Simplicity rules! It makes a websites look sleek, reduce nagivation confusion and it helps achieving desired goals and results (I.e., more signups, subscribers and sales). But too often it seems elusive to simplify your website design. No matter how hard you try, you can’t make your work look like Apple’s. So what does a website designer really needs to do? Fret not, for there are 5 starting points to simplify your website design.
A simple website design shouldn’t be a daunting all-or-nothing ordeal – you can simplify your design by taking small steps. Simple tasks like putting the focus only on the essential elements of your website, getting rid of the unnecessary, reducing the number of pages your site has, getting more content above the fold, and limiting the number of colors you use. You can always fine-tune and improve your simple design, but the important thing here is to get started.
Ready to start simplifying your website design? Awesome. Without further ado, here are 5 starting points to simplify your website design.
1. Focus Only On Essential Elements
This first step probably seems forehead-slapping obvious: of course I should put the focus on the essential elements in my site, what am I, an idiot? But a surprising number of websites fail to achieve this and the result is a big mess of important and unimportant elements spewed onto a page. I’m as guilty of doing this in the past as anybody. It’s hard to be objective and prioritize what’s important or not, because everything seems essential. If you want your website design to be simpler, identify what needs to be focus, just like with any good visual design or piece of art. And that means putting the focus only on the essential elements.
Use the 80-20 rule
What 20% of what’s on a page gives 80% of the value and content that people go there for? It could be the copy, some social proof (review snippets, testimonials, media badges), and a signup form or call-to-action button, for example. That’s the 20% right there. On your website, as well as on each individual page, focus on displaying only the 20% of site elements that are delivering 80% of that usefulness.
This isn’t a technical step but a principle that you can use as your guide to simplify your website design constantly. The 80-20 rule will help simplify your website design by pushing you to trim your site elements down to the essentials. What’s really cool is that the 80-20 rule can also help increase your desired results that you hope to achieve on your website. For example, an increased conversion rate in visitors subscribing, signing up, or buying. How? You’re making it so there are less distractions and things for visitors to click on to leave the page.
As we all know, we’re always looking for an excuse not to purchase something at the final step, and any reason to navigate away is a good one. Reduce those reasons and click-away options with the 80-20 rule.
Chris Pearson, creator of the popular Thesis WordPress theme framework, says this is exactly what helped increase sales on his website.
2. Get Rid of All Unnecessary Elements
We’re continuing with the 80-20 rule here.
Now that you’ve identified the 20% of website elements that will get you 80% of your desired results, it’s time to get rid of all unnecessary elements. In other words, the 80% of website elements that will get you only 20% of results. It could be social media sharing widgets, sidebar elements, blog post meta details (date, time, author, number of comments, etc), or links in the footer (this is especially a huge culprit a lot of the times, particularly when the visitor is looking for the aforementioned excuse to navigate away from the page).
3. Reduce the Number of Pages
A large part of simplifying your website design is to simply have fewer places to explore and click around. You can do that by trimming the page count. Either get rid of unnecessary pages that deep down inside you know aren’t needed, or at the very least, fuse multiple pages into one. I mean, you don’t really need to separate "about the site" and "about me" pages.
Firstly, get in the mindset of the visitor – if you were to arrive on your website, what are the key things would you want to do? For instance find out what your stuff is about? Or contact you? Next, make sure that your pages facilitate what is necessary and nothing more. Don’t keep unnecessary pages on your website because you think you need to, or because other websites have them. When you reduce the number of pages on your website, not only it is easier for your visitors to focus on your content because there’s less places to click around, but your navigation menu is simpler too.
We’ve all been on websites with too many nav menu items. We don’t know where to start navigating because we get overwhelmed by the choices. And when we get overwhelmed by being presented with too many choices, we go with choosing nothing. By having as few nav menu items as possible, you make your website not only simpler but more inviting and friendlier to visitors.
4. Get More Content Above the Fold
Studies have shown that a majority of people spend most of their time above the fold on web pages (what shows up on the screen without scrolling down). So if you want to increase the effectiveness of your website, have the main content and call-to-action elements above the fold. You can do something as simple as shortening the header height if you have a logo and a navigation menu at the top of your website.
This involves nothing more than changing the header’s "height" value in your stylesheet (typically
stylesheet.css). Also, see if a sign-up form or button is below the fold. Move that element higher up in the page so it’s the first thing a visitor sees. After all, that is your desired call-to-action of the visitor, so decrease the work needed to get to it (ie. scrolling).
5. Limit Your Color Scheme
It’s easy to get carried away with colors. Why settle on 2 or 3 colors when you can have 12 or 13? But in order to simplify your website design visually, you need to limit your color scheme. When in doubt, use fewer colors. It’ll vary based on your design of course, but try sticking with no more than 2 or 3 colors to start off. If you need more subtlety and texture to your visual design, use shades of the same color – light blue for the background and darker blue for header and menu items.
I’m as guilty as anyone with getting wild with colors in the past. I’ll add this color, then another, and another – and before I know it, it looks like a rainbow diarrhea all over my website. You can have your website constructively simplified, but if the colors distract the eyes when you look at it rather than complimenting the content, then all that effort was for naught. So use fewer colors with your website design instead.
Having trouble choosing a color to start with? Before & After magazine has a useful free e-book on how to find the perfect color here. Need help with picking a color scheme? Try out this handy color scheme generator.
Last, but not least
Hopefully you’re now armed and ready to start simplifying your website design. You’ll be more proud showing off your website because it’ll look gosh-darned sexy and lastly, your visitors will have a much more enjoyable experience browsing in your website.
To recap, here are the 5 starting points to simplify your website design:
- Put the focus only on the essential elements
- Get rid of all unnecessary elements
- Reduce the number of pages
- Get more content above the fold
- Limit your color palette
- 11 common web design mistakes. Things like avoiding complicated forms, unorganized content, bad readability, and a not-easily-located search bar – all will further help you to simplify your website design and make it a joy for visitors and a higher conversion rate for you.
- Clean, simple and minimalist website designs. All of those website examples just further prove that a simple design not only looks sweet and impresses members of the opposite sex, but it greatly helps with the user experience
Over to you: what are your favorite website design simplifying tips? Have you seen an increase in your desired results from simplifying your design?
Editor’s note: This post is written by Oleg Mokhov for Hongkiat.com. Oleg Mokhov is the world’s most mobile electronic musician, a web and visual design enthusiast, and co-founder of the premium royalty free music store Soundtrackster.