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Don’t fill that extra space with junk

Over the years, PC screens have got bigger, and web pages have been allowed to grow with them. Compare the current BBC News design with one from ten years ago, for example. A typical website today would be designed to be something like 960 pixels wide, a far cry from what was necessary at the end of the internet’s first decade.

Many designers, however, under client instructions, have used the extra space to fit more items in. The simplicity which was forced on us by having so little room to work with was a good thing. Now it’s just an opportunity to keep everyone in the company happy by giving them a link on the home page. I’ve seen big fold-out menus with 40 or 50 items listed in half a dozen columns spreading right across the screen. Sure, it communicates “this company has a lot to offer”, but it’s giving me far too much choice.

The narrow pages we used to have also forced on us an economy of words and characters, especially on labels, and it’s curious that this has persisted. It’s really not necessary now for links as important as those used to reveal the company’s contact details to be hidden behind a label starkly marked “Contact”. We all know what “About” means, but couldn’t that link be made just a little more enticing? Even if it just involves adding the company name?

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