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4 Design Elements You Hate, But...They Work
By Samuel Ryan     Website Building     Comments

If you've ever created a website for someone else, you've had to go through that painful process where the client submits edits that you feel are unnecessary, ugly, or just heart-breaking. You think to yourself, "Design is King," and wonder why the client can't understand that your original comp doesn't need any editing. But before you write off your client as a design-ignorant troglodyte, perhaps you should consider that there are many elements that you may hate, but they actually "work"...


  • Click Here to Continue - Personally, I've never liked a design that tells a visitor exactly what to do. "They're not that dumb, are they?" I reason. So the classic "Click Here to _______" is a particularly annoying phrase to me, and I usually try to use a less ubiquitous phrase like "Read Article" or "Learn More about Troglodytes." However, the fact is, the "Click Here" phrase actually performs better than other phrases as indicated in a September Marketing Sherpa study (some stats from the study can be found by clicking here).

  • The Home Button - Since space is a luxury in website design, most designers leave out the "Home" button on the menu (myself included). Instead, we take advantage of the website's logo, usually in the top left, and link that to the home page -- after all, that is an accepted Internet convention. But although many people know they need to click the logo to return to the home page (and you should link it that way), there are still many users who don't realize this. I worked for a company a little while back, and during user testing, we found that only half of the users (namely users who used the Internet a lot) knew that the logo would get them back to the homepage. Furthermore, many users did want to get back to the home page, usually remembering some link or offer that they wanted to check out.
  • Where's the Search Box? - Everyone has a different "starting point" when it comes to a web design. Most start with the logo and header and go from there. Usually, the content is plugged in last along with "peripherals" like ad space and a search box. Unfortunately, if your website is content-driven or retail-oriented, it is the search box that needs to be preeminent in your design. We live in a world where people expect to search quickly and effectively for whatever they want. In fact, if your website is in one of the categories above and you do have a search box, I can almost guarantee (from personal experience tracking traffic on such sites) that the search box is the most used "area" for new visitors, with your menu probably second. So make sure you focus on these and don't tuck them away because they "don't really fit in your design." (And yes, I do need to add search functionality to this site :-)
  • Make "It" More Obvious - This directive has a variety of incarnations: Make the Text Bigger, Add a Starburst, Use Brighter Colors. Now before you double-over in pain at the previous suggestions, remember that sometimes, the client does know more about his audience than you. Often, after a client tells me that 8pt text is too small, I will show the design to other non-designers and they'll agree with the client (!!!). I'm not saying the client's design sense exceeds yours, but you need to be willing to compromise and still make your design look good. Remember, you are trying to communicate to the client's audience, not other designers. On my Free Stuff page, you will notice I resorted to the shameless gradient starburst. Not because I think it's great design, but because it really does work well. Making something more obvious is not always bad...

In summary, anyone creating websites needs to remember that a website which accomplishes a client's goals is more important than a website that makes a good exhibit. Hopefully, you can make it both functional and beautiful; just remember not to "write off" the above elements, no matter how much you hate them.

Community Comments
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Although telling someone to "click here" is more effective, it's something we all need to work on NOT using. It's a bad habit learned and past along such as double spacing after a sentence, telling kids that Santa did bring them those gifts and telling people to use Windows because everyone else uses it.

I believe there are other ways of making it obvious to "click here" without using that tired old method. You can make an obvious button-like graphic (using CSS of course) or better yet, underline every link and change the color of the text preferably use blue. It doesn't have to be a black underline or the ugly standard "hyperlink blue". It can be more subtle colors that shows up well but doesn't overpower.

Just my thoughts.

Yeah, I don't like any of those either, but I can certainly understand some merit in each.

Unfortunately, most of us designers aren't very compromising :)

If "click here" works, then you use it. If I'm writing an email or website trying to sell something and "click here" gets me ~8% more click-throughs, then hell yeah, I'm going to use it every single time.

The day will come when it will eventually fade away as the current young generation take over the web space. But if the purpose of a site is a sign-up or a purchase, and this helps conversion without hurting anyone (except a designer's pride), then so be it...

Good calls Samuel. Especially on the text size. Oftentimes I would like to make it small to keep it out of the way and uncluttered, but its probably the reason the visitor is at the website in the first place.

I'm inclined to agree that often as designers we want to get rid of things we find useless, but our users don't. But it's been my experience that frequently people aren't using what you expect them to, or at least not using things in the way you expected.

My company has an older site we maintain, and have been hesitant to change for years out of fear of alienating the users. One much debated element was the "Home" link. Business owners insisted the older users of the site absolutely relied on this.

I did some research and it turns out, no one uses it at all. In fact, people didn't even care to return to that page once they were a registered user, they just wanted to dive right in and start using the site.

As with anything, get some research into how your customers actually interact with your site.

The Peach
interesting post.
I've never thought about the "home" link problem, maybe because recently I've been using breadcrumbs to include the "home" link.

another thing I'd like to point out is that the "Click here" link is in fact a really bad habit, especially when facing search engines crawlers: the text inside the anchor should be descriptive. There're just a few exceptions to this (like the [link] and [more] on reddit feeds, for example), this means: use it wisely. ;)

Clients requests definitely out weigh our personal preference for including or excluding certain elements. Sure there are some things that if you just educate the client on, they will realize the benefit of agreeing with you.

There are a lot of elements that we as designers don't like but users are just accustomed to seeing and using.. and I think those are things we need to be more aware of.

hi. get here stumbling...

Very nice article! True in every word you say.

saludos desde Argentina

Karol Krizka
Very good article, especially the emphasis on "You Hate, But...They Work". There are so many things that I hate in a web page, but they work in getting more visitors. There are also many examples from advertising, for example using those hover over content ad things. They are annoying, but they do bring in a lot of revenue.

Nice Post. I think some people forgot the title of it - "you hate..but they work". I myself am trying to steer away from the "click here" trend and move into a more SEO conscious linking, along with everything else.

You should *never* set the base size of text for people. Everyone has their preference and by setting the font size to something other than their preference is bad user design. Don't get me wrong, it's perfectly acceptable to set the size of your headings to something like 110% but leave the ruddy base text size alone. If you can't manage to develop a website that fits into the page nicely with any text size (within reason) you shouldn't be designing websites.

I have lost track of the number of client requests I get for "click here", or can you make the text blink (uh, no, I won't do that one), and other such requests that make the designer in me cringe.

Great post!!

Very nice article :-)

Good Article.

I do not like the "click here" links...but I have to agree that I do click on them from time to time. In general, web designers should try and link to the relevant phrase or keyword in the sentence instead...it helps search engines and is considered a basic web usability practice.

Ok im sorry for everything im about to say, but i had to say, because of how stupid this subject is:

i can see that people on the internet have nothing else to talk about, so they start making up things that could make people think are true (like the above), for example, i seriously just made this up: "don't you hate it when the address bar shows a link thats much larger than the allocated area".... now heres the thing, (other than the fact that some readers dont even know what i mean) if i was told this by someone, i would quickly agree, and think that this guy is a genius, i know i know im talking a bunch of crap, so im gonna stop here.

for people who understood what im talking about, they know its true, and for people who have no clue what the hell im talking about, then in plain English im trying to say, "the writer has nothing to write about, so s/he is whoring attention"

very sad for me to even comment... i know

Awesome article. And beautiful design. This is my first time here. And I love it.

Dapo Olaopa
I love this blog. How do u get rid of that anoying grey box around tranparent PNGs in ie6 and b'lo? (u can reply to my email)

Rex Bush
This article and comments remind me of "Steve Krug's book "Don't Make Me Think, A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability".

Designers don't like to use established web conventions, instead "there's a great temptation for designers to reinvent the wheel...."

On the other hand, conventions are useful because they "make it easier for users to go from site to site without expending a lot of effort figuring out how things work."

process exe files
I have try to use "click here" for adv,works pretty well.
but don't use for all like,weird.

How are you. Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.
I am from Angola and also now'm speaking English, tell me right I wrote the following sentence: "Enter the departure and return information and search in over travel."

:-) Thanks in advance. Jason.

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Sunny Days & Rain
What is all this?
My name is Samuel Ryan and I make websites. Sometimes, I write about it. I disappeared from this blog for a couple years, but I'm jumping back in now -- even began using my twitter account. If you care to know more, go here.