How To Unclutter The Content Of Your Website
To the search engines, content is king. However if your whole site is cluttered with content, it can look really boring and might scare your visitors away.
Identify Your Audience
Do you really need to unclutter the content of your site? The answer to this question will depend on what type of web audience you are targeting. There are usually 2 types internet users. The first type of users know what they are looking for and they arrive at your site with a purpose. They can be easily satisfied if you make information searching in your site as simple and quickly as possible. The second type of users arrive at your site without wanting to achieve anything, ie they just happened to stumble upon your site while surfing the internet. Majority of the internet users belong to the second category. If you want to sell something to them, you need to make them stay and listen to you which requires more effort. In this article, I will be focusing on how to entertain the second type of internet users.
Empower the Cursor
The mouse cursor has the ability to change its appearance as it passes over important areas of the screen. Changing the mouse arrowhead into a pointing finger or something else helps the visitor to identify a clickable link (the default style in all web documents). Rollover effects such as changing the font effects, background image or color when mouseover also help to differentiate between texts and links.
Do Not Abuse The Header
Most websites are designed to have a standard header(banner) and footer. Using a standard header on all your webpages gives your site a consistent look which is considered as a positive thing in Web Design. However, because the header catches the most attention, many webmasters love to throw in tonnes of graphics and information in it, making it look really bulky. A typical example is the use of Google Adwords in the header. We want our visitors to stay in our site longer, so the emphasis should be on the content not the header.
Furthermore, many people now have Google and Alexa Toolbars installed. Some even have other types of toolbars. This means that if the header takes up too much space, your visitors cannot read your content without scrolling.
Organize Your Content
It is a good practice to group all related infomation into their respective categories. When the user enters the category page, provide summaries of different ideas in just a few sentences with links to the extended versions (an example is www.sitecritic.net/design_ideas.php). In that way, the user can choose to browse and read what they want by clicking on the appropriate links. In fact, many portals such as MSN, BBC, CNN are designed in that way.
A direct way to prevent content clutter is to keep the length of the body to a minimum. Letting the readers see the whole page without scrolling motivates them to read the text. If you have alot of things to tell, separate them into different pages. If you look at the articles in devshed website, you will see that all the long articles are split up into different sections.
Images break up monotonous text. Numerous studies show that most people are more likely to read a story if there is an image accompanying the story. An image also leaves a more lasting impression on us because our eye is more easily drawn to familiar pictures rather than words. However, if your site is full of images, then text can break up the monotonous images. One caution when using images is that you have to keep the file size as small as possible without losing the image quality so that it will not affect the browsing speed.
Empty Spaces Are Useful
Negative space are areas that are intentionally left sparse. An empty space might not seem interesting but it provides a good boundary for different blocks of ideas. A typical example is the use of new paragraphs. People will be confused if you join all your ideas into one big chunk of text. Negative space also creates a good contrast for the text. Contrast helps to show the connection between design elements, establishes the flow of story or directs the eye to important areas of the web page. Like images, negative space provide breathing space for the eye. Intelligent use of negative space is the key to uncluttered a website in a cluttered environment. If you noticed, you will see that most blogs today are designed with alot of negative space because they have alot of text. One has to becareful though, that too much space makes your site looks really empty which is not good.
Hid Unwanted Information
Tailoring a website's presentation based on individual preferences is another way to reduce clutter. Unimportant or inappropriate information can be filtered off by setting up a preferences area whereby the user is questioned about specific needs or interests. Once the information is recorded, there can be a script setup to display only the areas or topics that are important to that viewer.
Many softwares nowsadays offer wizard utilities whereby the user arrive at what they want by answering some simple questions. The same concept could be applied to web design. If you are running an ecommerce site for example, instead of showing all your products to your viewer at once, you could ask them a few simple questions, narrowing down and displaying only the product information that the viewer might be interested. This technique can been seen implemented in many web hosting sites.
With the emphasis on content in Search Engine Optimization, it is important to display your content so that it does not bore the reader. If you can make your readers happy, they will return to your website or even use your services.
About the author
Sitecritic.Net is formed by a group of web addicts, mainly volunteers from all over the world. Our goal is to create a community of web designers and developers who share the common interest in bringing out the best in creatiing effective web sites. More web article can be viewed at Sitecritic.net internet articles.
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