The most common web design myths busted

Don't wait and see

With other myths eradicated, a last stand is in the post-build zone. Two examples are 'build it and they will come' and the oft-repeated argument that clients should never have access to their sites.

In some ways, these are the most dangerous myths to propagate, because they impact directly on site success and client relationships.

Though many assume web traffic will automatically gravitate to great looking sites, Vips feels there are now too many sites out there to make this assumption. "Having a great brand, product or service is no longer enough: firms require tailored, targeted strategies for driving traffic," he says. Companies should use every relevant method at their disposal to alert potential visitors to a site's existence – playing a waiting game no longer cuts it.

As for 'protectionism', Tim Gibbon of Elemental Communications understands why this happens – site creators always want their work viewed in the best light.

But in a world of blogs, instant news and rapidly updated content, it's wrong to suggest clients should never have the right to access a site they've paid for. "Even when providing a CMS, some agencies impose fierce restrictions, when they shouldn't, and clients think they've full control over modifications when they don't," he says.

Sometimes, suggests Gibbon, you just have to let go, and the same is true of the myths explored in this feature. Whether they're ingrained in your workflow, or you've been supportive of them and feel foolish for doing an about-face, take a step back and make a fresh start. You'll be a better, more modern creative talent for doing so.

Best of all, when passing on knowledge, you'll add to a bedrock of solid, accurate fact, rather than chip away at it with the equivalent of old wives' tales.

Five mini-myths - entries we 'mythed' elsewhere (sorry)

1 - Avoid using JavaScript

"It's not enabled universally, but that doesn't mean it should be shunned," says Bartek Szopka of software development consultancy Cognifide.

"JavaScript is the focus of modern browsers, and even an awareness of those who disable JavaScript shouldn't lead you to avoid it – instead, build accessible websites that work with or without JavaScript."

2 - PayPal equals e-commerce

"PayPal is online payment, but clients looking to add ecommerce must work with an agency that can look at the overall shopping experience and find the right solution," says on-IDLE's Marc Peter.

"There are more things to consider than the payment provider, such as shopping basket integration and product display and future maintenance."

3 - Never use tables

This one's a real doozy. This widely circulated myth originally came because people were being told not to build tables-based layouts and use CSS instead.

Fair enough – but no one in their right mind said to stop using tables for creating, well, tables! Therefore, those of you trying to cobble together tables using dozens of divs and CSS rules, just stop.

4 - Flash is evil

"This comes from Flash overuse during the days of slow bandwidth. Flash is also used for annoying adverts, so when people picture Flash they see ads," says Cognifide's Sebastian Zarzycki.

"But Flash means you can deliver rich content to pretty much everyone, offering great perks over HTML. And without Flash, there'd be no YouTube – so how can Flash be evil?"

5 - You can start designing your website before content is available

Okay, it's true that you can present rough ideas, but content is integral to a website. Rush ahead of yourself and start creating a design before you've got hold of any content and, at best, you'll create a nice design where the content looks like an afterthought. At worst, you'll create an unusable mess.


First published in .net Issue 189