How to reduce clutter in web design

The truth of the matter is visitors who come to a cluttered web site are frequently turned away because they are confused about where to go first or how to find the content they need.  This article contains several solutions to help you reduce clutter on your web site.

1. Organize:

noclutterMake it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for.
The first step in designing a less cluttered web site is to create a site map.  This will help you (and you client) to understand what content needs to be included, where it will be stored, and how it will be accessed.  Creating a site map also helps you learn where you may have duplicate or unnecessary content. This will help you reduce the amount of clutter.

Continue to use your site map as you develop the site.  If you already have a web site and are trying now to organize it more, create a site map of existing content. Decide what you can live without or ways the content can be better organized.

You should also ensure there is a contrast between headings, body copy, links, buttons, ads, and other content. This will allow for quick navigation for your visitors.

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2. Prioritize:

Decide what the most important content is and sell it well.
Many times you may be tempted (or influenced by your client) to include as many links on the home page as possible.  This temptation is based on the thought that if a site visitor doesn’t see a particular link, they will never find the content they are looking for.  The fallacy in this method of web design is that many times visitors can be so overwhelmed with home-page content that they leave the site all together.

Some solutions to help reduce the overwhelming number of links on the home page are as follows:

  • Create easy-to-navigate drop-down menus.
  • Use a refined search option on your home page where visitors can search for specific terms.
  • Divide the site by category and create category pages where links for a particular category can be stored and easily accessed.
  • Create a visitor-friendly site map or site index where visitors can choose to view all site content in an organized list.
  • What other solutions would you add to the list?

3. Minimize:

Decide what you can live without.
Chances are, there is content on the web site that may not be necessary.  Maybe you need to include the last 3 posts from the blog instead of 10.  Consider hiring a copy editor to eliminate unnecessary body copy. You could also use images instead of words in some instances: remember “a picture’s worth a thousand words”.

4. Analyze:

Learn what works well for site users and what makes them leave.
It is also a good idea to analyze your site statistics and adjust the organization and structure of the site around your findings.  Analyze your top entrance pages. Are they clean and organized? Do they convey the messages you’d hoped for?  Also analyze top exit pages. Learn what makes visitors leave your page and adjust it to assure they stay longer on your site.

Some other ways to effectively analyze your site are found below:

  • Use a service like or others to learn what visitors think of your site.
  • Ask friends or family (or even your client) to navigate the site while you watch. Don’t say anything. Just observe their reaction to particular content.
  • Review the structure of some of your favorite sites. How do they organize their content? Emulate what you like.


So what’s the big deal?
Why reduce clutter on your web site? The hard and true answer is that more visitors means you accomplish your goals more fully. Whether those goals include making money, satisfying a client, getting your thoughts and opinions out there, or anything else, reducing clutter on your site will help it stand out in a world where clutter is beginning to become the norm.


What other tips can you share with us to help reduce clutter in web design?

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  1. Preston, in order to reduce the clutter, does it help to know how much time a web site has to make a first impression? Not much unlike meeting in person, I would gather, but my guess is there has to be a number.

  2. Couldn’t agree more! I wrote a whole book on this same subject, called “Save the Pixel” (, where one of the principles is “Success = Attention / Stuff”… Visitor attention is a finite, fixed resource, which you can’t control too much. But *stuff* you can do a *lot* about. Keep up the great work.

  3. Thanks for making it simple. I find as a new designer I try and put way to much on a page and at the end it seems like its just a mess. Thanks for the tips!

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