It's so easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles, but does complexity make for successful design?
I’m one of those people that want the latest and greatest everything. My desk is littered with gadgets and gizmos and I only know half of what they all do— but I just had to have them.
As a designer it’s not much different. The tools, techniques and platforms have increased exponentially in the last few years allowing you to create more complex elements with ease.
But does adding more technology and more complexity make design better? Do all the bells and whistles lead us to our ultimate goal?
Showing restraint is one of the first signs you’ll seen a mature designer. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
If you look at successful brands like Apple, one thing you will notice is how clean and simplistic their marketing pieces really are. This isn’t because they can’t design something more complex, it’s because they know these minimalist designs are more effective of communicating their message to their audience.
To help us unpack this a bit more, I actually interviewed a fantastic website developer out of Keene, New Hampshire. Being in the creative field for 15+ years has helped me make connections with some of the leading experts across the world. Matt and I have worked on many projects together and with 9+ years operating his design agency, and a beautiful minimalist style, I knew he could help break this topic down.
Matt Sebert - Matthew Sebert Design
Q: Is simplicity important in website design? Why or why not?
Absolutely! Design, at its core, should provide a message. Too many elements or undefined messages within a single page can lead to low conversions as a reader may easily become distracted or confused. A website should focus on an overall goal, and each page within that site should aim to expand upon that goal.
Q: Does making your website more simple make it less powerful?
The opposite, actually. If your website is simple and contains intuitive layout design, your website will be all the more powerful. A reader should be able to discern the purpose of your website within the first few seconds they land on it, and if your site is designed well should be able to easily guide the reader to the areas they’re interested in. Too much clutter or unneeded “pop” can and will reduce the efficiency of your site.
Q: What kind of advice do you give to clients who want too many "bells and whistles"?
Similar to what I answered above, your website should have a main goal, and too much extra bells and whistles distract from this goal. Simple is clean and clean is easy to navigate. A good rule of thumb is to take away as much of the extra bells and whistles until the design falls apart, then you add that last element back in and you’ve got what should be a solid design.
Q: If it's simple, does that mean I can do it myself as a business owner?
While this can in rare occasions be achieved, it’s best to ensure your time and money is well spent. This often means hiring someone who knows both the font and back-end of solid web design and focusing your efforts on running your business. Let the developers and designers worry about ensuring your message is reaching the right people while you take care of your customers/clients. Even minimal or simple websites should have the right tech backing them up behind the scenes which is where website developers come in handy!
Q: How can something more simplistic still be expensive?
Continuing with the thought process above, just because it looks minimal doesn’t mean it performs minimally. Aesthetics are a very small portion of what a website is. There’s much more that should be happening behind the scenes, such as optimization to ensure the site loads quickly, security and updates, solid SEO (search engine optimization), and much more to ensure your site is put in front of the people you want reading it.
There’s also the matter of ensuring it’s done right the first time. I’ve recreated websites that clients have had developed for them in the past which on the surface looked fine, but the back-end was either unfinished or not set up in a way that was best for them. This means that they had to build the site twice to get the results they wanted, which is not at all ideal.
Q: What are some key indicators you look for that a website is "simply perfect" both before and after launch?
Is the website easy to navigate?
Is the content easily digestible and organized appropriately?
Are the images and assets within the site correctly labeled for SEO?
Are the Calls to Action correctly implemented?
Is the messaging in line with the brand?
Are there any conflicting or competing CTA’s?
Does the website load quickly, is properly indexed and set up with major search engines such as Google?
There are many aspects to go over to ensure a website is “Simply Perfect” but these are a few that I often see that need to be corrected.
I think Matt brought up some great points. I want to expand on some of those a bit:
- Your website’s usability plays a huge roll in how effective it is. If a customer lands on your website and can navigate it on intuition alone, you’ve done something right. Customers have a wide range of options, and they aren’t likely to spend time learning how to work your website when one of your competitors offers a more easy-to-use interface.
- While being unique has it’s place, some things are done a certain way because it’s the way it works best. There are still plenty of ways to give simplicity your own stamp, and stay consistent with your brand (which is always important)— simple does not have to be boring.
- The advances in technology have made building websites easier, there is still a ton of complexity that goes on in the back end of a website, and a lot more than design that can determine the ultimate success or failure on your online presence.
- Matt’s advice about taking away from the design until it falls in place is a perfect example of an experienced and mature designer. If you have elements of your design that do not serve a purpose, they are actually distracting from the overall goal— clear communication.
Despite what your math teacher told you, in art there is addition by subtraction. Using this restraint comes with time and practice, but it’s always appropriate to examine and re-examine your designs to try and make them as simple as possible. You’ll increase not only the function of your site, but you’ll improve the delivery of your message.
A BIG THANKS
I owe a big thank you to Matt for taking time to provide his insight. I’ve worked with Matt on many projects, and I knew he’d be able to bring a load of experience and expertise to this subject. Having this network of experts is the key for OGAL Web Design being able to easily scale our team up in size and specialized expertise for projects of any size.