Busting the Myths of Web Design

When web designers learn the tricks of the trade they invariably will also learn some rules on what they should never do in web design. These unofficial rules are supposed to help you create winning web pages, but it turns out that many simply contain bad advice.

The rules are not without merit, in fact, they may be very useful for most websites. However, they generally fail when designers use them inflexibly. The fact that such advice should not be taken too seriously can be deduced by looking at the websites of major corporations and organizations. Such sites are created by leading web designers who should definitely know what works and what does not.

Here are some of the most common web design myths that deserve busting.

Speed is everything

An old web design adage is that pages should load completely in no more than three seconds. Otherwise, impatient web surfers would take off and not bother with your site. It is said that trusted web hosting companies can handle this alone. However, designers were advised not to include bulky videos, applets or other multimedia that would slow down page loading. But the thing is, by scanning the websites of major Hollywood movie releases or those of new car models, we can readily see that this rule is often ignored by the big players. 

Major sites often have slow-loading multimedia – flash players, videos, interactive applets, etc. – that can take much longer than three seconds to load. In such cases, the designers know that visitors will be willing to wait for this multimedia experience. 

So, while speed is certainly important and cheap hosting can really nail it, there can be times when quality of content is more important. For example, if one is selling a high-priced item on an Ecommerce site, then potential customers are more likely to wait for fancy presentations. Indeed, they may expect such flashy productions before they will be willing to make such a big purchase.

Three clicks from the homepage

Another myth that needs busting is the rule that web pages should not be located more than three clicks from the homepage.

Again this can be sound advice for smaller websites, but the guideline falls apart for more massive, complex sites. For example, if a site with more tens of thousands of pages tried to keep each page just three clicks from the homepage, they would violate rules that influence search engine rankings. Google, for instance, penalizes any page containing too many links.

Also, sensible, intuitive navigation often cannot be accomplished if one is forced to adhere to the three clicks rule. So, designers must look at each site and decide on what is best for the user. Of course, it is probably a good idea to keep the most important pages as close to the homepage, in terms of clicks, as possible.

Graphics are king

A common thing that one will hear is that good web design is all in the graphic presentation. If the visuals are good, then the website is effective. However, this bit of advice ignores the importance of text, which is at least equal to that of the graphics. No matter how attractive a web page looks, everything falls apart if, for example, there are typos or grammatical errors in the text.

Remember that any “rule” on web design is not likely to apply in every situation and should thus be used flexibly.