Top 7 Myths of Web Design


In the office this week we started talking about the many myths there are in regards to web design/UX on the web. I decided to look further into this and found out that what we thought was best for the user, may actually be making things worse for them.

Here’s what I found out when I researched more into these web design myths:

Myth #7: White space is wasted space

It can be tempting when you see empty space to fill it with text, information and images but this can actually make your website more difficult to read.

“White space is an important part of any website and is to be regarded an active element, not a passive background” – An Active Silence.

White space can even contribute towards desired brand positioning.

Less whitespace = cheap; more whitespace = luxury. – A List Positioning.

Used right, White Space can help explain what your company is about for more elegantly than a block of text can and will stop the user from losing interest in the site.

Myth #6: Icons enhance usability

Researchers have found for abstract things on a website, icons rarely work well.

A good example of this is when Microsoft Outlook introduced an icon only toolbar that proved to only confuse users. But when they added text next to the labels people immediately started using the toolbar again.

“In the battle of clarity between icons and labels, labels always win.” – Labels always Win

Icons are still a crucial part of any website, but designers should be made aware that they can be difficult to get right and if possible, tested so that they don’t harm the users experience.

Myth #5: More choices is better for the user

We value our choices in day-to-day life and it can be easy to fall prey of thinking that the more choices that is offered to the user, the better.
However studies show that the more choices that the user has, the harder it is to understand the interface. in face, too many choices can lead to decision paralysis.

“people are more likely to make a purchase when offered only a limited number of choices. What’s more, they will be more satisfied with their selection in this case.” – When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing? (pdf)

It’s important to give the user a small amount of choices that are far more meaningful than a dozen or so. This can also be found in products, choices were usually more valued before using the initial product but when they started using it, the simpler choice wins with more satisfaction.

Myth #4: People Know What They Like

It can be tempting to build a website around the users feedback, unfortunately, users doesn’t always know what they want.

Walmart lost $1.85 billion after listening to customers -“This is the peril of listening to what your customers say instead of what they actually did.” –The Future of Consumerist

It’s far more important to pay attention to what people do than what they say. For example paying attention to what the user is clicking on or looking at on your website can tell you far more than what they might tell you.

“The worst way to design a website is to get five smart people in a room drinking lattes and posting post-it notes. […] The next worst way is to get 10 customers in a room drinking lattes and giving their opinions on the new design. That model is really, truly broken.” – It’s not what people say, it’s what they do

This doesn’t mean to completely dismiss what your users are telling you since feedback can be a great way to improve your site. But it’s important to know what to ask users and how to interpret their answers.

Myth #3: People read on the web

You might find yourself writing a bunch of relevant content for your website and then find out that not only did the user not read your content, they lost interest in the entire site!

This is because users prefer to skim pages searching for highlighted keywords, meaningful headings, short paragraphs and scannable lists.

“one of the most important fact about web users is that they don’t read, they scan.” – Don’t Make Me Think!

However there are ways to get users to read your content word-by-word!

  • If they find the content that they are looking for, they are likely to read the related content
  • If they are reading for pleasure, they are more likely to read the content thoroughly and effortlessly
  • If the website is well structured and is designed for cursory reading, content is more likely to be read

Myth #2: Rotating Banners are Great

Rotating banners or Image Sliders are commonplace, it allows multiple pieces of content to occupy the first screen of the webpage.

But these sliders are actually detracting from websites. They not only frustrate users as they slide to the next piece of content, they are detracting from what you want the users to actually click.

The human brain is wired to notice movement, so because of this the brain has to work hard to ignore the banner. This might tempt you to use the banner to place important information that you want the user to see on that banner, however rotating banners can actually reduce readability.

Myth #1: People Don’t Scroll

The biggest myth that I know of. It’s common on a website to put something to signify that the user should scroll down so that the user doesn’t leave the website, however Above the Fold is a myth.

“Almost all participants scrolled, no matter what.” – Everybody Scrolls.

“Placing elements at the top of the screen does not guarantee they are visible because people often scroll right away” – There is No Fold.

“There is no page fold.” – There is no Page Fold

“Let’s stop the fold madness right now.” – The Above the Fold Myth

Final Notes

Big thanks to this great site that helped me out greatly whilst researching this topic. If you’ve got any more web design myths let me know!

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