user experience

How to Build Your Web Design Expertise Muscle


If you’re a new web designer who feels a lack of confidence dealing with clients when it comes to making design decisions, 2018 could be a turning point in your business.

I’m going to share with you a practice that will help you develop your design confidence muscle and keep it in tip-top shape. The first step in this practice is to get curious.

For example, have you ever wondered if website visitors know enough to scroll down the page below the “fold”? I did.

I had my ideas about the scrolling issue but our intuitive ideas are not always spot on.

Curious to know all about the latest research on scrolling, I went to one of my favorites – the Neilson Norman Group’s website – to get the scoop. As usual, I wasn’t disappointed.

Here’s what I learned:

I found an interesting article, The Fold Manifesto: Why the Page Fold Still Matters, that told me everything I needed to know.

The Fold comes to us via the world of newspaper publishing. In digital, it’s the information you see on the immediate screen without having to scroll down. As it turns out, the above-the-fold area on a website is rather important. When a visitor sees a full-screen hero image overlaid with a tagline and a call-to-action, it’s easy for them to think that that’s all there is to the page. They may think they’ve reached the site’s “floor” (as it’s sometimes referred to), and once they think they’ve “hit bottom”, they’re likely to move on without scrolling.

User-experience data suggests that visitors will only scroll further down “below the fold” of a web page when two conditions are met: first, they need to see some evidence that there’s more information to come so that they don’t experience the end of an image, a line or a page section as the “floor”. And, second, the visitor needs to be interested enough in the topic so they’re motivated to scroll down to learn more.

When a visitor comes to a site, they do an immediate assessment as to whether they think the website is likely to have the information that they’re looking for. If the answer is yes, and they have the impression that the information they want might be further on down the page, they’ll continue scrolling to find out. Otherwise, they’ll choose to bounce off.

Check out the website example below to see how we show evidence of more-to-come down the page – thereby avoiding the experience of the floor. People interested in leadership training opportunities for non-profit leaders would most likely continue to scroll down to find out more.

inwardbound center

The example above, created using research about the scrolling practices of website visitors, is typical of the types of information we can easily gather from UX articles.

Staying curious and then backing up your curiosity with the latest UX research can give you leading-edge confidence when designing your websites. An added benefit is that knowing your stuff allows you to be the authority when it comes time to explain your design decisions to your clients.  

Is taking a UX course required? It might be helpful, but it’s not essential. You can get started right now by perusing some of the resources offered below.

Here are five of my favorite sites. Let me warn you:  these sites are addicting, so give yourself an hour a week to read a couple of articles to keep up with what’s hot, what’s not, and why.

Nielsen Norman Group. Evidence-based, user-experience research, training, and consulting. I’m always amazed that a blog so geeky can be so interesting.

Smashing Magazine. An old favorite. Smashing Magazine is a collection of 2119 articles and counting. Always something worthwhile here.

UX Myths. A collection of user-experience misconceptions and articles that explain why they’re not true.

Useability Geek. Fun reading. Bridges theory and academic research with practical and personal recommendations on how one can improve website usability.”

UX Magazine.  A free community resource that explores all facets of user-experience design. Check out the article about Designing with Emotion, and don’t miss this video from the article:

Let me know how this works for you.

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