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Hey Mr. Fancy Pants

By Dan Burbank
Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2004

It’s easy to get excited when you first launch a web site or when you finally decide it’s time to roll up your sleeves and revamp that mess your nephew built for you two years ago.

There are so many routes to take with a web site. There’s flash animation, animated gifs, music, images, limitless space for you to ramble and post your opinions. When the blank canvas of the web is laid out in front of you, it’s hard to know where to stop.

While creativity is to be encouraged, when you chart a course for cyberspace, consider the benefits of restraint. Before your site gets too ornate and fancy. Before you add more bells and whistles than you could ever hope to maintain, consider that some of the most successful web sites are incredible simple. Ponder these examples. (

It doesn’t get more basic than Craigslist. This classified site consists completely of text and text links. By some estimates more than two million unique users a day come here to buy and sell and browse. Granted there are a lot of links on the homepage, but can you imagine how long it would take the page to load if each section had its own button or if the whole thing were laid out on top of a distracting background image? (

Google knows what you came to do – you’re there to search. While Google does have several other useful tools and services, it knows what its bread and butter is. Google doesn’t put any stuff in the way of you and your search. Enter a keyword, browse your results and you don’t ever have to wonder why there’s an animated gif of a cat doing ballet in the corner.

Careful With Those Tricks

The point isn’t that you have to take a minimalist philosophy to be successful online. One look at Yahoo, Amazon or Ebay and its apparent that many successful sites have their hands in a lot of different things.

But you do need to keep your site focused. If you want to sell your products online, create a site that sells. If you want your site to be a showcase for your consulting services, showcase your consulting services. Don’t distract visitors with pointless pictures, music or copy.

In other words, if you want everyone to notice your shirt, don’t leave the house wearing fancy pants.

About the Author
Dan Burbank is the resident columnist for ( and has been leading professional web design projects for more than five years.


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