No, I am not talking about the design.. Nor am I talking about the content that people are posting.
I'm talking about all the crap people keep adding to their blogs sidebars, headers and footers. Just take a look at this blog right now, horrible!
Are you struggling with the fact that your blogs readers are not finding what they are looking for? Or do the have hard time navigating through the web site you are visiting. Is it hard for you to see what's on the page because of the flashing banners that are all over the place?
Or are you constantly bugged by pop-ups on a web page? Is it because of design? No. OK, sometimes the designer forgot to take her medicine and put everything that she knew into one website. And adding everything is not good. The power is in limiting the options user has to take.
But most of the time the designer does a great job in creating perfect, clean design and everything is good for a day or a week. Then those who control what actually goes to the blog mess it up. The sidebar gets the 11th widget or 5th animated banner is added to the header. Soon, even the admins can't look at the front page, but they still keep adding more things to it, and they never get around cleaning it up..
Bad Webmaster, No Twinkie!
There are tons of web pages that start out the smart way, keeping the blog or website simple and clean. But over time they keep adding more content and elements to their pages, while forgetting to remove the old ones. In the end, the page is so full of colors, banners, links and flashy advertisement, that no-one wants to go to that site anymore. Something a simple cleanup would prevent.
Of course, we have clear evidence that badly designed, cluttered website can do well. Just take a look at MySpace. Man, that site is awful. But I guess when there's nothing better that people know about, they keep on using it..
But maybe, just maybe, there's a better way..
Beauty in Simplicity
Why a simple design and website is better than a messy one:
- After the initial design, it is easier to maintain
- It looks clean and professional
- Less noise there is, more likely the visitor will find what really matters
Let's say you have a nice web design done for you, or brand new WordPress theme installed and in use. Don't go wasting that nice design by filling your blog and sidebar with all kinds of advertisements, link lists and everything in between.
Limited number of colors
Don't throw a rainbow to my face please. You can achieve so much with just a few colors. Look at eBay or Google. The most basic colors and just a couple of them. Simple, beautiful and clean.
Using small number of colors doesn't mean the site has to be all grey, black and white. And you don't to use the basic blue or the standard green. But choose the colors you like, choose a couple of more, and go with those. With only a small number of colors in the design, the additional colors can be used to highlight the content you want your visitors to concentrate on.
As Darren Rowse says in the ProBlogger video, don't let your blog become like Darren's sock drawer!
Think hard, do you really need all that stuff in the sidebar of your blog? Or if not in sidebar, in the footer, navigation menu, etc. First, you must know what you are trying to achieve with your blog, website or individual page.
If the goal is to make a sale, everything on the page that distracts the reader is bad. Some of the best squeeze pages I've seen, only have a couple of elements in them - for example: one video, opt-in form or "buy now" button, and HUGE arrow pointing on that form or button. Nothing else.
If the goal of your blog is to share information with your readers, the focus should be on readability, clear navigation and making related content visible. If you want people to sign-up for your mailing list, but there is so much stuff on the page that it's actually hard to even see the opt-in form, how about cleaning it up and make the one thing you want your readers to focus, stand out.
I know I've been guilty of adding all kinds of "cool" widgets to my sidebar, only to take them out after couple of weeks because they're distracting the overall experience, increase the loading times for the readers and also, increase the load of the server in the background.
No animated banners.
First of all, I'll tell you a "secret", banners are not that great for marketing. The click-through ratios suck big time. And animated banners are not better at all.
Maybe some brainiac did the research and figured that if I make this banner flashy, people will click on it because it gets their attention. Yeah! Clicking on it trying to make it disappear! Now that I think of it, the reason someone "invented" animation in to the banners is that there was so much clutter on the web pages that something had to be done - when there's 1 million and one things on the sight, it's really hard to spot that one, unless it's somehow highlighted - it's sad that it didn't cross one's mind to remove the clutter instead..
Seriously, NO animated banners.
I'm leaving your site if it looks like a strobe light to me. Does the banner designer think I'll be more likely to click on it? If something, I'm resizing my browser window to take them of my sight if I really want to read or see what's in the page.
Banners are so 1990s. And even back then, they sucked. Banners are good for branding and getting your name, your business or your product out there. If you want your brand to be "irritates the hell out me", make the banner animated. Otherwise, think carefully if the banner really has to rotate different texts or be animated. As a side note, using stylish Flash in the banners or making it animated with a PURPOSE is a different thing. But that doesn't mean a web designer or a blogger should put 10 of those things on the page.
If you want your blog look like a Xmas tree, go ahead, and if you insist on using animated banners and adding them to your site, use one and make it the one in the different "zone" than the others, perhaps under the fold. Just one. That 125x125 advertisement block on your block should be animation-free. Always.
OK, in all honesty, I can tolerate all the animated banners (it's called banner blindness), but fling a pop-up on my screen and I'm closing it in 0.1 seconds (if the automatic pop-up blocker didn't catch it yet). 0.2 seconds later, I'm out of your site.
Again, in some cases pop-up will increase the sign-ups for the mailing list or boost the conversions, sometimes a lot. Sad, but true. But that doesn't mean I like them. If you are forced to use a pop-up to get people to sign-up for your list or buy a product, maybe there's something fundamentally wrong in your design or you have cluttered the site so bad that people don't even see that opt-int form anymore - consider re-designing the whole thing instead. Maybe you could direct the focus with better means.
Beauty in Simplicity
I'm in the process of redesigning this blog (again), and I'm keeping these things in mind. It might still look butt-ugly, but there definitely won't be any pop-ups or animated banners in here. But now, be a good webmaster and keep your blog clean of clutter. Go and clean your blog from the unneeded clutter!