I want you to imagine a house, a house that contains everything you own.

…might be a pretty big house…

Might be tiny (mine’s pretty tiny).

This is a magic house, so it’s as big as it needs to be to hold all your things. Car, boat, plane, spaceship, everything.

And there’s not a bit of clutter, because you have so much room that you can spread everything out precisely how you want it.

Now imagine that, despite having all this room, you decide that you need to put every single item you own in the entryway.

After all, that’s where people first see your house, right? Wouldn’t want them to miss anything!

It’s a magic entryway, so you can make it as large as you want…

But it sure feels cramped in there, what with the boats and cars and what not.

That’s What Having a Website Is Like: the House Is Your Website, and Your Stuff Is Your Content—And You Have Plenty of Room For Everything

The internet is magic, just like this house—you have all the room you could ever need to spread your things around until the clutter is gone.

You don’t have to cram it all in one place.

And yet, people still do. They take pages and pages worth of content and slap it all on the homepage. They seem to have a secret vendetta against negative space, filling it with content at every turn.

They use as many colors and shapes and motifs and patterns as they can uncomfortably fit on one page, and then they throw in a textured background for good measure.

And their audience has no clue what to look at first.

Less Is More—The More Junk On Your Page, The More Confused Your Audience Will Be

You exist for your customers—every small business does.

Your success or failure hinges on your ability to reach them.

Your website is probably a big part of that.

If the design of your website is confusing, if there’s too much madness going on, if all your content is crammed together, they won’t know what to do first.

And unless they are strongly compelled to get a hold of you, they’ll just leave.

The internet isn’t what it was in the 90’s—people have no patience for websites that are confusing. If they can’t figure out how to do what they need to do because the website is poorly designed…

They’ll click the back button, and they’ll try the next result on the search engine results page.

You literally have about 10 seconds to get their attention.

If you don’t have it by then, kiss that visitor (and that possible sale) goodbye.

Content Often Gets Crammed Into A Predetermined “Beautiful” Design—And It Sends Users Packing

Most of the time, people aren’t really cramming their content onto pages on purpose.

They’re doing it because they’ve fallen into a common trap:

Picking the design first and putting in content last.

People spend hours and hours fretting over the tiniest design details (like which member of the Helvetica family they should use), forgetting completely about the content.

They finally pick a design that “looks gorgeous.”

Unfortunately, that design doesn’t leave room to assemble the content in an easy-to-understand arrangement.

So the cramming begins.

And the end-user suffers.

A beautiful design at the expense of content is a failed design.

If your design doesn’t lead customers where you need them to go, it’s worthless.

Start with your content—

And Let Your Content Drive Your Design

We’re bringing simple back—1998 AOL simple.

You couldn’t do all these fancy shmancy tricks with CSS and Javascript like you can today.

Your content drove the design—it had to, because there wasn’t much design to be done.

Websites had to be clean (and yeah, many of them weren’t), but it wasn’t as easy to fall down the rabbit hole of crazy, dynamic design choices as it is today.

These types of designs can be done, but if it’s done at the expense of the content…

It’s just a gimmick. A fad. And gimmicks don’t lodge themselves in the mind of the user.

Even worse? They distract your customers from the stuff you want them to see.

It distracts them from the trail of breadcrumbs you tried to lay out for them.

It gets in the way of the sale—and that’s no bueno.

Focus On Simple, Put Your Content in the Driver’s Seat, and Don’t Worry About Creating Some Incredible Design

A website is nothing but a collection of information.

Without that information, the website is literally pointless.

Your design is nothing but a framework—it can’t be crap, but it doesn’t have the be the next digital Mona Lisa.

If you focus on what your customers need, on what information you’re trying to pass on, your customers are going to get a better experience.

Simple is sexy—and it’s effective.

And for your enjoyment, here’s the origin of bringing simple back (thanks SNL).