How to Apply the 80-20 Principle to Website Ideas

Casey O'Quinn / September 8, 2016 / Website Best Practices

website ideasClutter is as catastrophic to web design as it is to fine art. Present your audience with every website element including the kitchen sink and you’ll earn none of their focus. This is only one of the many ways the Pareto Principle evidences itself in the online marketing world. The principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of results come from 20% of your efforts, a philosophy that can be applied to almost any marketing facet, including website ideas. If you are trying to increase revenue with website design, put the rule into action by discerning which concepts will be responsible for 80% of your success.

The Paradox of Choice

One of the most successful copywriters in history, Joe Sugarman, is guided by the tenet that the number of options offered to consumers is inversely proportionate to how often they choose any of those options. It’s not enough to merely reduce the clickable buttons offered by your new site--the correct buttons need to be selected. Google Analytics lets users test 10 variations of landing pages to ascertain which conversion options pack the most punch. Testing before going live produces more reliable effects than guesswork ever will.

Design Elements

The human eye settles on a single focal point and then moves across the page in a predictable way, a tendency that artists have been exploiting ever since the first brush was set to canvas. Tim Ferriss put this to the test in a 2009 case study. By reducing design clutter by 22.7%, the site showed a 19.8% improvement. Similarly, 20% of your website ideas will be responsible for 80% of your traffic, and they're easily identifiable with simple analytics.

Begin by creating a Pareto chart to ascertain which pages to prioritize. Blogs, payments, newsletters, and the like can create clutter if every single potential page is included in a website. Marketing analytics should be used to determine which of these will produce the most vital results.


The solution to the 80/20 rule is not always omission. If, for example, you cut 80% of your registration countries from your drop-down list, the result would be inefficiency. Creative solutions like offering limited default selections or keeping the page’s “vital” 20% inside the primary focal point are more effective. Eye-tracking studies show that users view these areas first:

  1. The top left corner.
  2. The center of the page.
  3. Faces and large text.
  4. The lower right quadrant of the page.
  5. With text-heavy sites, readers scan from the left down.

Given the sheer number of variables that affect reading gravity, these results should not simply be applied as a rule of thumb. They're guidelines for website ideas that require testing.

Pareto Principle theorist, Perry Marshall, said, “The number one skill you need as an entrepreneur is ‘opportunity discernment.’” Identifying the “vital few” in the 80/20 rule requires wisdom and business savvy. However, with a large enough test audience, figuring out where that 20% lies on your site is frequently as simple as doing basic addition.

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About the Author Casey O'Quinn

Casey founded Gravity Digital in 2000 after serving as the Internet Services Director for a Nashville-based Ad Agency. He's a rare breed that operates both left and right brain, so along with oversight of the company he's active in the creative process for our clients.

Follow Casey O'Quinn: LinkedIn |

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