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Cococello is Deb Pang Davis. Independent print and digital designer, educator and soon-to-be-author.

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Your Website Has So Much Crap: Why Less Really is More

Excuse me, I need to rant. Here’s my Sensitive Designer perspective on something.

It might just be that I'm more sensitive to this than most because I am a designer.

It's your sidebar. It's your website. It’s your blog posts crammed with too much stuff.

I visited a blog in the past week that used all of these:

  • About me
  • Social networking buttons
  • RSS Feed
  • Like this
  • Tweet this
  • Tag clouds
  • Google Adwords
  • Other people's Ads
  • Flickr Thumbnails
  • Twitter Feed
  • Newsletter sign up form
  • Blogroll
  • Newsletter sign ups
  • Recent Comments
  • Popular Posts
  • Recent posts
  • Monthly Archives
  • Category Archives
  • Various "Awards"
  • Admin
  • Share This or Add This
  • Ratings
  • Related Posts
  • Gravatar
  • Tags
  • Categories
  • Print this
  • Email this

(If you got this far, my apologies that I had to subject you to that litany and now we’re on the same page. Let’s rant together.)

It hurt to look at it. I was convinced I would be cross-eyed for life if I stayed any longer.

You've taken the time to create great content. During that process, you put your Editor hat on and cut some things, re-worked, took a smoke break and re-jiggered again until you felt it reached “Publish” status.

Selecting widgets and plugins for your website/blog is editing. Resist the urge to follow the crowd “just because” it's available. Select your sidebar and website/blog features based on your goals and your brand.

It could be I'm not that person's audience. After all, I’m just someone who cares about how things look, values great content; someone who wants to learn more, get the information I need and heck, possibly buy!

Google ranked it high enough for me to click on it. Google did its job by giving me the most relevant sites for my search. Unfortunately, Google doesn't care that I care about design.

It’s possible, I’m the only one who gets my panties in a wad over this crazy clutter. I doubt it. 

I can still write with my panties in a wad so here's my take on your clutter:

Keep it:

  • About me: Keep it if you don't have an About Me page. Keep it short. Include a photo. People love faces.
  • RSS Feed: Make sure this is easy to find especially if a majority of your visitors are using Safari. They changed the RSS icon in the url field to “Reader”
  • Like this: It’s a great way to let people know their friends like you too!
  • Tweet this: Makes it easy to share.
  • Twitter feed: This is good for SEO. Or, the alternative is to just link to your twitter page with a nice icon or even just text.
  • Popular posts: This is a great way to encourage readers to dive deeper into your blog.
  • Monthly archives: Many people use this to navigate through your posts or find something they “knew” was posted in say, June of 2009.
  • Newsletter Sign-up form: These are people who are already saying, “yes!” to you.
  • Related posts: This is super helpful in suggesting other content in your site/your blog and encouraging readers to read more.

Ditch it:

  • Tag clouds: These really aren’t that pretty especially when you have so many tags, your visitors are confused so if you really want it, be creative in how you use it.
  • Google adwords: If you think you can make millions as the next superstar blogger using Google adwords or unless you really are making more than beer money, ditch the ads. They're U-G-L-Y.
  • Other people's ads: Again, if you want to be a professional blogger or your site's goal is to be a hub (you know, the mothership for all things photo, design, food, etc.) ditch ’em. If you are an affiliate, choose wisely and maybe organize them on a dedicated page.
  • Admin link: Bookmark your login page to your dashboard or control panel and nix the admin button. It screams “Amateur”.
  • Various awards: Do I really care if you made some obscure Blogger of the Year list? Nope. I just want great content. But, if you're proud of it, more power to you. I’d rather know you were featured in The New York Times, PDN or BlogHer.
  • Blogroll: I used to think this was a good thing and if you really want to support your friends or other sites you like, write a post. Give them some real love. I’m going to ditch mine.

Depends on how you use it:

  • Social Networking Buttons: Try something like Share This or Add this to keep it tidy. If you want to display icons, think about what your audience uses. Try not to display everything simply because.
  • Flickr: Are you keeping it up-to-date? This doesn’t have to be in your blog or sidebar. It could go on your about page. How could you use this differently?
  • Recent comments and recent posts: I’m on the fence about these. Maybe if you don’t have a lot of comments, wait until you do. It definitely makes more sense for really large sites/blogs that are more “hubs” with tons of content and frequent updating. Test it.
  • Category archives: If you choose to list categories, keep them simple, short and easy to understand. Use one category. It’s similar to a file cabinet. You stick 1 piece of paper in 1 folder; not split among 10.
  • Ratings: I would only use this if you aren't already using the "Like" button. One or the other.
  • Gravatar: If you have a picture in your About Me page or in your sidebar, you don't need this to show up on every post. If you have multiple authors, a gravatar comes in handy, letting people know who wrote the article.

I used to know people at newspapers who would say, “See all that space there? (pointing to some negative space in a photograph or a layout) It is screaming for some type or something to be placed in that spot.”

Cringe factor = huge. Remember, what is the point in creating a website/blog? It is a fabulous way to have a relationship with your readers, your visitors—your fans!

Not every part of your website demands “filler”. Remember your message. Know your audience. Every choice you make about your website, your blog is design. Design is editing. Edit for your audience. Be consistent with your brand.

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