Throughout my 14 years in the design industry, I’ve used countless tools to work on my design projects. One of the first tools I used was the venerable design workhorse Adobe Photoshop, and it became my favorite tool for web and print design back in 2004. In the early days of my career, I considered Photoshop to be the most complete tool in terms of web design and mobile application design. Challenging Adobe’s dominance, Sketch arrived in 2010 and in my opinion revolutionized the UI/UX design process for Mac users. I loved Sketch and used it whenever I could for my web projects, but its lack of compatibility with PCs proved to be an inconvenient limitation in mixed-platform environments.
In a world of short attention spans, quick website visits, and instant gratification, less is more – simplifying and scaling back Web content helps drive actions more effectively and gives your visitors a clearer takeaway of your message.
Lesson Learned #1: People don’t care about your message unless it serves their needs.
You might have a lot to say – and that’s OK – but in most cases, real users don’t care about what you have to say. Real users are on your website to accomplish their goals and move on.
In our case at Liquid, we stripped out our outdated, bulky pages that touted our areas of expertise and which industries we’ve served – as if those blocks of fluff changed anyone’s opinion on our capabilities or sold someone a mobile app or digital strategy. If someone landed on one of these pages from a Web search, they would have probably bounced off the site instantly instead of reading through a wall of text. (And our stats in Google Analytics confirm this.) Not the first impression we wanted to make.
Instead, we streamlined, pared down, and left the basics of our website: a summary of what we do best (separated into three easy-to-understand categories – Strategy, Design, and Technology), our career opportunities, our work, our blog, and our contact information. Most of this content lives on one central page.
We asked ourselves key questions:
- What is the simplest primary message we want people to take away from viewing even a single page on the website?
- Why do people visit agency websites?
- How are people entering the website, and what are they trying to accomplish before entering our (or any) website?
It became obvious that even though we had a lot to say, people landing on our website wanted a more streamlined explanation of what we do, and better concrete examples of our work, our relationships, and our process.
So, we went to work, tearing down the bulky walls of text and building new, more digestible content.
Lesson Learned #2: Content first, functionality second.
We stripped down our Blog to the bare essentials, too. Instead of boxing posts into categories, which we discovered visitors ignored, we now list all our team’s posts in one centralized blog – a journal of sorts. We took out the Search functionality since it wasn’t relevant and it wasn’t used. (At all. Every click on the Search button in 2014 was from inside our office, according to Google Analytics.) We took out commenting since it was rarely used – we discovered that our readers wanted to read and share our posts, not participate in discussions. Now, our blog posts are focused on content, readability, and sharing.
Lesson Learned #3: It’s OK to go deeper – when it’s relevant.
In some areas, where it was necessary, we went deeper than where we were before. In our new Work section, we created four case studies for a few clients in different industries. For someone who wants to see specific ways we’ve worked with other companies, they can now read about how we’ve helped through Strategy, Design, and Technology, with relevant visuals that illustrate what we’ve done, as well as quotes from client contacts. We now also have an ideal way to show our awards and success in our portfolio. Our new Work section is a great example of having a lot to say – but saying it in a way that’s interesting and relevant to people who are interested (and not so “in-your-face” for those who aren’t interested.
Lesson Learned #4: Make sure sharable content is sharable.
Our old website helped reinforce another important concept: give important, sharable content a permanent link. Our old job postings appeared in modal pop-ups on a single Employment page. This meant whenever someone wanted to share an employment opportunity, they had to tell the recipient, “Go to the Employment page and look for the Mobile App Developer description.” Not ideal. The new website gives each job listing a beautiful, responsive, content-rich page – now with the added benefit of search engine indexing and sharability. (Oh, and the ability to bookmark. That’s an important one.)
The fruits of simplicity
Beyond its benefits for users, simplicity means less time on the back end spent editing and updating. In our case at Liquid, whenever we created relationships with new clients, our old website wasn’t conducive to adding new work since it meant adding a description of what we did, creating new graphics, and making room on an already-cluttered page. Now, our more simplified website lets us simply add a client logo to a grid to show our participation with a client without writing a more in-depth story. Content aside, switching to the Bootstrap front-end framework gives us an excellent responsive grid that works well at all sizes.
We ended up with a more responsive, focused website with relevant, interesting, sharable content. We’ll save time on maintenance and we’ll give new visitors a better idea of our capabilities more easily. In the context of the Web, and definitely in Liquid’s case, less is almost always better.
Our expertise is only as good as our ability to share it with you. Here are the latest thoughts and ideas from our team.
When I tell people that I’m a user experience (UX) designer, most people nod politely as their eyes glaze over for a second, and they try to move the conversation along. Early in my career I thought they were completely uninterested, but over time, I came to realize that many people simply don’t know what UX is and might feel awkward about asking. On behalf of misunderstood UX designers everywhere, please allow me to introduce you to the wonders of quality UX and why you should care about it.
What is a visual brand identity, you ask? It’s only one of the most important things about your business. Branding is far more in depth than aesthetics. It delves into the core of why you exist as a business. It requires hours of research and analysis to ultimately cultivate something visually appealing that communicates your message: your visual identity. A visual identity is comprised of a system of external expressions such as a logo, color palette and texture, typography, iconography, illustration, photography, motion principles, and composition.
I went fishing the other day and all I caught was a good UX lesson for you. Here’s the deal: my daughter entered the neighborhood annual fishing derby. For a decent UX guy, I’m a terrible fisherman. But I do know how to bait a squirming worm and unhook the slimiest of fish.