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5 Common User Experience Myths

5 Common User Experience Myths

As an agency, one of the more challenging parts of building a successful website is trying to dispel the preconceived misconceptions that some clients have regarding user experience.

The internet, and how we consume it, is constantly changing, so long held beliefs on things like scrolling and content can become dated. Fortunately, the user experience gurus at uxmyths.com have created a website dedicated to collecting the most frequent user experience assumptions and putting them to the test.

I find that referring to this site can be very helpful when explaining the intricacies of a design or the reasoning behind certain design choices that pertain to user experience.

My team designs and builds websites based on a content strategy defined by other teams within our company. This collaboration between departments means our SEO and PPC specialists rely on us to explain why we chose to do something a certain way.

I’ve put together a list of the five most common myths I have run into in my career as a web professional and some background that might help you when dealing with similar situations.

People Don’t Scroll

In the early days of the internet, people weren’t used to scrolling to see more content. Today, though, scrolling is second nature. When you are viewing a website on your phone or tablet, scrolling is simply a swipe; we swipe a lot these days. The majority of the time, scrolling provides for better usability than breaking content into multiple pages.

A related concept to scrolling is the need for content to be “above the fold.” It’s common to think that content has to appear above the fold for visitors to pay attention to it, which isn’t necessarily true. The above the fold concept may be true for newspapers, but the internet is a different beast. Long pages that are designed with certain principals in mind, and provide engaging content, will keep people interested.

  • Chartbeat, a data analytics provider, analyzed data from 2 billion website visits and found that “66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold.” What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong
  • Usability expert Jakob Nielsen’s eye-tracking studies show that while attention is focused above the fold, people do scroll down, especially if the page is designed to encourage scrolling. – Scrolling and Attention

Design is About Making a Website Look Good

In my experience, a large number of people think about web design as being limited to the aesthetic appeal of the content as it is displayed on the page. Design, however, is much more than just the look and feel of a website. Design is how something works and good design solves problems. Things like colors, typefaces, and font-styles are only part of a designer’s arsenal of tools.

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. Steve Jobs

“What designers do is to solve problems by deciding on the look and function of something. This can be writing text, laying out an interface, planning a chair, or coming up with a better Netflix envelope, lightbulb, or chair. – Joshua Porter

More Choices and Features Result in Higher Satisfaction

Typically, people like choices. We want to feel in control of the choices that we make. When designers apply this to web design, however, we have to be mindful of a thing called decision paralysis. Decision paralysis occurs when a user is given too many choices and they become frustrated because there is no clear path or course of action. Too many choices can negatively impact the user experience and thus lower satisfaction level. In the case of web design, less usually is more.

You are Like Your Visitors

When we think about how people use the web, it is easy to assume that other users are just like you, that they use the same tools that we do and they use them in the same ways. This can often cause problems when designing a website because you aren’t building the website for you, you are building it for them.

You love what you do; you are passionate about the services you provide and about your website. Your users, not so much… They want what they want and they want to get it done fast.

How can you avoid these types of problems? Glad you asked, you can follow the advice of some of the UX masters.

  • Jakob Nielsen states that “One of usability’s most hard-earned lessons is that ‘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.”Growing a Business Website: Fix the Basics First
  • Kathy Sierra advises that you should focus on the user’s viewpoint and story instead of yours: “Quit telling us how great you are, and start telling us how you plan to deliver something that helps the user become greater.”

You Don’t Need the Content to Design a Website

Why do users come to your website? For the content, right? So why, then, do we constantly design website mockups with dummy content? Don’t get me wrong, using “lorem ipsum” for filler text in wireframes and design comps can be very useful, but most of the time it is presented in a way that creates an unrealistic design. Additionally, it makes the importance of content second to design when it is the complete opposite.

Remember: content is king.

Content is why people come to your website, which is why content is the most important element when it comes to design.

Don’t take my word for it, read what these pundits have to say about it.

  • Designer Luke Wroblewski argues that “using dummy content or fake information in the Web design process can result in products with unrealistic assumptions and potentially serious design flaws.” He also explains how these designs usually fail when real content is added. – Death to Lorem Ipsum
  • In an interview, content specialist Kristina Halvorson argues that design decisions should be driven by the content; and the entire layout is to be created to support the content.
  • “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” – says web designer and author Jeffrey Zeldman.

Wrapping Up

What I’m saying is simply this: try to keep an open mind when developing a new website. Web design is constantly evolving, so don’t rely on old axioms and myths.

Analyze questions like: why do you think users don’t like to scroll? Is there evidence behind the claim? Is that evidence based off a world predating smart phones? Is it still relevant?

Creating a new website can be a great opportunity to attack misconceptions and design for the future. If you think you’re ready to build a new website, contact the experts at Forthea and we can work together.

Chad Ostroff
Chad is an over-caffeinated front-end web developer. He’s a proud Houston Rockets season ticket holder. When he’s not watching the Rockets, you’ll probably find him on the beach volleyball courts. Chad is passionate about creating professional websites and content that are easy to use and pleasing to the eye.


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