A Simple Guide to Decluttering Your Website
:: By Larry Alton, @LarryAlton3 ::
We’ve entered an age of Web design where principles of minimalism rule. However, many websites that were developed prior to this shift are still utilizing outdated layouts that are confusing and cluttered.
In order to enter 2016 and reach customers where they are, it’s important to simplify.
Ready, Set, Simplify
A website is your virtual storefront. It’s the portal through which customers view your business and make assessments about your brand. If it’s busy, cluttered, and disorganized, this will reflect poorly on your business. However, if your website is clean and fast, customers will develop positive associations with your brand. Keeping this in mind, here are a few different ways in which you can declutter your website.
1. Separate the Trash from the Treasure
In order to successfully purge your website of unnecessary elements, look at it like a house. Confront each link, page, image, text box and element like an item in a junk closet. When you take this trash vs. treasure mentality, you’ll find it easier to determine whether or not something is worth keeping.
The only things that should be kept are elements that serve a distinct purpose. If you can’t quickly define the purpose of something, then it probably doesn’t belong. Remember, you can always go back and make changes later. For now, err on the side of eliminating superfluous design elements.
2. Use More Negative Space
“The use of negative space plays a huge role in usability,” says designer Rob Bowen. “Users not only need to be able to comfortably read all of the content on the site, but they also need to be able to easily find what they are looking for. Clutter keeps that from being an easy task.”
Negative space is your friend. If you look at some of the top websites on the Internet right now, they all prioritize simplicity in the form of white space. This negative space is so valuable because it draws the user’s attention toward the other elements that truly matter. It also puts the user’s mind at ease and actually increases the average amount of time they spend on the site.
3. Reference the Pareto Principle
Are you familiar with the Pareto Principle – also known as the 80-20 Rule? This principle says that about 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. In other words, the majority of your website’s value is found in just a fraction of the site’s design elements. If you can successfully identify which 20 percent produces 80 percent of the value, you’ll be able to declutter without compromising.
There are a variety of ways you can identify your 20 percent – but it will take some time and effort on your part. Options include A/B testing, heat map or scroll map tracking, customer interviews, or simple Q&A’s. Play around with different combinations and study the analytics to understand the results.
4. Cut Down on the Number of Pages
Do you really need 10, 15 or 20-plus pages on your website? Could you get away with having just six or seven? Not only do lots of pages slow down your website and require more attention, but they also stress out users.
When a website features lots of pages, this also means there’s a big menu with dozens of different tabs. When a customer sees this, they’re likely to get overwhelmed and bounce. If they do stick around, they may find it difficult to locate what they’re looking for. Simplify and combine for better results.
Simple is the Word
Modern Web design is all about saying more with less. This means carefully considering each element you include and aiming for simplification and minimalism above all else. Once you strip your cluttered site down and focus on these principles, you’re bound to enjoy lower bounce rates, longer average time on site and higher conversions.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.