When In Doubt, Go Simple: 5 Reasons Simple Design Works

January 14th, 2010 Posted in Various

There’s been a recent revolution in online design – a move towards simplicity and minimalism. While minimalist design has been around for decades – from inspiring product design to ultra-simple building architecture – the most recent wave of simple blog designs and action-driven website styles has cemented minimalist design as one of the most important and valuable design styles out there.

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Why? Because it works. Thousands of top bloggers have taken up ultra-simple blog designs for that very reason. Rather than distracting their readers and inflating their business requirements with a complex page design, more and more companies, bloggers, and web presences are opting for the simple option.

There are hundreds of reasons to go with a simple blog or website design, but these five stand out about all others. Simplicity can be a powerful tool when harnessed properly, and when used as part of a great website design, even the least complex template, header, or navigational system can transform a website. Before you shell out big money for an ultra-complex website design, take a look at these reasons to go simple:

1. Simple design keeps the reader’s eyes where they belong: on the content.

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Ultra-simple design is so effective because it acts as a guidance tool. Rather than incorporating a visual call to action into their blog design to push readers towards the content, using a simple design is often enough to put the content at the forefront of people’s attention.

There’s a clear drawback to this method, which can be fought through even simpler design. Advertising-supported blogs depend on designs that draw eyes towards their promotions and sponsors. For simple design bloggers, the solution isn’t to complicate things with fancy ad blocks, but to shift the position of the advertisements while keeping the same design.

2. Simple design is low maintenance.

Complex designs can be headaches when it comes to initial website design and ongoing maintenance. Every designer has heard horror stories about ultra-complex code and impossible website updates. Changing something as minor as a single photo is difficult when it’s surrounded by a ludicrously jumbled mish-mash of code.

Making changes to simple design is effortless. For designers, novice to experienced, there are reasons beyond the aesthetic to aim for simple design. Keep thing simple and you’ll enjoy quick update times and rapid design changes – keep things complex and you’ll forever be stuck fixing problems, making impossible changes, and redesigning your website.

3. Simple design is perfect for ad-heavy websites.

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Complex designs are distracting. For every users that’s impressed by the depth and complexity of your website design, there are ten that are left absolutely puzzled as to where they’re supposed to be looking. When you invest in difficult design, you immediately put your audience on the offensive – searching for your content, concentrating hard on the focus points of your website, and at the same time ignoring your on-page advertising.

Ad-heavy websites benefit from designs that don’t isolate their banners, text links, or sponsors. Simple  designs, most of which use a single background color, are absolutely perfect for integrating simple advertising into your website body content. Enjoy increased clicks, higher per-page earnings, and a significantly more profitable website as a result of simple design.

4. Search engines love simple design.

When you design an ultra-complex website, you not only run the risk of distracting users, but of distracting and confusing the search engines. Google, Yahoo, and MSN (Bing) are the big three of the search world, and they all love one thing: clean code and fluid design. Of course, while search engines can’t see your page, they can certainly see the code that’s powering it. Complex, jumbled code often causes poor search engine results, while simple and clean code can work wonders for your page ranking.

5. Simple design ages well.

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Look around any major city’s skyline and you’ll see timeless buildings that have stood for, in many cases, over 100 years. Then look further and you’ll see architectural eyesores of the last 20 years, all built in a desperate attempt to look ultra-modern and trendy.

Of course, the phenomenon isn’t restricted to architecture. Look at the fashion industry – designs that are hip and edgy are quickly outdated and garish; losing their already thin appeal in an attempt to always be the here-and-now. At the same time, simple classics stay at least semi-fashionable, and rarely lose their appeal.

Your website design should be similar. Don’t pick something that looks incredible now; pick something that will look just as good five years down the line. Remember when Flash page intros were the coolest thing on the ‘net? Now they’re nothing more than an annoying inconvenience. Simple design is timeless, and a simple design today can save you years of embarrassment from Archive.org in the future.

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13 Responses to “When In Doubt, Go Simple: 5 Reasons Simple Design Works”

  1. Noel Wiggins Says:

    I agree that clean simple designs are powerful, but my concern is that when is simple effective or simply lazy. Clients pay big dollars to get their websites designed, and they usually don’t have the “education” or understanding of why a simple design is more effective.

    So if you can educate the client, and get a simple design through then congratulations,

    I also love clients who claim they want a “simple” design, thinking the price will be cheaper, but i reply simpler designs cost more, because it takes endless amounts of edits to try and remove elements until you find the only elements needed to effectively communicate the idea…

    Simple is good but simple is hard.


  2. louisville website designer Says:

    Thanks for the share. Keeping those design tips in mind!


  3. Mark Says:

    Hay!

    Simplicity is best but you have to put an attractive image on it to grab people attention, I know that content really matters but image play an important role to reflect your blog or site.

    what you think guys?


  4. Rahul - Web Guru Says:

    As they say it time and again:

    There is a great beauty in Simplicity”


  5. Gonzo the Great Says:

    Hi Mathew,

    Great article and oooh so true! A great designer is someone who lets the message (read: content) come out. The message should be readible and clear (in combination with some pictures/images to support the message). Nothing more, nothing less!

    In my opinion Design can be defined conform the KISS-theory: Keep It Stupid and Simple, that’s what ‘minimalism’ is all about!

    Everybody can stuff a site-layout with difficult navigation, no overview, distracting flash or GIF’s animation, etc.

    Cheers & Ciao …


  6. social network design Says:

    I am also with your comment a simple site can attract more,but the content should be interesting.


  7. Design ideas Says:

    Fantastic reading. Thanks for beautiful article


  8. Andrew Says:

    @Noel: Well said, simple is hard. This is true in every field and skill. The real masters make things look simple and effort-less but behind the streamlines simple elegance is a gaggle of talent and experience.

    When will we learn that nothing comes easy – even if it looks easy!

    Thanks for the reminders Matthew.


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