Why websites should be simple

It’s widely accepted now that simpler is better when it comes to website design. Here’s why (culled from Why Simple Websites are “Scientifically” Better on ConversionXL):

  • A 2012 Google study found that users judge a website ‘beautiful’ or not in 0.02-0.05 seconds and that visually complex websites are consistently rated less beautiful – unsurprising given the little time available to process complexity
  • Simple websites require less physical work from the eyes and brain
  • Our short term working memory can store and process 5-9 chunks of information at a time – simple websites ensure those 5-9 slots are filled with the right things

One of the best ways to make a site simple for users is to have it conform to their expectations. Ecommerce sites should have the elements that people expect in the places they expect to see them – e.g. big image of the product front and centre (check out the asos home page).

That said, great design is an increasingly important driver of business success, norms evolve, and it isn’t at all true that designers should simply copy others in their category. They should, however, be aware that too much deviation from prevailing norms can result in users spending valuable cognitive resources figuring out how to use the site leading to lower conversions. That said, deviation from norms can sometimes to be very powerful. As ever with startups, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, but the point here is that bold designs carry a risk that should be carefully weighed up against more incremental innovations.