Users find websites for a variety of reasons. For the most part they are on your site to accomplish a goal. Maybe it is to find a product, learn something or download something. I can almost guarantee that they are not there to be confused and overwhelmed by information. I believe that far too many sites are much too complex and confusing for users. This happens for a variety of reasons. We hear from companies all the time how they need to provide vast amounts of information and that almost all of this needs to be accessible from the homepage. Not just on the homepage, but “above the fold.” The result of this becomes as overly complex and overly crowded mess of a site where the user is so overwhelmed by the shear quantity of choices that they simply choose to leave. As with the following example, Continental attempts to give the user access to just about everything they would want to do. As a result the user is overwhelmed and confused.
One reason for this is that there is a general sense of fear that if something is visible on the homepage, that users will not find it. Another is the use of analytics and tools that measure how far users scroll down a page which perpetuates this fear. The flaw I find in this data is that it typically includes all visitors to the site. Anyone who had ever looked at website analytics knows that a site gets a lot of very unqualified traffic from search engines. The behavior of this unqualified traffic can overwhelm and mask the behavior of users who actually intended to be on your site and have a task to accomplish. These users behave very differently and will be more likely to go a few pages deep into the site to complete their task. Target is an example of a site with a ton of content, yet they keep the content on the homepage focused to a primary goal. This makes the experience for the user much less intimidating and invites the user to explore further.
What these qualified users need is a simple experience that gives them clear information that is focused on the primary goals of the site and doesn’t try to do everything at once. One of the reasons that mobile apps are so popular is their simplicity. They are typically focused on a simple set of functions and they rarely require much of a learning curve. People are easily overwhelmed by a plethora of options, so give them the simplicity that they seek. Think about the objectives of your site and distill them down to just a few. Give those objectives the attention that they deserve and you will greatly increase your chances of accomplishing them. The secondary objectives can be pushed lover on the page or deeper in the site. A motived user will find them, especially if they are intrigued by the site and weren’t scared off by an overly complex page. This site for Billings is a great example of reducing choices for the user, and focusing on the primary goals of the page.
Users make decisions about your company within a few seconds of landing on the page. Do you want to have that impression to be one of confusion or would you rather communicate a clear and simple message that will intrigue a user and draw them into the site? So when planning a site, think about the objectives of the site, and then prioritize those objectives. If the site could do only one thing, what would that be?