Designers see clutter as too many things in one space. They want the right balance of elements on a page so it is aesthetically pleasing. Website visitors use the word clutter differently. They use it to describe items that impede their task. Unfortunately we are reluctant to remove elements in a design. This is often due to politics, unclear strategy, and/or fear of leaving something out. This article shows how you can use analytics and UX tools to remove clutter without sacrificing functionality. Here are a few "simple" steps I suggest taking.
Narrow the primary focus of your website should to one or two large strategic objectives. This of course is determined by your website strategy. These principles help shape everything on your website. Use them as your north star to guide every action you take. If a piece of content does not contribute to your overall strategy, its value comes into question. While it may be a controversy with your ministries, remove those items. Ask them to realign their website goals with those of the whole church.
Many churches want to grow their congregation. They may want to attract people that grew up in a Christian household, but left the faith. They may also want to attract those that grew up with no church upbringing. Regardless, content that sounds "churchy" may not connect with them. Create content that a non-Christian can understand. I touched on this in my article on theology and keywords. Not only will you not help your search engine ranking, you will push away potential members. Keep it simple with church jargon out of the mix.
By using an analytics package, such as Google Analytics, you can see what elements get the most clicks on your page. This is often the best answer to the political arguments. Every ministry will want priority on your home page. If not, they will want a prominent spot in your navigation. Sometimes numbers will speak for you. They convey that a ministry is simply not a priority for your visitors. This does not reduce their importance in the church. It means they will not get the prominence they think they deserve, as it is just not connecting with your target audience.
Your website is not the Las Vegas strip or Times Square in New York City. More flashing lights will not draw more attention. Many people say they want a website that "looks like Apple" yet refuse to put larger text and only a handful of images on the page. Reducing the amount of items demanding attention will put more emphasis on the remaining items. By using the previous steps, you can easily see what elements should not get visual priority on the page. Sometimes politics prevail and less important ministries are featured on your site. Some design solutions to this dilemma include less contrast and smaller size. Regardless, designs can intervene and provide desired page real estate without adding visual clutter.
See my articles on finding strategic partners and quick usability testing. See where you can find target markets and ask them to test parts of the site. Provide specific tasks for them to accomplish. Then for added effect, time how long it takes to do the task. Reduced clutter should result in reduced time. This key metric can show leadership that less really is more.
The action item is simple. Be brave and remove something. This message is like that of my fasting article. Yet I am asking that UX principles lead you to change. Not the Holy Spirit. Remove the clutter from your pages so the true intentions shine through. This will improve the clarity of your overall strategy. It will also remove doubt and confusion from your visitors. Be strategic in your removals and your website statistics should see lower bounce rates, reduced time on site, and more exit points on key pages. All will point to happier website visitors and more seats filled in your church.
Image courtesy of Alex