Junked Up Web Pages or Not?

March 31, 2014

Are web sites becoming more succinct and less busy? Is web design trending away from cramming everything possible onto the home page? I can only hope that this nod towards simplicity I’ve noticed is indeed a trend and not just a coincidence.

When I built my first web site over a decade ago, things were simpler. At least the sites were simpler. We had a few pages, some graphics and some image maps. I convinced my boss we needed a web site by telling him it was like a 24-hour brochure.

Web sites are still 24-hour brochures, but as web technology advanced, many of these advancements landed on company home pages, oftentimes creating an incomprehensible mess. Countless businesses insisted (and continue to insist) upon using all the latest developments. I contend this does their business a disservice by distracting and frustrating potential customers. In fact, I wrote one of my very first blog posts on this a few years ago – See Junked Up Web Pages – Stop Screaming at Us.

Admittedly, some businesses offer myriad products and services, and a web site can and should showcase that. Some organizations are so complex and nuanced, their sites become very deep. Sometimes it is necessary; sometimes it is not. For the past 4 or 5 years, sites have become longer, broader and more confusing. How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t find their contact information.”? Terrible, especially from a marketing perspective.

Crazy, busy web sites will always exist, but I have noticed more basic sites in the last year or so. Is this because so many people are building their own? Perhaps, but then again maybe the new web technology has become so mainstream that everyone no longer feels the need to use it ALL.

I hope so.

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Junked Up Web Pages: Stop Screaming at Us, All I Want is a Cup of Coffee

August 3, 2010

Look here…and here…and here… and……..

I’ve built three web sites for companies myself, and I’ve written and directed the design of two web sites for other companies. So what is the deal with junked up splash pages everywhere else?

A web site is your 24-hour brochure. It is available for anyone to peruse at any time. It illustrates your company personality. You should be putting on your very best face.

My basic design principles have worked well through the years:

1) The most important element should “pop” out at the viewer. That can be either words or graphics.

2) Too many elements confuse the viewer. The eye won’t be able to settle on just one or two items.

3) Direct the viewer. The one (or two or three) main elements should lead the viewer to their next step.

When you design any type of collateral you need to keep your audience in mind. This used to be easier. You would target your publications and advertisements to one or two audiences. You had different ads in the media aimed at very different audiences. Now, on the internet, companies are putting that basic philosophy aside and attempting to catch the attention of EVERYONE with a single web page. As a result, there are messages for all audiences jumbled up together. This is ineffective in getting your message out. It also frustrates users who come to web sites for a particular piece of information but are bombarded by all kinds of messages and have to be very persistent in finding and retrieving the information for which they are looking.

The new web design philosophy seems to be “cram as much information as you can on your home page with the hope that you will catch the attention of everyone”. This makes me crazy.

I also don’t understand it. The culture today is that internet users looking for information expect immediate gratification; that is, they expect the information for which they are looking to be easily found once arriving on a web site. Instead, what they often find is an onslaught of images and content not of interest, through which they have to dig and search.

The Cyberdesignz blog appears to subscribe to the “simpler” theory. I worked with Mercury on a company web site, and they were very insistent about not having pages that scroll and scroll and scroll. Their web site is not junked up; it’s very user friendly and easy to navigate. You know exactly who they are and what services they offer.

Let’s talk about some of the elements that make up these junked up pages. Flash technology is very useful, but is it really necessary to combine it with streaming news and streaming headlines, multiple pictures and links, not to mention all the different fonts and colors. Just because we have this technology doesn’t mean we have to use it all – and use it all together. Sometimes I feel like I’ve arrived in a new city with restaurants and shops and people everywhere, all of whom are screaming at me to try out their business, when all I really want is a cup of coffee.

It’s not difficult to design your site so it reaches all your audiences without cramming information in everywhere. Use the broad drop down menus effectively; concentrate on your site navigation; design a landing page for each of your target audiences separately; focus your splash page headlines on the 3 or 4 most important items.

Of course, sites can take simplicity to the extreme as well. Keep in mind basic journalistic principles: who, what, when, where and why. The WHY is critical in the information age. Why are you the best? Why should we patronize your business? What are your core competencies?

Not everyone is junking up their web sites. There are some excellent ones out there with very easy to use navigation. Check out line 25 sites of the week. They have some interesting and unusual picks, some of which have excellent designs and illustrate their message well, without 50 headlines screaming at you.

Think about magazine racks. The mainstream publications usually have 4-6 taglines on the cover, while the tabloids have many more screaming headlines. Which do you believe have more credibility?


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