Contrary to popular belief, loud and in-your-face designs actually do not help you convert. As a designer, I hear clients suggest over and over that things be bigger, brighter, bolder, more pop! To me this is just patronizing your target audience and in the end these additions can even hinder your goal by distracting or annoying the user.
Less is More
The concept of clean design is actually quite basic. The simpler the design, the easier it is to maneuver. In the case of conversion-based design, less really is more. The more you add to the website, the more chance there is to distract or sidetrack the user from their ultimate goal. Before you go to the extreme of simplicity, keep in mind there are right and wrong ways to do “simple.” Simple doesn’t necessarily mean boring. Strong imagery and smart color choices are key components of good, simple design.
The Flat Design Trend
In recent years, flat design has emerged and has quickly become the industry preference. Gone are the days of rounded, candy-coated buttons and skeuomorphism. The idea behind flat design is that the well-crafted interface, color selection, and simplistic typography create a beautiful and easy to use design without all of the distracting extras. With these websites, the actionable elements are clear and concise, leaving no room for user error.
Case Study: Air BnB vs. Hotels.com
For this example I chose two sites with a similar goal: the user would like to book a place to stay in a new city. I chose one clean and simple site (AirBnB) and a site that is more in-your-face and busy (hotels.com).
When I first enter this site, I see that I have one main call to action. “Where and when do I want to go?” There are a few other actionable items: “how it works” for new users, and options to log in or list a space for the active users of the site (the pros). Notice that for the new users the “how it works” button is front and center, but still doesn’t distract from the main action item: “find a place to stay.” Also notice that the login and listing buttons are discreetly at the top right corner. The designer is assuming these users have been to the site before and know what to do, no need to grab their attention. Just below the main call to action is a section for the casual browser. This user may not be sure where they want to go yet, but can skim through a clean and simple list of popular destinations.
The goal of Hotels.com is similar to that of AirBnb. They want to find out the user’s destination and itinerary. Even though their form is plastered in the banner, the user is immediately distracted by a multitude of other shiny buttons and options. Deals, ratings, and coupons are pulling me away from my initial goal. Like AirBnB, Hotels.com thoughtfully lists some popular destinations for the traveler who hasn’t decided where to go yet. The difference here is that before I have even picked a destination, they are bombarding me with Hotel options, prices, and ratings. One thing at a time, please. As an overall note, it seems that Hotels.com has given me many more (mainly useless) options, but looks a mess. I would venture to say that at least 9 out of 10 people asked would prefer the overall look of the clean and simple AirBnB.