When In Web Design Doubt, Simplify: Aldebaran Web Design Review

Ian Lurie

Jill bravely volunteered her site aldebaranwebdesign.com for a review and six recommendations.

In internet marketing, like any other form of marketing, the simplest message that communicates, wins. The poster with one compelling sentence will do better than one with a so-so photograph. The web site that attempts to do the least wins, too.

The Aldebaran site is far too complex:

Aldebaran Web Design

So, one word: Simplify.

  1. First, change your background. The blue glow is too 1990s. Use a light colored background throughout the site. Use dark text over the light background, no more light text on a light background.
  2. Next, fewer columns! You’ve got three columns – testimonials on the right and left, copy in the middle. Switch to two columns, or even better, put all of the testimonials on a series of testimonials pages. Then work one or two right into the copy on each page. Many of the sites you’ve built for others are great examples of two-column layout.
  3. Break up your copy. Try to have no paragraph longer than 3 lines of text – the pages will scan better, and be easier to read.
  4. Increase line spacing to 1.25 em. Combined with the shorter paragraphs, that’ll make the pages far easier to read.
  5. Simplify the navigation. Move the ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ links somewhere else. Then make the navigation items about 2 points bigger. That’ll make the navigation easier to read, and make the essential items – services, portfolio, etc. – stand out.
  6. Simplify your title tags. You’re top 10 for ‘seattle web design’. You could get to the top 5 if you shorten your title tags, and put “Seattle web design” first, rather than after your company name.

Overall, I’d do a new design. Keep the copy, which has gotten you some great search rankings. Just create a nicer, simpler container for it all.
Hope this helps. Post comments below if you have questions.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Thanks for doing this helpful article Ian. It is a message that we repeat over and over again.
    I agree that there is some great content in there, just some design issues to address to ensure that the potential client discovers the clear messaging without too much effort.
    Wow, Jill! Great credentials for a web designer! It’s great when people with experience in the real world get involved with building communication and interaction media online.

  2. First off, thanks very much to Ian for the website review and also thanks to Rudy for the kind words.
    I’ve pondered and pondered the suggestions and made changes to my site accordingly, uploading the new version today.
    It’s been such a struggle to get good organic rankings, I’m a bit afraid to remove any content, so some of the simplification will have to be done gradually, so I can make sure I don’t remove too much of the content, especially from the home page. Changing from a 3 column to a 2 column was also too time intensive for the time being.
    I’ve removed “design” from the navigation and widened the width, so that I could increase the nav font by 2 px but keep “About” and “Contact” because these pages do get substantial traffic and I want them easily located. Also increased line height. I tried to have all content be dark on light background and attempted to move the design from the 1990’s to 2008. I wound up with a sky/space motif, which fits with “Aldebaran” and keeps the overall color scheme. When I asked some of my clients their opinion of the new design, it indeed reminded them of the boundary between sky and space, so hopefully this will be an improvement.
    So while it’s not really simplified, hopefully it looks a bit more modern and is more readable. Again the feedback was very appreciated and motivated me to make some changes that were probably long overdue. Will continue to simplify as the year progresses.

  3. Jill,
    Definitely improved. I’d think about reducing the number of columns. But it looks far, far better now, and easier to read.
    Nice job.

  4. Thanks for this review, Ian. It is helpful.
    @Jill: It definitely looks much more “modern” than the old background.
    Just curious, have you ever added free white paper or main article in pdf that helps the visitors know more about your services. They may feel a bit nervous at first if they have to call now without knowing what problems you solve.

  5. Hendry Lee,
    Thanks for letting me know the new design appears more modern. I appreciate it.
    I hadn’t considered a white paper that explains my business…I think that I have plenty of content that explains what services I offer. Most of the folks who contact me have never heard of a “white paper”…they are small business owners just looking for a responsible, ethical, plain speaking website designer.
    I’d be curious to know Ian’s opinion of white papers, and what they are and aren’t good for.

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