It’s not (entirely) your fault. After all, you’re not a professional designer. That’s why you hired one. Your designer told you they’re highly collaborative and want your input. Plus, if you’re investing so much in the design, you should get what you want, right?
Good design is a tricky thing. Not only do you have to have all the right pieces, you also have to keep out all of the wrong pieces. Wrong pieces poison otherwise quality designs. Somewhere amongst all this “collaboration,” “feedback,” and “approval,” many good designs go bad.
How does this happen? Whose fault is it and how can it be avoided?
I’ve been involved with hundreds of design projects over more than a decade. Still, I’m not a designer. I’ve been involved with hundreds of clients too, but I’m not the client either.
As the Director of a design agency, I’ve seen divide that exists between my clients and my design team. Today I want to get a few things off my chest. It’s time to clear the air, and bust some common design myths that still exist today.
1) More Features = Better Design
Design is not a shopping spree. Too many clients try to cram as many ideas into one website as possible. They think the more a website does, the more value it will have to users. The truth, however, is exactly the opposite. Less complex websites can present the primary message really well. A simple, well designed website can be intuitive and offer a positive and memorable brand experience.
Tip: Build the mobile version first! Focus on the most important features then be very choosy on the features you decide to add to the desktop version.
2) Design Cures All
Design is more than colors, graphics, and fonts. It’s experience, interaction, and function. A great design can solve difficult user experience challenges, like poor user journeys or brand experiences. However, design does little to fix a lack of content, low traffic, poor engagement or poor conversion rates. These are all serious problems with content.
Tip: Content should come before design. This way, you fix message and marketing problems prior to designing a website. This method ensures your new site doesn’t carry those problems forward into a new design which would require significant revisions to properly engage and convert leads.
“If content is king (and it is), then design is the King’s custom-tailored clothing. It’s built around the content and accents all of its best features.” - Kevin Barber, Director of Lean Labs [tweet this]
3) People Read on the Web
If your homepage has a word count above 200, your bounce rate will likely signal a problem with your design. There are always exceptions, but in general, we try to keep home pages under 75 words.
Tip: Use visuals, video, and intuitive site flow and function. This will make you the company that proves the statement, “less is more.”
4) Rotating Banners are Cool
Rotating banners have become a crutch for companies who aren’t sure what message resounds with their visitors. However, in this modern age of impatience and mobile devices, rotating banners and the time it takes to consume them annoy more visitors than they engage.
Tip: Focus on a single, compelling value proposition and a primary call to action. This will get visitors to engage with your website much more effectively than rotating banners.
5) Better to Surprise Users Than Ask for Feedback
You don’t have to wonder if your website is valuable to users. Asking users what they want is a great way to make sure you build the right replacement website. You don’t need to ask them about the design. Instead, ask them to prioritize what they feel is most important. This will allow you to identify those things that may not factor into your customers’ buying decisions. Integrating user feedback into your site strategy will put you in better position to hit the nail on the head from the very first swing.
Tip:Split test homepage and landing page ideas with your target audience before building your full website. Use site feedback and conversion data to validate your plan; helping you to build an engaging website with the highest conversion rate possible.
6) Success Happens Overnight
There are two common errors of mindest companies are in danger of committing when they are planning a website redesign:
Error 1: They believe the most difficult part is building the new website. In reality, bringing an engaging website to life visually is far easier than creating the right content, or ranking their website in search engines.
Error 2: Viewing a company website as a book rather than a magazine. This “set it and forget it” strategy most often results in an out-of-date website a month or so after its launch date. Companies with these websites will find themselves needing to revamp their website every year or so.
Viewing a website as a magazine, however, offers visitors something new with every visit. If you keep adding fresh, engaging content regularly, your website is always current and helpful to visitors.
7) Engage Users With Bold Text, Bright Colors, and Stock Photography
Visual design is less about making every section of your website visually appealing and more about drawing your eyes to the right features in the right order to facilitate an intuitive user experience. If you’re trying to use graphics to attract use engagement in every section of your site, it’s a sign you either have a content problem or you need a new designer.
Tip: Consider great websites like DigitalOcean, MailChimp, or Zendesk. Notice how they drive your attention to the important page elements with design. At the same time, they don’t try to make every section big, bold, and bright.
Bonus Takeaway: Notice stock photography is used very sparingly, if at all.
8) Your “Minor Tweaks” Actually Make the Design Better
This myth is a major one; one that’s nagged me for over a decade of experience in creating web solutions. When a company with an ugly website hires a new design team then tells them how the design should look and feel.
Smart companies hire designers they can trust, and then trusts them as the experts to fashion the best solution. That doesn’t mean they won’t need feedback from the company to come up with a great design. However, it does mean that when it comes to personal preferences for design aspects, decisions are left up to the experts.
Tip: Hire a competent design team and present them design and engagement problems, not proposed solutions. It’s your designer’s job to solve these problems and you’ll get his best work if you let him own the solution side. Instead, you should focus gaining insight from user feedback and pointing out any problems that arise.
9) You View Your Website Like Your Users Do
This is a much-too common problem. As owners and employees of businesses, it’s easy to assume customers understand and use the same terminology as we do. This is hardly ever the case. Your website needs to communicate with your customers where they’re at in the buyers journey, not where we want them to be.
If you haven’t addressed the needs, wants, and fears of your customer in a disarming manner, you’re missing a good opportunity to build a relationship with them. Instead of focusing on what you want your customer to see, engage them first on the grounds of understanding their problem. After accomplishing this, your brand will have more credibility and a service-focused pitch when asking them to consider your solution or product.
Tip: When planning and writing the content for your website, write it as a personal message to your best customer. Include a compelling subject (headline) and communicate to them personally. Be sure to address their needs and wants as well as fears and common concerns. Make sure your website content addresses what the user needs to know before addressing what you want them to know.
10) If it “Works on Your Computer”, it’s Ready to Launch.
This myth is quickly becoming one of the most important factors in web design. Today, there are so many different devices and so many different screen sizes, having a one-size-fits-all website just doesn’t work anymore. As web traffic continues to transfer from traditional browsers to tablet and mobile devices, websites must be able to incorporate excellent design into multiple devices.
Another item to consider, as search engine get smarter, is site load speed. Not only does Google already take this into its ranking algorithm, but it also impacts the user experience for anyone with older technology or outdated web browsers.
There so many things to keep in mind when making your site multi-device compatible, especially if it’s going to be optimized for all sizes and technologies. Your forms may need both JS and server-side validation. You’ll need to test the site with engaged users then solicit their feedback for what could make their experience easier and more informative.
The last, but not least, important item of a great website is analytics. Are you collecting the data you need to make future iterations science-based and not hunch-based? You need to be able to integrate metric tracking into all important aspects of your site so you can measure, interpret, and iterate effectively.
Tip: Test your website both internally and externally through each and every phase of build. Test multiple use cases on a variety of different devices. Realize you’re not as qualified to decide when your website is ready to launch as your customer is.
Now please enjoy the Top 20 Design Myths as a SlideShare, created by Lean Labs.
Now that you know what NOT to do, what’s the next step in planning your website revamp?
We encourage you to check out our free ebook on Responsive Web Design, offering direction and valuable design principles that should be applied to every new website.
Originally published Jul 21, 2014 2:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016