How much stuff do you need on your freelance web site?  How many words, pictures, samples, blog posts and pages does it take to prompt a phone call or inquiry?

Probably a lot less than you think.  (Well, way less than I used to think.)

Click for the full effect. All 6kb of it.

I’ve been all over the map on this question. I’ve tried fat and rich websites.  And bare bones. And in between.

But I’m thinking there’s a lot of power in being more lean.  Laconic.  Not so talkative.  It’s smarter not to say everything.  Let the customer fill in the rest, the way they want to.

Example.  I’ve bumped into this web site for Oak Studios several times now, and have always been intrigued.

It’s a page.  Barely.

Now mind you, Oak Studios is no newbie fledgling.  They designed the idsgn blog, did launch work for kayak.com’s branding agency and plenty more.  They’re a busy shop doing class work.

But to me, their 19-word site works.  And by works, I mean it’s just enough to get a client to think, “Maybe we should talk to these people.”

Yep, the web and branding gurus would say Oak’s site lacks content, a definitive brand positioning, proof points, customer validation and testimony, portfolio samples, compelling content, and viewpoint.

Phooey.  I say it has all that, in about 6K of bandwidth, and without all the usual blather and chatter.

We know what Oak does. We know they don’t talk much. We know they’re not haughty.  (“Hi . . . Get in touch.)  We know their phone number and email. We know they’re not trying too hard to sell us.

In a way, it lets a client paint their own picture of Oak, based on what they want a firm to be.  It’s a clean slate.

But here’s what’s even more important:  There’s nothing to turn you off.

The usual thinking is, put a lot of stuff on the site — a lot of portfolio examples, essays, philosophy, bios, commentary, childhood pictures and dancing flash — and you have a better chance of serving up something the client likes.  Something that spurs a client to call you.

But all that content also boosts the chances of making a client lose his initial interest.  One portfolio example he doesn’t like.  Some high-sounding ‘philosophy’ that makes no sense.  The expectation and the curiosity are gone.

Too much life story on the first date.

A cagey old salesman once told me, when they’re sold, shut up already.

What’s the smallest, leanest, sparest site you could possibly get away with?

What Oak says

Incidentally, I was so curious that I emailed Oak about their web site.

Skylar Challand told me that Oak does indeed lean toward a minimalist approach to design and development .

But as it turns out, the real reason their site is so spare is because they have been way too busy with client work to build a bigger one.  Too busy with work to fuss with their own web site.

That is where we all need to be.

[ Just for the record, I can guarantee you that Oak is out there marketing and networking full tilt.  It ain't just the web site.   Actually you can see some of their work on sortfolio.com, by 37 Signals.]