Occam's Razor (also known as the law of parsimony) states that if having to choose between two theories, a complex one and a simple one, the simplest theory must be correct. Simply put, Occam's Razor states that the simplest path will lead to the best results. While this is not always a correct assumption, using this principle as a guide can help with various aspects of web design and streamlining the user experience.
The principle itself can be attributed to William of Occam, a 14th-century friar and one of the major intellectuals of the medieval era. Several philosophers used similar principles prior to William, namely Aristotle; however, it is most commonly accredited to William because he used this idea often and with great success in his various works of logic, politics and theology.
Is Occam's Razor a valuable train of thought for web design?
Website designs can benefit greatly from a more basic layout when it comes to making it easier for users to navigate the website. Too many confusing links or distracting images can make it difficult for the average user to get to exactly where they need to go. When applying Occam's Razor to web design, the goal is to create the most effective website while simultaneously omitting unnecessary extras. That being said, simplicity does not have to equate with unexciting or uninteresting, although the main objective of web design should be understanding and ease of use.
When starting out with design, it is easy to tell yourself to make the most efficient website possible; however, people often initially choose a more complex and convoluted design. In actuality, creating a simple yet effective website for your user can take a lot of forethought and planning, often being one of the more difficult aspects of making a good website. As you are planning out your website and what it will have in it, something to keep in mind is that you are trying to communicate a general idea to your target user; so how are you going to do that? Think about the goal of your website and how you can convey what you are trying to do in the most effective way possible without putting in any clutter or images that detract from your main point.
Try to stay aware of your target audience as well. Will users of all ages be able to effortlessly navigate the website? Is it easy for them to sign in, post comments or read the website content? These things are the essence of what Occam's Razor is all about, just keeping it simple and easy where possible to make things smoother for everyone in the end. Even though it is not always going to be easy to think of the best and brightest solution to make everything simple, it is of significant importance for you as a web developer to test your ability to make everything the best you can while using as few extras as possible.