If you’ve created something that users, customers, players, readers, fans, whatever will be interacting with, primarily a website for example, ease of use, perhaps above all else, is the most important element to keeping people happy and greatly improves the chances that they’ll actually take action.
This of course all starts with what their immediate experience is when trying to access your site. Things like flash intros, audio, infinite scrolling, disabling of right-click, not having a responsive design, etc. generally piss people off and have them going for the “Back” button.
If you have none of those annoying obstructions in the way of your visitors getting to your content, it’s now all about that content, and whether it provides any substance. A lot of websites are very pretty with lots of flashy design elements, videos, animations, blah blah blah, but if it’s not easy and comfortable for people to quickly find the info they’re looking for in plain old, boring text, you’ve failed them by being too creative over being helpful. In this regard, boring is very good.
On most websites, navigation is unavoidable, but people have gone a little dropdown menu crazy with trying to cram every single possible page of the website into the menu, which can cause decision paralysis, an issue more common with having too many products or product customization options, which should be avoided as well.
A perfect example is when someone just needs a goddamn email address! A lot of websites require a little detective work to find an email address, with no obvious contact page or a restrictive contact form that narrows the conversation into something that’s not even relevant or into a ticket system you don’t want to register for.
Admittedly, this very blog suffers from exactly what I’m explaining. But, this was a conscious decision because I grew tired of people emailing me their thoughts or questions about an article rather than actually engaging in the comments section of that article. But, most of my projects display a real, plain text email, front and center, ready to be copy and pasted. And, of course, if someone really needs to email me, it’s not that difficult to find my email address.
Finally, we come to the final piece of a website that is most important to keep simple, the call-to-action. Whether that’s registering, commenting, subscribing, purchasing something, whatever. Websites that require that you register in order to leave a comment or purchase something, is usually enough of a turn-off that I simply bale and find an easier solution.
The biggest sinners of over-complicating things are websites that sell digital products.
You don’t need my entire life’s history just to buy a digital product from you.
At most, you might need an email address and payment info (whether that’s PayPal or credit card details). But for someone to be able to purchase a digital product from you and for you to be able to instantly (it better be instant) deliver it to their email, for fuck’s sake, if you’re asking for a name, physical address, phone number, or other invasive and unnecessary details, you’re doing it wrong.
Unless someone is physically shipping something to you, there’s no reason for them to have your physical address. It’s that simple.
I’m always going back and tinkering with the design, processes, and philosophies of my websites. And it’s not to figure out what other superfluous bell or whistle I can add, it’s about consolidating the options, simplifying the language, and generally just making it easier for people to get in and get out. It’s about what I can strip away, not add.
Honestly, I don’t care about bounce rate. In other words, I’m not trying to create a labyrinth of a website that’s meant to keep people interested and distracted from leaving the site. I want them to get in, find what they need, and get out, back to things in their life that are actually important. That’s what it truly means for something to be useful.