For as long as we’ve had web designers networking there have been common misconceptions among the community. These have bogged down the minds of many great designers and developers over the years. Today I’ll be exploring a few of these myths to discuss the truths behind them.
Though many of these have held true at some point in time they are greatly out-dated and require some light shed over their blemishes. The youth of web design has started to de-bunk many of the classics. Even though the information is out there, research these ideas for yourself to see how you should use the data.
The Exploding Browser Wars
Since the Internet started truly taking off we’ve had a war waging between software companies to develop the next best browser. Microsoft was the true powerhouse when Windows XP was first released and Internet Explorer showed the most promise.
We can all remember Internet Explorer 6 and the rendering issues it’s caused over the years. It’s the true hatred of this browser which shows just how poorly Microsoft performed during development. We’re now well into 2010 and I still see people talking about designing for IE6 as a crucial part of the web experience.
I’ve all but given up on this fact and don’t even pay any mind to those preaching. Microsoft has since released IE7 and IE8 with moderate success and much better processing engines. Perhaps 5 or 10 years ago many visitors would still be using IE6 having been scared to upgrade or change routine.
In today’s modern web sphere we’re seeing a much larger diversification in web browsers. Most commonly you’ll see visitors running Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera or Safari for Mac users. Any traffic you get running Internet Explorer is most likely using the latest version which has fixed mostly all of the rendering bugs from previous generations.
It is high time we stop testing for IE6 rendering bugs and applying patches and fixes for them. The percentage of visitors you’re getting who are actually using this browser are probably so slim, it’s actually a waste in productivity to develop for this.
Of course the scenario is a little different if you’re running a multimedia giant such as Digg or Facebook. But for the average website it’s well beyond unnecessary to spend time fixing bugs for IE6 or earlier.
Keep Layouts Small and Simple
When most visitors were running display resolutions on 800×600 it was common to develop websites to a much smaller scale. Today we’re seeing a huge expansion of this with the most common resolutions hovering around 1280×800. This is a massive change and truly shows how adaptive our current age is.
No longer should you set fixed widths on page content areas less than 800px. Even with visitors using mobile browsers to check out your site they shouldn’t notice any benefit by keeping content confined and selective. On the contrary, it’s actually much more efficient to let your page layouts breathe and expand.
Never Utilize Tables. Ever!
This myth stems from a misunderstanding of why core CSS designers are against using tables. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the
<table> tag or any of it’s corresponding properties and inner elements. Tables have a place in HTML for a reason – to build a table.
The problem is how tables were used heavily in early web development to build page structures and outline content areas. Pages can still be designed this way and use tables to render each content area, though it’s not recommended and gets very convoluted.
When building a landscape and framework for any website it’s best to use divisions. A
<div> tag isn’t new but started gaining in popularity once CSS became the de-facto for building page styles. Divs are similar to blocks on a page which can expand and fit into any container available. This makes them much more fluid and reliable than tables could ever be.
Case in point: tables are not evil. They serve a great purpose in web development, and that purpose is to build tables of data. When structuring layouts it’s much easier to stick with divs and CSS.
The Broken 3-Second Rule
It’s been passed around through generations that most visitors reaching your page will only give you 3 seconds of their time before leaving. This data is based around information gathered in 2001 and clearly represents an older form of the World Wide Web.
Currently some visitors may not even give you 1 second of their time. This has nothing to do with a “rule of the web”, but more of the lacking attention span most Internet browsers will show. It’s your job as a web designer to build out a clean, captivating layout to keep these visitors interested. If you can master design trends and get these visitors “stuck” to your pages you’ll see much fewer bounce rates.
None of these studies relate to having a clean navigation, keeping certain information above the fold, or anything about the visitor’s time. All you need is a sleek design which offers your visitors some interesting information or value. Further analysis of traffic data will generally show where your visitors are sticking and where they aren’t. These are great stats to work with since you can apply design changes accordingly.
These are just a few myths which have been passed down from generations limiting and stifling design creativity. Keep these ideas in mind when working with design and code for the web. Also remember to check Google for more information if you’re further interested in any of these. Myths can only keep true design trends at bay until they’re debunked and knowledge is spread throughout the community.