May 17, 2012

Website Design: Less is More

Guess what Google wants you to do?

Earlier this week I talked about how focusing on just a few things boosts your chances for success.  The same idea applies to website design and user interface (UI).  What you have on the page matters, but what you don’t have on the page matters even more.

Look at the Google home page above.  It’s one of the most popular web pages on the planet.  Probably hundreds of millions of people visit it each day.

Yet the page is mostly blank.

Don’t you think that companies such as P&G, Unilever, Coca-Cola and HSBC have approached Google offering many millions of dollars in order to place an ad banner there?  I guarantee they have.

Google said no to millions in easy revenue because they are clear that getting users to search is the main objective of their home page.

Google doesn’t tolerate anything on the home page (such as a banner ad) which distracts the user away from their main revenue generator of search.  It’s a great example of Google’s clarity and discipline, which is one big reason that Google is worth over $196 billion today.

If you run a website I bet there are certain actions that you want your users to do.  Here’s what you can learn from Google:

  1. Identify the most important actions you want users to do (key actions)
  2. Make sure the UI makes the key action clear and easy to do
  3. Ruthlessly eliminate content or features that do not encourage users to do the key actions
  4. Rinse and repeat steps 1-3 until you’re sick of it, then do it some more

This won’t be easy.

The sales team will swear that removing banners will crush revenue and possibly end the world.  Marketing will want to keep their links to their media partners, saying “They’re tiny!  What’s the harm?”  It goes on and on.  You will have to kill a lot of people’s pet ideas.  They won’t like you for it.

At VietnamWorks we focused users on the key action of job search by removing banners and increasing white space.  It wasn’t a fun process but the outcome was pretty good.  Users immediately know this website is about jobs.  It’s also clear how they can search quickly.

Another Vietnam jobs website, Kiemviec, prefers to cram more on the page.  I’m not sure what they consider to be their key actions (logging in, maybe?).  There are a lot of distractions on the page.  I have to look quite a bit before understanding I can search for jobs in the “Quick Search” box on the left.

Which one do you think is better?  Share your thoughts below.


Several months ago I launched a new jobs site for premium  IT jobs in Vietnam, My overall objective was to create a simple site that is easy to navigate. I applied lessons from Steve Krug’s famous bible of web design, “Don’t Make Me Think!” I’m pretty proud of it.

ITviec - The Best IT Software Developer Jobs in Vietnam