A Clean Site is a Happy Site

We government workers are busy. Busy, busy, busy. We always have something going on, and our agencies have plenty to handle.

Unfortunately, our websites reflect this. There is usually a load of content, the menu is filled with numerous options, and the homepage resembles craigslist. It seems we have to show citizens everything we do, or everything we’re working on. We also need to welcome them, tell them what our mission and vision are, show pictures of everything from buildings to executive staff, and give them the latest news.

The result is not an informed constituency but a confused one.

Ever heard of the paradox of choice? It’s a concept based on a book by Barry Schwartz in which he argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers. We’ve all been there — going into a convenience store and seeing hundreds of beverages waiting for us in the refrigerated section. We know we want a Diet Coke, but can we find it among all the choices — milk, energy drinks, fruit juices, waters, and Pepsi products? And what if we don’t know what we want? How do we decide standing in front of 6 doors of bottled products?

This is an easy problem to fix. Reduce the choices, and make the consumer happier. Schwartz cites the famous jam study, in which researchers set up a display featuring samples of jams. On one table, 6 varieties of the jam were available for tasting. On another, 24 varieties were available. The table with the large numbers of jams attracted more people than the table with the smaller number of choices, but when it came to buying, the table with the smaller number of samples outsold the other table 10 to 1.

We can do the same with our websites. Less is more.

I’ve stressed time and again the need to trim the number of pages from your site. (Reducing the number of pages can also simplify your information architecture, or menu structure.) But you can do the same thing on your homepage. There are probably way too many links on your homepage, and citizens may get confused trying to find what they came to your site for.

On the Georgia.gov homepage, there are 13 links people can click on (not including the menu items and the “Read More” links). And we’re always looking for ways to reduce that even further, even doing tons of research on whether people click on the third blog post on the page in comparison to the first and second ones.

How do you know what they are looking for and what they are clicking on? We use Google Analytics and a tool called Crazy Egg, which creates a heat map of the links on your homepage and shows you what people are clicking on. Paul English, Chief Technology Officer at Kayak, uses these types of tools, and his decisions are simple. He told xconomy.com:

If there are parts [customers] don’t look at, we remove it. The whole idea is to keep it as simple and clean as possible.

So try it out. On your website, see what people are clicking on. (Crazy Egg subscriptions are as cheap as $9 a month and the company offers trial subscriptions.) If people aren’t clicking on it, get rid of it.

If you aren’t sure or want a more comprehensive look at what needs to be on your homepage, Digital Services Georgia can help collect and analyze the data, revamp your information architecture, simplify your homepage, and help make decisions easier for your customers. Just let us know if you need our help.

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