5 Design Myths That Hurt User Experience

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ux design myths debunked

5 Design Myths Debunked:  Intelligent Data-Driven Design

I’ve been around awhile, I’ve seen a few things over my expansive 13 year career in the web design industry.  I was a developer through the brutal reign of Internet Explorer 6 & a designer through the fascinating years of web 2.0. I’ve been witness to the rise and fall of many trends and technologies that have shaped our behaviors as users.

It’s my passion and job to stay on top of the latest trends and behavior patterns, however many people who are not immersed in the digital world in their day-to-day have some misconceptions about user behavior. Through data, studies & a wealth of knowledge, it’s time to set the record straight.

Myth #1: Users Do Not Scroll or ‘The Fold’

This is probably one of the original web related UX trends. Designing ‘above the fold’ simply means you believe that users will not scroll and anything important should be accessible to a user at the top of a page.  It’s a newspaper term that refers to the information a reader can gather on the frontpage above the fold. We know now through years of data and scroll mapping that this is simply not true any longer. Studies have shown that 76% of all users will scroll on a site and 66% of all time on websites are spent below the ‘fold’.

In order to understand an issue, It’s important to understand where we came from so let’s take a step back to the origin of this trend in the late 1990’s and early 2000s. In the 1990’s page load time was a huge issue. It sometimes took minutes to load an asset heavy website on a dial-up modem. This caused users to focus on the top of the page first while the rest of the page slowly loaded. This, combined with the fact that personal computers were new and using a mouse was foreign to a lot of users, started the ‘above the fold’ trend and it stuck for years.

Fast forward to modern day and these challenges in technology have been resolved. Mobile devices and most people having a computer in their home have opened the world up to scrolling. Scrolling is actually ingrained so much in our culture now that Apple removed the scrollbar from Mac OS X in 2011, that’s how confident UX professionals are that scrolling is not an issue any longer.

Make no mistake, the data still proves that you’ll get the most impressions on content above the fold. However, data also shows that having a clear and concise call to action accompanied by clear messaging will convert more users in the end than giving users multiple choices above the fold. Studies have shown that users are actually up to 10x less likely to act at all if they’ve given multiple choices.

Myth #2: Whitespace Is Wasted Space

Whitespace is the empty space between & around elements. Clients sometimes see whitespace as wasted space.  They’re paying for a whole website, so why aren’t we using the whole thing? Whitespace is actually arguably the most important UX practice to follow. It’s not only responsible for readability and content hierarchy, but also plays a major role in demonstrating the brand in a meaningful way. Whitespace is literally a part of every single element of a design. It can be everything to the spacing between elements to the line height between lines of text.

Whitespace also declutters the design giving your brand a professional and trustworthy feel to the user. User’s are far more likely to interact with and trust a company that has a clean professional website. Utilizing whitespace generously can contribute to a brand feeling luxurious. Most high-end products will use whitespace extensively as a technique to create a feeling of sophistication and elegance.

Equally as important, Whitespace prioritizes user interface elements. The space around an element combined with effective use of color will direct a user’s attention to important copy and buttons as seen on Spotify’s website below.

use whitespace in UX design

Myth #3: Your Homepage Is The Most Important Page

For years usability experts have argued that your homepage is the face of your business and the most effort should be put towards it. This myth originated in the early years of the internet because of how brands were marketing and how immature google and other search engines were at the time.

Now Google’s algorithm has changed the behavior of how user’s browse and search to a point where the homepage may not be the most viewed page of your website. E-commerce websites are a great testament to this trend.  Through advanced pay-per-click campaigns and Google’s matured search algorithm, visitors are landing on catalog and product pages directly, rather than following the traditional user flow from the homepage.

This type of insight is important to gather from the discovery phase of the design process, where we can look at your data and the data of competitors to figure out what pages should be prioritized in the design process.

Myth #4: User’s Read Content

The worst possible thing you can do to position your website for success is to write copy in a way that people have to read. The only people that read word-for-word on the internet are dedicated fan bases that you don’t need to tailor your experience to, you’ve got them they are hooked. Even the most loyal visitors will only read about 20% of any given page.

Some studies have shown that only 1 out of 15 users could find a piece of content when instructed on a page that was not designed for scannability. Instead most people are busy and skim pages looking for keywords, summarized headings and scannable lists.

In order to help your users scannability you can use techniques such as…

  • Appropriate use of color & size to highlight words or important phrases
  • Simple & Clear headlines and sub-headlines
  • Bulleted lists
  • Limiting sections of the page to one idea or concept
  • Start with the most important copy at the top of the page and work your way down to the details

You have a very short time in a user’s visit to capture their attention and get them the necessary information they desire. Don’t expect long text blocks, fluff talk, ‘small talk’ or long winded details to be read on the internet.  Simple and approachable should be the tone of your copy. This approach won’t stop a user from scanning your website but it will help the user get what they need from you and avoid them finding help elsewhere.

Myth #5:  UX = UI

This is another common misconception that UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) are the same thing. It’s become more common over the past few years that there is actually separate positions in companies for these two very different skill-sets. User Interface is the layout you see when you visit a website. UX is your behavior while using the site, and the way you feel about your interaction.

User Experience design is backed by research and time tested rules that improve the quality of your interaction with the website. User Experience design spans much further than just Photoshop, it touches every corner of a website’s creation including content, development, research and more.

User Interface design however is the visual style, the actual pen to the paper type work that is done to create a design. There are plenty of challenges to this role as well such as staying up with all the latest trends, creating responsive experiences and understanding the interactivity that will take place in the final creation of the site. Needless to say, both UX and UI overlap each other and both are multi-faceted. It’s not possible to create an effective website unless both skillsets are utilized by the team.

Here at Creative MMS, all our designers and developers are trained on User Experience as it is a skillset that spans many jobs. We have continuous learning & training sessions to explore the ever changing data about human behavior on the internet. We will continue to explore all things UX for years to come as the industry is becoming more and more data oriented by the day.

Ben LeDonniMay 12, 2017by Ben LeDonni