation. Buttons and CTAs (calls-to-action) work well for on-page navigation. Keep your navigational patterns the same, so users know how to find pages they’ve previously viewed as well as new information.

Increase Speed
First you want to remove unnecessary plugins and files. If you can, enable compression of your files to make them easier to load. You can also increase speed by reducing image size, removing extraneous visual elements, and editing unnecessary code in your CSS.

Make it Easily Scannable
The information you put on any page should include a few headings that organize the content into different subsections. Use lists and bullet points, or group text into multiple segments with visual elements. You can also use subheaders, italics and and bold text to highlight most important pieces of information.

Make the backend as simple as the front end. Clean up your code once you’ve edited it to make sure there is no redundancy. Not only will this help you make changes and fix bugs later on, it can increase site speed.

Now that you’ve developed a great user experience on your website, you can focus on attracting new consumers to your products and offers.  Send us a message with any questions, or check out our Resource Center for more info.


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