If you haven't heard, the days that it impressed people to have a big, flashy website full of gadgets, animations, and bandwidth-heavy flash apps are pretty much over.
There are a couple reasons for this. While broadband is common enough in households, in the past couple years there has been a huge explosion in mobile browsing. Also, there has been a general trend towards simplicity in consumer product and website design.
Each of these presents its own issues, but the short version is, the business content of your website needs to follow the good old KISS principle: Keep It Simple.
Simplifying the Business Content of Your Website
1. Design With Mobile In Mind
While mobile browsing does still only account for a fairly small percent of web activity today, it is growing rapidly. Already, 85% of new mobile phone sales worldwide are web-capable, and that number is rapidly approaching 100%. Mobile sales are on the rise as well. Last December, 87% of tablet owners did at least some of their holiday shopping online through their tablet.
So, while you may not be losing too much if you're overlooking mobile right at the moment, the winds are rapidly shifting. It would be effective planning to begin working on optimizing your site now, before you fall further behind.
When optimizing the business content of your website for mobile browsers:
Compress images and other elements as much as is reasonably possible, since many mobile users are on slow connections or limited data plans.
Keep your site layout simple (more on that below) without an excess of top- and side-bars. Generally only one permeant sidebar should ever be needed.
Verify your site renders properly on several of the most popular mobile browsers, especially Safari for iOS, Chrome for Android, and Opera Mobile. If it cannot and retrofitting it will be too difficult, consider spinning off a separate mobile site.
Don't use of any third-party plugins like Flash, Unity, or Chrome extensions. Mobile compatibility for these is spotty at best, and often completely missing. Flash does not work with iOS, for example.
It's also worth considering that slow load times can contribute significantly to bounce rates. A leaner, meaner site means better visitor retention across all connection types. Even if you don't care about mobile users, having optimized business content is still a good idea.
2. On Simpler Website Design
It's typical to think of new technology first being embraced by the young, especially Generation Y / Millennials. However, in fact, one of the fastest-growing markets for technology is people in their middle age: older Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers.
These groups, who did not grow up using online services, want simplicity in their electronics and website design. They're likely to be confused or simply put off by overly-confusing websites, and go somewhere that's easier to use.
On top of that, being straightforward and unpretentious is a valued trait among younger demographics, so complex websites just don't appeal to many groups right now.
The more you can streamline your interface, the better:
As we said above, keep the overall design as clean as possible, with a minimum of important button bars.
Use a simple and straightforward color design, with preferably no more than three major colors involved.
Graphic buttons like your Calls-To-Action should be fairly small. They should be eye-catching, but not at risk of being mistaken for anything but an advertisement.
If you want more tips for making a Boomer-friendly website, here's an excellent list of design elements to consider.
Simple Business Content is Better Business Content
Hopefully, the takeaway today is obvious: The more simple, functional, and easy-to-use your website is, the better. Keep your designs clean and uncluttered, and keep an eye out for mobile compatibility.
What other tricks have you used to make your website more accessible and inviting?