Myth #10: If your design is good, small details don’t matter

“The details are not the details. They make the design.” said Charles Eames. Fine details, such as an informative error message, a reassuring piece of microcopy, or the orders in which products are shown on a category page, strongly impact the user experience and the bottom line.

Small details go a long way. This is what Apple is all about: obsessive attention to details down to the smallest bits.


Where small optimizations affected the bottom line:

  • On, the small change of allowing people to skip sign-up during checkout resulted in $300 million extra revenue per year. – The $300 Million Button
  • ClickTale doubled their sign-up conversions from 40% to 80% with a simple change of adding an explicit and very visible “optional” label to the phone number input box. – Change one word, DOUBLE your conversion rate!
  • A little improvement of the error messages on an e-commerce website increased completed purchases by 0.5% (a lot compared to the effort) and saved over £250,000 per year for the company. – £250,000 from better error messages
  • Restaurant menus may sport several details that influence your decision, including pictures as motivators, decoy plates to serve as comparison points, omitting the dollar sign, avoiding listing prices in a column, etc. Such details may seem irrelevant but in fact matter a lot. – Menu Mind Games
  • … for more web optimization examples, see VWO’s case studies.

Further reading on why details matter:

  • Naz Hamid argues that designers ought to focus on details and be obsessive about it: they should always experiment, be their own critic, and strive to finish every last detail of a design. – Design is in the Details
  • Des Taynor says that users often judge the quality of a software based on quick impression. Moreover, a restaurant research confirmed that such nuance as the quality of napkins affect customer satisfaction. – The thickness of napkins
  • Service designer Jeff Howard writes that companies struggling to create flawless services may be better off focusing their efforts only on some details. – The Problem with Service Design
  • Joshua Brewer on the importance of the so called delightful details: “The service industry has known this secret forever. There is a very short space of time and limited interaction to shape the experience for the customer. In these moments, the customer can be pleasantly surprised by the little extras: the attention to details, speed of service, some extra ‘whatever’ or even just a smile. If the customer walks away feeling like there was a little extra attention paid to them, you can guarantee they will be back and most likely will tell their friends about it as well.” – Design for Delight
  • An inspirational collection of little design details – Little big details