If 70% don’t use it, don’t bother

“If 70% of your readers don’t use a given feature, don’t bother keeping it around.”

I forget where I heard that, but it’s what helped me make this shift back to minimalism, at least in design.

Think of some websites you visit frequently. On any given page, how many of the features do you use? When I tried this exercise, I realized I only use a tiny, tiny percentage of all the features on any site. In each visit in fact, I usually only use one. Most of the time, that’s the most I can use before moving on somewhere else.

So the rest of the features become noise. They distract you from what you’re really trying to do.

For my own sites, like this one, I realized I have a bunch of features just because everyone else does. I don’t know that I need them. I just keep them around because I’m not in the habit of taking things away. I keep them because they’re standard.

For blogs, consider these features:

  • Categories and tags
  • Ads
  • Social media sharing buttons
  • Date and time stamps
  • Headers, sidebars (maybe even on both sides), footers
  • Tons of navigation options
  • Subscription buttons
  • Video, audio, flash, javascript
  • Logos and tag lines and bylines
  • Pictures
  • Boxes, borders, and lines
  • Multiple columns of content
  • Multiple colors
  • Multiple typefaces
  • Multiple sized type
  • Etc., etc., etc.

The stuff looks cool (sometimes), but ask yourself, do you need all this? For each individual item, for every single line, do you need it?

Those are the questions I started asking myself. And I’m sure you know how I answered.

I began to realize, one by one, that each line didn’t matter as much as I’d thought. When I was in adding mode, it seemed fine to plug in a feature here and complicate another feature there. I wanted every page to do everything.

Now I’m moving to having each page do only one thing. If 70% don’t use it, I probably shouldn’t bother keeping it around, distracting from what’s actually important.

As you can imagine, when you’re working from that premise, things turn white right quick. 🙂