If you’ve been following this site for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed the design gets more and more simple. That is intentional.
I started designing websites in 2003 and I’ve often incorporated hot design trends into this site very early on. While many designers use a personal site or even a playground site to test new features, I always just tried new things here.
This site was responsive in 2011, had hero images in 2012, sidebar-less in 2013, and I’ve played around with all sorts of other silliness along the way.
Although some of the features I tested stuck and some did not, I always focused on the content and simplicity.
This really took shape in 2016, the same time I launched my day tours of Rome. I removed everything that was not essential and got rid of anything that was decorative.
Some people were taken aback by the minimal homepage, but the thousands of visitors to the site each day often sent messages thanking me for the clarity and ease of use, something that continues to this day.
The last few iterations of the site focused on refining that simplicity.
This most recent iteration, v16, was all about navigation.
When people land on my site, let’s say on the Papal Calendar for December, I could have a static menu with typical links: Home, Tours, Guide, About, Contact or I could have a custom menu for each page that leads the visitors to somewhere that could actually be helpful.
In the case above, someone looking for the Papal schedule will see as the only navigation, where they are, that I have more of the Papal Calendar available, that I write guides, and that they are currently viewing a page from my guide to Rome.
This will encourage people to dig deeper into my guide to Rome to help them plan their visit. If I just had Home, Tours, Guide, About, Contact, there would be nothing to help them work their way back to a page that’s relevant. Sure they might click to see what “guide” means or check out my “tours” but mostly likely they will get the information they came for on this page and bounce.
Now many sites incorporate breadcrumbs into the design, but then you have a full menu and breadcrumbs, and that’s a lot for a person to take in. I wanted a more simple solution.
As for results, it’s only been a month as of this writing, my page views have gone up 22%, people stay on the site 12% longer, and the bounce rate has dropped 24%.
I will continue to refine, but I am very happy with the results.