UX design myths can be confusing. On the one hand, when you’re just starting out, you want to believe and test every single piece of advice that you receive. But on the other, you don’t yet have the experience to distinguish between rock-solid ideas and things that are just half-truths.
UX design can be a great line of career — one that’s very rewarding and brings actual value to the people who ultimately end up using the things that you designed. However, if it just wasn’t for those pesky UX design myths… And, as we all know, if a myth gets repeated multiple times, it starts to sound believable.
Let’s look into a number of popular UX design myths today, and try to dispel them:
1. You need to make your UI minimal.
Minimalism is trendy — in all design, not just UI-related works. I get that. However, crafting a minimal UI shouldn’t be a designer’s main goal.
Not everything works with a minimal user interface. For instance, a Boeing 737 doesn’t seem like a machine that could benefit from a more minimal cockpit, does it? (Who needs that altitude gauge anyway?!) I know an example like this sounds silly at first, but it really illustrates how maniacally addicted some people are to the idea of minimalism.
I argue that there’s a better approach:
Make the UI as simple as it can be, but not simpler. Simplicity is never the goal in itself. It only serves as one of the vehicles that make the purpose of what you’re building more clear.
2. UX design is a fad.
Quite simply, UX design has been around for years. We just didn’t bother to name it before.
At its core, UX design is about making sure that what you’re building serves its purpose and solves the user’s problem effectively. This, as you can probably already tell, is never going away.
No matter what products we’re going to be building in the future, we will still need to find effective ways of solving user problems, and will, therefore, need good UX design.
The name itself might evolve at some point if we come up with something even better than “UX design,” but the scope of what’s to be done is here to stay.
3. UX and UI design are the same thing.
We talked about this before, but I feel this is still an issue that seems confusing to many clients, and also newcomers to the field of UX design.
The simple graphic that we shared with you a while back does a good job of explaining the differences between UX and UI design:
In other words, having a well-designed UI is a vital part of providing good experiences for your users. However, apart from the UI, there are also many other elements that are just as important, all of which, when put together, make for good UX design.
4. Good UX needs to take the user by the hand from start to finish.
It’s a common trend nowadays to try making all the decisions for the user. “Hey, here’s our 20-step process to getting you onboard. We need to show all of this to you because you certainly won’t figure it out on your own.”
Granted, in some cases, certain decisions do need to be made for the user. Especially in the first stages of their interaction with your product. But making it a 20-step tour is overkill.
Instead, show only the bare minimum of how to interact with the product, or show them just one thing that you think they will enjoy. Don’t try to show them all the things. Leave the fine details for users to explore on their own.
Here’s an example from Adobe’s own Spark Post app. The small box in the center gives the user the option to watch a tutorial video on how to remix existing designs. Apart from that, all the other features of the app are also there, and an advanced user isn’t interrupted on their way to any specific feature.
Let users make their own decisions. After spending a while interacting with your product, they will probably know what they actually want from it better than you do.
So, don’t hide things — features, options, menus, characteristics of the product, etc. Instead, try grouping them together based on their purpose, and making everything easily discoverable for the curious user.
5. UX design is a one-off thing.
This is something pointed out to me by John Stevens, founder of Hosting Facts. When asked, “What common UX design myth would you like to be gone in 2018?” Stevens said:
“I’m tired of dealing with people who only think about UX design in terms of ‘something you do at the beginning and then forget about later on.’ It’s really not how it’s done! Good UX design is about constantly discovering what the users need, constantly revaluing the goals, acknowledging the early feedback, and integrating it on the way to the final product. It’s a continuous effort all throughout.”
There’s a lot of sense to that. Even though UX design absolutely is something that you should aim to get right on your first try — that is, the first public edition of the product — you can’t disregard it later on when the product is released, simply labeling it “done.”
Even after the final version is ready to be shipped, UX design work doesn’t stop there. You — or your client — are always going to continue to receive feedback from users. You should always pay attention to that feedback and take it into account when working on updates or upgrades.
Simply speaking, UX is never a one-off task. Good UX design happens over multiple iterations, not one “genius-moment” session of work.
6. People are distracted on mobile.
This is a very common belief. But it’s not entirely true.
I mean, it depends on how you define “distracted.” If what you mean is that people are unreceptive to your ads, newsletter popups, or whatever else you’d prefer they focus on, then yes, they’re distracted.
However, they’re also highly focused on their own task. Because of that, they are much less forgiving, and much more impatient about what you are trying to push them towards if it doesn’t align with what they already want.
Just think about it, when checking the bus schedule on your phone, you want to get reliable information as quickly as possible, with as few hurdles as possible, and you won’t tolerate any unnecessary steps that don’t supplement the task that you want to accomplish.
Ads? Forget it! Profile registration? No, thanks! Auto-correcting the name of the street that you carefully put in? Off limits!
Good UX design shouldn’t ignore mobile users, and you certainly shouldn’t accept your product’s inferior mobile performance. It’s only inferior because the mobile UX is bad.
7. Mobile users are on the go.
Another misconception is that people that are using mobile devices must be on the go. Otherwise, they’d just use their desktop, right?
Seems reasonable, but it’s not true in this day and age. That may have been the case in 2008, but not now. These days, what we call a “mobile phone” has evolved a lot, and it turns out, as data says, most of mobile use happens not on the go, but at home.
Why? Well, a smartphone is just much more handy to hold while laying on the sofa.
What does this mean for good UX design? You need not make assumptions about where your mobile users actually are.
8. People don’t scroll.
First of all, they do. There are multiple sets of data that confirm this.
Second of all, you’re not going to like the reason why they sometimes decide not to scroll — in simple terms, it’s not them, it’s you.
Basically, a user will stop scrolling the second they either get all the information they need, or they realize that the material you’re providing is either unfitting or boring.
In other words, people have no bias towards scrolling, as long as what they’re seeing continues to be on point.
Also, “scrolling” in its more traditional form has been with us for ages. Think books. The Harry Potter series seems like a lot of pages one needs to scroll through. Yet people do it, and they love it.
What does this mean in terms of UX design? Simple, don’t use the excuse that people won’t scroll anyway when designing interfaces. If what you want to show them brings value, they will scroll to see it.
9. Good UX design can be ugly.
Well, kind of — or, rather, to an extent. The most important aspect of whatever you’re working on is its problem-solution fit. In other words, it needs to solve the problem it was built to solve. If it fails at that, no amount of beauty will save it.
Think about command line interfaces in many server environments, operating systems, industry devices. These things:
In itself — even though I’m sure some of you will disagree — this is not a pretty interface. But it works. In fact, it’s the best kind of interface for the vast amount of actions that can be performed through it.
At the same time, though, consciously disregarding the visual aspect of the product should never be accepted. It always needs to look good enough to drag users in and convince them that the product is worth their time.
And it’s not just me saying this. The scientists from the Stanford University seem to agree. According to their study, nearly half of users associate a website’s credibility with its appearance. In fact, users are much more likely to believe a website is worth their time if it looks good. There’s no reason not to expect that the same goes for other tech products like software or mobile apps.
10. UX is something you can spray on.
This one may sound funny, but it actually describes a common problem that you can come across when dealing with clients or project managers who don’t have sufficient background.
The boss or client may say something like, “Okay, so the product is 90 percent ready at this point, we just need you to sprinkle some UX on top of it to make users like it.”
As you can imagine, this won’t work. Good UX design can only be done if it’s an integral element from the very beginning of the project.
11. Your homepage is THE most important page.
I dare say — and please bear with me — that apart from a handful of specific cases, a homepage is just a vanity page.
What I mean is that even though you want people to see your homepage, there’s a high probability that they actually won’t. Instead, they’ll go straight to specific content pages and stay there.
These days, due to things like social media and Google’s search ranking algorithms, people are much more likely to arrive at individual content pages within your website than on the homepage itself.
Because of this, you should spend much more time making sure that those pages indeed provide good UX, instead of spending hours upon hours perfecting the homepage.
Just think about it, when was the last time you saw Facebook’s or Twitter’s homepages? Do you even know what they look like?
In the end, think about which areas and sections of what you’re building are likely to deliver more value to users than the initial screen or homepage. Focus your efforts on these areas.
12. Good UX design is universal and easy to use for everyone.
Not really. All we actually need, and all that’s required to make the product valuable, is to make it understandable and friendly towards a specific user persona.
Let’s go back to the previous command line example. Those things are black magic to your average computer user even though they’re part of every popular operating system out there — Windows and Mac included. Yet, for those who are in the know, the command line is their ultimate tool.
Had someone tried making the command line more universally user friendly, they would have probably alienated the actual intended user, and likely made it a lot less functional.
In UX design, much like in many other areas of life, trying to please everyone leads to pleasing no one — so don’t go for ease of use for all. Instead, focus on good experience for those who will actually end up using the product.
This sums up my list of 12 UX design myths that need to go in 2018. At the end of the day, most of them can be avoided if we try putting ourselves in our users’ shoes more, and don’t make too many assumptions about their behaviors or motivations. However, this is also much easier said than done, I know. Sorry about that.