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Use simplicity to create effective webpages

Updated on June 10, 2015
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On the web today - keep it simple for your article or blog

It's really interesting to look back at some of the strange things we used to do on websites in the last century. Today, whether you're creating a huge website or a single page here on this or any other content writing site, it's important to keep it simple.

Because we could, we did

That was our attitude - we'd find a piece of 'clever' coding that created colored scroll bars (for example) and think we were being very smart. We would add all sorts of nonsense simply because we could. But today, people are accessing the web from many different types of device and our 'cute' little tricks just won't work any more.

Things to avoid

The internet - and the devices we use - change all the time. And they'll continue to change. If we keep our pages simple, then we can assure readability on all platforms, plus creating an insurance for ourselves so that our pages and websites won't need extensive overhauling next week, next month or next year. Avoid:

  • CSS - the more code you have, the more you're likely to need to update in future
  • Tables - these do not render on cellphones
  • Flash - not many people use it today because many devices just don't 'read' it
  • Huge quantities of text - people simply don't read them
  • Lots of links in the text - these confuse the viewer; should they click or read on?
  • Excessive confusing images - we want to make it easy for our readers

Below, I'm demonstrating using a content writing site and creating a simple article but most of these principles apply on your own website or blog too. If you'd like to see the page demoed below, click here.

Design for usability

Princess Margaret, the queen's sister
Princess Margaret, the queen's sister | Source

Top tips

1. The introduction. On many sites, the image you select for your intro will be used as its icon, so choose carefully. (In Wordpress, for example, this will be your 'featured image'.)

It's a good idea to crop the image in closely so that its subject matter can still be seen when it's shown much smaller.

If it has the ability to intrigue the reader, so much the better.

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2. Text should always be broken up into small chunks as you can see here.Don't worry if you need to create a paragraph at a point that isn't strictly grammatically correct.

You want people to read your article - they aren't there to criticise your paragraph usage.

People skim your copy and home in on words they find interesting. This is very difficult to do with long passages of text.

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3 Uniformity is important.

Some of these images were monochrome, others were color but it's gentler on the eye if they do not change in general aspect.

By making the colored images monochrome, a more consistent look can be given to your page. To achieve uniformity, create all images to the same size.

The same applies to the copy. Your readers will feel more comfortable - and more inclined to read - if the chunks of copy are approximately the same length.

People don't want to be surprised or unsettled - make readers feel comfortable on your pages or your website.

Human nature is such that we like patterns - we naturally like visual order and neatness.

Use dark coloured text on a pale background and at all costs, avoid fancy fonts. Keep away from any feature that will send your readers to the back button.

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4. Something that your viewers will find unsettling is a page that screams 'buy this'. If you are reviewing a specific product, that's different, but if you're writing an informative article, be sure that any commercial aspects fully gel with your subject.

Again, use paragraphs to break up text.

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5. Adding video is easy.

Many content sites make it particularly simple by offering a video module or capsule where you can show several relevant clips.

On other sites, use the embed code to add clips to add to the value you are offering to your readers.

Videos add interest to your page quickly and at no cost. Be sure that the content highly relevant - never add videos just for the sake of it.

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6. Related articles are a splendid idea.

If your readers have been interested in what they read then they'll be happy to read more. Some content sites have a very convenient module which you can see on the right.

If you use Wordpress, there are any number of plugins that will generate these automatically.

Be sure that the related sites truly are dealing with related subjects.If possible, use images that suit the rest of your article - monochrome in the example on the right.

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7. People are accustomed to sidebar ads.

Almost every site uses the right hand sidebar for commercial purposes.

On your own site, the sidebar is the place to add any affiliate links or banners. Alternatively (or as well as) add links to any product reviews you may have written. Include an image if possible to make it more visually appealing.

Once again, I have to stress that these should be highly relevant to the content of your article.

This is sensible from every point of view - your readers are more likely to click on links that are genuinely related,plus this can be an advantage for search engines.

If you're relatively new to the complexities of working on the internet, check out the books below:

Who am I to advise you?

Good question. If you're going to take my advice, then it's a good idea for me to explain my experience to you.

I created my first website in 1996. There were no blogging sites or editing software in those days, we wrote in raw code. A year later, I create my first social media site.

In 1999, I started working on the internet full time - creating sites, designing, writing, coding and promoting. I have been doing this every working day since.

I have created thousands of websites and written millions of words on the internet.

So, I'm an old fogey, eh? Out of date maybe?

No.

Anyone who works on the internet full time will not be a success unless they remain nimble, flexible and they learn every day. Yes, the internet does change daily.

I have seen websites grow from a curious little geeky endeavours to the powerful medium it is today.

I've seen big clunky old computers develop over the years to something that can fit into my jeans pocket.

This means growing, learning and always being up to date with current trends.

See my profile on LinkedIn.

© 2014 Jackie Jackson

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    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @JohnTannahill - it suits search engines too :)

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 3 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Simple suits me.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 3 years ago from Templeton, CA

      It's easy to make a new website these days, but converting an old one that's 600 pages long into a site with an entirely new design is a project I don't feel up to. It worked while it was young and people weren't using mobile devices yet for web access. I know it needs renovation, but I don't want to spend the rest of my life renovating. I don't have that much time left. I also can't afford to spend thousands to have someone else do it, either. I originally built it on FrontPage 97 and moved to Expression Web, since I don't code. It's a commercial site with thousands of product listings. I feel sort of helpless. I don't think I'm ready to make 600 separate blogs to sell my products by subject.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @John Dyhouse: Me too - thanks so much for visiting!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

      Well founded advice, most of us need reminding from time to time how to do it properly. I am a firm believer in simplicity in design

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @smine27: Thank you for dropping by!

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      This is a great idea that we sometimes forget. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Merrci: Thanks so much.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @ColettaTeske: Thank YOU!

    • profile image

      ColettaTeske 3 years ago

      I love your tips for keeping it simple and your examples are perfect! Thank you! Great job!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Another one bookmarked for future use! Great suggestions and love that it's in a how-to. Thanks!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Nancy Hardin: Thank you, Nancy. Keeping things simple is best for everyone.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Thanks for these valuable tips. I've never set up the kind of blog I'm now setting up, so it's a new experience for me. I have found that I like it more simple, as you say, so these are things that really interest me. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.