About the Author

Michael Doig is a science teacher, web developer, and avid traveler who lives in Brooklyn, NY.

10 Tips For A Cleaner Site

Every website has a purpose. Some sites are designed to sell, others are to share information, and yet others are to show off your work. If you hone in on what your site is trying to accomplish, your readers will thank you.

Clutter on your site up distracts your visitors, even if the clutter is not directly in the way people still notice it. Making your site more streamlined will help your visitors focus on what your site is trying to achieve.

I don’t believe that you need to sacrifice your affiliate programs, adsense campaigns, or feedburner chicklets to make your site cleaner. All it takes is a little finesse. Here are 10 ways to give your site more class and less clutter.

Fresh Buttons

1) Create your own chicklets or buttons that match your site. If you run affiliate programs on your site chances are pretty slim that their standard buttons will match your design. Ben Bleikamp at College Startup shows how it’s done with his sponsors buttons. Remember, if it’s fresh people will notice.

Match That Adsense

2) Customize your adsense blocks to match your site. Adsense looks a great deal better if you take the time to make it match your site. Go ahead make the background the same color as your site and make the links the same as well. Please, no more Mother Earth (that just sounds wrong). You can see a great example at The Big Noob Site.

Make It Text

3) Create text links for things like xhtml and css validation instead of using those horrible badges that the W3C site doles out.

Organize By Size

4) If you insist on joining every blog network and feed service known to man try to consolidate the chicklets by size, type, and only put one on each line. You might even try to create a css class that will help you present them better. I’m not so sure that a chichlet clouds work as well as tag clouds. Most people who use news readers can automagically detect your feed without having to click an ad me chicklet anyway. Ever since they started calling them chicklets I can’t help but think of my trips to Mexico where the children follow you around offering you chicklets. Much like these companies do, they won’t go away until you put one on your site. Edit: Avoid chicklet overdose using FeedBurner’s SmartFeed tool.

Feed Me

5) Use the custom Feed Icons for your RSS feeds and make them match your site. You can also make your feeds text links.

Stretch Out

6) Spread your site out. Make your site draw people in, don’t throw everything you have at them on the index page. If your content isn’t appealing by itself adding a ton of other stuff will do nothing but make your visitors leave. If you haven’t read Great Homepages Really Suck by Cameron Moll, you have some reading to do.

Do They Need It?

7) Ask yourself if you really think your audience will benefit from it. Take the Get Firefox buttons for instance, my blog is pretty heavily Mac oriented and therefore only a very small percentage of my visitors use IE. Therefore I’d be showing 90% of my visitors something only 10% would even have a remote chance of caring about. If you are doing it for the $1 you’ll get from Google, try Explorer Destroyer. The javascript they provide only shows a message to IE users. This helps clean up your site and only shows the Firefox button to people who could help you get the Google bounty anyway. If most of your visitors are using IE Explorer Destroyer might be a little over the top, but try creative ways to target your audience.

When In Doubt

8) Take it out. If you have no idea why you have chitika ads for iPods on your site about knitting, get rid of it. Your visitors who won’t click anyway will be happier and you can use the space for something more interesting. It’s like Jazz, it’s all about the notes you don’t play.

Break Down Borders

9) Borderless designs are in, just look at 37 Signals and We Break Stuff You can still use the wrapper div to keep your page nice and tidy, but just get rid of the borders.

Target Your Ads

10) Once your home page sucks, consider using no advertising on the front page to keep you design refined. As people venture into your site they’ll see advertisements that are related to specific subjects that they are browsing. It’s a win/win they see ads they are interested in and hopefully you get a click from an interested visitor.

Conclusion

Don’t try to be all things to all people. The web is a big place and you need to focus your site on what you do best. Some people are still looking for what it is they want to write about, but I know that the blogs I read regularly have very specific topics or streams of thought. If your site is about dogs there’s no reason for you to be promoting a get rich quick scheme on your site (unless it’s based around dogs I suppose). Stay focused and resist the temptation to plaster your site with badges, buttons, and chicklets.