One of the biggest mistakes novice web designers make is to put every single thing they think is interesting, cool, or useful on every one of their pages. I admit, I’m guilty of this too. (Ask me about the page where I decided to put a QR code in the sidebar of a page I had built. The code pointed to that exact page. I'm not really sure what I was thinking beyond “QR codes are cool!”)
Remember, everything on your web page competes with everything else for your reader’s attention. So the more “things” you have on your page, the less likely your readers will find what they are looking for.
Some of the common “things” that don’t necessarily need to be on your page include:
- Multiple forms and levels of navigation
- Extra images
- Twitter, Facebook and other social media feeds
- Logos for “partner” sites
- Long blogrolls
- Lots of advertising
- Other widgets or trinkets you find interesting
You are probably thinking something like “but I need ______” filling in the blank with any or all of the above list. And while your website as a whole might need one or all of those items, do you need all of them on every page? Chances are you don’t.
Readers are Easily Confused
When you have too many things on one page, your readers will be easily confused. The more elements there are to look at, the easier it is to get lost trying to figure out what to read or which link to follow.
Some of the most popular sites on the web are very simple. Think about how Google looks, there is no doubt that this home page is about searching the web. There is nothing on the page other than the logo, a very small number of links, and the search box. It’s hard to get confused on a page like that.
One Topic Per Page—Even the Home Page
For every page of your site, you should first ask yourself this question: “what is the one thing this page is about?” If you can’t name one thing, then the page may be too cluttered. And this doesn’t apply to just the internal pages of your site, but also to the home page. The answer can be something like “this page is about our company,” but it shouldn’t be more than one thing.
By limiting every page on your site to covering one solitary thing, you get the following benefits:
Examine Everything on the Page
If your web pages have too much stuff competing for the main topic of that page, you need to decide what to get rid of. I recommend going through the entire page and looking at each element. Ask yourself “does this contribute to understanding the one topic on this page?” If it doesn’t then you should get rid of it.
If you can’t bear to get rid of it, then make it smaller. If you have a Twitter feed with the latest ten tweets, reduce that number to five, or even better, one. If you love sharing your photos in the sidebar, limit yourself to just one or two rather than your 20 latest. Cull your blogroll down to the best five sites and your navigation should be no more than two levels deep, or better put it in a dynamic menu, so that only the top level shows.
Try putting those “things” you can’t live without on their own page. Make them the center of attention on their own page, rather than forcing them to compete for attention on another page. This might also show you how popular your Facebook feed really is, and discovering that, you might feel better about getting rid of it.
I know how difficult this is. I am guilty of over-clutter on my personal pages just like everyone else. But if you want, I can send you the QR code for my HTML5 website. That’s the only way you can get it now that I’ve removed it from the site.