Your Website Needs to Get Out Of Its Own Way

Is your website standing in between your users and where you want them to be?  Creative Commons Image Attribution
Is your website standing in between your users and where you want them to be?
Creative Commons Image Attribution
I like themes, plugins, and websites that get out of the way.

Why do you have a website? Too many folks start with “because we need a website,” and that’s immediately apparent when you look at their site.

If they had a specific, measurable, written goal for the website, they’d have a website that gets out of the way of that goal.

Here are some great website goals:

  • buy your product
  • join your email list
  • give money to your cause
  • interact with other website users
  • find out information about your business

Your website should be like a good sound engineer on an album. If users notice the engineer instead of the musician, it’s a problem. Your goal (choose one above) is the rock star. Your theme should assist you in getting that rock star seen and heard, not getting itself noticed.

If your theme is messing with how your readers’ browsers scroll (faster than normal, or left-right instead of up-down), it is doing too much. There may be use cases for sites that scroll differently, but in the vast majority of cases it means you’ve taken your reader’s attention off of the rock star, and spun the spotlight around onto the guy twisting knobs in the sound booth.

If your website has an image slider, it’s almost certainly doing too much.

I once had a client with a broken image on the 4th “page” of slider. Know how long it took to discover the error? At least a week. Nobody (including the site owner) ever waited around to see the fourth image on a slider.

Image sliders are often declarations of 'my website doesn't have a measureable goal' Share on XImage sliders where a user is expected to click on something are most often a declaration that your designer knows how to make image sliders, and not much else. Because they are certainly not there to benefit the end user.

I see many of these errors in premium themes. It’s understandable: the themes are trying to sell themselves to you, and what better way than to demonstrate all of the ways they can add flair?

Do me a favor, though. Go to and check how many elements slide into the page, or whether hovering over items causes a neat scrolling effect.

How about Google? on their home page, do they have an intro video that autoloads?

Those sites are fine-tuned toward their goal. I’ll bet the “buy now” buttons are visible on the first (really quickly loading) page of Amazon. I’ll also go out on a sturdy limb and guess there’s a search box on the page at Google. They know what they want you to do on their site, and they move everything else out of the way, to benefit you moving toward that goal.

A helpful question to ask is “who does this change benefit?” as you are making changes.

Anything that gets in the way of users reaching the overall goal is a problem.

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