6 Reasons Why a Cluttered Blog is a Bad Thing

Kitty + Clutter

Clutter refers to the various widgets, buttons, ads, animations and goodness knows what else that can be found on many blogs. Sometimes it’s in the sidebar, sometimes the footer. Sometimes it even gets in the way of the content.

If you look at a blank spot on your blog and it makes you think, “That needs something in it”, think again. Filling every available spot on your blog is a bad idea. But why is this?

1. Clutter is Distracting

Animated graphics take your attention away from the post you’re trying to read. Bright colours that don’t fit with the rest of a blog’s colour scheme will stand out for all the wrong reasons. Do you want readers to look at your posts, or your sidebar?

2. Clutter Slows Everything Down

The speed of your blog can vary greatly depending on your computer, your browser, your Internet connection, where in the world your blog is hosted, and whether it’s raining or the neighbours are vacuuming (ok, not really). But it’s worth doing everything you can to stop the blog from loading slowly.

If you add loads of widgets and other paraphernalia to your blog, it’ll slow it down. The more you add, the slower it goes. I’ve seen blogs that take well over a minute to load fully. Bear in mind that just 5 seconds is a pretty long wait. If readers have to wait 10 seconds, many will give up.

Want some background on that statement?

The same applies to blogs. A blog can be a website on its own, or it can be part of a larger website. But that’s another story.

3. Clutter Can Break Your Blog

A cluttered blog is bad enough. But if a widget or an ad on your blog causes my browser to hang or even crash, it’s not something I’ll forget in a hurry.

Whenever you add something new to your blog, test it thoroughly before you commit to using it long-term.

4. …And It’s Not Easy to Find the Cause

I’ve seen blogs with popup ads where the author couldn’t find the cause. Or ads that play automatically and you’re scrambling to find the “off” switch.

On a cluttered blog, if something goes wrong, it can take a long time to identify what’s causing the issue.

5. Clutter Looks Unprofessional

If your sidebar is a mess of unrelated widgets in various shapes and sizes, with no spacing between them and no alignment, it ends up looking like a tower of multicoloured Jenga blocks that’s about to topple over. It also looks very unprofessional.

With a little care and imagination, you can still have a small collection of widgets or ads in your sidebar – just make sure you choose ad sizes and designs that complement each other. It is possible to have stuff in your sidebar and not have it look like you just dumped it there without a second thought.

6. Clutter Often Adds No Value

Is it really important for readers to know that your blog is worth $30,000? Do they need to see a scrolling list of other blogs? Or how about a recent visitors widget?

Before you add a widget to your blog, ask if it adds values for your readers. If not, why display it on your blog?

Discussion

Do you have any clutter on your blog? Which widgets or gadgets work well for you? Are there any you could remove?

  • http://familialramblings.com Felicia

    I have to admit that I’ve gone to some blogs and ended up clicking away from them because there was so much clutter on their sidebar or what have you. Clutter is distracting, like you said, and it can sometimes be a horrible eyesore that I just don’t want to deal with even if the content is amazing. I really try hard not to clutter my blog up too much, but I know that there’s probably one or two things I could probably remove just to clean things up a bit more. Clutter is certainly one thing that I try to avoid if at all possible.

    • http://www.quickblogtips.com/ Ben Barden

      Hi Felicia :) I know what you mean. A clutter-free blog (or at least a relatively clean, well-organised blog) allows the writer and reader to zero in on what’s important: the content :D

  • https://twitter.com/kstaxman Frank Woodman Jr

    I would agree that a great number of sites are over loaded and crowded with way to much in the way of gadgets, widgets, tokens, sidebars, ads, popups, and other such junk. And it sure has to have an effect both on a sites visitors to make sense of a site as well as have it download without taking forever.

    And I’ve found that the worse offenders often are also using lower cost over loaded service providers as well. So start by having a good service hosting your site. One that doesn’t over load that “shared” server with way to many other’s that think they truly have “unlimited band width” and “gigabits” of data storage. No way you get a cheap site hosted with lots of bandwidth, lots of storage, unlimited email addresses, lots of data bases, and carry it on a server shared by 100′s of sites expecting the same thing and have it work right.

    When you mix all of these things together you’ve got an over crowded site with poor visual impact that takes forever to load if it loads at all.

    And then people wonder why their traffic is low to non existent and those that do visit don’t seem to do anything while they are there. Wake up they can’t do anything while the site is loading and if they can’t figure out how to get around all the popups and ads or find anything when it finally does load nothing will happen either.

    So take this article under advisement and try going to your site a few times yourself. I’m using a major service provider and I visit my site often and use a service that tells me when it’s down or not working properly. That’s not the cheapest way to go but it certainly pays off in the end when visitors to my site can enjoy my site while they are there.

    Anyway when you visit your site try and consider the experience as a visitor would!

    Did you like how fast the site loaded?
    Did you find to many ads and popups in the way?
    And most important….Would you come back to your site as a visitor?

    If you can’t answer all of these questions with a yes then you’ve got work to do.

    • http://www.quickblogtips.com/ Ben Barden

      Hi Frank :) Welcome to QBT. Thanks for the insight. As you say, a poor quality web host can make a blog slow, too. Combine this with lots of clutter and the blog could load painfully slowly. By the way, I fixed your Twitter link as it didn’t go through properly. Seems OK now :)

  • Jeevan Jacob John

    When I started blogging, I used to be all fancy pancy, used to change my template/theme every time I came upon a fancier one than I was using (so, about 1-2 themes per month). I continued the trend even after I switched to WP (but, this time I was doing 1-2 themes per 3-4 months). Later on, I began time devoting to minimalism and removing things from my blog (right now, I am maintaining it, just keeping the things I absolutely need in my blog and avoiding clutter).

    I like your clutter free design, Ben, simple, elegant ans stylish :D

    • http://www.quickblogtips.com/ Ben Barden

      Hi Jeevan :) While I think that changing your theme is something that can be done too often, it can take time to find one you like. Apart from a couple of minor things I’d like to change, I’m quite happy with my theme. I appreciate your feedback – clutter-free is what I’m aiming for :) I think I like your blog layout more since you added the sidebar. Besides that, it’s also very clean :)

  • http://moonpreneur.net Dee Ankary

    Hi Ben,

    It’s not always easy to strike the right note between total minimalism and the “lived-in” look. I would agree with you that it always best to err on the side of minimalism.

    Apart from tech problems such as load times and inability to track down the cause of an issue, I sometimes get the sneaky suspicion that too many flashing widgets and pop-up ads perhaps are there to hide the fact that the content itself might not compelling enough, and therefore distractions are necessary.

    Great post.

    • http://www.probloggertips.com Yeremi Akpan

      Hi Dee,
      I could not help nodding as I read your comment. I especially love the angle on poor quality content necessitates adding some bells and whistles to provide sensory distractions.

      Minimalism places due emphasis on content, which is where emphasis should be in the first place.

    • http://www.quickblogtips.com/ Ben Barden

      Hi Dee :) I agree with Yeremi, that’s a great point about distracting from the content because it’s not particularly compelling. I’d never thought of that before. Thanks for the extra tip :D

  • http://inspiretothrive.com Lisa

    I do not care for pop ups on blogs, I find them distracting. I hope my sidebar is not too cluttered. I have eliminated a few things to help the speed. Maybe simpler themes are best for uncluttered blogs and faster upload time. I do appreciate nice images like your cat here. I will have to come back and pin since I’m mobile now :)

    • http://www.quickblogtips.com/ Ben Barden

      Hi Lisa :) I have to say, I don’t see as many cluttered blogs as I used to. A couple of years ago when I ran an ad network, most of the blogs that joined the network had loads of widgets and ads in their sidebar and footer. Some also had full screen popup ads, dodgy ads that redirected you to a totally different site, autoplaying audio… you name it. Thankfully, those days seem to be largely behind us and the vast majority of blogs I see nowadays are quite clean :) But I do think that beginners in particular like to experiment with loads of stuff, and it’s also easy to add more and more plugins and one day realise just how many you’ve added. I use quite a few plugins, if I’m honest – although most of them are admin-related things :)

  • http://www.slymarketing.com Jens P. Berget

    Hi Ben,

    Great advice. I’ve been trying to keep my blog free from clutter and keep it focused on the content, but it’s actually harder to keep it free from clutter than I thought. I keep wanting to fill the blank spots with something :)

    • http://www.quickblogtips.com/ Ben Barden

      Hi Jens :) I don’t try to fill blank spaces, but I do keep finding plugins that do useful things that I want to install. It’s easy to find 20+ plugins (or a lot more) that do something useful and it’s difficult to choose which ones to get rid of!