In an effort to save our web designers (and all web designers!) extra headaches and frustration, I set out this week to debunk some of the most common web design myths that float around in the heads of non-designing peasants like me. Though I’ve done my research (polled the designers), I’ve linked supporting articles for each debunked myth in case you need further convincing. These are selected from a much longer list published on UX Myths.
1. Users don’t scroll.
Everybody scrolls. Seriously. In Huge, Inc.’s controlled tests, 100% of participants scrolled no matter what the page looked like “above the fold.” So liberate your designer to create a more up-to-date home page design instead of insisting that everything fit in a screen-sized rectangle.
2. People read on the web.
People don’t read; they skim. With mobile users now finally exceeding desktop users, this claim is especially false. Essentially, the more you write, the less your users read. This article by Nielsen Norman Group gives several strategies web writers can employ to increase readability on their sites.
3. Design is all about appearance.
Looking good is important—after all, a cluttered or clunky design will have your users bouncing faster than a vegan at a pig roast—but functionality is just as, if not more, imperative. Michael Cummings explains this concept in “Art vs. Design, Form and Function” on UX Design. “In sum,” he says, “good design is useful design.”
4. The more choices a design has, the better.
Humans like choice, to a degree. As the options become more complicated and the process grows longer, users can quickly become frustrated and fed up. This article in UX Pin outlines 4 steps for preventing “feature bloat” and this write-up in Harvard Business Review, though written 10 years ago when all we had to complain about was a mousepad/calculator hybrid, explains “feature fatigue” and is still remarkably relevant.
5. Your users will think and act like you.
If you think that your website is about you, you’re wrong. It’s about your users, so you should cater to their needs and attitudes. This last paragraph in Nielsen Norman Group’s article, “Growing a Business Website: Fix the Basics First,” sums up “one of usability’s most hard-earned lessons”:
“‘You are not the user.’ If you work on a development project, you’re atypical by definition. Design to optimize the user experience for outsiders, not insiders. The antidote to bubble vapor is user testing: find out what representative users need. It’s tempting to work on what’s hot, but to make money, focus on the basics that customers value” (their emphasis).
6. If your overall design is effective, the details won’t matter.
Details always matter. The slightest changes in placement, language, or the behavior of a call-to-action can make major differences in your conversions or revenue. This article by Naz Hamid in A List Apart walks you through detail-oriented designing.
7. The homepage is the most important page.
Pageview statistics and searching behavior studies are beginning to track a downward trajectory in homepage visits. While we argue that the homepage still matters a great deal, especially when it comes to establishing your identity and service, the importance of optimizing and carefully designing subpages is becoming more and more significant. Read more in Ironpaper’s “Is a Website Homepage Important?”
8. You can design the website first and decide on the content later.
NO. YOU CAN’T. Users come to your site for its content; they need information, a point of contact, reviews, your services, etc. Considering the way users will find and interact with this content should be your top priority. Kristina Halvorson expands on the significance of content-first thinking in her interview with Kate Rutter.
9. White space is a waste of space.
White space is essential to read/scannability, branding, and aesthetics. Connor Turnbull explains how to use it to your advantage in his tutorial “Using White Space (or Negative Space) in Your Designs.
10. My users aren’t on mobile.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: responsive design is essential to any website, and not just for usability—Google will now penalize your non-mobile site.