Dissecting User Misconceptions and the Truth Behind Them

written by aext on February 21, 2012 in Freelance & Business with no comments

Gone are the days when it would require basic programming knowledge for someone to call herself a web designer. Today, web designing is an art. It’s a process that requires patience, persistence and practice. Along with the required hard work comes the tedious task of looking through problems and relating yourself with the end user. With time every profession gets attached with a set of misconceptions that stick together for years. It is important for you to understand the reality behind these myths or be lost in darkness.

Here, I will list down few very famous misconceptions that have stood as wall in front of various web designers. We hope to break shackles that have caged web designers since ages.

White space is evil

Well, look at Google? The search engine giant has the cleanest home page in the World Wide Web and nobody complains. Internet, during its infant years, was choked with websites that would be stuffed up with content (like images, text and videos) on every possible corner of the webpage. This is a huge turn off for a website visitor whose attention span touches hardly a minute.

Jason Santa Maria was smart enough to call white space as the bridge between various elements of a webpage. “It leads viewers around the page by the designer’s intent”, writes Jason.

Tip – It is important to bite your tongue and let your webpage breath whitespace. Be advised that the proper balance of whitespace will provide elegance to your brand (as shown clearly in above image from A List Apart).

You think like the end user

Never fall for this, seriously! Isn’t it simple to understand that God never designs two similar brains? All of us have our own thinking pattern which is a result of our day to day experiences. If I am designing an e-commerce website to sell books then I might focus on simplifying below two features:

  • Smooth Checkout
  • Easy browsing of books

What I ignore is the fact that my style of “easy browsing” isn’t actually easy for the end user. Remember, I am a geek at heart and my end user will be a descendant of Shakespeare.

 

Remember Google Buzz? Well, it happens to be one Google product that was released to 20,000 Google employees for real time testing before its launch to the “real audience”. Google Buzz fell down, head first, right after its launch and it failed miserably. This explains how the thinking of 20,000 geniuses isn’t enough to understand your end user’s thought process.

Tip – Understand the requirements of your “real” end user and continuously take feedback about their experiences.

Flash is evil

I couldn’t resist including the above myth. Gone are the days when flashy content would slow down website’s loading process. Also, using overly flashy websites to entice the end user is a thing of the past. Today, flash comes with features that can easily lure any web designer. Let me mention few:

I can list down multiple flash based websites that carry an amazing aura around them but that will be out of the scope of this article. For now, let’s enjoy the smoothness of Andrew Reifman.

Tip – Try and balance the usage of “flash” in flash. Using flash for your design requires high amount of research in order to avoid the glare that can push away the end user.

Lorem Ipsum works well as filler content

Please, avoid using Lorem Ipsum. Personally, I have never been in favour of dummy text as it is distracting. Also, dummy content gives a feeling that website’s design is the sole point of consideration and content won’t do any wonders to that design. This myth happens to be a big reason for a web design’s failure.

37signals smartly calls Lorem Ipsum as “shape of text” instead of real text. They consider Lorem Ipsum to be “visual-design element” with no valuable information that should be in sync with the design.

Tip - Hire a writer to create content that is in sync with your web design. Using “Lorem Ipsum” is like using neon lights in the wheels of your mighty Rolls-Royce. Sounds weird, right?

Homepage is the most important page and people hardly scroll

I had the liberty to divide these two into two different myths but I couldn’t as they are strongly correlated. Your website’s visitor is one smart critic who can make or break your business. 10 years back, Internet users weren’t educated enough to dig out hidden pages of a website. Today, they know how to dissect your web site into parts that even you might fail to imagine.

With time, end users have become smart enough to understand the importance of scroll bars and inner pages of a website. XKCD’s funny diagram on a typical home page (see image below) of a university website explains my point clearly.

Milissa Tarquini analysed TMZ.com’s traffic and found that – Users are so engaged in the content of this site that they are following it down the page until they get to the “next page” link. Please be aware (and don’t be shocked) of the fact that TMZ’s home page can be divided into almost 30 folds!

Tip – It’s good to push everything “above the fold” but instead of stuffing it up I will suggest you to balance out the content above and below the fold. If your content is good then your users will scroll. Remember, it is the perfect balance between the website’s design and its content that helps a designer achieve nirvana.

Author Bio - James is a creative designer, blogger and a active developer of webmaster tools. He maintains a network of blogs and tried almost all known hosting company services. He maintains few hosting advisory blogs where he writes his experiences about hosting companies like BlueHost and others.