“Look at how awesome my website is!!”

“There’s a slider, a Facebook box, 2 popups, 4 ads, all of these cool flashing buttons, a picture of my dog ‘Rex’ (my inspiration) and it’s probably the best site that ever existed. Seriously.”

Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s the reality of many bloggers trying to succeed.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of here.

When learning to build a website or a blog these are fun items to play with, learn about and implement as you work toward becoming more knowledgeable and taking your online presence to the next level.

You have to get right into the thick of things, get your hands messy and then dial back as you discover what works for you.

But what do the experts say? How about...

“Looks nice, I can see my content, now does it convert?”

What’s the difference?

Purpose and function are the main keys the successful bloggers and website owners want. They design a website with a goal in mind; a purpose it has to serve.

A lot of people out there are too lost in the “bit and pieces” of their design and find themselves forgetting about the real reason they started their website in the first place (whatever that may be) – until they check their stats and get frustrated because nothing is happening.

There’s the problem, it’s your first obstacle and it’s time to overcome it – you’re focusing on the wrong areas.

The next step is to shed the “bells and whistles” mentality, find out what you want your website to do for you and work towards ‘design’, instead of art or craft.

After all, design is about function.

Your website needs to fulfill a few goals, here’s a few suggestions:

  • Convert to sale – make money
  • Convert to a subscriber – so you can get repeat traffic from them
  • Get your reader to Share your website/page – to reach more people.

The above may not be your goals exactly, but they represent what most people’s websites are trying to achieve. You need people to be on your site in order to make a sale or fulfill your ultimate goal. Also, the more people you get to your website the easier it will be to fulfill that goal.

This is what your website ‘design’ can do for you. So you’ve got to start getting rid of things that make that difficult to happen.

So naturally, I created a list here of things you should consider removing. It’s essentially about behavior that certain elements encourage, but tailor it to your individual needs, these aren’t gospel.

Remove anything unnecessary that takes your visitors off-site

Remove useless elements or anything unnecessary that takes your visitors off your website.

It’s a simple concept, you’ve got people on your website, so don’t encourage them to leave.  

You think you don’t but really, most of you do without realizing it!

Take a look at your theme or layout, really think about each element and ask “where does it take my visitors?”.  Do they stay on your site or exit from somewhere else?

Here’s a few examples:

Social Media Widgets – A lot of these widgets just take people off-site and slow down your loading time, creating a big barrier between your visitor and conversion.

I’ve always held the opinion that Social Media should be used to drive people to your website – as it’s not as powerful a ‘repeat traffic’ tool as an email list.

Get people subscribing to your email list instead. It will lead to repeat visits to your site if implemented correctly.

Add a few small links to you social media profiles somewhere else on the page where they don’t distract.

Under-performing Advertisements – Making $30 a month with your Adsense ads?  Got some affiliate banners in your sidebar? If you track them and they make hardly anything you should consider removing them.

Sell with your words instead, through quality education and value. Ads that don’t perform just add to the load, clutter up your page and distract people from your main call to action.

Link Exchanges – Having a list of 15 websites you exchanged links with in your sidebar or footer isn’t exactly a powerful SEO or traffic technique and they just send people to other websites.

Instead, allow people to contribute posts to your website with a bit of info and a link, so people will get a sample of their work and want to check out their website.  Make sure the links open in a new window! But by having them write something on your website they will share it with their audience and drive more people to your blog!

Don’t encourage people to leave, keep them on-site.

YouTube does this effectively. They reward videos that keep people on the platform. Facebook, Twitter, all of these places make more money when you’re using their platform. So they do what they can to keep you there. You should do the same!

Remove less relevant pages from your navigation

Listing 14 pages on your design is an excellent strategy to get people look elsewhere.  

If you give people too many options they will be intimidated.

Simplify by grouping under pages that cover several pages, linking out from there or even just add some of the less relevant pages to the footer of your website.

You can slim down your navigation by switching to custom menu.  Just go to Appearance -> Menus.

Either alter the existing menu or add a new one by going to ‘create a new menu’.

Then add the pages you want to menu!

Then simply change your main nav to that menu, this will depend on your Theme’s settings, but you may find it changes by default anyway.  Another alternative is to use the plugin ‘Hide pages’

Remove elements that keep your content from being “above the fold”

First of all, what is “Above the fold”?
It’s anything that shows up above the bottom section of the browser window, see below:

Content is above the fold - best blog practices

But quite often people see this “opportunity” as a chance cram a bunch of other things up there because they want their ‘extras’ to convert more than they care about their visitors seeing the content they’re looking for.

Give first, receive second.

You need to give people what they’re searching for and then offer the call to action.  The best way to serve up the content on a silver platter is to have it above the fold, taking up the majority of the space. There are a few things you should consider keeping like your logo, navigation and maybe a subscription feature box on your home page (as most people go to this page after reading your content).

But you need to remove the useless stuff – slideshows, too many ads, headers that are too tall and push the content back below the fold and put the content on the front line.

But what about pop ups?

They show up above the fold and in front of your content! Make sure they don’t pop up until someone has been on your page for a certain period of time or get a popup that is designed to show up when someone is about to leave.  But before you even think about that, is it for an email subscription?  That’s OK, anything else I’d seriously question and weigh up.

If you want to use popups, run some test firsts and see if they actually improve conversion or harm it.

Remove anything that distracts from your Call to Action…

Do not distract from your Call to Action!

…minus your content of course.

So you’ve set up your website with your logo, navigation, content and you’ve sprinkled a few calls to action around including your email subscription box, some share buttons and a link to your product.

You think “why stop there?”

You start adding links to your other content, cool widgets you’ve found, a tag cloud, links, categories, recent comments and blah blah blah.  

Now what? You’ve got an overcluttered design and people don’t know where to go next!  

If you’ve got an overcluttered design and people don’t know what to do! Chances are, if they read your content, they’ll bounce afterward or leave because there’s no clear direction and it’s just plain confusing.  

Or maybe they’ll leave without reading your words at all!

Also beware of being too aggressive with your call to action, 1 or two in a sidebar, below your content, one or two other places are about as many spots as you want to fill. Being overly aggressive will put people on the back foot.

Choose your design elements wisely. Make your main call to actions the second most outstanding element after your content.

Ultimately, focus on 3 things

I’ve covered them before in the secret of an awesome website design, they are:

1. Give the people what they want – the content.

2. The purpose of your site – the call to action.

3. Making people familiar with who you are – make it share-able and have unique branding.

This doesn’t mean you have to follow what everyone else is doing. Allow yourself to break away from the mold.

Simplify.  Make things clear and concise.

James Clear removed his whole sidebar and noticed improved engagement and better results. Because people landed and all they saw was the content they were looking for.

It’s going to that way no mobile anyway, and that will most likely be more than half of your visitors!

You can think just like this and create a website that gives people what they want and they’ll dig for more – this leads to conversions.  

Your website is just the middle man between you and your visitors – you’re giving them content, possibly some products or some kind of value in exchange for an email address or money.

There doesn’t need to be all the bells and whistles.

Follow this thought pattern with your website layout and you can forget about the ‘stuff’ and focus on the more important elements- what you offer.

Try it out and leave a comment here to tell me how you went!

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Thanks for reading!