Okay. I could’ve just as easily titled this one “Why Do 90% of the People Who Make ‘How To’ YouTube Videos Feel Like They Have to Tell You 10 Minutes of Backstory Before Showing You the 37 Seconds That Are Actually Relevant to Your Life Right Now?” but that would have broken my six word headline rule. Or I could have gone with TMI, but that seems so “last century.” Or “The 500 Word Essay” but I’m betting that’s not even a thing these days.
No, I went with “What Time Is It?” because when I was young, Dad jokingly used to tell folks they shouldn’t ask me for the time unless they wanted to know how to make a watch. And that was back when watches were really cool and had gears and springs and hands and stuff and I took a lot of them apart. Never put them back together, but that’s beside the point. They weren’t made of chips and LCDs. And you couldn’t talk to them. Well you could, but they didn’t listen nor would they answer and you’d just look silly. And they sure didn’t take selfies.
Leave them wanting more
Anyway, all of what you’ve presumably just read speaks to the point of this piece: Less can well be more, and since I’m generally focused on website design and content in these things I write, that’s the road we’re going down today.
I look at a lot of websites in the course of an average work week. And in my eyes, many range from slightly to grossly overwhelming. Maybe it’s because I sometimes have the attention span of a gnat, or on other occasions I’m easily distracted – much like a Labrador puppy flouncing through a field of fluttering butterflies, wanting to play with this one, no that one, no that one and so on and so on and so on.
When I see a page that scrolls for an eternity, it just makes me want to X-out and head to another website. Clearly, I don’t think I’m alone in that respect or I wouldn’t be writing this.
Keeping it Simple
So let’s talk about it. I understand that some websites, by definition, are technical in nature and the folks who visit those sites are there to glean as much information as they can. For those sites, maybe we think about ways to make them less visually intimidating. We can break the information into smaller bites and extra pages in some cases. But we need be wary that we don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire and end up with a menu that has more layers than a fancy Beverly Hills weddin’ cake. As another option, maybe we decide to break masses of copy up with design elements by using horizontal rules, maybe some white space, images or just a color block here and there.
And then there are things like accordions and toggles that we can use to simplify the look of a page now and again. We can hide a lot of copy behind them and folks can call that content up when really want to see it, elsewise breezing right past. When properly styled to blend in with your theme and overall design, they can make a page that might seem a bit overwhelming a whole lot more inviting. There are lots of tricks we can use that will allow us to tell your whole story without letting it daunt the meek and deter those of us who are easily distracted.
You care, but do they?
But back to why I’m really writing this article. Sometimes we have to accept the fact that less is indeed more and that not everyone needs to know our life story when we’re pitching our goods or services. For instance – if you own a printing company, I might be interested in the fact that you have a six-color press. I might not necessarily be interested in the brand or when it was made or the fact it takes three people to operate it and it came here from Germany on a freighter just after WWII. Maybe just show me a picture – or even better – a short video showing it in operation – and that’ll pique my interest enough that I’ll give you a holler to talk about it.
The same goes for copy. Say as much as possible in as few words as necessary. Keep your paragraphs short and try to stay on topic. Unless you’re getting paid by the word like I am. Then ramble on. Kidding of course. And I got off topic. Labrador puppy syndrome. Do as I say, not as I do. Good content, good content management.
And finally, as to things like testimonials and portfolio items. There is a decided tendency these days for folks to try and convince people that they’re the greatest thing since a pocket on a shirt by throwing out literally dozens and dozens of quotes from customers. If you’re really that good, it’s not necessary. Don’t oversell it. Take the best 8 or 10 things people have to say about you and put ‘em out there. You can even rotate them, but more than a dozen seems like overkill. Same with portfolio pieces. Pick and choose, but don’t overwhelm.
Remember – Only YOU can prevent information overload…