Full disclosure, you can type any of the following myths into Google and find countless other articles saying the same thing. But we wanted to go over some of the top User experience myths that we see bounded around a lot.
I also want to state this now… This is a list of myths, they are not true.
All pages should be accessible in 3 clicks
I wanted to start with the most common misconception. We hear this on a regular basis, and this is largely down to the fact that, when someone states that being able to reach content in 3 clicks or less makes for a better user experience, it sounds like common sense. The sooner the user can reach the page they want the better, right?
The reality of it is that the number of necessary clicks does not affect success rate or user satisfaction. The key is making your navigation clear and easy to use. Users don’t think about how many clicks they’re making, they just think about how relevant the content they are reading is to their interest.
The most important thing to consider is that the user has the right scent of information*
*Information scent refers to the extent to which users can predict what they will find if they pursue a certain path through a website.
People don’t scroll
First thing is first. It’s clear that the top of your page is still the most valuable part of real estate on the page.
However, I hear the term ‘above the fold’ on a day to day basis as a UX designer here at PracticeWEB. There are countless usability studies (many of which we carried out ourselves with our own sites) to show that people don’t mind scrolling. In fact, having less content above the fold may well encourage more exploration further down the page.
This fact does, however, come with some minor guidelines to ensure your users know that there is more to your page than your header.
Putting horizontal barriers between your page header and the rest of your page can reduce the chance people will be aware of the additional content below. Always try to have a visual signifier that there is more content below, the most common way to achieve this is to have a small amount of that content showing just above the fold.
Having a huge amount of content above the fold can often suggest that there isn’t much more below. Less is more really does apply here and a good use of whitespace and relevant imagery will encourage scrolling.
This isn’t saying that it doesn’t matter where your content is on your page, the content hierarchy can make a big difference. Just don’t let ‘the fold’ be a red herring when it comes to understanding how and why people are engaging with your content.
Icons enhance the usability of your site
Icons work on apps that are very regularly used and have very simple and common functions that people will recognise at a glance. With the Web, however, using icons that aren’t accompanied by text for functionality can be a risky game. By replacing text with a ‘relevant’ icon you are relying on that user recognising it as something related to the task, and it then further requires memory throughout the site of this functionality. A specific icon may have been used on a different site they’re used to, but to do an entirely different thing.
You also need to consider the multiple associations that can be placed alongside certain icons. Certain icons can have mixed, or sometimes even contradictory meanings for different people based on their experience:
Without the text label underneath, these would be left to each user’s own interpretation
If in doubt, put text alongside the icon. It may not look quite as pretty but for that 10% of users that don’t know what it means, you’ve solved their problem immediately.
You are just like your users
This is pretty much the entire point of my existence as a User Experience Designer. Users are mysterious. There are always high levels of trends in behaviour across the web that we can use to apply best practice to designs and ensure a good level of usability. But when it comes to your users using your site for your business, understanding how they go about using something is invaluable.
I’ve always hated the phrase ‘put yourself in their shoes’. The problem with it is that it’s not true empathy and understanding because you’re looking at someone’s experience through your eyes based on your behaviour and understandings, not theirs.
I spend a lot of my time observing users utilising sites and applications, and I will never cease to be amazed at some of the approaches people take to tasks I previously would have just assumed to be different.
If you ever find yourself looking at your site and saying ‘well if it was me, I would..’, take a step back and remember that it’s not you, it’s someone completely different.
The homepage is the most important page on your site
This is a tricky one because it really does depend on the type of site you have and it’s general purpose (brand awareness/lead generation etc..).
Your homepage is massively important, that goes without saying. It is, however, always worth considering the journey your users go through and where the point of value really lies. Working to understand your user’s key objectives when visiting this site, and utilising Google Analytics to identify what sort of behaviours people show following on from your homepage.
If it works for them then it will work for us
This one always pops up when someone has recently used a particularly good website or application that solves a problem or presents information in what seems like a particularly fantastic way. For example, the way a particular e-commerce site goes about doing something on their website may seem fantastic, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for your site and your users.
The famous case of this happening is when the American site Target.com copied Amazon.com with the reviews system. Both sites sold nearly 2 million copy of a DVD for a film about a very famous child wizard (it was Harry Potter guys). Amazon received around 1800 reviews, Target received around 3.
The takeaway from this isn’t necessarily ‘don’t copy the design of other sites’, it just means you make sure you have a crucial understanding of why it worked and how it would work for you.
White space is a waste of screen space
My favourite one of the bunch. This one sits quite closely to the ‘people won’t scroll’ point.
White space is often referred to as a waste of space on your site, but the reality of it is that white space plays a crucial role in providing a good level of readability, and prioritisation of content. A cluttered website can often provide a large amount of distraction to a user from what should be a point of focus on a screen. By embracing the fact that people will happily scroll through a website, you can begin to utilise white space as an active element rather than a passive background and begin to use it as a tool to curate focus on what’s important.
Also, just to throw a spanner in the works…white space doesn’t have to be white.
If you’re interested in this particular subject I’d recommend having a read of this article on ‘How to effectively use white-space in web design’
There are countless myths thrown around in regards to User experience, and the list is only growing. Some of them were once true but with the evolution of web moving as rapidly as it is, it means that some of the recommendations above could also move into that space.
The important thing is, and will always be about finding out exactly what is right for your users.
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