No Thinking Required

A core principle of website usability is "Don't make me think." In other words, visitors to a well-designed website should instinctively know what's what. Ideally, they know at a glance where to click to get to the information or functionality they're seeking. The same idea should apply to marketing messages as well. Don't make the reader think.

But for many business websites, visitors have to piece together what the business is about. They have to think. Take for example this screenshot below from an organization called America's SBDC Washington:


Our eyes are first drawn to the "Auto Art & Collision Repair" sign in the large banner, but this business turns out to be a client of SBDC. It seems SBDC has something to do with helping small businesses, but to figure that out, we have to go halfway down the page to the subheads "Grow Your Business," "Grow Through Exports" and "Start Your Business." Now we can assume these Auto Art people are probably business owners helped in some way by SBDC.

Unfortunately, this all takes a bit of piecing together. What's missing is a clear statement about what this organization does. 

This next website screenshot from a company called Seatrade has similar issues:


The website is slick and dominated by big images, and the name Seatrade tells us the company is somehow involved in maritime trade. Web navigation items include "Ship Management," "Crewing," and "Investments."

From the first two items, can we assume the company hires crew members and manages them? Perhaps. How does the service called "Investments" fit in? 

Answers are likely on the website somewhere, but it would take some digging to find them. Not everyone has the time or inclination for that.

On the other hand, Survey Monkey's website immediately orients the visitor:

The statement says, "Make Better Decisions with the World's #1 Survey Platform," and a sub-statement says, "Get answers to all your questions."

Understood. No thinking required. It's a survey platform. A customer could use it get answers and make decisions. The concise messages use action verbs and clear language and put the service's benefits front and center.

Granted, a well-known company might believe it to be unnecessary or overly obvious to lead with an encapsulating message, and a trendy fashion brand would probably prefer images or a bit of mystery. But generally speaking, there's little downside to a company clearly saying what it does. No one is confused. No one has to think.