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Clutter: The Ruin of a Great Website

The following is an article I wrote that was originally published on www.SiteProNews.com in June of 2013.

chaos-and-orderThanks to TLC’s and A&E’s hit series’ on hoarding, a serious problem that was previously, for the most part, hidden from the world has been revealed: some people live in filth and clutter. Well I’m here to tell you that this problem doesn’t only exist in private homes, hidden away from prying eyes; it runs rampant online as well. Websites also fall victim to clutter. While sometimes amusing to look at, these sites are in reality, no laughing matter. Not only are they hard on the eyes of visitors, but they are also to blame for lost sales and revenues.

I’m not just talking about the neon yellow on black with purple stripes and flashing banners type of website either (although please, for the love of all that is good, if your website looks like that, change it!), I’m talking about perfectly good websites that have WAY too much too say, do and look at. Many of these websites start off with potential and their owners just can’t figure out a way to say all there is to be said and show all there is to show as soon as you hit the home page (or sometimes every page).

As a web designer I’ve seen it happen, and in fact, when possible I’ve attempted  to discourage website owners from doing it. Even some of my designs have fallen victim to such overzealous website owners. What may start out as a beautiful website often times gets destroyed by the website owner’s false belief that all the information they have about their product should be on the home page (or every page), or that adding 14 ads to their site will make them more money, or that flashing banners will gather more attention, or that bolding and highlighting every second line on the site will be more noticeable. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

When a website visitor arrives on a site that has an overabundance of information, one of two things occurs:

  1. they get confused and don’t know what to click or do; or,
  2. they just leave.

It’s really that simple. I do it myself. If I can’t get to the information that I want on a website fast enough because it’s too confusing, I leave and so do most other people. Your website may have many purposes, but it should have one primary and one secondary purpose presented per page.  That is not to say that if getting visitors to purchase a product is your primary purpose and getting them to opt-in to your list is your secondary purpose that you can’t have your social media profiles listed. But it can be done tastefully. It doesn’t have to scream “LIKE ME, FOLLOW ME, ENDORSE ME,” and have images of all your followers and show every post you’ve made to every network in order to be there.  The same goes for ads. If you really want to include ads on your site, then by all means do it, but accept tasteful ads that don’t clash with your site and won’t turn-off your target market. And if you decide to post 14 of them, know that your primary purpose will seem to be selling other peoples products and not your own.

Your website is your business’ face to the world. If it’s clean and has a clear message, you will gain more customers from it. If it is confusing and its message is muddled you will lose business.  What kind of website do you want?

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