Napoleon was short. Sharks don’t get cancer. Goldfishes have a three-second memory.
If you believe or have believed any of these, then you have been exposed to the kind of influence that myths have had in shaping human thought throughout history. Though the power of myths was worshipped in ancient societies, and this concept has translated into genuine misconceptions behind technology today – distinct from contentious ‘myths’ such as vaccines are dangerous, the earth is flat and climate change denial.
This article debunks widely held UX myths that designers have to contend with. It explores how each might impact your UX design plans, and what you can do to avoid them.
1. UX and UI are interchangeable
A customer’s experience is very similar to traveling: the journey is as important as the destination. If either is found lacking, then it ruins the overall experience. Similarly, modern information architecture requires both UI and UX to serve distinct but collaborative functions which combined lead to an acceptable user experience.
A user interface (or UI) refers to the point of interaction between a user and a device or platform. This can involve touch-screens and buttons on a website. UI design, therefore, addresses the “look” and visual design of the service to ensure the user stays on the website. It is similar to the ‘destination’ in the analogy above.
User experience (or UX) design refers to the entire experience via a given platform (i.e. websites, applications, etc.). The best UX frameworks are those that instil a desire in users to want to return, often several times Therefore, this serves as the ‘journey’ in the analogy above.
A good UX design should be addressing:
Am I useful? Do I serve a major purpose?
Am I envisioning a good customer experience? Do I need to realign my goals?
Does my website look good? Do I think customers would want to come back?
Can people understand my website interface? Do I need to make adjustments?
The answers to these questions can vary significantly, but they nonetheless clarify one key aspect: UX design and UI design are distinct but conjoined qualities.
2. UX Design is All About the User
This might sound a little counterintuitive, but designs that are too ‘user-centric’ can, in fact, be damaging to the organisation instead of helpful.
This does not mean user-centred design should be abandoned altogether, but rather that designs that try to focus too narrowly on optimising the ‘digital user experience’ will often fail in achieving a company’s business goals.
Steve Jobs once said, “It is not the customer’s job to know what they want.”
Jobs, like many others, was aware that users- in terms of UX- generally don’t know what they’re looking for . Hence, it is important to make sure that consumer opinions do not forge myopic UX designs that are largely devoid of the designer’s own creativity. The S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Based) framework is a helpful way for UX designers to brainstorm different angles that can be targeted with their designs.
User experience research is still imperative and yields numerous benefits on its own, so companies should not cease to invest in different types of user research methods. However helpful it might be, its findings should not be treated as gospel.
3. The More Choice, The Merrier the User
Research has shown that limiting the choice of an individual is likely to not only make them purchase an item at a store, but is also more likely to leave them satisfied with their overall decision.
Having choices is usually good, isn’t it? It makes us feel like we’re in control. However – especially in terms of UX design – we could not be more wrong. Having numerous choices can tend to confuse users and trigger a phenomenon called decision paralysis where the user overthinks their decisions and does not respond at all. This results in users leaving your website or application and trying to find one that does not saturate their choices.
As far as websites go, Google is a great example of a website that does not force the user to choose too much. It has a simple search bar with two options and a small icon in the corner to access its further features. Google is currently the most popular search engine in the world, with over 70% market share.
4. Usability Testing is Optional
Robert Virzi released a paper in 1992 that stated that only 5 users are needed to discover around 80% of the problems associated with a UX. This was to highlight how businesses waste time and effort in usability testing, resources that could be put to better use elsewhere.
Comparative Usability Evaluation (CUE) studies have shown, however, that this is not the case. Even teams of around 15 people could only report around 60% of the issues associated with the UX, oftentimes.
First thing’s first: what is usability testing?
Simply put, usability testing for a website or application is when users are made to complete certain tasks – often accompanied by researchers or analysts – and it is gauged as to whether those users encounter difficulties. These are then rectified for better user experience at launch.
Qualms with user testing arise from the premise that user testing is a waste of time and resources since certain usability testing methods are unnecessary and long. It needs to be recognised that the only way usability testing can be deemed ‘unnecessary’ is if the issues identified by it are not rectified.
An example of usability testing’s benefits can be highlighted by Digital Loom’s design of the NEFA website. Digital Loom was largely on the fence about testing and only decided to do so quite late into the process. They discovered that the ‘donate’ button on the website was not visible to most users, meaning the harm to the website would have been astronomical, with the organisation potentially losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For websites concerned about the time that usability testing takes, they could always consider implementing usability testing heuristics to help drive down costs.
5. UX Research is Easy
It is often cited that UX research is inexpensive and can be done easily and quickly.
Though it is possible to conduct UX research on a budget, the reality is that its costs can range from $48,000 to $60,000, which can be very difficult especially for small web-based organisations managing low budgets.
These costs exist for a myriad of reasons. User experience research is a complex process, and since larger websites have higher amounts of traffic, user tracking can be extremely difficult, and some issues end up being ignored if not properly monitored or invested in.
The bigger issues arise when UX designers need to take into account the needs of different users that visit their pages. Users have unique needs, and acknowledging them all is not simple. In fact, even Google Analytics research can be wrong or misrepresentative. This issue is further exacerbated by the fact that there are an array of factors that need to be taken into account when making websites on different platforms, such as screen size, resolution, browser compatibility, and the like.
The information architecture behind UX designs is not simple, and to be able to make sure that it is able to cater to every user’s needs is therefore not without concomitant costs.
6. UX Benefits from Less Clicks
The 3-click rule is a popularly known usability standard in the world of UX. It means that doing a task on any platform should not take more than three clicks.
This might have been a useful benchmark a couple of decades ago, however today’s tasks involve increasing levels of complexity. Most cannot be done in just three clicks and many users are aware of that.
A study showed that in tasks that ranged from as few as three clicks to as high as twenty-four, there was little to no variance in the levels of satisfaction that users experienced. This is an important result for UX designers that are often so obsessed with minimising the number of clicks on their websites that they make trade-offs with more important UX design elements, such as simplicity.
If adding clicks in the UX design is more helpful to users in terms of making fewer mistakes, then that is likely to help you more in terms of getting users to return to your website or application. Additional clicking is not a time-consuming or draining task, and it would be wise to not compromise the success of your page by overestimating the effort it takes to move from one webpage to another.
7. White Space is Bad Web Design
White space, or negative space, is commonly considered to be a ‘waste’.
People that truly understand web design and user analytics know this to be untrue. Not only does white space have the ability to make a design look easier on the eye, but it has the benefit of allowing for better readability. Research conducted by Wichita State University showed that white space significantly improves reading comprehension.
It is also able to draw attention to what the UX designer feels is an important element on the page, and helps them guide the user to what they what them to see. This is in fact useful because too many items on a webpage can distract from its intended purpose, resulting in users missing the intended destination.
This is particularly useful for mobile applications in which a large amount of content on small screens can often be dissuading and unpleasant to view. A good example of the use of negative space is Dribble Analytics, which has a clean mix of fewer elements with empty spaces between and below them.
8. Web Users Read A Lot, Or Not At All
‘Either you’re a reader, or you’re not’ is one of the most common myths on the internet.
The problem with this is that intuitively we know that it isn’t true since even if everyone has a preference for a particular medium, many users will inevitably read more than the average person’s read.
Thought patterns like this lead to harmful UX design practices, such as the creation of websites with minimal content and pages that do not scroll. Websites that are too minimalist can confuse users and not deliver their messages properly, which will just ensure users will take their search elsewhere.
Not only is infinite scrolling now an accepted navigation practice, but research shows that users are more than willing to scroll through pages without complaint. Several websites use this to ensure that load times are minimised and users are engaged.
Prominent examples include Facebook and Twitter, who are the biggest players in social media today and have infinitely scrolling feeds with a large amount of written content.
We hope you’re not questioning all that you’ve ever learned about UX. It is in fact quite achievable to design a website or app with an experience that users enjoy.
What is good UX?
Creating an enjoyable UX – despite any unintended impression to the contrary that we might have given – is in fact not so difficult if the principles underlying the process are clearly thought through and implemented carefully.
To do this, try to focus your attentions on the elements that will deliver your intended message instead of pandering to what users might want to see. Make sure that your UX design provides a balance with the options it presents users, and ensure that your UX is well tested before release. Be willing to invest in UX research to understand your users better, and try to make sure that the UX design is underpinned by a simple framework to back it up. Finally, make sure that your content is representative of the website, and is not premised on users choosing to skim read it.
The top industry players didn’t always have the deepest wallets – they figured out how to create a rich and rewarding user experience that by-passed the UX myths. And we can all do that.