How To Clear Your Website Clutter In 3 Key Areas

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?

 

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Reese Spykerman

Website Designer at Reese Spykerman
Reese Spykerman does design and branding for businesses and blogs large and small. If you want to kick your websiteโ€™s look up a notch to look more stylish and sophisticated, check out her fabulous new website headers.
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23 Comments

  1. Mars Dorian

    That’s good, basic advice from Reese.

    I used to have all kinds of crap in my sidebar, especially those network badges – totally useless !

    I now only stay with Facebook, and that’s it.

    Like Bruce Lee said – concentrate on what matters, and hack away the unessential.

    Even rings true for websites ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Reply
    • Heather Allard

      Me too! My sidebar used to be offramp central. ๐Ÿ˜€ Love the Bruce Lee quote.

      Heather

      Reply
  2. Kristy

    Wow, this gives me a lot to think about. I guess I need to do a little fall cleaning. I am curious about the drop down menu. I always thought that made navigation easier without cluttering up the home page. I will definitely be re-thinking my sidebars now.

    Reply
  3. Thomas Sinfield

    Nice overview! I have recently redesigned my blog and am now in the process of elimination and optimisation to work out what is needed and what can be dropped.

    Reply
    • Heather Allard

      Thanks for stopping by, Thomas – glad Reese’s post helped. I look forward to seeing your changes!

      Heather

      Reply
    • reese

      Hi Thomas,

      Good for you! The culling and tending of a website is an admirable task ๐Ÿ˜‰ Glad this helped.

      Reply
  4. Sara

    Hi Heather! Glad to see you posting again. I am really into decluttering my house. Now, if only I had a website to declutter…
    Sara ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  5. Jamie Northrup

    Nice post Reese, I featured it in this week’s Deuce Group Weekly Ten Important Posts.

    Agree with all that you said, but specially liked what you said about the sidebar, and I always try and make mine as clean as possible, I have recently upgraded and cleaned all the sidebars in all my websites except my main one, that’s coming up with a much needed theme change soon.

    @ Heather: Wanted to tell you I love your horizontal navigation menu at the top of the screen.

    Cheers,
    Jamie

    Reply
    • Heather Allard

      Hi Jamie!
      Thanks for stopping by & for sharing Reese’s post with your group! Very cool! I’m off to scope out your site. ๐Ÿ˜€
      Oh – and thanks for the nav compliment – Men With Pens redid my whole site a few months ago.

      Heather

      Reply
  6. vana

    Great post Reese and very useful! I only have one question. How can one cut the excerpts to small blurbs on blogger? it’s something i’ve been searching for a long time.

    Any suggestions, are welcomed!

    Reply
    • reese

      hi vana,

      Unfortunately, I’m not sure on Blogger. I deal mainly in WordPress and ExpressionEngine. Best of luck!
      Reese

      Reply
  7. Chris Guillebeau

    Reese is amazing! You should buy 10 copies of her new course. Or if not 10, at least one.

    Reply
    • Reese

      ๐Ÿ˜€

      Reply
  8. reese

    Thank you, Annabel and Kelly! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  9. Melody Granger

    I love the words “free of clutter”. Especially since I’m in the business of eliminating clutter and simplifying spaces!!!

    I love clean, appealing, spacious, clear to understand websites almost as much as I love a home that looks good and feels freakin’ amazing. And it doesn’t have to perfect, but darn comfy!

    Thanks for such a concise “do and don’t” list. Your advice is perfect!

    Reply
    • Heather Allard

      Melody,
      I completely agree with you – I LOVE the same kind of websites and homes. Now if I could just *get* my home looking that way. LOL.

      Heather

      Reply
  10. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot

    Hi Reese, great post on spring cleaning the blog or website. Decluttering is always good and keeping it reasonable minimal so people aren’t overwhelmed by too much info and not sure what to do first!

    Hi Heather, just found out about your blog from the Netsetters Top 50 list. Congrats! I’m delighted to be on there with you and just wanted to get in touch as there might be a bit of synergy between us. Mums, entrepreneurs, online business are all right up my alley too.

    Great to connect with you here and I’m going to look for you on Twitter now:) Best wishes and keep netsetting:) Annabel

    Reply
    • Heather Allard

      Hi Annabel!
      So nice to “meet” you – I just checked out your site and promptly bookmarked it! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Congrats to you, too on making the Netsetters List – that was a nice surprise for me yesterday and I was delighted to see so many of my faves and mentors…and some great new people like yourself!

      Keep netsetting, too!
      Heather

      Reply
  11. Kelly Youngberg

    I see I still have work to do. Great advice, Reese.

    Reply
  12. Reese

    Thanks Shannon!

    @heather, good thinkin’ about all that sidebar stuff leading people away from your site. And bet they do listen to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    @Carley wonderful wine analogy…I may have to borrow that one someday ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Reply
  13. Shannon

    Excellent advice! With all the usual web information and visual overload, a clean and straightforward site will stand out amongst the clutter. Great tips, Reese!

    Reply
  14. Heather Allard

    Reese,

    Thanks so much for a much-needed post! One of my biggest peeves is cluttered sidebars – I tell my readers and clients all the time to limit their “off ramps” – it’s pointless to have Google Ad Words, blog rolls, social media links, book recommendations if all they’re going to do is lead people AWAY from your site and your goal: to sell or get sign ups.

    Maybe coming from YOU, it’ll mean more. Heehee.

    As always, you rock! ๐Ÿ˜€
    Heather

    Reply
  15. Carley Knobloch

    So glad to see, as I’m about to manage a client’s WordPress Install, that the sidebar recommendations I made are RIGHT in alignment with your suggestions of what you need… and what you don’t!

    This is such a thorough, sorely needed articleโ€” always great to remember that people are not going to savor every page of your website like it’s a fine wine. More like fast foodโ€” they’re in, and their out (oh, now I’m hungry), so figure out what one or two things you want them to do while they’re there (sign up! sign up! sign up!) and focus their attention on THOSE.

    Can’t wait to check out your course, Reese!

    Reply

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