Home | All Questions | alt.html FAQ > Web Design

What are the common web design myths?

This is a collection of frequently ocurring web design myths, plus the appropriate counter-arguments

Presentation is more important than function

"Now explain to me why Teletext is so widely used (at least in the UK). Ancient technology, text-only with quasi-ASCII-graphics. Conveying up-to-the-minute and relevant information to any capable TV (most of our TVs are indeed capable). Could it possibly be because, when push comes to shove, the information takes priority over the lack of presentational finesse?" -- Alan Flavell

Nobody is saying a site shouldn't look good. But the look of a site shouldn't interfere with the function of the site unless the look is a major part of the purpose of the site. The focus should always be on the usability and accessibility of the content and function.

Form follows function. You can make a beautiful looking table by choosing the right shape and material etc. You cannot make a functional table by starting out by deciding it would look better vertical. Form follows function.

The reason so many of us talk about text-only devices, and designing without fixed widths, is not that they're so important in themselves but that an easy way to create designs that serve all the above constituencies is to design for text-only devices and without any fixed graphical width.

Webdesign is about creating good looking sites

"What do you understand design to be, then? I'm accustomed to it meaning developing something which is fit for its purpose. Visual styling is only a part of that activity. If the underlying structure is unsound, then no amount of polishing the paintwork is going to make it fit for the road." -- Alan Flavell

Do you agree, at least, that web designers are paid to produce an easy-to-navigate page? The point a lot of us are trying to make is that many "Web designers" are not doing that part of the job, which I would hope everyone would agree is the whole point of putting anything on the Web.

For example, fixed-width content makes pages harder to navigate (because harder to read). Fancy plug-ins make pages harder to navigate (because slower, and not compatible with all setups). Javascript makes pages harder to navigate (even if not buggy, which it frequently is, it is not compatible with all setups). Does that mean those things should _never_ be used? No, just that they are _way_ overused today, and the vast majority of sites that do use them shouldn't, because there is no benefit to trade off against the problems created.

(The following is from a post by Michael Sullivan.)

Design is art in service of communication. The goal of design is better communication of information, whether that information be textual, graphical, interactive, etc.

Things that increase comprehension and access to the information in question, are, by definition, *good* design. Because, wait for it: That's the whole goal of design.

Aesthetic improvements that don't interfere with usability, generally improve it, by making a layout look more consistent, drawing the eye to areas of most importance, etc.

Changes that make a site look good at the expense of usability only make sense if the aesthetics *is* information, and more important information than what's lost.

If access to information of some kind isn't the goal, then you aren't doing design, you're doing fine art.

Realistically, if there isn't some kind of communication goal behind one's aesthetic decisions, you're not doing fine art either, but rather the equivalent of painting bug-eyed children on velvet canvases.

Great artists have a point to make with every piece, and every decision is made with respect to that point. All these aligned details act together in a masterpiece to focus the viewer/reader/listener entirely on what the artist wants them to.

Pretty but mediocre art fails primarily in this regard, more than any other.

Whether in art or design, there is always a point, and every decision you make has the potential to muddy it or make it clearer or deeper. In the long run, the latter is always a success and the former always a failure.

In website design, something that makes information harder for the intended users to reach or understand, or makes a site harder to use or navigate is universally and unequivocally a bad design decision, no matter how cool it looks.

Recommended Resources

Discussion

Related Questions