Why Modern Internet Creative Types Should Embrace Simplicity

Being creative is great, but when is it better to forgo style for substance? Well, according to the science, it’s when you’re trying to get people to look at your website and, more importantly, stay there (ie. have a low bounce rate). Now, the important misconception we need to abolish here is simplicity doesn’t mean less creativity. In fact, in some instances, implementing a “simple” design actually, takes a lot more creativity than letting your mind run away with you.

For example, in our recent round-up of electricity related logos, the most instantly recognisable and, therefore appealing in a commercial sense where the simpler ones. The Single lightning bolt from electricity or the flash symbol with the taxi-style color combinations for the Electric Taxi Company would be considered by many more striking than the more complex offering from elektrika S.

We Judge Beauty in Less than a Second

Credit: Frank Park

Of course, perception and personal preference play a huge part in whether something is considered both simple and attractive, but anything that does fall into the former category is more appealing according to Google. A 2012 study into our perception of websites found that visitors judge a website’s “beauty” or appeal within 1/50th of a second. Moreover, websites that were deemed “visually complex” were rated less attractive than sites with simple designs.

This drive for simplicity is something that taps into our human psyche as we strive for cognitive fluency through prototypical designs. In other words, we naturally gravitate to things that are easy to think about which is why prototypical (recognizable) patterns and designs are appealing.

For example, if you’re a fan of social media websites, Facebook draws you in because it’s not only what you “expect” from a social media site, but it’s easy to read. Forgetting the two side bars for a moment, the main interface is simply a feed/list of text and images.

Nowhere on the site are you bombarded with flashing images, banners, overly ornate decorating or garish color schemes? In fact, it’s Facebook’s simplicity that makes it both popular and functional. Indeed, the goal of any user on Facebook is to read updates from their friends and interact with them. The overall design allows this process to take place in the most direct and efficient way possible. Similarly, if you’re looking for the best deal on something, you expect a comparison/review site to have a set format. For example, in this list at OnlineCasinos, you’ll receive a quick overview of the platform in question and highlights such as the number of games available and how big the bonus is.

We Gravitate to What’s Simple and Familiar

This trend can also be seen over at Amazon. Click on the “Today’s Deals” option and you’ll see a grid filled with images, star ratings and prices. From this, you can click on the “view deal” button to know more. Essentially, in this instance, a “prototypical” design for a review site is a list that provides the product name and a few highlights. As consumers, we understand this layout and, moreover, it’s easy to digest. So, even though it’s simple, it works and, therefore, looks appealing. Similarly, on this Canadian site for casino deals, star ratings and teaser text help you make a snap decision on which review/site you want to visit.

In fact, as we move increasingly to a mobile-based internet experience, this focus on simplicity becomes even more important. No longer can you cram a page with text, animations, and endless buttons. Yes, it might look great on your desktop, but when it comes to browsing via a mobile, people want ease of access. Indeed, according to stats from 2016, people around the world spent 86 minutes a day browsing via their phones compared to 36 minutes on their desktops.

Creativity Doesn’t Need to be Complicated

Credit: Fernando Reyes

This discrepancy highlights the need for web designers to get creative with their use of space. Where white space and scaled backed graphics used to be frowned upon, they’re now the in thing. As well as jiving with the way our mind seeks out information, it’s a necessary as we move towards mobile browsing. So, while complexity is often seen as attractive in some arenas, the internet is all about simplicity. If you want to create something that’s both beautiful and useful, it pays to strip take things back to basics.

Featured image by Emma Jane Hogbin Westby