Monthly Archives: February 2009

Less to Look At=More Attention to What’s Left…Or Less?

We’re going through yet another web redesign on Atomic Avenue’s home page, and I find myself cutting out a lot of visual elements we’d tried, but which don’t seem to have been pulling their weight.

Many of the calls were easy ones to make, but I’m finding myself with a question about the underlying cognitive aspects of minimalism:

Does eliminating “noise” content (e.g graphics or ads not relevant to a particular user) always help give what’s left more emphasis…or is there a point where a presentation becomes uninteresting because of the lack of noise?

In general, I’d guess (and I am only guessing) that most web designs tend to include far too many items and appeals for attention, and to the extent that they’re irrelevant, they ultimately take away from user’s ability to focus on what they do care about. If so, it should be possible to measure the effect, as well as its impact on sales.

That said, I can at least imagine a situation where the various bright, blinky parts of a web site are providing a certain baseline of mental excitement—without which, the site may be seen as boring or uninteresting (and thus, less successful).

Browsing through mall retail stores, it seems that most go with the “at least some background noise” strategy, often literally in the form of piped-in music on the store’s sound system. Assuming it’s not just a way to keep bored staffers awake, it would seem to be an appeal to the shopper’s overall energy level and mood, as well as to help “brand” the store (e.g. the Goth music at the local Hot Topic).

At the same time, Apple Stores and certain high end boutiques can be spare to the point of austerity in their presentation. These stores stand out even more as sanctuaries from the constant buzz and bombast of the surrounding venues, and I do find myself paying closer attention (at least I think I do) to the merchandise on display as a result. But I’ll admit I know of no real research on point, and my feeble attempts at Googling some up have been for naught.

Any ideas of your own here?