One of the first things we try to figure out with a web design client – before they even get a proposal – is to narrow down the three (only three) things they want to accomplish with their new web site. A lot of the time, they have a laundry list of things that they expect this new site to do. That’s the number one reason sites get cluttered. Saying too much, having too many neat little widgets, putting too much on the screen at once causes the effectiveness of a site – not to mention a brand – to suffer. A cluttered, confusing website reflects a cluttered, confusing organization.
They also lose business. Case in point: According to eye-tracking data (studies that measure eye movement across the screen when a web page is loaded), visitors that go to overloaded web pages, or are unable to find the information or link that they’re looking for, will leave within 3 seconds. Uncluttered page visits average out at about 13 seconds.
So you know your site needs help. Where do you start?
1. Focus on your site’s purpose. Most of the time, the goals are simple – introduce the company, highlight the offering, get the phone to ring. However, some companies may only want to post web sites to establish credibility. Others may need their site for as a recruiting tool. Find out what your goals are, and keep them at three or less. This is a core component of your online strategy, so stick to it.
2. Check your site analytics. Remove old or duplicate content. Use 301 redirects for search engines or those that have bookmarked the old link (may be confusing, but we can take care of that). Also take a look at how many of your visitors are using mobile devices – the global percentages are getting too large to ignore. More and more companies have mobile counterparts to their web sites, and it should definitely be something to consider.
3. Reduce clicks. As a rule, you want all of the content in your site accessible within three clicks of your home page. If it’s not, you’re probably trying to say too much, or have a design that’s too graphic-heavy. Look at your sitemap and make sure that it’s streamlined, and that your navigation is clear, intuitive, and doesn’t have repeated pages.
4. Give social media its place. Social media is, in most cases, an essential addition to the online marketing plan. Most social media sites have a way for non-technical users to create a widget on their own. Unfortunately, these widgets start out as gigantic, and usually take up more space than necessary on your pages. It makes perfect sense for the social site – they’re simply trying to promote themselves. So, it’s your responsibility to keep the amount of real estate used for social in check. Small widgets – or even simply icons in your header/footer – are enough.
5. Know your screen limits. Nowadays, a website can comfortably fit in a space 1,000 pixels wide without dealing with the dreaded horizontal scroll. The average monitor size has increased tremendously over the years, so make sure you’re taking advantage of the horizontal space you’re provided. Super-skinny sites cause unnecessary vertical scroll. And let’s face it, they look wimpy.
Remember, your site is a marketing tool, not a shrine to your organization. It must have specific goals to accomplish. If you neglect to work by this principle, you’ve just wasted a lot of time and money. A good rule of thumb is to keep it simple, and give your content room to breathe. It’ll be worth it.