When creating a careers website, there are many factors that need to be taken into account, not least of all how it looks to the candidate. In a study conducted by Google, simple websites – those with low visual complexity and high prototypicality – were found to be much more appealing than complicated websites. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that users were able to distinguish between simple and complicated websites within 1/50th of a second!
So why do candidates favour simplicity?
Simply put, our brains are wired to favour simplicity. Cognitive fluency dictates that our brains prefer to think about things that are easy to think about – so it seems natural that candidates would favour simple websites, rather than complex websites that require more thinking in order to process the information. When candidates visit websites where they instinctively know where everything is and what actions to take, the familiarity makes it feel reassuring.
What is The Mere Exposure Effect?
The Mere Exposure Effect is also a helpful concept when thinking about simplicity. This effect states that the more someone is exposed to a stimulus, the more they prefer it. For example, you would expect an e-commerce site to feature large imagery, catchy headlines and a company logo in the corner of the screen. If a site were to deviate obviously from this prototypical design, visitors might subconsciously deem this site as less appealing.
Scientifically speaking, low complexity websites don’t require the eyes and brain to work as hard to decode, store and process information. So optimising a page for visual information processing, and communicating as much as possible in as few elements as possible, simplifies how someone takes in information.
Why simplicity means more conversions
Our working memory can only store a certain amount of information in the short term, and as it’s this memory that guides decision making, it’s crucial that candidates aren’t inundated with too much information when they’re on a careers website.
Essentially, the amount of ‘noise’ needs to be reduced on a website to guide the candidate to convert. Factors such as the colour scheme being distracting, the symmetry being off, and the site not loading fast enough, all contribute to how a candidate perceives the website and ultimately decides whether it’s appealing or not.
Here’s how to simplify your website:
Streamline your homepage design – the page that is going to catch the candidate’s attention is the homepage, so it should set the tone for the whole website. This page should be clear, easy to navigate, and free of distraction
Make text easy to skim – the font should be legible and large enough throughout the site, and copy should be easy to follow and not overly excessive. Further break up copy with headings and subheadings.
Use lots of imagery – images are easier to digest than text, as our brain can process images faster and more easily, and can also make a website more aesthetically pleasing.
Ensure your website loads quickly – slow websites mean impatient candidates will click away before it loads, and your site may appear lower in search results in Google as site speed is one of their ranking algorithms.
Get rid of anything that isn’t clicked on – if candidates aren’t clicking on certain parts of your site, get rid of those features. You can tell what’s being clicked on by using a heatmap tool to analyse your site.
Limit the menu to no more than seven items – limit your menu to only the essential items and label navigation items with universally understood terms so candidates know exactly what to click on depending on their needs.
Use white space effectively – white space, also known as negative space, is the area of the website that doesn’t have anything on it. This space doesn’t need to be literally white, it can have a subtle design or be used effectively to draw attention to central points of information.
Make the structure easy to follow – this includes limiting the number of sub-menus in the navigation bar to make it easier to use, and limiting the amount of times a candidate needs to click to get to the information they desire.