Get Out of The Way

Get out of the way and make it easy for your visitors to find what they want.

Recently I completed a report for a site that was the most 'peaceful' and among the most 'useful' I had seen in a long time. That is to say, the visual and promotional 'noise' on the pages was at a minimum.

Take a look for yourself here:

As you can see, the headings are all the same size and weight, there are very few images and the background color remains consistent.

I'm not suggesting that every site should be without color, images and big headings. But what this site showed me is that when you take out all those heavy visual and promotional elements, you make the content much easier to scan.

Your eyes are not being dragged from one place to another. The design isn't attempting to say, "Look at this area first! Look at me first!" There is no visual shouting, as it were.

The result? It's a calm place. Your eyes are free to roam without undue influence from the design. You can quickly scan the headings to find the content that is most relevant to your task.

In addition, the text of the headings themselves is not shouting. There is no 'copywriting' here. The headings simply describe the content.

So now neither design nor text is trying to make you go to one place first. You are left free to decide for yourself, without having to fight your way through promotional clutter and noise.

And that's the key here: the absence of promotion. The company, Business Objects, is not using this site to push, promote or emphasize any one of more of its products or services in particular. They are simply providing information and allowing visitors to find what they want, as quickly and as simply as possible.

This is the benefit of 'getting out of the way'.

On most sites, our promotional interests get in the way too much. We shout and scream in an attempt to get visitors to spend their time looking at what WE want them to focus on.

The problem here is that we may not always be very good at anticipating what THEY want to find. And our breathless attempts to get them to look in one direction makes it harder for them to find what THEY are looking for.

This is where this site really shines. The company, designers and writers have moved out of the way. They have created an interface and written copy that is essentially 'sales-neutral'. It's a bold move.

But as a result, their visitors are spared the noise of so many other sites, and are given a layout, headings and links that make it simple to find what is most important to THEM.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

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