For any business, building the corporate website can be an interesting project because it includes so many different types of people. There is the web designer tasked with the creative aspects of the site and the developer who codes everything. On the business side, the marketing team is usually the one making sure that the brand is well represented. Then there are the other folks who are involved because they have a say in how things look.
Put all of these people and their ideas together into one project, and it is easy to see how a website can get really complex really quickly. But when no one feels that there is anything they can leave out, complexity starts to kill your website.
Most people understand and even agree with the concept behind “less is more,” but they often don’t adhere to it. It takes some real convincing that certain elements need to be left out of the website in order to simplify things. If you find yourself looking for rationale to support this, here are a few reasons why you need to keep things on your site simple.
In 2012, Google research found that “more complex websites are perceived as being less beautiful than less complex websites.” Slides of websites were shown to undergraduate students. Each website was given a rating of low, medium, or high visual complexity and then scored for their perceived aesthetics. While most would judge a site within 50ms, ratings given within 17ms were consistent with those given in the 50ms time frame. So basically, people think complex websites are ugly, and they make that judgement rather quickly.
Another study conducted by Harvard, the University of Maryland, and the University of Colorado came to the same conclusion. While they found that various demographics considered different things to be aesthetically pleasing or displeasing, the one constant among all groups was that visually complex websites were considered less appealing.
You lose trust
Kristina Karvoven’s research presented at the 2000 ACM Conference on Universal Usability showed user comments such as “If a website strikes me as beautiful, I will gladly give away my credit card number”; and “If it looks pleasant, I just trust it.” This research has also been duplicated by others, and the findings are always the same. Users just trust things that look nicer. We have already established that a less complex website is more visually appealing, so logic dictates that a less complex website also builds more trust in your visitors. This may be because the simpler your website, the less your visitor has to work. Simple websites are easier for the brain and eyes to process: the less information the eyes pick up on, the less information they have to send to the brain. By making things simpler and easier, the visitor feels more comfortable. The reduced stimulus also allows them to keep their guard down. They feel safe and trusting instead of anxious and alert.
Simple keeps people focused
Each page on a business website should have a goal in mind. That goal may be to capture a lead, make a sale, or provide content that establishes the business as an industry expert. Complexity distracts visitors from that goal. If, for example, the goal is to get your visitor to fill out a form, then everything on that page should funnel them towards that form. Links to other content, videos, or products distract users from that form. Even if they buy another product but don’t fill out that form, your page has technically failed to accomplish its goal. Sure, you might have a sale, but you lost that lead that could have resulted in more sales.
Complex is hard to navigate
In the world of search engine optimization, long tail keywords are important because they help narrow down what the person is looking for. The goal is to make it easy for the visitor to find exactly what they need. If your website is overly complicated when it comes to navigation, then it is counterintuitive to this practice.
Research that looked into navigation and complexity shows that “complex menu structures… should be avoided.” Visitors come to a site for a specific reason. They don’t often browse as they would in a brick-and-mortar store. So, if they can’t immediately find what they are looking for because the site offers too much, then they are going to look elsewhere. They are going to go somewhere that makes it easy to find what they want.
The number one website is as simple as it gets
If simple is what you are looking for to make your case, then maybe all you need to do is bring up the fact that the most popular website is also one of the simplest. Take a look at Google’s homepage, and try to think of a website that is any simpler than that. There is one function – the search bar – and a button. A simple logo brands the site, and a basic menu sits at the top of the page. That is all their site needs.
When it comes to your website, keeping things simple is your best bet for usability, building trust, and getting people where you want them to be. But simple isn’t always easy. In order to keep things from getting too complex, proper planning and professional input can really help. You and your team need to decide what the purpose is of each page on your site. Only content and elements that support the purpose or goal of that page should be included. Anything else is extraneous and only adds to complicating your website.
It is not easy to make a website simple. It takes time and effort, and you must be willing to admit that not everything needs to be front and center. Not everything is as important as you think it is. When you can come to terms with that, you are well on your way to making things a lot simpler and a lot better for your visitors.