Einstein once said, "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex ... It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction."
What's the first thing most people do in the morning? Jump in the shower? Grab a coffee? Check their… email, social media, phone? We live in a modern society where much of what we do is online.
Since the web is a such large part of daily modern life, a user-friendly and intuitive online experience is crucial.
As designers, it’s good practice to simplify so that our work does not become needlessly complicated. While there are exceptions to these guidelines (I’ll discuss in another article), I wanted to share some tips on how to keep your web experience simple.
1. Minimize Your Color Palette
One potential pitfall in web design is cramming too many colors into a design. Just because a brand has a dozen colors to choose from doesn't necessarily mean that using all of them is best route. Try and narrow your palette down to 3-5 colors to begin with. Also, choose colors that go well together for color harmony. It's better to leave out a brand color than to include a clashing color.
Consistency is important. If you are using blue buttons throughout your site, but suddenly switch to orange, your user is going to wonder why. This signals a change in functionality or importance. Without any context surrounding the change, it can become confusing. Color changes need to be clearly defined. The same can be said of typography, calls-to-action, and other elements. Once the color pallet is established, keep it consistent across the site.
2. Limit Your Fonts
Legibility and a limited type palette is important in design. Most of the web is copy, so visitors need to be able to read what they’re looking at. Using consistent styles and narrowing your fonts establishes guidelines. The exchange of information becomes clearer from the website to the visitor. They will know that "Font Style A" is used for headlines and titles, whereas "Font Style B" is used for paragraphs of copy. This is common hierarchy, and a timeless guideline. It makes it easier for users to digest the story.
Not only does limiting your type palette allow for a cleaner and more user-friendly experience, it will also help with load times. The more fonts you force a user to load, the longer it takes for your message to display. We want our websites to load quickly, and using a limited type pallet can help.
3. Use Meaningful Photography
It's a well-known fact that people love to look at photos, and photography plays a key role on the web. It should enhance the message, elevate an experience, and create an emotional response. It shouldn't leave the visitor distracted.
Photos should be uniform, high quality, and have an intentional purpose. Like other components in design, consistency is important in photography. The design should feel cohesive. It can be distracting when photos feel out of place, are poorly shot, low quality, or are inconsistent with your brand or message.
Limit photography to your absolute best photos, and keep the amount of photos to a minimum. There's no denying the impact a well-chosen photo has when compared to it's opposite. Photography plays an important part in visual hierarchy, so it should be used in a meaningful way.
4. Create Intuitive Experiences
When was the last time you read a book, and the table of contents was after the epilogue? Once standards have been established, they become familiar. The same is true for websites. A framework is established for users and they know where things can be found because it’s already familiar to them. It would take a considerable amount of thought, testing, and preparation to deviate too far from it.
Keep the essentials of your design in places that make sense and are always easy for users to access. If the site is designed well, there won't be much question on how it's supposed to function.
5. Design For Web Standards
Continue learning as technology advances. Load time is one example of how current standards need to be considered while designing.
Every second counts.
For a better user experience, websites should be fast and engaging. A fast website is more successful and produces better results. Shoppers will abandon a purchase and visitors will leave a website if they are waiting too long for a page to load.
Keep it simple. Be selective and intentional when making design decisions since they can affect web standards like load times.
You can simplify without removing interesting elements. Narrow down and remove the extra clutter. Limit your colors, fonts, photography, and other design elements to show only the best. It will help important features shine and create stronger hierarchy. Once you have established a basis for an interaction or layout, try to keep these rules in place to maintain consistency for your users benefit.
In short, if you think your solution might be too confusing or complicated, simplify.
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