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Minimalism As A Feature of Web Design: Cleveland’s Lesson In Business

There are many, many circumstances that give rise to the maxim “less is more” — but few of them rival web design in proving the rule. Web designers are architects whose only limits are their imagination and their client’s budgets; it’s all too easy to go big and try to include a page for every aspect of a client’s business. But trying to do everything at once isn’t a particularly successful strategy in any area of business, including the e-commerce area.

Let’s take a look at something quite a ways removed from web design: Cleveland. Cleveland is my ‘second home’ (or, more often these days, my first, with Detroit taking up just a little less of my time), and I’m starting to learn about it’s history — starting to get a little proud of my new polis. One of the things that Cleveland is doing right is specialization.

Cleveland at one point was known for very little. It was “that big city in Ohio”. They tried to get some attention by doing things like starting up the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the attention didn’t turn into growth the way they wanted it to. Then, the city invested heavily in it’s own college district. Education became the theme of the day, and a new generation of doctors, engineers, and other specialists sprang up in the bowels of the city. Today, Cleveland might not be Chicago or Seattle, but it isn’t Omaha or Cincinnati, either — because it chose what to focus on and did that one thing well.

Web designers can learn from that goal. Let’s look at a hypothetical example. Say you have a company that builds electricity scrubbers for large facilities. They come to you and they want pages for:

  • Home
  • Services
    • Industrial
    • Commercial
    • Municipal
    • Educational
    • Warehouses
    • Parks/Entertainment
    • Churches
  • Who We Are
    • What We Do
    • Where We Come From
    • What We Value
    • Why It Matters
  • Careers
  • Current Customer Login
  • Current Employees Login
  • Directions To Our Facility
  • What Is Dirty Electricity
    • Clean vs. Dirty Power
    • Lower Your Electric Bill
    • Lower Your Maintenance Costs
    • Passive vs. Active Savings
  • White Papers
  • More Resources
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Service
  • Site Map

That’s a lot of money in your pocket — but is it what’s best for your client in the long run? Will having 29 pages actually help them reach their clients more effectively than, say, 10? There comes a point when more clicking is just giving the surfer time to talk themselves out of buying. Personally, I’d see if I couldn’t get the client to cut back to something like this:

  • Home
  • Services
    • Industrial
    • Commercial
    • Governmental
    • Religious/Educational
  • The Power of Clean Electricity (including white papers here)
  • Contact/Login
  • Privacy Policy and Terms of Service
  • Site Map

Almost all of the information that was in the longer structure above fits into this simpler outline — but instead of dozens of short pages, each of these pages will be a longer, more fleshed-out entity. More reading and less clicking means more talking yourself into buying and fewer chances to get distracted and click away. Rather than trying to put out a page for everyone, you’re focusing the surfer’s attention on the things you do well by putting headlines on those things and letting the other items fall into place beneath them.

That’s the lesson of Cleveland. Web designers would do well, in my opinion at least, to learn it.

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