Image of web designer simplifying a design
Digital Declutter: Simplified Approach to Web Design
The concept of digital decluttering helps individuals decide which digital tools add the most value to their day-to-day lives. Digital decluttering involves intentionally eliminating tools that bog you down and optimizing those that add value to the way you operate on a daily basis. If people are making efforts to eliminate clutter from their personal digital spaces, why are the websites that we visit often designed in a way that brings the clutter and noise back to the forefront?

Similar to physical clutter, digital clutter can be overwhelming. If this is the case, when creating a design for a website, why would we risk subjecting users to potentially being overwhelmed while they visit our website? Instead, a website should be designed with the intention of creating a positive and productive experience for visitors. A simplified web design creates the opportunity for users to have a streamlined, enjoyable experience while visiting a website. Additionally, simplifying web design allows for ease of use on both a desktop and mobile device. Enhancing the overall user experience of your site, in turn, gives your site improved performance and usability, which can lead to more conversions. 

Image of complex web design
Declutter and simplify complicated web design

Incorporating Efficiency into Web Design 

Finding ways to declutter and simplify our personal digital spaces allows individuals to improve efficiency and enhance productivity. The same notion applies when an individual visits a website. A cluttered website is usually a slow website: according to research from Google, 53% of mobile users will leave a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. It is simple prospects will leave your site if it takes too long to load. Visitors want an efficient experience without being bombarded with information while on a website with a complicated design. Today’s users are content scanners, so if a website does not grab the attention of a visitor in 15 seconds, this will lead them to become frustrated and abandon the website. When prospects navigate away from your website because they could not find what they were looking for, they may seek out one of your competitors because they offer a similar product or service with a web design that is intuitive and easy to use. 

Cluttered vs. Decluttered Web Design

Like anything in life, there are different methodologies behind each approach to web design, and there is no single way to do things correctly. Certainly, there are experienced designers who prefer to create an interface that hinges on the concept of complexity. Designer Jonas Downey is one example. He argued in his blog, that there are websites with complicated designs, yet they are used every day, such as Craigslist and Facebook, which is used by 1.5 billion people each month. His point is that as long as the design can be useful, there should be no issue. There may be no issue in these two cases because of the nature of the site content but that does not necessarily mean these websites are easy to use. While a complex design may serve its purpose in certain applications, these designs do not always optimize user experience, which can be detrimental to the success and performance of a website. In a study conducted by the Society of Digital Agencies, 77% of surveyed agencies believed that they had clients with a poorly designed website. A complex or poorly designed website can negatively impact performance and user experience.

Declutter with Minimalism

Simplifying the design of a website with improved user experience in mind does not automatically equate to adopting a minimalist approach. However, implementing aspects of minimalist design principles for the purpose of simplifying and decluttering the design of your website enhances the readability and visual aspects. This makes the entire site more accessible and easier for visitors to navigate. The end result: better user experience and a satisfied end-user.

Minimalism is based on the concept of less is more. This principle can be applied for a simplified web design through the reduction of text on pages, specifically on homepages and landing pages. Impactful visuals can help tell a story and be used to break up text. Using images in place of text rather than using a descriptive paragraph can better highlight your product or message. Incorporating design techniques such as white space and branded colour schemes can enhance brand recognition. Research shows that colours contribute to brand recognition by up to 80%. Consistent and simplified use of design elements including colour, font, and style variations result in a decluttered, polished looking site. Interpreting minimalist design ideologies translates to the design of a simple, easy to use website that places the focus on the site content by stripping away elements that are unnecessary. 

Appearance Matters

When diving into the process of decluttering to create a design for a simplified website, there is great value in thinking ahead, about what kind of first impression you want users to have when they initially visit your site. Studies show that it only takes about 50 milliseconds for users to form an opinion about your website.his will determine if they choose to continue on your site, or leave it. This suggests that designers have less than one second to impress a visitor. With this in mind, optimizing this very small window of opportunity with a design that streamlines information and makes it easy for users to find exactly what they are looking for is critical. 

Not only should this simplified design streamline information, and provide an excellent user experience, this design should also be optimized for mobile devices. With the continuous growth in the use of mobile devices, ensuring functionality across different devices should be a priority, especially considering that 85% of adults think that the website of a company, when viewed on a mobile device, should be as good, or better than the way it appears and functions on a desktop. The ability to provide a useful and functional mobile website is something that users expect. In fact, 57% of internet users claim that they will not recommend a business with a poorly designed website on mobile devices. 

Image of optimized wed design on desktop and mobile devices
Optimize web design for desktop and mobile device use

Design Affects the Decision Making Process

When simplifying your website you must identify what functionalities are needed for users. There should always be a specific user expectation as your goal. Consider what your user expects to accomplish by visiting your site. An uncomplicated website design should have the ability to guide them to the information that they are specifically looking for. For example, if the goal of the website is to encourage users to sign up for a weekly newsletter, then you need to ensure that the design includes an easily found call to action, such as a sign up button. Remove any unnecessary items that distract from completing the objective. In doing so, you are optimizing the time spent on a page and speeding up the decision making process for them. If the design of a website contains too many elements, such as a large menu and several different tabs to click through with no clear call to action it becomes too confusing. Websites often have repetitive or hard to find information and users end up distracted or overwhelmed; inherently abandoning the website all-together, feeling nothing but frustrated. Each call to action should be an opportunity for a conversion. Avoid having a user’s visit to your site fall flat, simply because the call to action was not obvious or easily accessible, or they did not have the patience to click through a cluttered interface.        

Hick’s Law 

Having users leave your website as a result of a cluttered design can be supported by Hick’s Law. This notion deals with the concept that the more choices presented to users, the longer it will take them to reach a decision. More is not always more, often less is more. When given the opportunity to simplify design, Hick’s Law should be considered to help determine how many functions should be included for any given section of the website. The end result of the user experience and the user’s ability to make a decision should always be taken into consideration. 

Design with Purpose

Clutter is a source of stress for people. According to a study conducted in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, people with homes that are cluttered and full of tasks that are incomplete are likely to be more depressed, fatigued and have higher levels of stress. Clutter causes your brain to shift into multitasking mode and slows down the ability to focus on a singular task. In terms of visiting a website that is cluttered, it is overwhelming for users when their eye is drawn to several different elements, all of which are competing for the user’s attention. When decluttering the design of a website you may have to consciously sacrifice aspects that have always been apart of your design, for the sake of providing a more modern and purposeful user experience. Keeping aspects of your website “because they have always been there” cannot be an option.

Conclusion

The end goal of a website is performance, whether that be in the form of a call to action or by providing sought after information. Having a website where visitors desert their search due to frustration and leaving without satisfying their goal is simply undesirable and completely unacceptable. Cluttering a website with flashing banners, menus, or multiple pages to click through is not what creates a positive user experience. A cluttered website is overwhelming, frustrating and as a whole unnecessary. 

Here is a call to action for you, the reader: declutter your website design now! Visitors to your site deserve it and will know that they are able to find the information and content that they are looking for in a quick and efficient manner. Simplifying and decluttering your design will optimize user experience and ensure functionality on both desktop and mobile devices. Better usability and streamlined information will lead to fewer users abandoning your page, enabling them to complete their defined goal or call to action, culminating in an effective website that performs well.