The best web sites accomplish just the right amount of stuff.
Bad web sites often try to do too much, or too little, and become hard to use.
What does your website attempt to do?
I thought about this while reading this article on design at User Interface Engineering. The summary of the article is that good design is invisible. We don’t notice when something works well, we only notice when something works poorly.
The example the article uses is Netflix as an example. The design is so good that you don’t even notice the design, things just work well, and it is easy to use.
Netflix is able to have such a good design because it does something simple, and specific. It allows the user to rent movies.
Netflix users know that Netflix actually does a whole lot more than just let you rent movies. You can watch movies on your computer, review movies, network with friends, get movie recommendations, etc. All of these features are hidden to the new user, and slowly get revealed. The design does not overwhelm the user with all of these features at once. If they did, the site probably would not be as successful.
The best, easiest to use websites are clear about their purpose, and are designed to promote that purpose. Extra features are revealed slowly.
Websites that display everything available on the site become hard to use and inaccessible. I have been to many websites that I know contain plenty of information I am interested in, but the design is so poor, that it is hard to navigate, and hard to find. I am not sure what feature of the site contains the information I want.
I give up on these types of sites pretty quickly now, because I don’t have time to figure out how the convoluted organization works.
When I design a website, I determine what the primary purpose of the site is, and design the site to promote that function. Other functions may be available, and I incorporate them into the design in a way so that they are slowly revealed to the user.
Knowing the primary purpose of your site, designing the site to promote that purpose, and making the site easy to use will result in better websites.