• United States

Simplicity speaking

Mar 10, 20042 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Simple Web sites are cool

“Everything should be as simple as possible – but no simpler.” Albert Einstein.

And simplicity should be the goal of Web applications. The trouble is that all the “cool” stuff seduces us and simplicity can be easily forgotten.

When you are designing a Web site or service, you should keep simplicity in mind because no matter how beautiful or elegant the content or service, the basic requirements of users must be addressed if you want to stay in business.

The basic goals are:

1. Appropriate content – rich content that’s compatible with the audience’s access speed.

2. Engaging content – not just good-looking but organized so that content and services can be found and used as you plan for them to be used.

3. An engaging experience – visitors should stay for as long as possible or, if you are trying to control bandwidth, as long as is required. The former requires seductive (useful, interesting, engaging, etc.) content while the latter requires meeting the visitor’s expectations.

Note that when I write “content” I also mean to include services as well – to the end user the two things look very similar.

If you are a commercial site or service, then focusing on the above goals should increase page views and therefore ad views (and therefore increased cost per impressions), lead to longer session times, get users coming back for more (repeat visits) and engender site and brand loyalty.

But the key to achieving those goals is simplicity. Just look at all of the unnecessary Flash animations, frame layouts, Java applets, JavaScript code and all of the other doodads that crowd Web sites all over the ‘Net. Much of this is merely window dressing and does nothing to sell, support or promote the business.

So before you turn that killer Web site or application loose on the world, ask yourself and your designers, is this simple enough? Even if it works like a dream, if there’s something you could slim down or tighten up or even get rid of and still do business, the site ain’t ready for prime time.


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

More from this author