Simplifying Website Usability: The 3 Step Approach

Simplicity is key to any successful website or web app.

If your site is too complicated, the user will have to go through too many hoops to find what they are looking for and won’t even bother trying it out.

The Jackson 5 got it right back in the 70’s when they sang “easy as 123”.

A simple and effective approach is to break down your services, signups and checkouts into 3 easy steps. This will improve usability, increase sales, signups and conversion rates.

In this article, we’ll take a look at 20 great examples of the 3 step approach for effective website usability.


1. Banner Snack

Banner Snack


2. Big Filebox

Big Filebox


3. Stack Magazines



4. Posterous



5. Statement Stacker

Statement Stacker


6. Wufoo



7. Tender Support

Tender Support


8. Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor


9. Simple Spark

Simple Spark


10. CSS Rockstars

CSS Rockstars


11. The Choppr



12. Scrap Blog

Scrap Blog


13. Food Feed

Food Feed


14. Product Planner

Product Planner


15. Crowd Spring

Crowd Spring


16. Name Birdie

Name Birdie


17. The Twitter Tag Project

Twitter Tag Project


18. Get Me Fast

Get Me Fast


19. TwitterFone



20. TwittBot


Written exclusively for WDD by Lee Munroe, a freelance web designer and blogger. You can find more of his writing at his blog or follow Lee on Twitter.

Is the 3 step approach an effective way to simplify your web design? Please share your comments below…

  • James Duffell

    Some lovely clean and crisp designs, great post

  • Carl – Web Site Design Instructor

    Really liking todays type of design, lots of padding really makes you breath better when your looking at these sites :)

  • kulot

    i love this collection, very inspiring.

  • David Hamill

    I’m not sure 1,2,3 is the bit that makes it usable. It’s the fact that the process is explained upfront that is important. Each offering you design for will be different and so you need to do what works for each particular case.

    I recommend that people steer clear of arbitrary rules like this. If you try to cut a 5 step explanation into 3 steps you just risk confusing people.

  • aravind

    Great Roundup Lee,
    Thanks.. :)

  • patternhead

    Some great designs here, easy as 1 2 3 :)


    “Easy as 1,2,3” was my philosophy for years now. Great article.

    Thanks for not putting 100 pictures into one article anymore. ;)

  • Patrick

    Yeah this is just a series of screenshots that happen to have “1,2,3” in them. This list does nothing to explain the value of a simplified approach…

    • SaraKate

      I have to agree with this. I was really confused when I read “The 3 Step Approach” and didn’t clearly see 3 Steps outlined or in bullet points. While the three steps are bolded, I had to read the text a few times before I understood that the bolded text was actually three different steps. In addition, I don’t feel like an actual approach was outlined, but rather that there is a lot of content missing from this “article”. To me, this isn’t an article, but rather a round-up of other sites. If there were only three or four sites with an explanation as to why each was chosen, there would be a lot more value in this post.

  • Yosef Solomon

    Interesting post, the UI for each of those sites is also amazing. Great compliment and easy to use.

  • Jonny Campbell

    Excellent examples. very inspirational. 3 IS the magic number after all.

  • John

    Less is more. I love simplicity and it works well in all fields of design.

  • odszkodowania

    Good job.

  • PelFusion

    you really worked hard to compile this list :)

  • Alberto Vera

    I do have to agree with the fact that simplifying makes things easier, but you must take in consideration the context that you are designing, there are some time that a 1 to 5 or even 1 to 8 step approach is better than 1,2,3 approach. A better rule of thumb that any good user interface designer or web designer should apply is the DONT MAKE ME THINK!, a button shoould look like a button and a link should look like a link.

    Thank you for inspiring designs, and for remembering us that simplicity is the father/mother of any good design.

  • Michael Arnaldo

    Great stuff.

  • Tukang Nggame

    great article, the 3 step combined with good layout design…
    and this is helpful for me

  • Davor

    Great article and some really good examples. But I would like to see and a case study of a large web site – magazine, news portal, etc….it is really an form of art to keep things simple as 1,2,3 but what when You have tons and tons of content to tackle and for example squeeze to the front page?


    I agree with David, while the designs featured here are awesome, it’s not about 1-2-3 its about explaining clearly what the service is about and having call to actions visible enough.

  • de andi

    All designs are really great. Specially for “18. Get Me Fast ” because personally I know the designer very well.

  • Zac


  • Tukang Nggame

    combined usability with nice design,,,
    Great post

  • Adrian – WPDONE

    “Simple as 123” – I like this sentence! This will be the subject of my next WordPress theme and I’ll keep it as simple as I can.
    Thank you for the great examples.

  • 5nake

    thx for collection.
    post in favorites ;)

  • Lee Munroe

    Thanks for the comments.

    Agreed, it’s not the 1,2,3 that makes a website usable, it’s about a clear process and clear call to action.

    What I think works though is if your service down into 3 steps, especially for summing it up on the homepage, it makes things simple for the user to understand quickly.

    So an online shop for example, instead of saying
    1. Search for the product
    2. Click on more detail
    3. Enter qty
    4. Click add to basket
    5. Go to basket
    6. Register

    You could simplify it to 1. Find it, 2. Click it, 3. Buy it

  • web design company manager

    My question is reagrding flash design. All we know that flash influence much load rate. Do you think that it can be combined with the site simplicity?

  • jonathan allen

    The 3 step approach is very useful when offering a product that is a service. It gives the user the idea that completing the task at hand is simple, quick, and easy. This way the user isn’t discouraged and has less of a chance of being a bounce statistic. Great examples here.

  • www.Flort.Net

    Great stuff.

  • ooKooDoo

    Easy practice are always the best !!

    Thanks for the remember

  • Alaska Web Design

    This is very effective. If you have to add cartoons and dumb it down, so much the better. Users won’t feel intimidated and they understand the 1-2-3

  • crowdsourcing

    I liked twitter phone and CSS rockstar. Very nice websites and really helpful.

  • m65 field jacket

    very useful information thanks a lot for this

  • freelancing website

    I liked statement stacker.

    Very innovative indeed.