Redesigning Your Website With Simplicity

Design trends change frequently and sometimes faster than you can blink. But there are also some consistencies in web design that remain true no matter the trends or flavor of the week design elements. Simplicity always triumphs not only with the creator but also with your website readers. Simplicity points towards what exactly you wan your visitor to do. No matter the business, here are some things to keep in mind during the design process.

Avoid Overwhelming Your Visitors

For websites with a specific offering, less is actually quite a bit more. If you navigate to a website and find that you have to deal with things like pop-up advertisements, auto-playing music or videos (exception: a well-designed landing page video to explain your product), eye-catching annoyances, or anything else that would keep you from immediately identifying the product and the call-to-action, the site needs less.

Too much is bad for a few reasons:

  • It distracts from the site’s main focus.
  • Unnecessary elements can slow down a site’s load time dramatically.
  • You can alienate customers whose attention and time is valuable. They do not want to struggle to figure out where to focus their attention while on your site.

The solution is to simplify. Don’t fear white space. Clean out unnecessary elements that distract users from your site’s main focus. Dump lots of time into A/B testing various vital elements of your site, you can never have enough of this data. Arguably the single greatest example of having a single page focus:
googlehomepage (600x324)

With Shutterstock’s recent website redesign, the focus shifted from blasting visitors with as much information as possible and instead offering a simple and clear search bar, as there was realization visitors were looking to quickly start browsing stock photos and stock footage, not learn about everything Shutterstock offered, therefore that information was moved below the fold.
shutterstockhomepage (600x291)

Make Sure You Differentiate Yourself from Your Competitors

If your website comes off as being more-or-less just like your dozen competitors, you’re not making the right impression. Over-using hyper-clichéd stock images is one very common way to make an overly-generic site. One thing that has quickly started trending on landing pages is creating a video that gives a unique story about your business.

A great example of this is Path, a relatively new social media platform that was struggling to differentiate itself from Facebook. Pitched as a cleaner and “close friends only” app, people were not immediately aware of how things were different.

They recently added a very personal video description to their home page that immediately created not only rapport but also a clear message about how they were a unique offering.
path homepage video (600x324)

Guide Your Site’s Visitors Where You Want Them

If you have too much, too little, or just plain baffling navigation elements on your site, you can leave surfers frustrated and wondering how to get what they want out of your website. Furthermore, if your surfers can’t look at the page and immediately tell which part is the product demonstration, which part is the call to action, and so forth, they’re not going to take the time to sort it all out before they move on.

Dropbox, for those not familiar with cloud computing, might seem confusing and unnecessary. Both Apple and Microsoft have been struggling to get their users to adapt to “the cloud.” But For Dropbox, it has been a different story. For those landing at the homepage, there are virtually two options: Login or watch a video about what Dropbox is and what it offers everyone. There is no confusing navigation, no overwhelming information, just a giant play button that quickly draws attention.
dropbox home page (600x462)

A/B test this type of design to figure out how each element’s placement affects traffic flow. You cannot have enough of this type of user data as it offers valuable insight into your visitor’s viewing habits.

Keep your websites simple, unique, and organized, and you’ll find that your conversions improve with every small step you take. If everything else seems to be in place and you’re still not getting the conversions you expect, start with these basics before you redesign everything. It may be that the solution is much simpler (and less costly) than you think.

Rob Toledo loves all things design, no longer supports IE7, loves CSS3 and can always be reached on Twitter

Rob Toledo – who has written posts on Artatm – Creative Art Magazine.

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