Don’t Get Trapped into One of 3 Common UX Myths

· 10 min read · 6 comments

User experience design is a tricky subject. Like sports really. You can feel and behave like an expert pretty quickly. You learn a couple of rules and you immediately start participating from the bench, being the right hand of José Mourinho or Phil Jackson.

As a UX designer, I of course welcome all the increased interest in the subject over the years. More knowledge would lift the culture to a higher level and working with clients would be easier. Not to mention the better general experience with using products on our phone or the web it would bring.

I’m glad that you, the reader, are interested in this topic—everybody should have some basic knowledge about UX. I would just like to protect you from common pitfalls and misunderstandings about it.

The misunderstandings usually come in the form of UX Myths. I will try to tackle three that have been raised by clients and fellow designers most frequently over the course of my career and can potentially do the most damage to the project.

So let’s start with the first one…

Myth #1: All Pages Should Be Accessible in 3 Clicks

This one is the holy grail of usability myths for two reasons:

  1. Because it sounds logical and makes sense, it’s so embedded in the minds of people it’s crazy
  2. Explanation about why this myth does not work in practice is a glimpse into one of the most important UX concepts

I would start with a quote from the “bible of UX” by Steve Krug. The book is called “Don’t make me think“:

“It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice.” – Steve Krug

don't make me think by steve krug

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

This is the essence of interface usability really. Users usually have a goal and the path to that goal should be mindless and unambiguous.


The use of an interface should be mindless and unambiguous. Mindless and unambiguous.



Let that sink in before moving on…

To understand why the number of clicks does not matter so much, we need to go deeper into the human psychology with the help of something I call “The Human Effort Graph”.

The Human Effort Graph

human effort graph

Cognitive Effort

The reason why Krug’s book is called “Don’t make me think” is because thinking or cognitive effort is in on the far right on our graph of the human effort of interaction with interfaces. When things go wrong in the design of the interface the most frustrating thing for the users is to be confused about what the interface wants from them, how to use it, where are they located etc.

You get the idea…

Test your application or website with a few users (4-6) and let them tell you what is going through their minds while they are using it. Define the major pain points and solve them.

Visual Effort

The visual effort is the next villain on our graph. It can be minimized by clear and focused design. If you clutter too much information on users field of view you can cause frustration.

“The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction” – John Maeda, The Laws of Simplicity

Let me give you a quick task to perform on a cluttered “design”…

Find a face of a man in the picture below.

coffee beans human head ux

Did you find it? How much did that take? You get my point.

Physical Effort

As you see on our graph—Physical effort causes the least amount of pain. Some examples of physical actions are:

  • Moving a mouse
  • Scrolling
  • Clicking on a mouse or tapping on a touchscreen

With all this new information and knowledge we now have, let’s go back to our original myth:

All pages should be accessible in 3 clicks.

The short answer is:

It does not matter how many clicks are necessary to complete a goal, as long each click is mindless and unambiguous.

Myth #2: People Don’t Scroll

Oh man, I “love” this one.

For this myth, I have a prepared email template response. Yes, I come across it that many times. I would share it with you, but unfortunately, it’s in Slovenian. We can still tackle it in a more long form.

Origins of the Myth

In the world of 90s web, the majority of people rarely scrolled (or not at all) on their browser windows. The reason was pretty simple.

The tool they used for web browsing looked something like this:

old computer with a mouse

Look at the mouse on the picture above. Something was different. Can you spot it?

Yes, there’s no mouse wheel.

computer mouse old

This ingenious functionality made scrolling down the page more user-friendly. Before that you needed to use your cursor (with some extra precision) and grab the scroll bar to move below the initial fold of the page. Scrolling felt like a chore.

Scrolling Is Everywhere

Trends of clean and clutterless interface design throughout the years pushed the conventions of modern web design in a more structured and linear direction (remember: Visual effort is located more on the right on our Human Effort Graph than Physical effort). That means that designers started to implement scroll functionality not just for ordinary article pages, but even for the main product presentations pages or homepages for example.

It the year 2007 something huge happened that would push this myth even further from the actual user interface usage.

Steve Jobs presented a new device at MacWorld 2007 which changed the whole industry (see the 2:00 mark):

Touchscreen functionality in the original iPhone with the combination of a really small screen really made a difference in how people viewed and used interfaces. And as a consequence designers started to design differently.

Nowadays long form pages that need a lot of scrolling are a common thing. And they work.

Let the Data Do the Talking…

A lot of research was made on this topic. Folks from ClickTale analysed 100,000 page views with heat maps and found interesting results…

how people scroll user experience

If you are not completely sure users would get to the important content that is located below the fold or the data from analytics shows that users are not scrolling – and you want them to, you can make use of some of the cues to help them.

Examples of Scrolling Cues

Scroll Arrow

scroll cue with arrow

Implementing a scroll arrow just above of a page fold would indicate to a user that important content is located below. For even more effect the arrow could be even animated.

Short Image

scroll cue with short image

Using a shorter hero image to show the user a glimpse of content beneath could be another way of solving the problem.

Animated Image

scroll cue with animated image

An animated image is a cue that is not used that often as the previous ones, but can do the job of notifying a user about the content below successfully nonetheless.

Myth #3: Design Has to Be Original

This is a common trap that a lot of designers get caught in the beginning of their career. The need to be creative, the need to do special, unique work every time.

I can almost feel the pain when writing this because I’m the same. But the importance of design conventions cannot be ignored.

If you break common web design conventions you can also quickly break the user experience. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t break them. All I’m saying is that in order to break the rules successfully you need to know them in and out first.

Design Conventions Are Your Friends

Users that visit your page for the first time need and must grasp everything in a hurry. To ensure this is the case, the easiest way is to follow existing conventions—so-called standardized design patterns.

Over the years users got used to and have expectations about:

Location of things

A logo which identifies the site is expected to be in the top-left corner and the navigation to be across the top or down the left side.

How things work

For example, what happens if I click on a logo or a shopping cart icon?

You know the answer because of the strong conventions. Use them to your advantage when designing.

How things look

The look of familiar icons is a good example. The search icon or social networking sharing options need little introduction for the user. The user is already familiar with them from using the web.

But still—expectations depend heavily on your target group. Doing quick/dirty user tests is the safest and most effective technique.

You Like Examples, Right?

Take a look at this website of a random university:

cortland university website

Nothing about this page is particular far from the ordinary university page. The text labels in the primary navigation are clear and the user knows what information is hidden behind them. The layout is pretty standard.

If you play it safe, you can reap many benefits in terms of usability. Again, I am not arguing against creativity in web design, I am just trying to convey that sometimes too much creativity can backfire and most importantly: not bring the necessary business goals.

bucknell university website

Bucknell University decided to break some conventions of typical university websites with their recent redesign. Then actually decided to break many general web conventions also.

I like the modern (flat) style and the layout, but usability suffers greatly.

Let’s do a quick usability test:

  • What does in your opinion the round icon (clock?) between The Everything Directory and the search box mean? What happens if you click on it?
  • What happens if you click Start Exploring on the top?
  • On the left, what will you get if you click one of the dates?
  • What means “Bucknell is under the sea” in the big button? This appears to be the main Call to action. Would you click on it if you were interested in applying to Bucknell university?

Something like this is awesome. But ask yourself: would this concept and style be appropriate or delight users of a government website that has a lot of older and less tech-savvy visitors?

The main takeaway about doing completely original design would be:

The design does not have to be original for achieving business goals. Use design conventions to your advantage and decide to break them with caution and your user base in mind.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading this! If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them down at the comments and let’s talk!


Klemen Selakovic

Written by Klemen Selakovic

Klemen is Award-winning UI/UX Designer, Visual Designer & Creative. Digital nomad currently living & working from Ubud, Indonesia

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  1. Nice article, though it would have been nice to mention the source:

    1. Hey, I’m really glad you enjoyed the article – I really appreciate you reading it! 🙂

      Yes, you are right, one of the sources was definitely (awesome site btw). But as you can see, I went much deeper with explanations and examples (take a look at this example:

      I’ve added other sources at the end of the article…

      Take care! 🙂

  2. Great article. This information that you have provided is very useful to me. This is a very informative post along with interesting. Please keep sharing such types of useful posts.

    1. Thank you for reading!

  3. Great breakdown of a few basic misunderstandings that can inhibit usability. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for reading, Rachel! 🙂

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