Keep It Simple Stupid: Creating a Website
Posted in Web Development on February 2015Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Most people have heard the acronym K.I.S.S., keep it simple stupid, and creating a website should conform to that simple idea. Most of us have also visited countless sites that are a sensory overload of images, dynamisms, and content. If that’s the case, then marketing your website’s services and/or product will potentially be rendered useless. Essentially, if you have a website, like it or not, you’re marketing something. One of the most important concepts to remember when creating a website is that users have short attention spans—not to mention the internet might already be overwhelmed with similar advertising, so users may quickly leave your website. Users often leave webpages within 10-20 seconds, but pages with a clear value can hold a user’s attention much longer. Meaning most people visiting your site leaves without fully navigating it entirely. Nevertheless, the innate thinking of users tend to conform to the following: Is this a trustworthy website? Is this a professional company? Does this site make me feel welcomed?
First impressions are crucial when showcasing your website. Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University found that impressions were made in the first 50 milliseconds of viewing a webpage. Much like an interview with a potential employer or a first date, first impressions are essential. So, is it wise to flood your users with dynamisms, images, and content? Probably not. Keep it simple. If the users’ first experience is unfavorable, they’re moving on.
Well thought out animations and parallax scrolling can be beautifully incorporated into websites, giving users an “awe moment.” In turn, if improperly used it can make the experience unenjoyably. Learning new techniques and languages can make anyone want to include dynamisms on a website, but it should be kept to a minimum. You don’t want your users to lose focus of what you’re trying to convey. I like to use the words “sensory overload” when describing such websites, but that’s how I view these types of sites—a burden on the brain and eyes.
I can write for days about correctly designing a website, but those will be my opinions. The reality is, my goals of a particular website (e.g. how to sell a product, image placement, etc.) might be different than yours. Less is more powerful. Over designing can make the website lose focus on the main objective—marketing.
Snowflakes! If you work as a web developer at a company with designers and non-technicals making web decisions, then you probably already know where I’m about to go. On Monday you are given a .psd mockup for a new webpage, which, of course, was wanted two days ago. As you drudge through the mockup and make everything pixel perfect, it’s time for a review of the site before going live. As designers make one pixel changes to random widths and padding, by Friday your implemented webpage looks nothing like the original design that was given to you on Monday. Unprofessional words and phrases start to consume your thoughts as you rip apart the neatly nested HTML code in order to mirror the new design. It happens to all of us. The real problem is when the “standard” structure and styles throughout the domain aren’t consistent. When navigating through pages and you find that headers and colors are different on each page, that’s a problem. These issues can easily arise when a company has multiple designers—each adding their own style and ideas. If no one is listening to your cries for consistency, hopefully you have a User Experience department to keep these issues to a minimum.
Snowflakes tend to plague most web developers, and might be impossible to combat. Having standard styles of color, buttons, hovers, and structures are vital. Not having standard styles can be detrimental to your website—making it seem unprofessional, thus losing users. I’ve argued with designers and UX to keep styles and structures consistent, most of the time winning the argument. However, there have been times when, sadly, design trumped content—never a wise decision.
This might be a difficult concept for some to understand, but it’s not about you—it’s about the user. That might seem odd, but it’s true. Although it might be your content, you need to focus on the end-goal—influencing users. Whether that’s influencing them to purchase something or retainment, you’re trying to pursued them. Even though the purpose of a website is to provide information about your product and/or services, not everyone is ready to buy when they first visit your site. Remember, write as if you’re speaking directly to your audience. Use words like “you” and “we.” Make your self sound human. Avoid “we are the best”, but use “this is how we can help you.” Your main goal is to be easily understood. Furthermore, within the entanglement of making users feel welcomed while keeping your site professional, you need to keep your content to a minimum. The short attention spans and the potential of other businesses, solidifies this idea. Content simplicity will also assist with your SEO.
Working at a technology company I run into content issues daily. Either the content writer is disconnected with the users or management egos erupt and content is written improperly. If not corrected, you are at risk of losing potential users and retainment of loyal users. I’ve spoken to several people, who work at different companies (i.e. educational institutions, healthcare, and technology) having similar issues with poorly written content. If you’re creating your own website, then great! You have the ability to manage your own content—tailoring it accordingly. However, if you work at a company that invokes help from others, then decisions and opinions can become troublesome when writing content.
A great example I show people, when faced with atrocious writing, is the United Kingdom’s government website. This isn’t a website for a city or state, but an entire country. It is an amazing achievement to amass that much content into a simple website. Like I mentioned earlier, I often deal with obstacles to ensure content is correct, but, often, it’s a struggle to get several people to agree. So, understanding the struggles to ensure a website is properly created, I’m impressed to see a site that could have easily encompassed a plethora of information able to do it without confusing users. It’s not about being a hardcore minimalist, but easily connecting with users. Not only is the design simplistic, but wordy sentences are omitted.
It’s impossible to account for every instance of web development. Not everyone’s goals in creating a website are the same. It’s not about being a obstinate minimalist, but by conveying your message, via a website, cleanly and simplicity, you can have web standards to follow. Not only is it easier on the web developer, but also on new employees who have to learn the ropes. So why keep it simple? Make it easy for the user to understand, which will produce profit and retention. It’s not about you—it’s about the user.