You know that feeling when you walk out into the living room, and all the stuff is put in place, and your amazing bookcase looks orderly, and there’s a clear line of sight out to the porch to check out the yard in the summer? Yeah. That. That’s what we’re going for here, but on your website.
There’s peace in de-cluttering. Calm. A sense of empowerment. Order in the midst of chaos.
So imagine what it would be like if your site or blog felt like this. Not just for you, but for your visitors, too. Imagine them coming to your site and thinking, even if subconsciously, “ahhh” because it’s an oasis of clarity among millions of sites overloaded with too much stuff.
It’s possible. You, too, can have a website that Martha Stewart would envy. (if you’re into that sort of thing). When you declutter your website, your audience appreciates it. They’re more likely to read. To buy. To stay a while, soak up your goodness, and engage.
Here are three ways you can start:
1. Your sidebar: it’s like the space under the kitchen sink
Send your sidebar to Goodwill. This place is notorious for collecting unneeded junk. 10 badges for all the networks you’re in? (Never mind that 80% of them either no longer exist or aren’t doing a thing to help bolster your brand’s perception). That specialty search bar you hope will bring in a few coins a month? Or how about 80 different ways to navigate through your blog (archives. categories. tags. fruit of the month club).
Here’s all that you really need on the sidebar:
- Your email sign up list (and if you deliver posts by email, roll this into the same newsletter as whatever other newsletter you offer. Less for you to manage, and easier for readers to understand).Make this your topmost sidebar item, and see your sign up rates improve. (It doesn’t hurt to have a fun, non-smarmy call to action or small “treat” you give for free to entice sign ups)
- A small RSS icon (seriously, this doesn’t need to be massive)
- Neat and clean social networking links (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin). Don’t include 80 of them here. just 2-4 of the ones most people visit.
- Category links (to allow people to browse archives by category)
- A search box (just the factory default one that came with your content management system or blogging software, please. Or powered by Google works, too, in a pinch. Generally you look more professional when you aren’t pimping out other company’s things in a sponsored search bar).
- An additional call to action (This serves as a small graphical promo or something you want people to see/know about. Completely optional but use it to promote one or two of your best things (product, service, etc)
2. Clean up your home (page)
If you have a blog on your home page, don’t put the entirety of each entry on there. Yes, some people do like to read the whole shebang of each entry down the home page, but cutting your excerpts to small blurbs helps:
- Keep reader’s attention
- Improve search engine happiness
- Showcase more of your awesomeness on the home page
3. Navigate your way to happier readers
Recently I had to live in someone else’s home for 4 months. I couldn’t find a damn thing. Tongs? Knives? Paper towel? All up in the air. Now we’ll forgive this home because I’m sure she knew just where everything is. But if this home had been a website, I would have left.
Your people need to know where to go in a matter of a nanosecond. You can make this easy for them by having a strong, easy-to-read navigation placed high and prominent on the site.
Avoid things like mystery meat (I know. The kitchen analogies are getting old). Mystery meat is when you don’t use words for your navigation, but just images that are all clever and goofy and leave people wondering if they’ll get dancing chickens if they click on one of them. Avoid uber-fancy fonts (script faces are hard to read) and drop-down menus. (Yes, I use them at times, but only when the client really begs). Make the verbiage concise, like our own dear Heather does here on her site. (It’s both attractive and clear).
Do these things as best you can, and you’ll be well on your way to a clutter-free website that gives you a sigh of relief, and makes your readers more endeared to you.
Question for you, lovely reader: What things do you find most helpful on a website, and what cluttered stuff annoys you the most?