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What's the most overused, design "crutch" you see most often?

5 years ago from , Creative Director, PBS

I'd have to say it's a 1px drop shadow on text. It's almost as if it's taught in school that shadows are the only way to make text read over any given background.

100 comments

  • Aundre KerrAundre Kerr, 5 years ago

    Image sliders/carousels.

    47 points
    • Jonathan ShariatJonathan Shariat, 5 years ago

      Yes big one, and mostly its from higher up. They all want their part on the home page. haha

      4 points
    • Louis-André LabadieLouis-André Labadie, 5 years ago

      Specifically, for when the goal is to feature several things at equal importance.

      A carousel flatters one's idea that page height is paramount, and that hidden content is still noticed if it cycles automatically at some point.

      0 points
  • Nirzar PNirzar P, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    Putting black gradient on the image to make the white text legible.

    36 points
    • Tristam GochTristam Goch, 5 years ago

      Is that really a crutch? Given a situation where you have limited control over what the underlying image is it seems like a pretty reasonable solution.

      33 points
      • Bernardo FarahBernardo Farah, 5 years ago

        If nothing else, it seems like an ugly solution in a lot of cases.

        7 points
      • Jonathan ShariatJonathan Shariat, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

        Well to me a crutch is something that works, but its just holding you there when you should find a better solution overall.

        Like using a crutch instead of healing/setting the leg.

        7 points
      • Nirzar PNirzar P, 5 years ago

        I agree to Jonathan on this one. Crutch is not supposed to be a bad thing but it holds you back. It becomes a go to solution and difficult to think another (or better) way around the problem.

        3 points
        • Nikolaj StausbølNikolaj Stausbøl, 5 years ago

          Yes, this is actually one of the "best" crutches in this thread I think. I don't think anyone would have a gradient transition to image if they could choose

          0 points
    • Josh ClementJosh Clement, 5 years ago

      i recently learnt that those are called scrims

      1 point
  • Tim ParkerTim Parker, 5 years ago

    FLAT DEISNG

    22 points
  • Rick KhannaRick Khanna, 5 years ago

    Circular avatars/profile pics. Designers love it because it looks modern but is so over used. And you actually see less of the image this way. Not the ideal way to crop photos.

    17 points
    • Andreas Ubbe Dall, 5 years ago

      Avatars don't need to be square to be recognizable though. While I agree that circular avatars may very well be overused, you also have to take into consideration how they play in to the overall design's aesthetic, and in a variety of cases circular avatars may be preferable to square.

      17 points
    • Carolann Merchant, 5 years ago

      I do see this being used as a crutch for modernity.

      I disagree that seeing more of the image would be a greater fulfillment of an avatar's purpose. I only want to see enough information in an avatar to tell me the identity of a person.

      The more room you have in an avatar, the more people might be encouraged to use pictures with too much information.

      6 points
    • Jason VanLueJason VanLue, 5 years ago

      I think there is more science behind this than you might initially think. Circular avatars actually are easier for the eyes/brain to process since we're used to seeing faces in a more circular format (vs rectangular).

      6 points
    • Matt SistoMatt Sisto, 5 years ago

      Consider that it is a way to make them visually distinct, in a world (wide web) where most things are square.

      1 point
    • Jake Lazaroff, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

      TECHNICALLY light exposed through a lens creates a circular image, and square or rectangular photos are the result of cropping :D

      …but yes, it's very trendy. Sorry about the pedantry xD

      3 points
    • Ryan Hicks, 5 years ago

      I prefer circles because it feels more friendly and when it deals with avatars that's a perfect situation for the use case IMO.

      0 points
    • barry saundersbarry saunders, 5 years ago

      You do see less of the image, but faces do tend to be circular, so you're just losing background.

      0 points
  • Maurice SvayMaurice Svay, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    Screenshots or mockups displayed with perspective. Usually makes viewer think the screenshot/mock is more polished while making it actually unreadable.

    15 points
    • Ryan Hicks, 5 years ago

      This times a million.

      2 points
    • Cole TownsendCole Townsend, 5 years ago

      This is actually a crutch.

      2 points
    • Corin EdwardsCorin Edwards, 5 years ago

      A mockup should rarely be used for it's pixel perfect nature. Especially in the medium it's a representation of.

      A mockup of an app or a site, on a computer, can too easily be confused with the real thing.

      A mockup in perspective hammers home the idea that it is being 'presented'. There is a politeness to flagging that a mockup isn't a working interface, and that it can't be interacted with.

      1 point
  • Jake ZienJake Zien, 5 years ago

    "Scroll down"

    13 points
  • Mike RundleMike Rundle, 5 years ago

    Making every link on Designer News open in a new tab and generally annoying me every single day :(

    13 points
    • Ben TinsleyBen Tinsley, 5 years ago

      No way, man! target="_blank" isn't always bad! In this case, I think it's good. I know that explaining to you that something you find frustrating actually isn't to me is a useless game, but I feel like I have to share my opinion in case someone from LayerVault is reading this and considering changing it!

      10 points
    • Matt SistoMatt Sisto, 5 years ago

      I never even noticed this because I always right-click to open in a new tab anyway. NICE.

      5 points
      • Carl FaircloughCarl Fairclough, 5 years ago

        ctrl + click / cmd + click

        You owe me a beer, I've just given you a few seconds of your life back

        5 points
        • Matt SistoMatt Sisto, 5 years ago

          Appreciate it, but I knew this, haha. I use the term "right-click" pretty loosely for both of command+click and actual right-click :)

          0 points
    • Nathan NNathan N, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

      That's a common practice not a crutch...

      0 points
    • Aaron DavisAaron Davis, 5 years ago

      Not me. Since I keep Designer News constantly open, I'd rather links open in a new tab. And I'm super busy, I don't have time for right click > open new tab.

      1 point
    • Drew BeckDrew Beck, 5 years ago

      Feel this! It's manageable on desktop, terrible on mobile.

      1 point
  • Cole TownsendCole Townsend, 5 years ago

    I'm feeling a lot of trends vs. crutches here. It's a squares and rectangles kinda situation.

    11 points
  • Maurice CherryMaurice Cherry, 5 years ago

    !important in CSS rules.

    11 points
  • Mitch Malone, 5 years ago

    1) Preferences and Customization: there's research to suggest this a bad thing and I see it all the time. Here, the crutch is deferring design work to the customer. Instead of doing the work to figure out the best way to solve their problem, products offer settings that allow the customer to design the interface.

    2) Using your homepage/dashboard/first thing the customer sees as a dumping ground for calls-to-action that are irrelevant to what the customer is doing. Instead of figuring out the best way to deliver the CTA within a given job-to-be-done (which sometimes is a lot of work), many products just stick it on a dashboard or put it in a modal on the homepage.

    10 points
  • Marcelo Novaes, 5 years ago

    Helvetica (*shots fired!)

    8 points
  • Andy LeverenzAndy Leverenz, 5 years ago

    Hamburger icon

    7 points
  • Klare FrankKlare Frank, 5 years ago

    All caps type.

    6 points
  • Jens NikolausJens Nikolaus, 5 years ago

    Hiding navigation behind an icon on desktop and navigation drawers.

    6 points
  • Eric FilkinsEric Filkins, 5 years ago

    Not using vowels in your startups name.

    6 points
    • Brian A.Brian A., 5 years ago

      I chuckled. This seems to be more of a trend than a crutch, though.

      1 point
  • Arma GetronArma Getron, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    Agencies all do the "huge text overlay menu" thing now. I swear almost every agency site I go on nowadays uses it.

    5 points
    • Casey BrittCasey Britt, 5 years ago

      I wouldn't call this a crutch. Its a focused interaction. You want to navigate, here are your options without any distractions. While I wasn't apart of the decision to do this on the Huge site, I implemented a full screen takeover nav on my own site a couple years ago. I'm all about it.

      4 points
    • Ryan Hicks, 5 years ago

      It works well. Our agency refresh won't have it though. Guess we're the 1%.

      0 points
  • James Mikrut, 5 years ago

    Can't believe that ribbons and / or 'stamps' haven't been noted yet. "How do I treat this text? Bam - with a ribbon. "

    4 points
  • Catalin CimpanuCatalin Cimpanu, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )
    1. ThemeForest

    2. page-container {background-image: url(some-10%-grayscale-image.png) no-repeat bottom right;}

    3. CSSMania

    4. My design/dev mentor

    3 points
  • Ren WalkerRen Walker, 5 years ago

    My least favorite are: * A large slider of images for the hero, usually each unrelated * Collapsing/hiding content users find valuable through tabs, accordions, modals, 3D rotating divs

    Both types of UI are trying to solve the problem of dealing with handling content. Yes, it may look better to have as few things visible as possible if the design is all about minimalism, but by taking the quick approach of 'just hide it until the user happens to click or hover over the area' is amateur. First, deal with how you can display the content, either through better copywriting, typography, visual hierarchy, etc. Remember that most users aren't going to be as savvy as you, and many will exit the site entirely if they can't figure out where to find the content they wanted to see quickly and easily.

    2 points
  • Roland IllésRoland Illés, 5 years ago

    Showing a button's :active state—the one with the inverted gradient and inner shadow—on :hover.

    Also, using em-dashes everywhere—they're sexy ;)

    1 point
  • Mark Ryan SalleeMark Ryan Sallee, 5 years ago

    Right rails.

    "We need a space for ads, let's make a column for it."

    "Ooh, now we have space for all kinds of junk the reader will never interact with."

    1 point
  • Abhishek SureshAbhishek Suresh, 5 years ago

    Large Video Backgrounds. You have to load a friggin' 2~5 MB video to just beautify your hero Container that I would look at for less than a second.

    1 point
  • Coulter PattonCoulter Patton, 5 years ago

    Blog sidebars & inline article links.

    Why do I need to be distracted by this crap while I'm trying to read your article?

    Furthermore, why is most of this crap on the page in the first place?

    Science has condemned multitasking as a productivity method, and yet designers still think it's perfectly fine to assault readers with 100 different link options while reading an article.

    Yes, internal linking is important for SEO, but do we really need to do it in the body of the article?

    Use a source index and related links AFTER the article.

    Thankfully, more designers are figuring this out.

    End rant.

    1 point
    • Kyle ConradKyle Conrad, 5 years ago

      "designers"

      More often than not, it's the clients dictating this type of thing, in my experience.

      0 points
      • Coulter PattonCoulter Patton, 5 years ago

        Maybe for custom work, but clients can't be blamed for the thousands of themes designed with these features.

        Plus, it's part of a designer's job to inform clients on design matters.

        I never let clients dictate anything that ultimately works against their goals. They may persist in the end and get their way, but I'm certainly not going to relent without giving them my recommendation.

        0 points
        • Kyle ConradKyle Conrad, 5 years ago

          A) Definitely agree on those themes - wonder if they include them because they want to or because including them will help the themes sell better? Could be a chicken/egg thing going on.

          B) I would love to say that this worked with all clients all the time, but I've found that once certain clients see something on another site or get an idea in their head, they will cling to that until the end. Sure, I'll recommend other solutions, but doesn't mean I always win that fight.

          0 points
          • Coulter PattonCoulter Patton, 5 years ago

            Yeah, I don't win them all either. But I feel like we all gotta keep trying.

            Smaller companies tend to listen, but some of the bigger clients I've worked with have a "vision" that doesn't include my input.

            I've just never understood those companies that hire you and then presume to know what the best solution is. It's a sore point for me, as I'm sure it is for all designers.

            2 points
    • James GreigJames Greig, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

      Disagree with you on inline links.

      Links maketh the web.

      Separating them from the content makes them less usable...

      Imagine trying to use Wikipedia without inline links for example.

      Ok that's an extreme article, but a well designed link style shouldn't be so loud that it makes a paragraph of text containing a few links unreadable.

      2 points
      • Coulter PattonCoulter Patton, 5 years ago

        Yeah, I see your point.

        A few subtle links within an article is fine. I guess my biggest beef is with these sites where you're reading an article and damn near every other sentence is a hyperlink to another article.

        I just keep thinking, "hey, can I finish the article I'm reading NOW before you redirect me to some other article?"

        I much prefer the method employed in books where you have an unobtrusive indicator that a source is cited or an idea needs elaboration, then you can reference those at the bottom of the page or in the appendix.

        I just prefer an unobtrusive reading environment where I can focus on the content in front of me without being tempted to click away.

        0 points
  • Alex ParkerAlex Parker, 5 years ago

    White text over a colorized photograph in the header of the landing page.

    1 point
  • Robin RaszkaRobin Raszka, 5 years ago

    Back button in mobile UI.

    1 point
  • Al HaighAl Haigh, 5 years ago

    'Hollow' buttons in the page header - (1px border with no fill). I'm not sure this is a crutch, but it's certainly an overused design pattern these days (I'm guilty of overusing it)

    0 points
  • Mike CuestaMike Cuesta, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    Lines, usually used to separate/organize items

    0 points
  • Nick de JardineNick de Jardine, 5 years ago

    'Scroll to enter'

    0 points
  • Taylor LeCroyTaylor LeCroy, 5 years ago

    Grunge textures

    0 points
  • Suzanne GauseSuzanne Gause, 5 years ago

    I second carousels, especially on homepages!

    0 points
  • Jason PerezJason Perez, 5 years ago

    Generalized feedback.

    "Just ______-idize it!"

    0 points
  • John WilsonJohn Wilson, 5 years ago

    I don't think the issue is with certain styles being a "crutch." I think it comes down to execution.

    Sometimes a 1px drop shadow on text fits the art direction and at other times a dark gradient over unknown images to make white text readable is perfectly acceptable. I think it becomes a "crutch" when the solution is used for a "trendy" sake or because "everyone else is doing it."

    It also comes down to technical execution—make sure it's pulled off well if it is being used in many different existing projects.

    0 points
  • Alex C.Alex C., 5 years ago

    Background images.

    0 points
  • Mitch De CastroMitch De Castro, 5 years ago

    Full-width background images are like the granite countertops of web design.

    Definitely overused.

    0 points
  • Steve McKinneySteve McKinney, 5 years ago

    Phone number in the header. This is a rant for me in itself but its not about that.

    The reason it's a crutch is it never looks good being crammed in somewhere around the logo or the navigation while you're trying to keep it relatively compact. Nevermind what you do on a small screen as it has this importance.

    0 points
  • David DarnesDavid Darnes, 5 years ago
    • Tall headers with nothing but a title & image
    • Website screenshots shown on a device of any kind
    • Using the menu toggle button on all devices, even desktop

    I'm sure I could think of others. Bare in mind all of these could be disputed within reason.

    0 points
  • Geoff YuenGeoff Yuen, 5 years ago

    Flat Design -- not the whole idea behind it but people just copying the same colours, layouts and icon styles. I think people should put their own spin on it and not copy it wholesale from one another.

    0 points
  • Jason KirtleyJason Kirtley, 5 years ago

    Blurred Hero images (on a homepage or otherwise). If someone can't see what it is, what is the purpose? why not use just a texture, pattern or some sort of color. If you use a photograph, make it work as a photograph or omit it.

    0 points
  • Beth DeanBeth Dean, 5 years ago

    I don't know if it's a crutch so much as a cliche but I fly into a murderous rage whenever I see designers appropriating the NYC Hardcore logo for taco shops or their one person studio branding, etc.

    0 points
  • Christian Krammer, 5 years ago

    It would be really interesting what actual users think about all these crutches, if there are some amongst them, that they dislike, or if they just don't care as long as they find the information they are looking for.

    0 points