Clearing Excessive Ballast

Excessive weights running down

The application elements that make no prac­ti­cal change should some­times be re­moved (or other­wise hidden) from the screen be­cause they need­less­ly oc­cupy users’ attention. When there is no ben­e­ficial con­tri­bu­tion, these el­e­ments cause ex­ces­sive ballast in users’ cognitive load.

A case from On the Cities web­page, there ap­pears to be a com­pletely un­nec­es­sary hor­i­zon­tal scroll­bar at the bot­tom of a web browser. Al­though hor­i­zon­tally, the con­tent is en­tirely shown to the vis­i­tors, the scroll­bar ap­pears as if there should be more content yet to be dis­cov­ered by moving to the right. website on Mac OS with unnecessary horizontal scrollbar appearance.

Figure 1: Cities webpage on Mac OS. Would moving the horizontal scrollbar show something more? website on Windows OS with unnecessary horizontal scrollbar appearance.

Figure 2: Same appearance on Windows OS with unneccesary horizontal scrollbar.

When visitors come to such a web­page, they see some­thing un­u­sual, some­thing they have not seen on hun­dreds of other pages. Because of that, such an un­usual el­e­ment (e.g., a hor­i­zon­tal scroll­bar) takes at­ten­tion from visitors’ focus they de­vote to the content.

If visitors attempt to discover what’s hidden at the right side of their current view, they don’t see anything added, though they expected something more. That is a needless, unfulfilled expectation for them that doesn’t contribute to the perception that the website is flawless. If scrollbars don’t serve a purpose by showing something more, there should be no scrollbars at all. website zoomed-in on Win OS with unnecessary second vertical scrollbar appearance.

Figure 3: A second (small) vertical scrollbar appears after zooming in on the website. Pressing up or down buttons makes no change for the user.

A case from There is a lan­guage selection on two places of this web­site (top-right and bottom-left). Both selections offer no other lan­guage than Slovakian, which vis­i­tors already have displayed. From the vis­i­tors’ per­spec­tive, that is a needless ex­pec­ta­tion for them.

Also, on majority of user inter­faces du­pli­cat­ing the same func­tion­al­ity (in this case lan­guage se­lec­tion) is not rec­om­mended, as it need­lessly cause ex­ces­sive ballast in users’ cognitive load.

Figure 4: Trying to select another language on but the only available language is the already displayed one. Download item

* Update: The Uber website now has no more need­less horizontal scrollbars. The lan­guage se­lec­tions on are now com­pletely removed. Congratulations to both for putting our advices into action.

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