The KISS principle (“Keep it simple, stupid”) has been driving recent website design trends. After the clean or minimalist style in web design was born, it gained thousands of backers. With time, simplicity was rendered absolute but, in many cases, misinterpreted.
Many designers perceive simplicity as the absence of all the elements on the page. Thus, they started hiding navigation under the hamburger menu whenever possible. These designers placed content under the fold and made buttons almost invisible. But this is so wrong.
Defining the terms right
Simplification of website design is a harmonious process that includes the combination of appealing design and perfect usability. Usability driven by simple forms and comprehensive structures is the main component of simplicity that creates a perfect user experience.
One of the definitions of usability, included in the ISO 9241 standard, is: “The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.” It is those three pillars that create a perfect user experience. Simplicity of design can be achieved through the combination of elements, placement across the website, and layout structure.
How to implement simplicity across your website design
Users may be initially attracted to a fancy website design. But what keeps them on the page and makes them return to your website, again and again, is the experience they get. And the experience is strongly based on effective design and emotional satisfaction. Here’s how to make your website beautiful and easy to use.
1. Be consistent
Consistency is essential for good web design. The design should look and feel harmonious. Color palette, image presentation, buttons, fonts and the way the actions are performed should be the same across all pages.
That doesn’t mean, however, you should use the same layout and page structure on each and every page. But you should keep a similar structure for pages of one kind, including blog post pages and informational pages, such as your contact or about page. Thus, users will clearly understand the purpose of each page.
Google has listed consistency as one of its principles of Material Design. It has created comprehensive guidelines to encourage designers implement Material Design principles into their work. This really helps in creating consistent design across the entire website.
2. Set up a visual hierarchy
This point is closely related to the previous point. Every element of the website design should bear its own load. Don’t forget that your goal is not only to help users satisfy their needs but to encourage the user to take an action on your site.
If you want to monetize a blog, don’t be obtrusive. Ensure the most important elements (CTA buttons and forms, for example) are strategically placed on the page. Lead users through your website from the initial interaction to the end goal (conversion).
3. Make navigation intuitive
Again, simplicity and usability come first here. Users should not scratch their heads over where to click next when they are on the website. They should find their way through your website with little effort. On the other hand, navigation should also help a website owner to guide users through the conversion funnel. Here are some tips on how to do it:
- Avoid multiple subfolders in your menu. If you use mega menus, add illustrative images to ease the process of navigation.
- Include a footer menu but avoid including the same links that already exist in the header. Try not to waste “link juice”
- Always include breadcrumbs on a page so the users can find the way back to the Home page or other category pages
- Use the “back-to-top” button to help users easily go to the header with the navigation menu
- Don’t forget to add a search bar in a prominent place
4. Avoid visual clutter
In most cases, a user comes to your website not to admire its design bells and whistles, but to satisfy their own needs, such as informational or educational. And your task as a website owner is to fulfill their requirements and help them find what they need. This doesn’t mean you should create a single page with text and a “Buy now” button. Use colors, various fonts, shapes, and images. But use them wisely.
- Research the color guides and choose a color palette that supports your brand image but will not frustrate the user with loud colors or color-blocking combinations
- Use white space to attract attention to vital elements. White space shouldn’t necessarily be literally white. It is the empty space around elements that should draw attention
- Come with proper typeface combinations. Most designers advise using not more than three typeface combinations of not more than three sizes. Try to play with combinations of serif and sans serif fonts
- Don’t use images, galleries or sliders just to fill the space
5. Use conventional patterns where users expect them
Most users expect navigation menus at the top of the page or the “back-to-top” buttons on the right bottom corner of the page. Users instantly recognize the “hand glass” sign that indicates the search bar. This doesn’t mean you should be traditional — but some of the most user-friendly websites include these conventional on-page elements. Ready-made themes are good since they are based on these well-researched and perfectly implemented user patterns, like sticky menus or shopping cart icons at the right top corner of a website.
The bottom line
The main goal of a website is to drive traffic and conversions — but this will be hard to do without providing users with a good experience. Stick with a UX design that combines simplicity with great usability, and you will easily get customers and visitors.