As a designer, developer, business owner, or marketing professional, it's important to understand the relationship between web design and user experience. More specifically, you need to understand how the appearance of a website impacts metrics like the bounce rate. By getting a grasp on this issue, you can enhance your career and make everyone around you happier and more successful.

The Science Behind Simple Websites

Perhaps no study is more valuable to this discussion than the one Google conducted in 2012. Their research found that internet users judge website aesthetics within 1/50th to 1/20th of a second. That's literally faster than you can snap your fingers. Furthermore, the study concluded that visually complex websites aren't nearly as appealing or beautiful as standard or simple websites. In other words, if you want to make a good first impression on website visitors, simple is best.

"In sum, our study shows that designers should regard not only visual complexity, but also the factor prototypicality very carefully when designing a website," the study concluded. "Designs that contradict what users typically expect of a website may trigger a suboptimal first impression and impair users' expectations."

Did you notice that word they snuck in there? "Prototypicality is the basic mental image your brain creates to categorize everything you interact with," explains Brianne Johnson, Marketing Director at DeWils. "From furniture to websites, your brain has created a template for how things should look and feel." When someone says the word boy, you think blue. When someone says winter, you think snow. These are associations you subconsciously make with certain things you encounter.

Well, when it comes to the internet, prototypicality causes us to develop preconceived images of what different websites and pages should look like. Our brain is wired in such a way that we prefer to think about things that are easy and comfortable. This is known as cognitive fluency. The more familiar we are with something, the more likely it is we'll enjoy it.

Transferring this logic to the internet--and web design in particular--it follows that internet users prefer websites that are simple and familiar. While you may think your website with unique layouts and one-of-a-kind flash features are great, your users may not. This ties back in with the Google study; simple is perceived as better.

5 Tips for Simple Web Design

Every element of a website--from typography and colors to images and logos--communicates something to the user. If a website is too complicated or unique, the average user is going to click the back button. This leads to inflated bounce rate numbers, which nobody likes.

Assuming that you're in the business of increasing conversions and eliminating bounces, let's briefly look at some tips for how you can enhance the simplicity of web design for optimal results.

Love white space.
Eliminate pop ups.
Streamline the navigation menu.
Tighten copy.
Invest in responsiveness.

Improving One Bounce at a Time

The goal of every website should be to eliminate as many bounces as possible. While you can't realistically eliminate them all over night, you can take actionable steps to reduce them one by one. Over time, you'll see a healthy improvement in conversion rates and your visitors will be exponentially more satisfied with what you're presenting to them.

 

Published on: Oct 20, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.