Blinded By The Site: Making Friends With Web Design Minimalism
December 6th, 2011 by
If you’re anything like me, when you visit a website that’s overloaded with Flash, an abundance of images, excessive menus, and just a general maze of content, your brain shrivels up to the size of a raisin and your eyes glaze over with no focus of what to look at or where to find it. (As far as I’m concerned, the same problem exists for social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Creating endless posts and tweets just for the sake of having more content and saying whatever pops into your fingers is the quickest way to get me to block or un-follow your posts. Then I’ll never hear anything you have to say!) The idea that the more there is to look at, the more visitors, friends, likes, and followers you’ll get is simply untrue in many cases. You can still catch plenty of flies with sweet, sweet simplicity.
Too many web designers and developers make choices that, while skillfully executed with complicated Ajax and fancy Flash elements, not only confuse and deflect site visitors, but also have the same effect on search engine crawlers. While when properly used (read: in moderation) these elements have the potential to add functionality and style to your site, it is often beneficial to limit or altogether avoid these in favor of a clean, easily searchable and indexed site.
Take splash pages, for instance. When a splash page is your homepage, it not only prolongs the amount of time it takes for your visitors to get to the actual content they’re seeking, but it also confuses search engines. Without your homepage containing index-able elements like links to the other pages of your site and keywords, search engine spiders will not be able to properly crawl and index your site. Get rid of that splash page!
Aside from splash pages, using Flash elements or images elsewhere on your site for headers and menus can often cause visual frustration and complication for visitors and search engines alike. Dancing baby Flash headers and image-heavy menus can be a dizzying headache, and crawlers simply can’t read text embedded in Flash and images. There are several great resources for web designers on how to keep your site design from being overly complex while maintaining SEO excellence. Make sure you mind your H1’s, et al.
Personally, I agree with the late Steve Jobs when it comes to valuing the beauty of a highly-functional, simple design. There’s something to be said for keeping a clean, easily navigable, minimal aesthetic. And I’m not alone in my love of minimalism in web design. I’m not suggesting you go out and replace all your shirts with black turtlenecks, but I am suggesting that you consider what William of Ockham said and not unnecessarily complicate matters when you can simply state your case. When you embrace minimalism, everybody wins: you, me, and the spiders. And you don’t want to upset the spiders. Trust me.