It’s February, and all these snow days we’re getting make now the perfect time to hunker down inside, stay warm and watch Netflix. Speaking of Netflix, have you seen ‘Tidying Up’ with Marie Kondo? It’s all the rage and a great way to get inspired to clear out the clutter, and in Kondo’s words, ‘choose joy.’
This concept of decluttering can also have a positive effect on your website. By trimming, decluttering and focussing on what ‘sparks joy’ in your website users, you enable them to quickly and efficiently complete the tasks they came to the website for.
We recently had a couple of new clients ask us to do precisely that; to find ways to improve the navigation and conversion rate on their websites – and the best way to do that was to discard what was unnecessary.
Start by taking stock.
Instead of writing more blog posts, analyze website user behaviour and take stock of what’s happening on your most valuable digital asset. Instead of continuing to spend money on ads that are driving traffic to a website that’s not converting, focus on understanding what users want and give it to them in a simple, concise format.
And instead of jumping on the latest online trend, focus on making sure your digital house is on a stable and sound footing so it can withstand a potential website hack (which happen all the time) and the ups and downs of the economy or other market forces.
Now is the perfect time to evaluate your website and online marketing strategy. Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you have a strategy?
- Is it working?
- Are you making money?
- What percentage of overall revenue is coming from the website versus your offline sales channels (retail, direct, phone, etc.)?
- Which online marketing tactics are working and which are a waste of time and money?
And then look at your whole online strategy, to declutter and ‘spark online joy.’
Your website is your virtual storefront and often a prospective customer’s first exposure to you and your business, so it is critical to making a good first impression. It’s the lens through which customers view your business and decide what they think of you and your brand. A busy, cluttered, and disorganized site will reflect poorly on your business. If your website is clean, comfortable to navigate and fast, customers will develop a much more favourable impression of your brand.
With this in mind, here are a few ways in which you can declutter your website.
Let “simplicity” be your touchstone.
Modern Web Design is all about saying more with less. And ensuring your customers can find what they want quickly. This means carefully considering each element you include and aiming for simplification above all else. Once you strip your cluttered site down and focus on these principles, you will enjoy lower bounce rates, longer average time on site and higher conversion rates.
Incorporating even a few of these 14 pro tips will go a long way towards ensuring your website is working for you.
1. Know Your Audience
Who is the website for and what do they want to accomplish by coming to your site?
Create ‘User Personae” – a fictional representation of your ideal customer. A persona is generally based on user research and incorporates the needs, goals, and observed behaviour patterns of your target audience.
And then speak their language.
What may look stylish or interesting to you might totally confuse prospective customers. For example, what do headings like ‘Our X Factor’ or ‘Hit Me Up’ actually mean to your user. Just call it Services or Contact. No guesswork there.
2. Does it pass the 3-Question Test?
You’ll need to recruit someone else to do this test. Preferably someone that hasn’t seen the site before and can therefore provide an objective perspective.
Have them visit the website and then answer these three questions within about 10-15 seconds, preferably without having to scroll down too far.
- What is this site about?
- How does it help me (visitor) exactly?
- What makes it different than other website in this industry?
3. Separate the Trash from the Treasure
This is where Marie Kondo’s advice really comes in handy. To trim your website of unnecessary elements, look at it the way you would your home. Confront each link, page, image, text box and feature as though it’s an item in a spare room or garage. Do you really need it?
When you take this ‘trash versus treasure’ approach, you’ll find it easier to determine whether or not something is worth keeping.
The only things that you should keep are components that serve a distinct purpose or ‘bring joy.’ If you can’t quickly define the purpose of something, then it probably doesn’t belong. Remember, you can always go back and make changes later. For now, err on the side of eliminating unnecessary design elements.
4. Use More White Space
The use of white (or negative) space plays an important role in the usability of a website. Users need to be able to comfortably read all of the content on the site, and find what they are looking for quickly. A cluttered website will prevent users from completing their task.
White space is your friend. The most effective and functional websites on the Internet prioritize simplicity using white space and ease of navigation. White space draws the user’s attention to the elements that you want them to focus on. It also increases the amount of time they spend on the site.
5. Nail Your Tagline
If the name of your company doesn’t describe what you do a well-researched and creative tagline can help to clarify that. Consider adding a slogan if you don’t have one, or tweak the one you have.
The goal is to answer those three questions your first-time visitor is asking. So it needs to be clear rather than clever. While clever is fun, it might confuse people, and you don’t want that.
Make it clear what your business does and how you can help.
6. What Makes You Different?
What is your USP ~ “Unique Selling Proposition? It’s not enough to say how you help people, you have to have a hook on your website that grabs the user’s attention and pulls them in. This could be a compelling story, a unique approach to the business, or just some aspect of your personality.
7. Have a “Call-To-Action”
Your call-to-action will differ depending on your business model. It could be something to motivate users to subscribe to a newsletter or some form of ’lead generation’ where you ask them to leave their email address in exchange for a valuable piece of content. This can be as overt as a box in the middle of the page with a field or two for user info, or something more subtle, like a single-field email subscribe in the top right navigation bar of the site.
8. Showcase Your Best Content
When was the last time you updated your blog? Have a look at your previous blog post. Is it your best work? Curate the best content on your blog for easy access. This way every time new users come to the site, they can get a taste of the best material you have to offer.
9. Optimize Your ‘About’ Page
After the Home and Contact Pages, the About (sometimes called ‘About Us’) page, is one of the most frequently visited pages on a website. It also happens to be a page that most people don’t pay enough attention to. Many of us are uneasy about blowing our own horns, but we must. It’s important to tell people your ‘origin story’ and what makes you qualified to help them.
10. Responsive Design
Make sure your website design is ‘responsive,’ so people accessing it on smartphones or tablets have an optimal experience. Not sure if your website is responsive? You can find out quickly with Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Site Checker.”
Pay attention to the smartphone and tablet user experience – design, ease of use, utility, and, ultimately the reader’s emotional experience.
11. Clean up the Sidebar
If you have a two column website, your sidebar is likely in need of some decluttering. There’s no need to add stuff to the sidebar just for the heck of it. Things like blog archives, tag cloud, categories and your latest tweets are so 2010. The sidebar would be a good place for your lead generation magnet or a call-to-action.
12. Social Proof
When you visit a website or a blog for the first time, and you see evidence of other people liking it, you form a positive impression without even realizing it. This is the power of social proof.
Show off your social media counts and comments. This gives people confidence that they are in a safe place where others hang out as well.
13. Limit Competing Links
When a new visitor comes to your site for the first time, you don’t want them to click on an outside link that would take them away from your pages right away.
The goal is to keep them there long enough to browse the content and take some form of action. Think very carefully before adding social media or other links above the fold.
14. Cut Down on the Number of Pages
Do you really need 15, 25 or 50-plus pages on your website? Could you get away with having just five or six? Too many superfluous pages slow your site down and require more attention of the user to find what they want.
Websites featuring lots of pages generally include big navigation menus with lots of tabs. When a customer sees this, they’re likely to get overwhelmed and bounce. If they do stick around, they may find it difficult to locate what they’re looking for. Simplify and consolidate for better results.
There you have it.
Do more with less and ensure your customers stay on your site long enough to find what they want. Once you strip down the clutter and focus on these principles, you will enjoy lower bounce rates, longer average time on site, higher conversion rates and ultimately happier customers.
Need some help?
If you’re not sure about the health, usability or navigation of your website, contact us for a free, no obligation, joy-sparking 10 Point Website Audit.
We’ll review you site and give you a report rating the 10 most critical areas of your website so you’ll know precisely what and where you need to declutter.
Stay warm out there.