The hardest part of searching for information online is filtering what’s useful and what’s not. Social media is noisy, there’s information everywhere, and critical thinking skills are now more essential than ever. No surprise that website design myths are born.
As a fairly active social media user, I’ve read a LOT of things this year. Some of them were useful, some were thought-provoking, and some others open to debate. But there was also a lot of misleading and inaccurate information, especially about one of my favorite topics: website design.
Some of these myths still live because they’re propagated. Not everyone who spreads them has bad intentions, and that’s why it’s so important to do our own research too.
Don’t just take my word for it. One way to develop your own critical thinking is to question everything and seek actively new perspectives — and the most important part, test! Never stop testing. What works for others might not work for you.
Without further ado, here are three website design myths that didn’t die in 2019.
Website Design Myth #1:
You don’t need a fancy website
I know what you’re probably thinking. “Fancy” is really subjective. I’m only using this sentence as an example because it kept being used on several Facebook ads this year and most of the time, within a misleading context.
It is true that having a pretty website would be useless if you didn’t take into account several other factors. But what I’ve actually found is that “fancy website” doesn’t always refer to appearance but also complexity and even functionality.
Here are the main interpretations for the “fancy website” term:
a) Associating fancy to complex:
This is a dangerous association because many ads and posts I’ve read were implying you should skip strategy and research. Some would suggest you have a basic website up without any prior thought or strategy, and others would tell you that you don’t even need a website. I’m not going to discuss whether you should have a website or not, but if you’re going to invest in building a website that isn’t going to work for you and your business goals, then you’re better off not having a website at all.
Now, I’m all for lean methods but tracking your website’s user behavior isn’t a replacement for previous research. If you don’t have the foundations, you run into the risk of spending money, time and other resources on things that won’t help you accomplish your business goals.
There’s a right association for this “complex” term though: It’s the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) concept, and it’s about focusing on the needs of your users instead of overloading your website with useless features. Again, this requires research and a deep understanding of your user goals.
“You don’t need a fancy website” can be right within a certain context, but the way the story is told is, most of the time, inaccurate.
b) Associating fancy to pretty:
This is a common interpretation too. The problem is that again, most of the time, the story and argument are incomplete. It’s true you need more than a pretty website, but design is important too! Visual appeal can greatly impact the experience of your visitors on your website, as many studies have already demonstrated.
User perceptions of a low appeal website were not significantly influenced by the site’s usability even after a successful experience with the site.
Visual Appeal vs. Usability: Which One Influences User Perceptions of a Website More? (Research Gate)
Not to mention those first impressions do matter (they can last for years) so landing on a website that doesn’t promote trust, can have a negative impact on the long-term when it comes to how others perceive your brand.
Visual appeal can be assessed within 50 ms, suggesting that web designers have about 50 ms to make a good first impression.
And what about visual hierarchy? What about using colors and contrast to highlight what’s important? What about guiding your users through their website’s experience? All of this is VISUAL and all of this matters. So let’s not propagate the myth that well-designed websites aren’t important. They are!
There are the things I recommend you have in place before you even think about building a website (or have someone else do it):
- Understand your target audience and their needs (this requires proper research to be done right);
- Focus on one problem you can solve for them;
- Create the product or service that will solve that specific problem for your audience (this typically requires a lot of testing, so get suspicious of promises of quick wins or overnight success);
- A website strategy aligned with your business goals and user needs (this is equally important! Best case scenario, if you don’t have any of the above, you’ll be sending qualified traffic to a website that doesn’t convert, but this can be fixed).
Note: You can have a look at my website strategy coaching program and apply for a free session, or contact me if you need help through actual product and service conception.
Now, let’s reword this myth to something else that is more accurate:
You don’t need a website that doesn’t meet your user needs or business goals!
Much better, right?
Website Design Myth #2:
You can “copy the UX” of another website
Don’t feel bad if you aren’t too familiar with all the UX terms! We all need to start somewhere. This is not going to be another post explaining what UX, UI, and all other terms mean, don’t worry. It’s just about understanding why this sentence doesn’t make sense so we can all focus on what’s important when it comes to User Experience.
In 2019, there are still many misconceptions about UX, not only from business owners but also designers and aspiring UX professionals. Since UX is a multidisciplinary field and not officially regulated, developing critical thinking skills is once again essential.
As a business owner, the main thing you need to remember is that UX means User Experience. Our role as UX designers is to actually improve the experiences people have with your product or website. The design of your website, as I said above, is an important part of that experience. But you can’t “copy” an experience, and you certainly can’t “UX” it.
You also can’t do UX if you aren’t talking to your users. You can’t ask someone to improve the UX on your website, for example, and then say you want to skip research or don’t want to waste time testing it with real people. There are heuristic reviews and inspection methods that can be conducted, but in the end, UX is focused on your users. So that’s the key point you need to remember.
Website Design Myth #3:
A website review is always subjective
If you ask your friends their opinion about your website, you know you’ll get a subjective opinion.
What if you ask a stranger? Most likely their opinion will be subjective as well. But what if they are your target audience? Even though simply asking an opinion will still lead to subjective feedback, it might be more relevant. Still, we need to remember that attitude isn’t the same as behavior, and there are specific techniques to gather accurate data from your real users.
Then… what if you ask an expert to review your website?
There are UI inspection methods that are based on heuristics (think, rules of thumb and best practices). Basically an “expert review” involves a UX expert going through your website and analyzing it according to selected heuristics and goals. Using a set of heuristics allows us to review your website objectively, without allowing personal opinions to interfere.
Expert reviews can have different formats. My website review service is based on both usability and conversion heuristics. For small businesses and new entrepreneurs, I’ve recently launched a quick video format review as well.
The important to remember is that website reviews can be objective, but if you’re simply asking for generic feedback, you’ll get a subjective opinion.
Let’s also not forget that even expert reviews don’t replace the need for testing with real users!
Information is everywhere!
We never had so much information available, for free, as we have now. In fact, everyone feels so empowered that you’ll hear often things like “I won’t pay for that. I’ll just go to YouTube and I can learn for free.”
However, like everything else, we need to be critical and analyze, experiment and apply, before we jump to any conclusions.
The era of information has its own pros and cons.
What was some bad advice you’ve been given this year?