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What do web developers mean when they think something will make their site look "busy"?

What gives this feel of busy-ness?

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This is a great question that is relevant to all graphic design, not just websites. –  e100 Jan 6 '11 at 8:38
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5 Answers 5

up vote 24 down vote accepted

busy - biz -ee:

  • Too many unnecessary elements.
  • Lack of whitespace.
  • Clunky copy.
  • Unorganized and inconsistent design.
  • Improper treatment of text.
  • Too many styles, fonts, colors, or other design elements.
  • Lack of focus or purpose.
  • When the client wants you to make the logo bigger, add links to all of their quasi-partners in the footer for SEO, have several blinking Flash banners, animated .gif files, autoplayed audio and video, and a picture of their dog Fufu because they think little yappy dogs are cute and will help sell widgets.
  • Myspace.
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Lol at the "when the client..." one. It happens so often... –  S.gfx Jan 6 '11 at 8:19
    
+1 for the answer itself being a small example of non-busy design. –  e100 Jan 6 '11 at 9:06
    
Whoever invented blink should be forcefully removed. –  squillman Jan 6 '11 at 17:05
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@Lauren Ipsum There is one other appropriate use: Warnings. <blink>Warning:</blink> Are you sure you want to drop all tables in the database? –  zzzzBov Jan 6 '11 at 20:54
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Also appropriate: <blink><i color="red" class="dry irritated"></i></blink> –  Virtuosi Media Jan 6 '11 at 21:18
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Too many elements, or badly distributed ones,(it's possible to design with many elements and yet don't make it look busy, while area can look busy with just 3 elements) might destroy a design, its functionality, distract too much and make it confusing. And also what you wanted to be the main focus might loose strength. Also, busy designs give an unpleasant feeling, which is far from the purpose(in most cases). This can be applied to many other kind of designs, not just web sites. (And... can be really terrible that obsession of killing all sort of empty space, asked to remove it even when being used with a design purpose, as if it were bad no matter how you'd use it... How was the latin term... "horror vacui")

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+1 for the answer itself being a small example of busy design (sorry). –  e100 Jan 6 '11 at 9:07
    
Lol. You know, one often writes fast, and cares more on the other person getting the idea than not contributing at all ;) –  S.gfx Jan 6 '11 at 9:21
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I think the other answers correctly identify the symptoms, but for me the underlying cause is a lack of structure in the information presented, and the best way of resolving that it is to define some kind of hierarchy.

You can start with questions like:

  • What is the single most important element on this page?
  • Can we group all these pieces together? Or do we need a number of groups?
  • Can anything be removed (to another page?)

From there you can start to look at visually differentiating elements or classes, using all the tools at your disposal - grids, colour, white space etc - but you have to do the classification first.

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I think the main culprit is a lack of whitespace.

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It gives you the same feel as someone who is busy at his work desk. It's cluttered and lacks visual organisation.

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