1. Everything important needs to be above ‘the fold’
For those who don’t know, what’s commonly referred to as ‘the fold’ is the invisible line at the bottom of your screen – so anything you have to scroll to see is known as being below the fold.
The issue with that is that even if we were all viewing a website on the same size laptop, our browser window could be resized to any number of different dimensions, which means the fold is going to be in a different place for everyone. How do we compensate for this?
Rather than trying to fit as much information as possible above the fold, concentrate on making the right impact for when users first land on your website. Overcrowding messages and graphics are going to be overwhelming and confusing. Whereas a clear, focused hierarchy of information is going to make browsing the site a much more positive experience.
Websites have been around a long time and basic interactions such as scrolling have become so intuitive they’re second nature – even more so since the birth of smartphones – so don’t make the mistake of thinking because it’s not immediately visible on the screen it won’t be seen.
2. The more options there are, the better
Having options is always a good thing, but there needs to be careful consideration of what and how many options are available.
It’s important not to burden the user and make it difficult for them to make a decision because ultimately that’s going to increase the time it takes them to checkout or convert.
If you naturally have lots of options available to a user, like a mid to large e-commerce site for example, then use categories to group and segregate. Use seasons to help form the hierarchy of content, or data and insights to learn popular purchase patterns. This will make it easier for users to hone in on what they want.
Options are needed, but in the right order of importance, at the right time, on the right pages. The important thing is not to overwhelm people.
3. Empty space is a waste of space
“Remove the white space” is the new “make the logo bigger”. Rather than seeing it for the design element it is, empty space is often perceived by clients to be a missed opportunity.
Ever heard the expression, “Can’t see the forest through the trees”? Well, that applies here. By trying to utilise every pixel on the page for content, you make it much more difficult for users to separate information and find what they’re looking for.
The use of white space needs to be carefully considered. It needs to feel like the page flows naturally and the content needs to work together in harmony instead of fighting against each other for the user’s attention.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and striking the right balance between having vast open spaces and cluttered content can sometimes be a fine art. But, use white space correctly and it will go a long way to creating a positive user experience, which is ultimately what we all want from a website.
4. All aspects of design should be completely original
Creating something completely original is a true feat. It required innovation, vision, and the ability to execute the big idea. But being original is overrated if it’s detrimental to user experience.
People have been using the internet for a long time, and we’ve picked up some habits along the way — such as instinctively knowing where to look for navigation between pages, or how to recognise a clickable button. Tweaking or challenging some of the norms isn’t a bad thing, but going against all best practices just to be labelled original is likely to bite you in the backside.
Best practice means tried and tested. It works. Don’t avoid it because lots of others do it, just give it some personality and make it feel like it belongs to your brand. We want to encourage breaking new ground, but just make sure the reward doesn’t compromise too much on user experience.
5. Web design should be mobile-first
Perhaps the biggest misconception in web design is that a website should always be designed mobile-first. We feel like that’s a common belief because;
- The majority of internet traffic is on mobile.
- people have heard others say it a lot and assume it’s best practice.
But designing for mobile has its challenges — there’s a lack of screen space, load times can be slow based on your network, and people are usually browsing on the move. This often leads to mobile designs being a simplified version of the desktop design, which has more space for elaborate details, more stability to support animation and video, and more interesting design layouts.
It’s always easier to simplify down to mobile than it is to embellish up to desktop, and that’s why we think a mobile-first approach can be flawed.
We’re not understating the importance of mobile designs, we’re simply saying they shouldn’t always come first. Each case should be assessed individually to figure out the best approach.