The Cluttered Web, or Why The Web Is So Painful To Use

Which of the following images best describes how you would like your garage to look?

Cluttered
Cluttered Garage
Clean & Organized
Clean Garage

For most of us, the answer is fairly obvious: Clean & Organized. For the rest of you that actually prefer clutter, this article will likely make no sense to you, and you might as well stop reading right now!

Clutter is distracting. Contrary to popular belief, it does not help spawn creativity and get the juices flowing (unless perhaps you have had a dry spell in whatever creative function for many months). Your mind has to process every detail, and it is not given a chance to focus and concentrate. Ideas might immediately arise, but never mature since you are already on the next idea. A handful of crappy ideas is not better than perhaps 2 well thought out, matured ideas. In the clutter garage picture above, you would not be able to think in an environment like that (even if you managed to find a little spot to sit). But if you sat down in the clean garage, you might actually be able to feel peaceful. Those of us who have managed to keep our homes and offices by using a system have realized that we are able to keep our sanity, and have increased our productivity as a result. Additionally, without the distractions of clutter and lost things, we’re able to focus on the things that matter to us.

Experiencing the web is fairly similar. Most web sites try to accomplish too much. I don’t blame them when it comes down to it. High server bills, the cost of bandwidth and employees. It’s expensive to run a web based business, so in turn, companies like to maximize their offerings with targeted advertisement channels, Google AdSense banners, and features-galore. Most companies think that in order to see revenue growth, they need to retain and increase their target audience so that they can charge more for advertising. But in order to retain their user base, they add on as many features as they possibly can, betting that it will keep people around. What they don’t realize though, is they are reducing the chances that their users come back when they add too much advertising or too many features; when they clutter their site, it becomes overwhelming, and sore on the eyes.

Here’s an example:

AjaxWorld Website Screenshot

Why is it that the news posting and article on this site takes up only 1/20th of the space? There is so much extra navigation, advertising, and features that the whole purpose of the site becomes misunderstood and hard to find. This is a news site with articles about AJAX, and so the main purpose is article content. Yet they make it so difficult to read the articles. To me, they are saying that their articles are less important than their widgets filled with other cruft. They want me to work to get to the content. Instead, it feels dirty, and it doesn’t encourage my participation. I never return to sites like these.

Luckily, the Web 2.0 movement is about cleaner, more elegant, and simple designs. Many new web sites are taking hold of these concepts, and applying them. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

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