3 Myths Web Designers Tell Themselves About Sophisticated Users

In his article The Myth of the Sophisticated User, Robert Hoekman Jr made it clear that "It doesn't matter how savvy your users are, better design benefits everyone." Designers use their expertise to create the user experience but what are the myths and assumptions about savvy users they use when designing a site or application?

  • Users can read between the lines – As sophisticated as some users may be, they like navigation to be straightforward. No one likes to waste time on sites or applications that have poor delivery of their content forcing users to guess and or hit an information dead-end.
  • Sophisticated users can navigate their way through anything – This begs the question, why should they have to? Savvy users typically go to a site for one reason: to find something quickly. The shortest distance between points A and B is always going to be a straight line. Any site or application that doesn't take the time to design a user task flow and relies heavily on the end-user to "create their own path" will reap the rewards of lazy design: visitors who run away and tell others to do the same.
  • As long as it's sleek and cutting edge, they will love it – Even the most visually appealing, cutting edge site or app will not pass the test if it doesn't follow some basic standards. Some products provide users with no clear path to maneuver, creating a frustrating experience. No matter how cutting edge a product claims to be, users can't and won't support products that provide them with a frustrating experience.

With these misconceptions out in the open, what are some of the steps web designers need to take to make sure their design supports a good user experience for all visitors?

  • Think of the site in terms of patterns and flow – A site is more than just pages and an app is more than just button clicks. It’s about the flow and patterns of users. What pages do they frequent and where they were before that one are just two of many questions designers need to ask when trying to create a better design.
  • Visitor Return Rate – What is the ratio of return users? How did they find you? Where do they land? Users who find a site or application helpful are more likely to return and bring friends. Streamlining this process creates a better user experience for all visitors and will help attract new ones.
  • Action Response rate – The response rate is the space between stimulus and response. If a user clicks on a link or button, how long does it take for the action to take place? Too slow could mean users exit and if they are not getting the page they requested, that means a broken link.

Other metrics can include social interaction on the site, comment ratio, user activity, and scroll patterns. A better design is in the hands of the designer and only by learning more about the underlying elements can they really achieve a great user experience.