Why more on your website isn’t always better

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Hey website Functionality Junkies, I’m talking to you this time.

You know who you are — if an image is on a Web page you want it animated. If we’re streaming content onto one page, you suddenly want it on 50 pages. If we create one category for content, you want 30 more.

We love your enthusiasm, really we do. But let’s find some balance between use and function.

What’s use?

Use is how we refer to the actions of people who aren’t you that view your site.

These are real humans who have lives outside of your website and are just stopping in to check on your content from time to time. They may have a variety of ways that they use your site.

Use is also a word we describe when talking about your Web site administration team. These are people who come and go, administering your site for a while along the way. Each needs to be trained, and each will forget what they were trained on as soon as they can.

What’s functionality?

Functionality is how we refer to the features offered to users. It is supposed to go hand in hand with information architecture and user research but Functionality Junkies just wing it, based on what their gut says.

If a website has too much Functionality, it can get in the way of use. Let’s say for example a site has nine categories with two subcategories. That presents 27 options for reading parts of your content. Add one more category and you have 36 options.

When you call up your developer requesting 13 new categories (meanwhile you haven’t written any new content) you will cause your Users to read fewer pieces of content because the categories are stretched too thin. Some categories may even wind up empty because there isn’t enough content. Many categories will probably have duplicate articles, which just makes Users think you don’t know what you’re doing.

My advice to Functionality Junkies

It also means that the administrator of your website content has 36 ways to mis-categorize any new content you might develop. You will also need to spend more time training them so they understand enough to use the complex software that will allow them to mis-categorize your content. And, the more difficult your site is to administer, the more likely they are to transfer out of your division or quit.

Just relax, my friends. Users judge your site based on whether it’s useful (surprise) and not on how many buttons they can click or how often things whirl around on your home page. Create good and meaningful content, organize it in a simple, intuitive way, and users will be pleased. Conversely, if you trap them in a loop of convoluted logic and circular content delivery, they will be less pleased.

By creating clear and logical content delivery paths, keeping your articles short and sweet, and providing a pleasing visual experience, you become an Internet hero just look at the simplicity of Google or the Apple website.

Always keep in mind that simple is better than complicated. Save the fancy stuff for date night.

Marci De Vries is president of MDV Interactive, a web consulting firm in Baltimore. Reach her at marci@mdvinteractive.com.