5 Things I REMOVED From my Site: via Negativa

I’m a big fan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s views on fragility and antifragility. As a result of his thoughts, my approach to web design is via negativa. That is, we often feel that we need to do something to improve our site. Add new features. A new sidebar. Something extra. However in real life, things are often made better by removal instead of addition. The best health advice you can give to someone usually involves not doing something. DON’T smoke. DON’T eat bad foods, etc.

I tend to use the same approach when working on my website. I ask myself “What can I remove”, then test the changes to see how it works out. So in this article, I’ll explain 5 things that I’ve removed from my website. This brings a host of advantages:

  1. Faster page load speeds
  2. Simpler design = easier to focus on content
  3. Less chance of something breaking
  4. Less chance of confusing search spiders

So here’s what I REMOVED instead of added.

1. Removed Sidebars

I hesitated a great deal before removing something so ubiquitous. The sidebar contained my search box, a banner ad, and related links. I’ve been using sidebars on my sites for 10 years. So taking this out really required some thought.

But with so many mobile visitors, my sidebars were pushed to the bottom and were never seen anyway. And my analytics link tracking showed me that I rarely got any clicks to the related posts. So I decided to do away with them entirely. The one thing I needed to modify was the search bar, and I included it on the side of the navigation menu instead.

Benefits: Increased speed, less HTML rendering time, more space for desktop visitors

2. Disabled Additional Analytics Scripts

I use Jetpack on my site (though I’m thinking of removing that too), and for the longest time I sort of had the “Site Stats” feature enabled by default like this:

Jetpack Site Stats Analytics Script
Jetpack Site Stats Analytics

It was convenient – I liked the mobile analytics app, and it showed me the statistics on the admin bar. However, I already use Google Analytics. And while the Analytics app isn’t as good as the one provided by Automattic’s Jetpack, it has a lot more functionality like event tracking that I find absolutely indispensable.

So I decided to remove the additional tracking script and keep just one. One less script to think about!

Benefits: Increased speed

3. Getting Rid of Bloated Menus

For a while, I had the “Mega Menu” plugin installed on my site. It allowed me to do fancy things like having mobile-friendly drop-down sub-menus and allowed me to create new menus to additional sections on my site.

But the price was too high. On many pages, the size of the menu was bigger than my entire webpage! Needless to say, it drastically increased my page load times, and I had to chuck the whole experiment.

That Includes Mobile Menus

Mobile menus also fall into this category. There are no easy to use plugins that are lightweight (few KB), and which convert the regular navigation menu into a mobile-friendly “hamburger” one. The best situation is for your theme to do this automatically, but if it doesn’t, you’re out of luck. All the existing solutions are simply too bulky.

4. Don’t Over-Optimize your Javascripts

Sometimes people go overboard with optimizing their Javascripts to save a few milliseconds on their page load times and get a higher score on Google’s PageSpeed. There comes a point of diminishing returns, after which, additional optimization actually harms your site.

Sometimes you simply need to let a script load in the header. Yes, I said it! Let the damn thing load if it’s so important. jQuery is an excellent example. And since most browsers support HTTP/2 and download resources simultaneously, you can also load a few other scripts that are smaller than jQuery.

Don’t Combine your JS and CSS

A related outdated practice that you should definitely get rid of, is combining your CSS and JS files. Modern browsers can download files in parallel, so there’s no need to squish them all together. In fact, this takes longer and increases the chances of something breaking.

Not to mention your server needs to do the heavy backend work of pre-processing the files, combining them, maintaining the cache etc. Just…stop. It’s not necessary anymore.

5. Getting Rid of Related Posts

This can vary from site to site. I just go off my analytics. I create events to track clicks on the related posts, and if they’re not useful, I get rid of them. If you do decide to keep related posts, don’t use the one provided by Jetpack. It requires an additional database query to your site with a query parameter that bypasses any server-side caching you may have implemented.

I haven’t found a satisfactory related posts plugin that’s light on the server, and which doesn’t result in additional callbacks to the site, and which at the same time doesn’t fill up space with trackers and ads.

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few other things that you can do away with:

  1. 3rd party commenting systems
  2. Multiple caching plugins
  3. Additional fonts (just find native ones)
  4. Interactive social media buttons (like, share, etc)

Web design via negativa will never go out of style. Adding an additional feature to your site, should be done as an experiment only, and quickly gotten rid of it doesn’t meet some specific parameter – like user engagement, or signups, or conversions. Keep your site clean, simple, and lightweight, and you’ll do just fine!

About Bhagwad Park

I've been writing about web hosting and WordPress tutorials since 2008. I also create tutorials on Linux server administration, and have a ton of experience with web hosting products. Contact me via e-mail!

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