10 Tips for a Simple Website
'Keep it simple' is much easier said than done. Digital clutter doesn't demand our attention like boxes piling up in a garage, so it's easy to overlook. And since it's always easier to quickly add something than thoughtfully subtract, complexity grows naturally. That's why small business websites become cluttered, stale, and harder to manage over time.
Here are 10 easy ways to keep your website simple:
1. Try a Google Analytics Alternative
Most of us are just looking to answer a few simple questions: how many visitors do we get? how long do they stay? which pages do they visit? We use Plausible to answer those questions. It's a breath of fresh air. Simple, no privacy issues, fast and easy.
2. Don't Create Unnecessary Pages
Terms and Conditions - You don't need a terms or disclosures page unless you're giving out advice or concerned about liability. Even then, keep it short. And it rarely requires its own long page of legalese - a simple paragraph in the footer is plenty.
Sitemaps - Sitemap pages are a nightmare for maintainability. If you delete or change any pages, your sitemap page has to be updated. Inevitably it will fall behind and become outdated.
News - The reality is your website visitors aren't interested in your company's minor happenings. If you have real news of interest to a website visitor, highlight it on your Home page (and take it down when it goes stale). Old news should be captured on an About or Company page.
3. Keep Your Bios Simple
Nobody reads long team bios. Visitors might skim for company names, or to see if they recognize (or respect) your alma mater. Bios are notoriously unreadable and full of bloated jargon. Keep them short and link to your LinkedIn profile if you want to offer more info.
Bios often include references to years of experience. The smart way to include this info is to write "since 2010" rather than "11 years of experience". References like that act as 'counters' and have to be manually updated every year. As a compromise, you could say "10+ years experience" and update it only at milestones - every 5 or 10 years.
4. Avoid Using Team Photos
Having a photo of your whole team together on your website seems like a friendly, smart idea until a someone joins or leaves your business. Then it instantly becomes obsolete. So unless you plan on gathering everyone for a photo shoot every time your org chart changes, skip it.
5. Be Careful With External Links
Resources/Links Pages - Pages that are a collection of external links are not very useful in today's instantly searchable world. External links are out of your control and susceptible to breaking if the origin site changes or deletes the URL. If you have a useful tip or link, include it in a blog or your content as a helpful resource or reference.
Links to External PDFs - Instead of linking out to a PDF on another website, download the PDF and host it on your own server. That way the link will never break. Credit the creator, but keep control.
6. Watch Out for Overreactions and Alerts
Complexity can easily arise from reactions to minor annoyances and problems. Spam filters, pop-up alerts, *important* temporary announcements - they can serve a purpose but have to be managed. Before you decide to post policies, warnings, or control user behaviors, think hard about whether you plan to actively manage it long-term, and how you plan to avoid it becoming stale or clutter.
7. Skip Copyrights
Copyright notices are useless on a small business website. Adding a copyright year is even worse, because it creates a recurring annual task - updating something that shouldn't be on your website in the first place.
8. Leave Driving Directions to Google
Nobody needs driving directions anymore - Google has it covered. It's just another item that has to be maintained. Routes and directions do change and are very easy to forget to update.
9. Avoid Dropdown Menus
If at all possible, don't use dropdowns in your website navigation menu. Most small businesses rarely need more than 5-7 web pages. If you're going past 7 main web pages, ask some hard questions as to whether you've organized your website content effectively. Most 20+ page small business websites are really just 5-page websites with poorly written and organized content.
10. Be Sparing with Forms
Extra contact forms means extra complexity. A single contact page is all that's necessary. A call-to-action on some sub-pages can help drive inquiries, but a button can simply link to the main contact form, rather than an additional form that has to be managed.
Extra form fields reduce the likelihood of people completing your contact form at all. Don't ask for an address, phone, or other information that isn't vital to making contact. Ask for it later. Keep it quick and easy to contact you through your website. It's also less information for you to collect and manage, given that most prospects will never become clients anyway.
Captcha, hiding email addresses, and other methods to control spam puts the burden of spam on your prospective customer or client. Get a good spam filter and manage spam on your side. The more hoops you make a client jump through, the less likely they are to reach out at all.
Thanks for reading!