Digital Transformation

UX and the myth of ‘boring’ design

Elly Brookfield on December 04, 2017

In the last year, designers of all genres have looked to inject a much-needed dose of excitement into their work. With intuitive use of colour, contrast, texture and movement, designers are banishing winter blues – after all, we as individuals are notoriously turned off by boring design.

Just look at Mercedes’ 2017 A/W fashion week:

 

With colours and textures galore, the effect is anything but dull.

But are website users equally turned off by ‘boring’? When it comes to the products and websites we consume, do we really want artistic, unpredictable design?

In fact, in the web design field, boring, as we know it is no longer a dirty word. Nowadays, a dull site can be a user’s best friend.

 

Just look at the evolution of Netflix:

2010

What began life as a shiny new video rental and streaming company burst onto our computer screens in shade of red that couldn’t help but grab our attention.

But with a flurry of forms, colour and instructions, the page looked confusing and the poor user didn’t know where to look.

 

NETFLIX 2016

Nowadays the site is limited to a couple of catchy taglines and icons that tell a story on their own. Though it might look boring in the traditional sense of the world, the site is inviting, and the page journey is immediately clear.

The user can still catch the trademark red colour in the little splashes across the page, but isn’t bombarded with it like before. The streamlining of the homepage also allows for comfortable mobile and tablet optimisation.

The need for speed

The temptation for designers to cram as many images and animations into a page as possible can be near impossible to resist. This will leave a website functioning at a sluggish speed, with visitors abandoning the prospect in droves.

Slow loading pages won’t just make a user exasperated and encouraged to leave your site, it can also lead to a massive 7% loss in conversions. Along with this, Microsoft found a delay of more than 2 seconds would result in a 4% loss of revenue (Ouch).

By getting rid of unnecessary extras, users will be given a streamlined experience, with speedy pages to boot.

Aesthetics are important

Vital in fact – given that 46.1% of people assess the credibility of sites based on the appeal of the overall design. A further 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if they judge the pages as unattractive.

Boring need not mean ugly

Try to see the understated beauty in ‘boring’ by looking at the most popular sites in the world. Apple for example are a sea of white space, but this does nothing but draw the user’s attention to all the important stuff: the products.

 

As another stellar example – see holiday rental company Fantastay – who keep text to an absolute minimum in order to let their fabulous Dubai properties do the talking.

Strong user experience is your primary goal

Design innovation is to be applauded- but this should always come with usability in mind. Adding extras to pages no matter how visually appealing will distract users and take away from the focus of your site.

Many new design elements that are emerging in the digital space are confusing and damaging to UX. ‘Scrolljacking’, for example, has become more prevalent in recent years, where the scroll of your mouse does not correspond with the movement of the page. This kind of interruption to user journeys including parallax scrolling adds unnecessary to what should be a core, simple navigational experience.

Both cases see users stuck in intrusive effects that slow their journey and remove power. In the words of Rami James, “If you mess with how I scroll through your website, I’m going to close the tab immediately.”

Users want to get from A to B quickly without being overwhelmed by distractions.

 

Here are three pointers to help you do boring the right way

1.Use white space to your advantage

White space should be used as a clever tool that moves your attention to an important place on a page

2. Contrast is key

Contrast needn’t mean colour – designers often create contrast using font size, styles and icons to draw attention to particular calls to action

3. Use Intuitive navigation

We’ve seen a drastic reduction in the traditional use of navigation, and for good reason. Overwhelming users with a wordy nav will put them off, and makes for a clunky mobile journey. Streamline your site and give your users a bit of room to breathe.

So embrace the boring, and leave the funky flare to the fashion designers. After all, simple is the new black.