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Simple? What Do You Mean By That?

When talking with clients on what they would like their website to look like, the word "simple" is brought up time and time again. Although simple may sound like a pretty clear description, it can actually be extremely vague and it often has different meanings for different people. These particular meanings may actually be "simple" in a way, but I think we need to clarify what "simple" means in regards to websites.

Lets face it...

Describing what we like about a website is usually pretty difficult. That's because there's quite a few factors at play. Each website has a specific choice of colors, fonts, arrangement of text, arrangement of pictures, logo design, overall layout, article layouts, social media interfaces, and a variety of other particulars that make up its look, feel and function. With all of these things on one website, how can you call it simple? ... Hold onto that thought for a moment while we look at what we typically mean when we say "simple."

When we use the term "simple" to describe something tangible, the meaning is probably something like this: "composed of a single element; not compound." Applying this meaning to a website would result in a barren and empty site. Sure, a website consisting of one page with one paragraph and two external links may be simple, but it is surely not functional or beneficial. 

Not too cluttered.

Another term often linked with "simple" is "cluttered." Now, this one makes a bit more sense to me. A cluttered website is not ideal. Websites with lots of small text, links that hardly stand out from that text, unclear navigation and distracting backgrounds (behind text) make it very hard for the user to navigate.

Dilemma: What if you have a lot that you want to say on your website? Or, what if you have lots of pages? Wouldn't this ruin the hope for a "simple" site?

Answer: Nope, absolutely not. 

The key is how the site is designed. Bigger = simpler. Large buttons and clear navigation help people find their way around your site. Large text, although not too large (trust your designer on size), helps to avoid the cluttered feel. Line spacing also helps text a lot, too. On a website, text is arranged differently than in books or most legal documents. It's meant to be a joy and ease to read, making it simple. 

Truly Simple

I feel like the true meaning behind the word "simple," in regards to websites, is to achieve a final website that is easy for people to navigate and find what they need. Hopefully, you do not want a barren, empty site for the sake of people being able to find what they need easily. When you have a website with scarce content, as we've discussed before, it makes it look like you're not the expert. You want your potential clients to see that you know your industry, and having a site with little information on it is not the best approach. 

So, don't sacrifice the life of your site for the hope of simplicity. Simple is really all about the ease of navigation and readability. Simple is a good thing with websites, and sometimes, you may just have to trust your designer in order to achieve it.