Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Simplicity trumps complexity

Some inspirational articles and stories about how and why you should strive for simplicity with your website, resisting the urge to add more content and more links. Learn how to steer your managers and committees rather than trying to please everyone all the time.

An article by higher education marketing consultant Mark Klawitter - "Your .edu site is too complicated" - was well circulated earlier in the year. He's writing for the US HE web community, but his observations and advice hold good for the UK too.

How many of Mark's .edu complications are familiar to you?
  • Overuse of news headlines and event listings on homepage 
  • Direct links to external and internal resources without staging or explanation (social media, portals, etc..) 
  • Huge scrolling pages with nested navigation 
  • Large left-right scrolling feature blocks 
  • Hover menus, fly-outs, and mega menus 
  • Student, faculty, staff profiles lack keywords or descriptions
  •  Missing high-value trigger words such as “apply, give, visit, contact” 
  • Vaguely branded resources and clever marketing-language naming instead of simple action-oriented labelling
Your .edu Website is Too Complicated - article by Mark Klawitter

And a couple of stories which illustrate this point. One from the business owner's perspective, one from the customer.

In the first, UX consultant Gareth Dunlop tells the story of three CEOs meeting on the golf course and discussing website redesigns. The key message being - How do you measure the effectiveness of your website? Will a makeover make it more effective?

What’s the biggest compliment you can pay a website? - blog post by Gareth Dunlop for siliconrepublic.com

In the second, customer experience consultant Sheridan Orr tells the story of trying to buy her son a new computer in a hurry, when she didn't really know what she needed. The message here being - prioritise the content and structure according to customer requirements rather than product info.

The Elegance of Simplicity: Creating Experiences the Drive Purchase - article by Sheridan Orr for socialmediatoday.com

Apple's Steve Jobs seems to be well quoted by everyone extolling the virtues of simplicity.

Personally I prefer what Woody Guthrie had to say:
"Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple."
Which, I think, explains why so few really get it right and puts Jobs' work really into context.

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