Like what you read?

Get our blog posts sent to your e-mail
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Join the Conversation Add Your Comment

  1. Igor@CK

    As usual great post, loved reading it. I am a web designer and strive to design simple and effective websites. I remember a quote, not exactly shure from where.., it might even be from you: “Clarity (always) trumps persuasion”. Important statement worth remembering and using almost always.

    Reply
  2. Hashim Warren

    this principle applies to marketing materials in general. The more you meet you buyer’s expectations of how your campaign should work, the more you can get people into a buying ritual where there’s instant trust in your offer.

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      Valid point man. That’s why story and character archetypes do so well, why scripts follow a certain format, and why everything that really works feels “familiar”.

      The real problem happens when the new creator doesn’t put their own spin on it. Without that, things just become bad copies of copies of copies. Thanks for bringing that up Hashim!

      Reply
  3. Belinda Summers (@belindasummers)

    It’s more of a targeted marketing strategy and I definitely agree with this. Conversion are more likely to happen if you reach the right audience and one way to do that is to meet their expectation and supplement their needs by the information that you provide on your website.

    Reply
  4. Doc Sheldon

    This is, without a doubt, one of the best pieces I’ve read in a good while, and quite possibly THE best on design, EVER. It’s really refreshing to see someone attempt to go beyond simple correlation and actually base their work on scientific data. Excellent article!

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      Wow! Thanks so much Doc, I’m really glad you enjoyed it. I’ve got to give it up to Peep though, he had a really strong idea and unleashed me on it. It’s amazing to do the research and find out what’s happening in various labs. It’s a lot of fun to dig up :-)

      Reply
  5. Janar Eit

    Always super to see someone try to find root causes for our actions and decision making. This makes me want to do so much more thinking during website design:)
    Cognitive fluency and working memory disengagement reasons where new for me and thanks for that!

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      No problem Janar, I felt the same way. It was really cool doing the research to discover working memory and how that is really what we’re trying to target when doing conversion stuff. That alone helped me reshape the entire way I think about design :-)

      Reply
  6. Jane Sherratt

    Really enjoyed this post. Less Is More! You have put into words what I think when I see really “busy” websites – too much information to compute sometimes. Now I know why.

    Reply
  7. Great article Tommy. Highlights the fact that simple is actually very hard to achieve, but when you do, the benefits are enormous.

    Reply
  8. Vinish

    A great post that echoes the latest (though common) web design trends and preferences so very beautifully. I will share it with one of my clients for whom I just finished the scope and plan to begin UX by early Dec. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  9. I´m fine with. But the algorythm of Google is not. Because they will “eat” (a lot) of content, to serve more visits. Is´nt it?

    Reply
  10. michaelsean

    I have been pushing to go s i m p l e on our sites for awhile now. Too many options = too many chances to lose your customer. Drive them down a path carefully planned to provide them the maximum amount of focused information. Good stuff.

    Reply
  11. Richard Keeves

    Peep and Tommy,
    Good stuff guys. So much valuable wisdom here, including the final 7 tips.

    It’s always about the customers aka visitors, users. Focusing on the wants, needs and expectations of the Ideal target customers is the key to most things in successful business and, as you have explained brilliantly to teach us and remind us, successful website design is no different.

    Thank you.

    Cheers
    Richard Keeves
    Smarter Web Strategies

    Reply
  12. Chris Palmer

    I’m surprised how people aren’t catching onto just this. Websites should be simple. I use the ‘me, my, mine’ test.

    If it was ME going to this website, would it be too busy? If the answer is yes, then I need to do something different.

    We should be minimal, and simple, focusing on the content that matters. Distractions should not exist, except where they are absolutely necessary (like optin).

    The world is moving toward simple: Simple organic food, simple devices, simple UI, simple cars- why would websites be any different?

    Thanks for the article. Always enjoy your stuff.

    Reply
  13. Cimplicity

    This is without doubt one of the best articles I have read. Clear, concise with supporting research.

    I did some research here in South Africa on the design of e-commerce sites and they nearly always follow the formula discussed in this article, primarily lots of white space……and now I understand why.

    Reply
  14. Kristina

    I agree with everything Doc Sheldon said! This is by far one of the best and most straightforward articles regarding simplicity in design/UX I’ve ever read. Will share with my team at work. :)

    Reply
  15. Nikunj

    Great points highlighted…I guess, I should get busy with some simpler design changes with my site..:D

    Reply
  16. Hate to always be that guy, ConversionXL, but the video on this page doesn’t work. Eh, at least for me it didn’t.

    Other than that, amazing flippin’ article. I’m definitely saying this to Evernote.

    Reply
  17. Ralev, Brand Designer

    I’m repeating most of these things to our clients on daily bases :)
    Some listen, some don’t, but the main thing is that it works for us.
    Keep up the good posts!

    Reply
  18. This is all well and good, but can you possibly design me a website where a monkey runs around a spinning version of my logo for 5 minutes before you can use the site?

    Also it should be at least 5 megs of initial download.

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      Lol! No, but that sounds like that might be a fun website for about 30 seconds.

      I suppose if there are lots of caps and the headline were all RED, it would look even better. Thoughts?

      Reply
  19. I agree. I like to follow the K-I-S-S philosophy: Keep It Simple Stupid! I’m new to the blogosphere and this article really helped to give me a better idea of what I should do about the look and feel of my blog. I’ve been really indecisive about it. Thanks for post.

    Reply
  20. Steve Sykes

    Hi Tommy, fantastic post. As a marketer with an engineering background, it’s always good to investigate the logic and reason behind the experience.

    When explaining to clients why things have to be a certain way, it’s worth mentioning that websites don’t come with user manuals, and that layouts need to be familiar and intuitive.

    Thanks again.

    Reply
  21. RadamBrown

    Fantastic insight and studies. One thing I’ve learned over the years and it’s something for us to take caution to is: “Simple doesn’t mean Shallow.” Thanks Tommy!

    Reply
  22. PocketSquareZ Com

    Simply is always better I think. It helps the customer to concentrate on the product instead of the web page. Thanks for the other tidbits of info.

    Reply
  23. Matt Anderson

    I am wondering how you could make this happen with a real estate website? I have an idea, but as stated in the article it must not look like something that has already been done. Good article I guess I will have to keep looking for ideas.

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      With real-estate, I would look at taking design cues from e-commerce or popular interior design sites. It’s not that you have to have to be totally original, but do the research to find out what people already know online. The people buying houses in your area have a certain income level, which means they can only work at certain jobs, which is an indicator to their online exposure.

      A guy who works in oil with an income of 100,000/year will have a different level of exposure than a tech journalist with the exact same income.

      Drop me an email if you want help with this going forward :-)

      Reply
  24. Maciej @ Brandignity

    I think the answer to this riddle can be very subjective. I like a clean site but I think there is such a think as organized chaos when it comes to website design. Sometimes it is important to give website traffic many options on where they want to go next which is common in high profile eCommerce sites.

    Reply
  25. Thanks for this articel. It can really help us because we will do a redesign for our ecommerce store soon. Its kinda difficult for me to let go personal preferences and go for the best conversion layout, but I hope I will find a middle in that.

    Greetings from Holland.

    Reply
  26. Robert

    What small dedicated companies do you recommend for this type of design?

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      Drop me an email at Tommyisastrategist at [gmail], let me know your approx. budget, and I can give you some suggestions from there :-)

      Reply
  27. Louis Rix

    Great piece Tommy – certainly one that i’ve passed onto my designer as we’re mid re-design at the moment.

    Sometimes it’s best trying to take a common sense approach (you’d be amazed how many people lack this) as it’s not all about being pretty. Functionality is far more important in my mind that pretty pictures etc.

    I like Igor’s comment – “Clarity (always) trumps persuasion” – Brilliant!

    Anyway – keep the posts coming!

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      That’s great to hear Louis! I’m glad this could be helpful!

      Reply
  28. Alex Montoya

    Hi, The video does not play. The article is great info!!! I am true believer in / of SIMPLE is SIMPLE does.

    Reply
  29. Andy Kuiper

    This is an excellent article – the KISS principle explained :-)

    Reply
  30. Very well written article in terms of design and conversion of those who make it to your site. I dont think one could hardly communicate better than Tommy has here on the importance of clean, clear simplicity and what that looks like. It certainly is clear that such a simply designed site would stand the best chance of converting a viewer to a customer. However, the BIG caveate might be SEO. If a site is not designed to rank high in searches and does not get near as much traffic it is debatable as to whether higher conversions will pay off. For example, if you get 100,000 visitors to a well optimized site but only got 10% conversion (10,000 buyers) are you worse off than if you get 1,000 visitors to a simple site but convert 50% (5 buyers)? Id be extremely interested in hearing what a highly knowledgable and successful SEO expert would have to say about this approach. Im all for doing it so long as I dont sacrafice too much in my volume of traffic. Wade

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      Wade, that’s a very interesting point and I’m curious to see what others might have to say about it.

      My question to you is, why would these things be mutually exclusive? By “simple” we’re talking about low visual complexity and being highly prototypical. I can’t see any reason why those things would have a negative impact on SEO.

      If anything, like the SkinnyTies.com example shows, it could increase the time on site, and reduce the bounce rate, things that Google has said play a considerable role into ranking a site.

      Also with low VC, wouldn’t that theoretically improve page load times, another big factor in SEO?

      This is more about how the information is presented rather than stripping the information itself. I’m just not sure how this might have a negatively influence ranking factors.

      Reply
    2. Wade,
      If anything, I think a better design website that converts well would/should rank better in search. Given Google’s ongoing updates that punish people for over optimizing content, you’ll see SEO changing in the near future. What comes to mind is the term audience optimization, rather than SEO. Google works to reward good websites, and good websites are produced to benefit their audience – via good design, usability, etc. Those things together will seemingly result in more conversions, better search results and more traffic. My two cents…

      Reply
  31. Helen Overland

    This is a great article, well researched. I’ve shared it with my team, thanks for writing it!

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      Thanks Helen!

      Love the stuff you guys do over at SearchEnginePeople too! Keep up the great work :-D

      Reply
  32. gbear

    How do very successful companies with very complex and noisy web sites play into this simplicity guidance? Something like GoDaddy comes to mind. Perhaps it’s to your point on knowing your audience – if it’s engineers or PhD’s as cited above – a more cluttered, complex design might resonate more as being authoritative in some way and convert better than simplicity?

    Reply
    1. Peep Laja Peep Laja

      As Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

      GoDaddy should run a test on their site to see if simpler works better. They actually already have simplified their site a lot compared to what is was years ago.

      Reply
      1. Tommy Walker

        That would be interesting, perhaps Markitekt should send a proposal :-P

        Domain.com has a much simpler site by comparison. I’d love to see heatmaps of both sites to get an idea of what’s actually being used.

        Reply
  33. Tommy Walker

    Ah, I see what you’re saying.

    Keyword density is still a thing, but with the recent algo updates, it’s more about having natural themes around the keyword, than it is about cramming it into the content as much as possible.

    That being said, it’s still possible to package long copy in a simple, but compelling way. This site, ConversionXL is a good example of that. Another is Medium.com.

    “Simple” doesn’t mean using less text. It’s about making smarter choices to package that text to make it easier to consume.

    Using Medium as the example, the site is mostly black text on a white background. But the articles are long, and can rank pretty high. The font choice, size, and typography used on the site as a whole, communicate something very specific about what the Medium.com brand is.

    I think that’s what I’m saying when it comes to the visual communication aspect of it all. You can “say” things with design that you don’t have to say in words. Take a look at Medium, and hopefully that’ll make more sense.

    Reply
  34. Nora McDougall-Collins

    Thanks for the article! I have a client that I am trying to convince to simplify their design. I sent them a link to the article.

    Reply
  35. Mike Peterson

    Amen Tommy!
    To clearly communicate a message or sell a complex product online is hard enough as it is. You article gives me a great deal to think about as to how I can help my customers simplify their message, keep prospects engaged, and make a sale.
    Thanks

    Reply
  36. mike ahuja

    very interesting article, i guess some of things int he article are things i do without thinking about it…thats a good sign i think :)

    Reply
  37. nick sharpe

    back to basic sales, or, how to say KISS in 9 million words or less

    Reply
  38. Carlinton

    Dear Tommy,
    I must let you know that I enjoy reading this article. I have learn so much and I will be applying what I have learned to my website. I am a bit new to online publishing and so, I am happy I was referred to this blog at this time.
    I have shared it with my friends on twitter and facebook. I know others are looking for information like this. :D

    Thanks for sharing this great article! :D
    All the best!
    Carlinton

    Reply
  39. Marna

    This is a terrific article, thanks! I wholeheartedly believe in simplicity. And as someone starting out as a freelance site designer, it makes me feel good knowing I don’t have to do fancy stuff to make a good site!

    Reply
  40. Brian King

    The hardest part with the simpler is better approach is boiling down what’s truly important to visitors and giving it to them in a easy to digest fashion. Great tips, the basic 7 point guideline at the end is really helpful in walking through the process. Awesome as always.

    Reply
  41. Scolex Portal

    Wow! This article has changed the way I look at web design. I thought that the more the images and animations in a site the better it is for the audience.

    I gonna use some of tips you shared here in order to renovate my blog to become “simple but terrible”.

    Reply
  42. Tommy,
    This is one of the finest pieces I’ve read in quite a while. Definitely agree that “less is more” and thanks for proving it in such a great way!
    Awesome job, well done!

    Reply
  43. sonam

    Hi – this is really helpful information – but I am curious – does anyone wonder that by simplifying and catering to instant gratification of senses and expectations, perhaps there is a point where it starts to lose it’s benefit? For example, what about offering a site with depth of content – how can we avoid that depth being overlooked?

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      You make a good point, but what we’re talking about isn’t “simplifying” the content by dumbing it down, but rather the visual presentation around the content to make it easier to absorb.

      Take this website for example, the content would be far from “simple” yet it’s visually packaged in a way that makes it easier to take in, helping you retain the information, and make the decision to comment, share, or sign up via email much more natural.

      Think of it more as the packaging of the content, rather than simplifying or stripping the content itself.

      Reply
  44. Glen Morris

    Excellent summary this is one of the best post I have seen on this topic. You hit all the points well done, thanks I will be sending this to quite a few clients.

    Reply
  45. brittnh

    Great article. I wonder how this would apply to Asia, where most websites are highly cluttered and visually dense. Our staff there often complain that our website design is too simple and thus feels unfamiliar to them.

    Reply
  46. Impressive article. Speaking of ‘thorough’, it certainly hit root. Thanx!

    Reply
  47. Gal Baras

    Awesome stuff. Clear, simple and ends in a recipe for greatness. Also, thanks for the reference to the slider research post. No more sliders for me.

    Reply
  48. Dan Carter

    This is one of the finest pieces I’ve read in quite a while. Great work and very simple and in layman language.
    Awesome job, well done!

    Reply
  49. Sam Korn

    I am sorry I missed this article when it first came out. A good friend pointed it out to me since she knows we are redesigning some of our sites. It couldn’t come at a better time as we are right in the middle of discussing which whizbang features to keep and which to delete. My gut had been telling me to take a lot of it out but I didn’t have enough info. Thanks for giving me the ammo I need!
    Have to keep repeating it over and over….A confused mind does not buy.

    Reply
  50. Phanta

    Very interesting. What do you think about Amazon’s layout? To me it looks cluttered and anything but simple, and overall it’s very confusing. Yet, they’re clearly a leader. What’s at work here?
    (You could throw Ebay into the same busy camp.)

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      No you’re right. Amazon is a mess. But their success doesn’t stem fron high conversion rates necessarily, it’s from sheer product volume. I read a stat the other day that Amazon tests something like 4,000 discounts per minute.

      Because Amazon, and Ebay too really, are able to offer as many products as they do, and often at a discounted rate, they’re leading the pack due to offering so many different things.

      It would be interesting to see what would happen if they did simplify their design.

      As a tangential thought, Youtube was able to see higher time on site and increased clickthroughs after their last major site design that simplified the watch pages. I mention them because they also have a high content inventory, though they are in a different category.

      Reply
  51. Dan Carter

    Thank you so much . This information is invaluable to seo’s and business owners. You really should have a donation button somewhere on your site. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say “I’d be happy to support your research”.

    Thank you again!

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      Funny you say that Dan, we’re actually planning on conducting original research, but it’s going to be free (so how about that?!)

      Reply
  52. SEO Training Philippines

    Simple website has better conversion rate than complicated sites because they are easier to understand by their visitors.

    Reply
  53. Mihajlo

    I am planing my portfolio page and while doing bit of researching, this article came out. It was real fun reading it. Great article.

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      Thanks Mihajlo! I’m glad you liked it :-) Hopefully it can help you create a really killer page!

      Reply
  54. Mary Morrison

    Great information, thanks. I had my site redesigned a year ago. I love the look of my site but it is not converting enough! This really helps me identify what might be wrong. great work.

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker
      Reply
  55. Paul Merc

    Hi Tommy

    Very interesting read, looking at the mailchimp logo redesign by Jessica Hische, although such a subtle change it can make a big impact, although when enlarged there is very difference, its the change on the smaller websized image where the changes are most apparent

    However i am sure when they updated their logo they also had a fairly big advertising campaign going along side, so the graph on the new subscribers, could be a little misleading, but there again it can show the power of design can HELP improve a websites appeal

    Enjoyed the post

    Paul

    Reply
  56. Good information but you don’t need to why. You only need to know what. Look at some of the best ads of all time that were produced in the mid-20th century. They followed the same recipe: Photo, bold headline underneath and text in columns on a pure white background. They knew then how the brain works and how information should be utilized to sell, not impress with how it looks. Although I say the simple layout looks great.

    Reply
  57. Adam

    You have a lot of valuable information.

    //* FitVid may be a good addition to this web page. It was difficult scrolling down my iPhone when the page kept diverting over into the right margins.

    Or

    Not the greatest way, but:

    overflow-x: hidden;

    Reply
  58. Rich Simmonds

    A great article and it touches on some very important psychological principles.

    In the interests of “deviation causing disengagement”, please re-read this article and sort the missing words and other typos for smoother digestion. ;)

    Reply
  59. Craig Thomas

    Brilliant article. Loved reading, especially from my own psychology background. The case study really pushes the point. I’d love to see what sort of stats they’ve achieved in the long term from the design? Year on year etc

    Reply
  60. james pader

    Good information. I think an important point is to use less borders and defined spacing. You touched on with the “breathe” graphic and it is especially important to the skinnyties example. The old design was blocked out with the colors while the new design uses minimal borders and lots of open space.

    Reply
  61. Naman

    Hi.

    Its very good article… and helpful too. thanks for sharing.

    Regards

    Reply
  62. Paul Quin

    Came to the party late, but had a good time. Thanks for this, Tommy. Odd to see a plea for simplicity having such overwhelming graphix – do you believe your schtick or is it a put-on? Either way, it’s a help in a current project. Say hi to my hero Peep.

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      Welcome to the party Paul, glad you had a good time.

      I whole-heartedly belive my schtick, however when I rented the hall, it came with it’s own rules & guidelines, so there ya go.

      I’ll say hi to the boss for ya ;-)

      Reply
  63. Melanie

    Did it not bother anybody else that the first sentence of this post is missing a period?

    Reply
    1. Tommy Walker

      Oh my God, YES! Thank you for pointing that out! *edited

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Current article:

Why “Simple” Websites Are Scientifically Better