Less is more… or is it?

July 1, 2015

When you work in coffee shops, you overhear a lot of interesting conversations.

(Especially if you’re like me and can’t turn off that part of your brain that listens in on other people. Consider yourself warned if you ever see me nearby when you’re meeting a friend or colleague at Starbucks.)

The other day, the gal next to me (who just happens to be a freelance website producer) was chatting with a guy who, like us, uses this particular coffee shop as his office on a semi-regular basis. He was talking about the new website he’s building for his business, and she was (very generously) giving him a lot of (pretty legit) advice — which platforms to try, how to choose stock photos, where not to spend his web marketing budget.

But then they started talking about content strategy, and she told him, “When it comes to your website content, less is more.” As he continued to talk, she repeated it twice more: Less is more. Less is more.

And I thought, but is it really?

Sometimes, less is less. And other times, less is lazy.

Less is less when it doesn’t create meaning or give insight. And less is lazy when we simply don’t take the time to consider (and then meet) the needs of the people we want to work with.

I’ve been both of these less-es. Designers are notorious for being the cobblers with no shoes, and I was one of those designers who had nothing but a logo, a contact link, some pretty imagery, and a couple of sentences on my own website. I defended it by saying things like “less is more” and “I’m just too busy doing work for other people.”

The truth is, less was just less — and I was using a busy schedule as an excuse for not caring for people well.

Less is only more when the less is carefully considered and precisely crafted.

A good writer will tell you that it’s harder to make your point concisely than verbosely. That’s because less content doesn’t mean less information. When your words are fewer, your words have to work harder.

When less is done well, you give your customer exactly what they need — no more and no less. Too little content will prevent a prospect from becoming your customer in the first place. Too much content puts the burden on your customer, to sift through it to find what they need to know. But less content done well puts the burden on you — to know what your customer needs to know and connect them with it.

At the same time, for some kinds of consumers, less will never be more.

They’re the researchers, the meticulous decision makers, the get-your-facts-in-order people. The people who read all the way to the bottom of squeeze pages. The people who read Amazon reviews for every product (and all similar products) before they buy.

You need to have the more for these people — but not as a replacement for the well-crafted less.

When it comes to your website content, you need less *and* more.

Your well-crafted less will take the lead, introducing your customer to your business or product. It could be a video, a slideshow, or text copy. For some (or even most) customers, this will tell them everything they need to take action. But those researcher-types can read on for answers to their every question — presented in a way that’s engaging, simple and clear. For a one-to-one offering, like coaching, this could be an in-depth description of your process. For a one-to-many offering, like an online course, this could be an outline of the modules in your class or a tour of your digital classroom.

In the end, less isn’t more. Less is you doing more — creating more meaning, giving greater insight, caring better for your people.

Filed under:

Creating, Design

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