The Web dictates that you put the customer first. That means taking on more complexity yourself.

Last week I was doing some research on a product and I came to a website where the email contact address was like this: "sales AT blahcompany.com". I know why they did that. They don't want their email collected by spam harvesters.

I didn't contact the company. I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in reducing spam for them. Why should I have to spend a minute of my time copying their email address and changing the "AT" to "@".

Some might think: "Hey that's just a minor inconvenience for you the potential customer". Those who do think that way should not be involved in running a website.

By far the strongest impulses of organizations are to make life very easy and very profitable for themselves. That invariably leads to making life more complex and impoverished for their customers. The more powerful and dominant the organization is the stronger the urge to put themselves first and the customer a distant second becomes. It takes tremendous discipline to resist these urges.

Complexity is an inherent part of modern life. It never goes away. Complexity is actually tremendously beneficial. The more complexity there is the more potential there is. The issue is not reducing complexity, but rather understanding and managing it better.

Making it really easy for a customer to get in touch with you is the price of doing business. (Particularly if they're looking to buy something from you.) The harder you make it, the less customers will get in touch with you. Often the most effective way is to have a simple email link. Forms are like the plague on the Web. People absolutely hate them. Why? Because they're a waste of time. If you have to have a form keep it as short as humanly possible.

Clearly identify all the areas where you do things to make your life easier. You can be pretty certain that these things make life more complicated and annoying for your customers. (All this applies just as much to an intranet as a public website.)

Here's an example. Often, when you're deep in a website you see a link for, let's say, "Services". Unfortunately, the link will not bring you to a list of services for the particular product you're looking at on that page. Rather, it will send you to the homepage for Services. Why? Because that's much easier for the web team to manage.

There are tipping points or sweet spots of simplicity. If you keep focusing on making life really easy for your customers you will at some stage make a small change and reap huge rewards. So the path to simplicity is not a straight line. It is more like a series of cliffs.

People involved with websites need to have a service heart. This is often frowned on by traditional managers. Empathy. Great web teams have empathy for their customers. And what do they care most about? Their customers' time and money.