Get Simplified

The effect of confusing options or too many choices on success

My brain is already hurting from all those chaotic squiggles…

Get Simplified

The effect of confusing options or
too many choices on success

My brain is already hurting from all those chaotic squiggles…

Get Simplified

The effect of confusing options or too many choices on success

My brain is already hurting from all those chaotic squiggles…

Get Simplified

Simplicity has been the theme of the month in my discussions with clients recently. Establishing and maintaining simplicity in all aspects of your business can greatly accelerate success. But what exactly needs simplifying?

Websites can always use reduction in “stuff.” Simplicity in verbiage, graphics and in day-to-day emails is also greatly appreciated. Twitter (now known as just “X” – the ultimate simplification) capitalized on the value of simplicity by limiting the number of characters in tweets. Choose your words wisely!

Perhaps the ultimate simplification in graphics was the reduction of the original Apple logo from Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree to the sleek, silver apple silhouette we know today. (View the evolution of Apple’s logo here.)

Simplicity in websites is desired to ensure visitors have the best experience. (First impressions are everything!) Known as UX design, this aspect of website design focuses solely upon the user experience, incorporating user behavior, psychology and neuro science. See? I just muddied the waters by using jargon and polysyllabic words that begin to strain our little grey cells. Let’s get back to simple!

Simple UX Design

Basically UX design keys in on removing any and all user pain points in designing a website. For example, think back a few years to when you first saw this symbol in the upper left or right of a website:  It’s known colloquially as the hamburger menu. At first, many didn’t know what it was (except it looked vaguely like a hamburger). But now, most internet users are well-aware it is the symbol of a (visually) collapsed navigation menu. It’s no longer a “pain” as you know what it stands for and how to use it.

What about other times you’re viewing a website and click on something because you don’t know where it’ll take you or if you’ll end up at a dead end? Pain point. It could have been poorly labeled.  Many sites have buttons labeled, “Learn More.” But what precedes the request to “learn more”? Is it clear? Or will you find yourself in the abyss if you click on the button? “Learn More About This Service” is infinitely clearer!

It is with great irony I provide this great example of both good and not so good UX design:

Google UX Certification

Above you see that Google is now offering a free course with certification on UX design and that more than 900,000 people have signed up for it. But I find it poor UX design that next to the “Enroll for Free” button is a notice: “Financial aid available.” Wait, what?!?! It’s free. But maybe I need financial aid to attend? Confusing.

What IS good UX design on this course enrollment page is the remainder of the design:

  • The brand is clearly Google
  • A large headline proclaims what is on offer: “Google UX Design Professional Certification”
  • A subhead explains the course content is designed to aid with career development and readiness to qualify for a job in this line of work.
  • There’s a clear call-to-action (CTA) with the blue button “Enroll for Free.”

How you can assess good UX design on your own site

First, if you feel you’ve already reviewed your own site with a fine-toothed comb, you may wish to enlist someone who’s never visited your website to provide fresh eyes on where you can make improvements. Pay close attention to gut reactions. Are they intrigued as they navigate through your site, or are they squishing their face muscles because something is confusing?

  1. Write down all observations without making judgment.
  2. Review those observations one by one to determine what is misunderstood, confusing or receives a negative reaction, such as “looks too busy.”
  3. Determine potential solutions. Keep it high level, such as “reduce the # of options” or “reword more simply.”

Simplify, simplify, simplify

Sounds easy. But we don’t all have Hemingway’s talent to say so much with fewer words than anyone else. Seek out expert help.

Secrets of great UX design

You and your impartial website reviewer may have determined that “this section is way too busy,” or “this paragraph is too hard to read.” But you may be stumped to figure out the specifics of how to improve readability.

Ta-da! This is where design expertise becomes invaluable.

  • Did you know that it’s been determined that the ideal line length for good readability online is about 45 to 80 characters? Of course determining what’s right for any one site depends heavily upon the typeface, character size and line height as well. But my quick solution for a line that’s hard too read would be to test out changes in margins, kerning and even converting the paragraph to two columns for easier reading.
  • Not getting enough clicks on your “Buy” button? It could the button’s color, size or position that could use a change for greater contrast to other page elements. Visitors will be hesitant to click if the button label is too generic in relation to the surrounding content.
  • Is your visitor confused about what to do next? The end of every web page or article should provide clear options: choose another article to read, buy the product, contact the owner. Remember what happened to Alice when she got stuck at the end of the corridor with no way out: she was frustrated and didn’t fit through any of the doors. (And she had to put up with a talking rabbit.) Don’t leave visitors feeling frustrated on any of your web pages.

Create easy connections with prospects

In discussion with a client this past week, we debated the merits of providing a phone number (yes), email address (yes) and button to “book now” (no) on his contact page. In this specific case, the “Book now” button would have taken the visitor to another website, a no-no. If your website is NOT an ecommerce site, the point of having it is to connect you with site visitors. The faster the better. Anything taking them away from connecting with you is a potential pain point.

Visitors look for contact information in a few key places in digital content:

  • Top right of website
  • Footer of website
  • Contact page
  • About page – sometimes, for individual employees
  • For mobile, the phone information must be clickable to make an immediate call

“Easy” is the operative word, however, in your strategy to make contact with prospects. If you are using a form to collect contact information, you’d better be able to justify why each field is absolutely essential because visitors HATE to use the forms. It can feel like a violation of privacy to collect the data (and is treated as such legally).

Interrogation by Form

The fewer fields the visitor must fill out (or even view) the greater likelihood of form submission. As an example in the extreme, the chances of a visitor completing this contact form are…zero:

Scary contact form

In addition, the impression made upon the visitor is now negative about your business because you made it ridiculously difficult for someone to connect with you. (For those interested, here are more examples of forms that doom contact.)

In summary, demonstrate you value your prospects’ time by making it as fast and easy as possible to connect.

Simplicity in all things

The tips provided above for improving your website simplicity and thus communicating a simple message about your offering can easily be applied to other marketing facets of your business:

  • Limit choices and CTAs (click through actions) in email promotions, i.e. one button, one text link.
  • Be consistent in presenting contact information on all platforms and channels.
  • Be consistent in all visuals on all channels. (There’s a reason they paint one floor in red and another in blue in parking garages. If nothing else, your short-term memory will likely be triggered that you did or didn’t remember being on the “red” floor when searching for your car.)
  • Keep it simple stupid (KISS) because time is precious. Brevity is appreciated. Customers will thank you.