The “Clean” Website Paradox

So often the brief for a website designer or developer begins with the words – “we want this website to be fresh and clean”.

And one thing many people say about their current website, is that “it’s a mess, we need a cleaner website”.

Really? Why?

Let’s test that burning desire for a “clean” or “cleaner” website by asking a couple of questions…

When was the last time you were on the Internet and came across a website so clean and so fresh that you dropped everything and fired off an email to your friends and colleagues sharing the joyous news that you’ve found an unbelievably clean website?

When was the last time you found a website so clean that it had you reaching for your credit card to buy before you knew what was happening, or filling in a form on the website requesting an appointment?

Hmmm – nope, I can’t remember either.

This is the clean website paradox – everyone wants a clean website, certainly a cleaner website than they have now – but we don’t really know why.

It just seems like the right thing to say when your developer or designers asks you what’s important to you about the design of your new website.

Let’s dig a bit deeper and put the “clean website” idea to the test.

First lets look at the worlds most popular newspaper website, Britain’s own Daily Mail – surely their Mail Online website must be super clean?

Here it is…


OK – that’s not at all “clean”, in fact if you have time go to the Mail Online now and start scrolling down the page – it goes on f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

But hey, they don’t actually try and sell on the Internet, so let’s look at the world’s most successful website in terms of sales.

Amazon is number 10 in the world website rankings and the first that actually sells products…


Nope – that’s not clean either. In fact, it’s a mess, but it sells like crazy.

And the UK’s most successful property website?


No – that’s not clean either. What’s going on here?

Successful websites understand that visitors have
a primary purpose when visiting – to get information.

And that if the website doesn’t deliver, then the back button on the browser gets hit pretty quickly, and you lose the visitor.

They also understand that visitors have different requirements …

Some want general information on products and services as they “gen up” on the industry, the products and the service.

Others want to buy now.

Some want to ‘check you out’ – get an understanding of who you are, look at your ‘credentials’ and your track record.

Some want to download your information offers – white papers, buyers guides and reports.

Your visitors could fall into any of these categories – so your website needs to offer all options to visitors so they can find their way easily to the content that they want.

That’s why seemingly “busy” sites can be the most successful.

7 Steps to Creating a Highly Effective Website

Given all that, what should you tell your website designer and your website developers when you are setting about designing a new website or sorting out your current site?

Here is a great process to make sure that you get it right, and to give your website development team a much better brief than “make it cleaner”.

This process turns the “normal” website build process on its head.

Most people start with graphic design, but as you go through this process you’ll see why that should come much later in the process, and why you should start with…

1. Objectives – tell them what your objectives are. Is it to generate signups to your Reports and Guides, to generate a sale or order, to generate an appointment request, to get a sign-up to your newsletter? Or all of these.

Tell them which of these are most important. If your primary objective is to build a database of “opt-in” subscribers then that should be your top content.

If it’s to get people into the website and reading your great content – then that gets top billing.

In short, what does your new or updated website have to deliver in 3 to 6 months time to be deemed a success? How many visitors? How many “conversions” or leads? How many new database contacts? How many sales or transactions?

2. Targeting – who are you targeting with this website? What target market/s is it aimed at? Describe the characteristics of these people and organisations that are in your target market.

Having the target market firmly in mind enables clear decisions to be made about the look of your website, the content, the tone of the copy, and the actions you want visitors to take.

For example, if your website is targeting products and services for older people, then the font size you choose might be larger than you would otherwise consider, and you may choose not to give top billing to your Facebook and Twitter links.

3. Strategy – what is the strategy? What do you want visitors to do when they land on your site? What do you want them to do before they leave the website?

How does the website fit in with your overall new client or client nurturing strategy? What does it have to achieve to deliver on this vision?

4. Website Structure – what is the navigation structure or site map? What pages will the website include, in what order and sequence?

Does this structure lead visitors logically through a path that is consistent with your objectives and strategy? Does the structure group ‘like’ content into ‘silo’s’ for easy navigation and good SEO?

5. Keyword Plan – now that you have your structure you can start on the keyword plan. Which keywords are you targeting with the website? Which pages will be optimised for each keyword (ideally no more than 3 keywords per page).

6. Website Design – now that you have your objectives, target audience, strategy, structure and keywords identified, you can brief your Graphic Designer and your Website Developer.

Armed with your preparation you’ll be about to give them what is probably the most comprehensive and clear brief that they have ever had.

And you can (and should) ‘reality’ check their ideas and design drafts against the objectives, target market and strategy every time you have to make decisions about the website.

7. Copy and Content – while your Graphic Designer is producing the page designs and your developer is building or modifying the website, your copywriter/s and search engine marketing team can be preparing the copy and content for the website.

Once again, because you have clearly defined your objectives, targeting and strategy – they can get to work with absolute clarity – a rare luxury for these important members of your website development team.

Forget briefing that you want a “clean” website – instead use these seven steps to create a highly effective website, and give your business the ability to achieve its full online potential.

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