There are some old usability myths that are still floating around despite being proven otherwise. Cameron Chapman’s article Usability Tips Based on Research Studies show us that some usability rules we might still be abiding by are old news. These are some usability myths that need to get debunked:
The 3 Click Rule
The 3 Click Rule is the idea that visitors get frustrated if they have to click more than 3 links to find what they’re looking for. 3 clicks is an arbitrary number, and research found that most people will go up to 12 clicks to find what they need.
However, although people will do some digging, it’s important to have a navigation that makes sense. Give some flow to your site and make sure that it’s not a labyrinth.
The bottom line: Don’t abide by a random number, instead work towards better usability in general.
Old myths about page skimming are all over the page – literally. Instead of spreading important information across the page, keep in mind that many people follow an F shaped pattern when reading. They often start at the top left and skim down and right.
The bottom line: Place the content you want seen first towards the top and left of the page.
The myth of page speed not really impacting usability somehow persists. Page speed matters, and we can see it in the numbers. The longer someone waits means reduced clicks. Over 3 seconds seems to be where many people cap off. It’s even more of a heavy hitter now that Google ranks page speed as a part of SEO.
The bottom line: Page loading speed matters. Test the speed of your site here.
The myth: people will read all of your text. To bring light to this myth, “people read 28% of the text on a web page and this decreased the more text there is on the page“.
To help people get the most out of your content, make important pieces stand out. Use highlighted keywords (not key paragraphs), bullet points, lists, headings, and short paragraphs to keep people engaged.
The bottom line: Make key info stand out and keep content readable.
What is the fold?
It’s an idea borrowed from the ye olde times of newspapers. It’s the part of a web page that can be seen without having to scroll down. The importance of the fold has been heavily debated – should you put all your information before the fold just in case people don’t make it to the rest of your site?
The answer is no. Don’t stuff all your content above the fold! Use visual hierarchy and space your content out in a user friendly way to emphasize importance. Users aren’t afraid to scroll, just give them a reason to.
The bottom line: Page length doesn’t impact whether people will be more or less likely to scroll down the page.
Important Content Location
Many cultures learn to read from left to right – same principal holds true online. Up to 69% of people spend their viewing time on the left of the page. To further this, “the same results were reflected on websites whose language were read from right to left, such as Hebrew and Arabic sites, with the results inverted“.
This also ties into the concept of the F pattern for your content.
The bottom line: The language of your site matters for where you place important content.
The effects of whitespace has also been debated. However, studies found that whitespace affects the ease of readability. So don’t cram your content – reading comprehension decreased as whitespace decreased, meaning that the less white space there is, the less people retain.
The bottom line: More whitespace = more readability, so space out your content.
Similar to whitespace, the small details on your site can make a big impact. For example, the way a submit button is designed can affect whether people are willing to click it. Keep in mind details like font colour, typography, contrast, and line-height to keep your page readable and keep interactive elements clickable.
The bottom line: Remember big and small picture – small details affect your overall design.
How much use is your search bar getting? Probably not as much as it might seem.
Most people will use menus and links before hitting the search bar, treating search bars more as a last resort for if people can’t find what they’re looking for by navigation. Instead, use them as supplementary to your main navigation.
The bottom line: Don’t rely on search bars as a primary navigation tool.
Many people spend a huge chunk of time focusing on their homepage compared to the rest of their site.
But it’s common that most of your site’s info isn’t on the homepage, so don’t sacrifice internal page usability for the sake of your homepage – inner pages are just as important as your homepage because that’s where people go when they’re looking for something.
The bottom line: Your inner pages are just as important as your home page, so make sure to give them some love.
*All images and research from Usability Tips Based on Research Studies.