Clutter Choosing the parts of your site that a user sees is all about prominence. The more prominent something is, the more often it will be seen.

The problem with prominence is that it’s relative.

Simply giving something a bright background and a bigger font does not make it prominent. It must stand out in comparison with the rest of the design.

For example, the "Come On In. We’re Hiring" badge on Authentic Boredom may be very noticeable, but if you put it on this site, it would just blend in. They need a different method of getting attention.

The Cause of Clutter

Trying to draw the reader’s attention is the culprit.

As bloggers, we think that every part of our blogs are important. The problem is that most of your readers think differently. They want to see your headline and your content. Only a few of your more loyal readers are interested in your blogroll, social media buttons or anything else.

When every element is trying to draw attention, a visitor does not know where to look first. This visual confusion is design clutter. It feels messy, and it results in users not seeing what you want them to, or getting fed up and leaving altogether.

A clean blog is one in which the user’s eye is clearly guided around the page. They can read the page peacefully, and aren’t being distracted by less important page elements. This makes the reader much more likely to read a post from start to finish and the good will that your content has garnered can then be carried onto the other content (Like a related posts widget) that you have unobtrusively placed on the page.

The drawback of a clutter free layout is that certain things must be purposefully sacrificed. You have to be ruthless and realistic about what does and doesn’t deserve attention.

A visitor only has so much attention that they’re willing to spend on your page. You want them to spend as much as possible on the few important elements, and not waste any on deciding what they should focus on. Good design makes that decision for them.

This is the first post in a 3-part series. The next will be on how you can prioritise your content, and the third will be on how you can use design to show prominence.

Before I give my opinions though, I’d like to hear yours. When you look at your blog, what draws your attention first? Is it what you want the attention to be on?

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