Sunday, January 12, 2014

Web Design - Is Simpler Better?

I was just talking to a college about some design that they were working with and the question came up if the site should be visually appealing with lots of features for users to take advantage of or if the site should remain simple and to the point. This is one of the hardest decisions for webmasters making a new web site, as well as for the powers that be of the largest web properties on the planet. Facebook is a great example of a fairly simple layout that has now become bloated with overly complicated settings, features and widgets that all clog up your screen. This site has tried to keep it simple, but they have unfortunately been forced to complicate the site to offer new features to their huge existing member base. As you may have read online, many of the changes received a warm welcome, while others caused some members to go elsewhere to connect with friends.

Not all webmasters are forced to add features to keep users interested. In most cases the content itself is much more important that most any other aspect of a website. However, feature rich sites do have their place. If your website serves a purpose or offers a service, you may really want to focus on the web app and how it works over the design of site initially, after all have you ever seen how Twitter looked on its launch date?

This site is about as simple as they come. It was created using the free platform and my readers come here to learn and find out about new webmaster techniques and tools. I do not fill the screen with spammy ads and crazy offers, just great content and once and a while you will find a product or service listed that I think is great. Producing frequent updates of relevant content has kept up the readership by itself with no flash or flare needed.

Below are a few rules that I think will help a first time blogger and a corporate webmaster on the right track no matter how big or small their goals are. I look forward to any feedback you may have about these thoughts and concepts and enjoy!

Define Yourself With Content First

No matter what, you really want to be known for what you and your website has to offer, not a cool logo, or a widget that lets viewers play with a bouncing ball. As a webmaster part of your duty is to assure the layout of the site allows a viewer to not only find what they are there for, but also to offer an appealing look that will not scare them away. If you keep cranking out killer content, the actual look of the site falls away on the sidelines.

If you are using a C.M.S. you can switch the look and the feel of a website rather easily and instantly with themes or templates. This means, content wins and this should always be your first and foremost focus. Choosing an appealing theme or changing a layout down the road, will rarely if ever scare of existing readers or site members. With this in mind, get to the meat, crank out killer content and then you can fine tune your website's aesthetics later on.

Only Bring On Features That Count

With feature rich content management systems, it can be easy to pop on new plugins and add new features at a minutes notice. However, many people keep adding things that may look cool but never get used by real users. Eventually users start becoming inundated with all the fluff and never get time to get to the meat of your site.  Adding useless features will slowly but surely scare away viewers due to the over-complexity of your presence online. In many cases added features can also slow your site load time and now that it is public knowledge that this is taken into consideration by Google in your ranking, this is a very bad thing.

Ask And You Shall Receive!

It is a good idea to ask your users what they want. Most of the time they are glad to share thoughts and ideas about what they believe would make your web site even more useful to them. You can easily implement this by utilizing a poll or simply requesting comments or social feedback from your followers. This is a instant win, because you really want to be preaching to the choir here and this will help you do just that. Don't be afraid if you can't make everybody happy either. There will certainly be some nonsense and some ridiculous requests because...well people are crazy on the web sometimes. However, that doesn't mean that you will not get some amazing constructive criticism for free.

Borrow But Don't Steal

This can be a tricky rule, but lets admit it the greatest from of flattery is copying others, right? All I mean to get across here is that it is OK to look at other sites that may have similar tribes following them and borrow a good idea here and there. After all, look at Facebook and Google. You never want to totally steal a complete theme, wording or logo. You can get away with borrowing simple concepts or moving in a similar direction as others. If your design needs something and you just can't put your finger on what it is, take a look around see what you like and what you don't, then move forward with a new layout accordingly. This is a great way to get your creative juices flowing and find something that is already proven to work.

If you are interested in professional assistance with your new or existing website design, I would love to help! Just drop me a line on my business site here : NS Technologeis - Web Alchemy and Consulting

Thanks for reading and make sure to find me on Google+

Author : Nick Simpson