By Dave Sweeney
As Design Manager of WRAL Digital Solutions, I’m frequently asked questions about my design philosophy. As we’re already one month into 2018, I decided it’s time to put some of my responses in writing. Of the many questions that I’ve been asked about web design, I’ve narrowed down my thoughts to five design myths that I think are the most important to debunk.
More is better
In this age of instant gratification we are accustomed to getting more. This is great when we’re talking about food or money, but when it comes to web design the rules are a little different. With advancements in internet speed continually increasing, the user experience is more important than ever.
How many times have you visited a site that contains multifarious plugins or takes too long to load, causing you to simply click out? Too many plugins, photos, text, etc. can impede a site’s load time. Keep text to a minimum – people generally skim text anyway. If you have something to say, then say it, but brevity is generally a best practice.
Photography is great. Study after study shows that people like seeing photography, but there needs to be a balance between text and photography. If you have to show several photos of one subject, consider putting them in a gallery. If a user is interested in seeing all of the nuances of something, they will click through to view them.
When it comes to WordPress, be conservative when using plugins that are purely visual eye candy. Flashing text, boxes that flip when you hover over them, sounds, and scrolling text (just to name a few) can be tolerable on their own. However, when used in excess, these effects tend to irritate users.
Good design trumps good content
In the early days of the internet, computer programmers were generally tasked with handling web design. Although the information might have been helpful, many of these sites were visually awful.
Conversely, I have seen some gorgeous websites that really dropped the ball when it came to useful content.
Content and design need to be cohesive and work hand-in-hand. Spend the time and resources to not only give users a nice looking site, but to also include relevant content that makes the site useful.
Lots of navigation items make my site valuable
I see this a lot in early planning for site design. A client usually has a lot of topics to cover and may request a great deal of menu items. In some cases, this is a necessary evil, but in many cases it’s simply unnecessary. Think about what your client is looking for on their website. You can even conduct focus groups to help this process along so that you can narrow down a list to the most relevant topics. Determine which of these ideas are main topics and which can be listed as a sub-topic. This will help make your navigation more concise and make it easier for the user to get the information they’re seeking from your site.
If it’s important, make it stand out!
I have had clients proclaim, “Everything I do is important to my customer and I need everything to stand out.” This is an easy problem to settle with the following analogy of a three-ring circus.
Most of us have been to a circus. There are several rings; one may have a lion tamer cracking a whip on several lions, one might have a juggler hurling flaming swords, and one ring may showcase someone riding elephants around in a circle. They’re all essential parts of that circus, but if they’re all doing their thing simultaneously, it’s impossible to know where to start or which one to watch. You see what I mean?
Knowing your audience is important. Know which items are important and which items are more important. If you make every headline exorbitantly large and colorful, it’s not going to create a focal point for your user. One quote I use all the time is, “If you try to make everything stand out, nothing will stand out.”
Mobile first and always
With nearly everyone scrolling on a mobile device these days, someone coined the term “mobile first,” which means that designers need to start designing for mobile first, then design for desktop.
Again, I think it is imperative to know your audience. If you are building a website for hearing aids for example, the bulk of your users are likely to be older and might be more apt to view your site on a desktop computer.
When I design a website, I design the site to look good on all devices, whether it’s desktop, tablet, or mobile.
Conclusively, if you create a website that keeps your users needs in mind, make it simple to navigate, create a visual hierarchy, and make it simple to read and respond, you’re likely to retain and grow your audience.