Website and blog design: best sites are clean and simple

It is long since we talked about blog design (website design by implication). In this post, we’d talk about how important it is to keep the design simple and how great companies are going about it.

Judgment first, discussion later ;) . It helps in numerous ways to keep a website or blog clean and simple. It helps navigation, reduces clutter and so allows the viewer space to breathe and reduces his / her chances of getting irritated, keeps viewer focus on the most important thing you want to say, and yes it tells the viewer that things are straight here and he / she will not likely be misled.

Simplicity and cleanliness go together but are not synonymous. A simple design is the one that does not have too many elements and the elements are not too sophisticated. You have not used too many shades and hues, effects, cute buttons, smart apps, advertisements in the garb of news, etc. The visitor finds in one or two clicks what he or she intends to find. In short, simple means 'not complicated'. 

A clean webpage has elements arranged neatly, a lot of white space, similar elements grouped. It highlights what needs to be highlighted and keeps all else in the background. It is readable and does not have too many colour schemes [unless the theme really demands so]. Clean is 'uncluttered', 'not unclean'. 

Great websites choose to be simple and clean

Microsoft homepage

Let’s have a look at websites of iconic tech companies. Tech, because it is in these companies’ blood to be looking at webspaces of their own and others and innovating new concepts.

Microsoft. On the first page itself, they want the visitor to know all their latest developments. There is a slideshow and big thumbnails on their products. But beyond that, the site is clear and clean. 
Apple homepage

Apple. This company sells the best in computer hardware and supports it with equally sturdy and usable software. The site is spotlessly clean and showcases just one product. Far better than Microsoft.

YAHOO! Its website is a traditional Indian bazaar: showcasing everything on the earth. It has a lot of [rather useful] stuff; it’s very newsy; it’s localized to the place of the visitor; BUT it is extremely cluttered. 

Most valued and valuable blogs worldwide

We often see surveys in which blogs are judged based on their value in dollar terms. Obviously, the top blogs in such lists are those maintained by big companies and big teams, and are valued in million dollars. In one listing on the web, the biggest one is said to be worth $240 million (over Rs. 1000 core, that’s’ in Indian terms). Unbelievable!

In a later post, we’d give a list of such high-value blogs for our readers’ benefit, but we’re limiting the present post to the sum and substance of big blogging. We have been studying these blogs for some time to understand what made them such a great success, and the mantras we discovered are:

Starting with a bang. If you have a big team with a deep pocket or support of a lender, you can be instantly ahead of millions of individual bloggers. In fact, after a time, the blog becomes a conglomeration of web properties – a portal, a blog, social networking sites and so on. That is the time you acquire other properties too and become a media house!

Being in America. A blog in the US or such other advance countries can be many times popular than one in a developing country where not many people have internet on their mobile phones and where the younger lot is too much occupied with himself.

Gadgets and apps. If you can access the latest developments in these areas before others, and write engagingly about them, you are there!
Entertainment sells. In addition, if a blog / website has backing from a media house or a celebrity, it gets instant follower-ship and a lot of ready-made gossipy matter.

News sells and so does controversy. Writing high-wire articles week after week engages people – both lovers and haters of your opinion – especially if you are in a country with bi-polar division of society on political lines.

Walk big; the herd will follow. If you are seen as an important guy out there, people will flock to you and will proudly tell others they visit you. So, the big blog companies create an aura around their brand, and once they have a threshold of visitors convinced of value in associating with the brand, visitors and dollars seem to start raining.

;) The list of multi-million dollar blogs that we’ll come out with, as we promised above, will be based on others’ compilations. Indian Top Blogs compiles listings of valuable, not $-value, blogs. ;)

Corporates are fast learning to use digital, social media

The Economic Times carried a report 'HUL Jumps on the Digital Bandwagon' yesterday. It tells how more and more companies, including Indian companies and MNCs, are adopting digital media strategies to engage customers.

In short, companies like HUL have started spending more and more on web media, so much so that it is now an important part of their overall media / ad strategy. HUL - the major consumer goods company from Unilever stable - now spends close to 10% of its media budget on digital media. The marketing teams are fast learning the tricks of the trade, nudged and guided by internet biggies such as Google. A number of digital initiatives taken by these companies have been successful in a way traditional means could not have been.

Indian Top Blog's view:

We had earlier carried a post on how big companies deal with social media, provoked by an article in the same newspaper. If companies are becoming professional about engaging with the new media, it is the sign of the times. They know that they would lose out to competition if they ignore the digital platforms. e-trade is growing by leaps and bounds and it will take a long time for the markets to saturate - in fact it will only grow in the next one decade. So, it makes good sense not only to be aggressively there in the digital world, but also to invest in market research focused on this.

Big companies, we reckon, will focus only on what they perceive as profitable to them. In their priority list, therefore, mass-mailing and mass-messaging, intrusive advertisements on utility / service websites, market surveys laced with goodies and various types of 'promotions' will occupy the top slots. Less 'instant' and 'social' places such as blogs may be left out when it comes to giving display advertisements. [Affiliate ads and AdSense ads do find place on blogs but do they really pay, especially in India?]

Another point, which we brought to your notice in our post, Blogs score over Facebook,..., is worth repeating here: that when it comes to what influences a buyer's mind, companies seldom learn. They tend to  believe in what their marketing teams and media companies tell them. So they end up spending on trendy mediums, oblivious of the ones that may give them better value in lesser money.

What a coincidence! The Financial Express has carried a report, 'Bilseri bets big on digital media in marketing revamp' just one day after the above article!

Not much information here except that cold-drink and bottled-water biggies are planning to spend more on advertising on social networks. They feel that this would help them better engage with young population.