Keep it Simple? Seriously?

Yes, seriously.

Design, like science, relies on simplicity in understanding. Simple, short language is good design because it is easy to parse and understand, reduces ambiguity, and creates a higher likelihood that users will understand the message. In science, this is called Occam’s razor: e.g. the simpler explanation is the right one. In design, this is called conversion rates: e.g. does it get them?

Language needs to be consistent with design. In design, simpler is always better. In 2012, researchers at Google specifically looked at how quickly users decide if a website is beautiful or easy to use. Their study indicates that “visually complex” websites are frequently and regularly rated as less beautiful than are simpler counterparts. This is judged by users within 1/50th to 1/20th of a second.

Said “simply,” the study found the simpler the design, the better. (See what I did there?)

Language for any website does need to display “cognitive fluency,” which is how the user perceives the ease or difficulty of completing a mental task. That is, the brain does not want to work hard and is a miser in its energy. We want understand things quickly and easily, and use heuristics to do so. Thus our decision making is also influenced. Not only that but our emotional response to how easy something is makes us prefer it.

Jakob Nielsen makes this argument clearly. He says; “Users won’t read web content unless the text is clear, the words and sentences are simple, and the information is easy to understand.”

What does that mean for Stella&Dot. We are constantly trying to ride the line between “cute clever,” and readable. So maybe we need to set some usability guidelines in place so our users can easily navigate and shop.

1. Be clear instead of clever.

2. Studies show casual, conversational, and enthusiastic tones perform best.

3. Don’t confuse the user by over-alliterting.

4. Use short sentences where possible.

5. Take care with CTAS:

  • Use plain language
  • Use common words
  • Be specific
  • Be action-oriented

Does this mean we cannot be “on brand?” Of course not. The takeaway here is not to throw away basic usability for the sake of clever or complex language. Often what we perceive as clever is not seen in the same way by our customers.

To be usable, it has to be simple.

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