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Working in the web design and development business, we get to hear a lot about what goes on in the industry – and what people think about it. This allows us to build up a useful, accurate view of people’s perceptions of the industry, all of which can be fed back into our work. Sometimes, though, we hear stories of web design myths that need to be dispelled. With this in mind, we’ve put together a guide to some of the top web design myths we’ve heard to date.
The three click rule
While many myths on the subject arise due to common user perceptions or people’s expectations about what websites can achieve, there are also myths that arise largely due to web designers themselves. The three click rule is one of them.
This is something that first came about more than a decade ago, when it was suggested that if a web user cannot find what they are looking for on a site within three clicks of the mouse, they will give up and go elsewhere. There is something in this myth, because we know that web users like to be able to find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible – but the three click limit is not entirely true.
It could take a user more clicks to find what they want, but as long as the site is usable and easy to navigate, they’re not all going to give up just because they’ve clicked their mouse button three times. So, even though the three click rule can be a useful guide when designing sites, if a website doesn’t exactly meet those guidelines, we don’t think it’s the end of the world.
Graphics are what grab attention
There also seems to be a myth in some areas that good web design is all about being flash (and, in many cases, Flash). Occasionally this is true; some web users do respond to websites that are full of exciting graphics and gizmos. Mostly, however, what users really want is a site that works and that gives them the information they’re looking for.
This is all about expectations. For example, if you were to go onto a news website, you wouldn’t necessarily want to be distracted by lots of graphics and bright colours – you go there because you want the news and you have a right to expect it. If this means keeping the design very simple and effectively listing the headlines - albeit in an attractive way - then that’s fine.
Site traffic equals more customers
We would love it if this particular web design myth was true, but unfortunately having more site traffic does not necessarily guarantee more customers for your business. It simply means that you have more people looking at your website.
Of course, sometimes this is excellent – if you have got a high quality website with lots of appealing content that makes it very easy to find what users are looking for (as well as making it easy for them to make a purchase if necessary), this could well translate into more customers. However, if your website isn’t quite up to scratch, or if it doesn’t work properly or your content is below par, all you’ll have are lots of people looking at a substandard website. That could actually harm your business rather than help it.
That’s why turning traffic into customers is a multi-part process, and does not equate to the same thing.
A search bar solves navigation issues
If you have used a site such as Amazon or Google (and we’re pretty certain you’ll have used both), you will no doubt be familiar with just how useful a website search bar can be. Generally speaking, search bars are a positive thing for websites as they offer another way for users to get what they want.
However, this has led to a web design myth that search bars can effectively replace good website navigation. In fact, when looking for information on a website, most users will first look at the navigation options and the links available for them to click on before they look at the search bar. One study found that 70% of users went for the navigation option first, which shows that you really can’t neglect good site navigation and a search bar is no substitute.
The homepage is the most important
In some ways, this web design myth is actually true. The homepage of a website is hugely important and so it needs to be given a great deal of time and attention to get it exactly right. However, the rise of search is starting to change this; once, people would always have landed on your homepage first.
Now, they are just as likely to land on another page of the website depending on what they have searched for, which means that the quality of your site needs to be consistently high throughout – so don’t spend all your energy creating a stellar homepage at the expense of the rest of the website. Every page matters.
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