Category Archives: Web Design

The Uncomfortable Side of Design

In March 2016, Twitter celebrated its 10th birthday. It was a day filled with pride for the company and many of its followers. In order to make the day amazing for its users, Twitter released a delightful like/heart button animation.

It was awesome, but as soon as the day was over the animation was gone too. Some people don’t care and some didn’t even notice but those who did were left with a void. I’m not exaggerating; hear me out. The heart explodes with confetti, it bounces and is jolly and colorful. Overall, it makes the mundane tasks of liking or favoriting a tweet much more interesting and fun. When you take that away it’s a little sad and underwhelming.

Since it’s birthday, Twitter did update the heart animation to be a little but more than just a color change but it’s still nothing compared to the confetti explosion. All in all, this is a silly complaint yet people are disappointed enough to blog about it on The Next Web. It actually bummed people out, which is rude and awful.

 

Taking a Step Back

Let’s also talk about the aspect of hearts versus stars. If you recall, late 2015, Twitter changed its UI from stars to hearts. “The heart is a universal symbol, it’s a much more inclusive symbol,” said Casey Newton. Check out Twitter’s gif for what the new heart UI is all about. (No, it’s not the same as the confetti explosion from their birthday.)

The decision was business oriented because Twitter was excited for increased interactivity due to the change. Again, that’s all fine and dandy but what happens when you have a negative thoughts. How is a heart at all an appropriate response for a negative remark? It’s not, it’s insensitive and unhelpful. A star is also unhelpful, for what it’s worth.

 

It’s Not Just Twitter’s Problem

I am not picking on Twitter. It happens to be a great source of examples. What if there is breaking news of a terrible incident?

Typography Cheat Sheet

Understanding type can be one of the most difficult elements of design. There’s a lot of terminology and lingo that type designers (and designers, in general) use when talking about lettering. Sometimes it can be tough to decipher it all.

If you find yourself wondering what the difference between a hook and a counter are or you still aren’t sure how a serif and a slab are different, we have you covered with this typography cheat sheet.

It describes all of the different aspects of lettering, from terminology to components to type styles and methods of typographic manipulation so you will have a better grasp on how to understand and use typography in your design projects.

Are you ready to get started? We’ve got a great infographic to help you better understand the elements of typography.

But there is a good amount of overlap, and to be a great UI/UX designer you’ll need to dip a toe into both worlds.

In this guide I want to comb over the fundamental skills that you should learn to promote yourself as a quality UI and/or UX designer. Job security is much easier when you can alternate between both roles. And it’ll be easier for you to see the big picture in any creative project.

Improve Usability and User Experience by Decluttering Designs

We often speak about decluttering in the sense of physical stuff like closets or storage. But, we can also speak about decluttering designs too. Decluttering can help improve usability and the user experience on websites.

Here are four tips for decluttering you designs.

 

1. Shorten the Copy

Dating back to 1997, Nielsen Norman Group conducted a study to learn how users read on the web. I’m sure you know that they don’t read. Instead, most people scan the pages. Yet, there are plenty of websites filled with unnecessary words. Unfortunately, copy that is messy or indirect is common. You can clean up the content of a website by removing the amount of words on the screen.

Remove unnecessary words. Shorten run-on-sentences and remove redundant sentences, too. Always have one idea per paragraph. It’s a good form of writing and it’s better for those readers who scan. Finally, and this is true especially of long-form content, use the inverted pyramid structure. Start with the conclusion and add more detail as the content gets longer.

This is one of my favorite apps, Days. It’s an app for counting down days until an event. The app’s landing page has very little copy per section. The above screenshot is from a single section of the landing page. Notice the super short copy. It look good and reads even better.

Aiia is a waterproof speaker and its landing page is fantastic. Despite a scroll oddity, I am in love with the page’s cleanliness. The limited copy is a fantastic way to get the main idea across to users without getting lost in mountains of words.

 

2. Remove Visual Decoration

When it comes to visuals, sometimes we want to throw in an extra element just to make things pretty. We all want the design to look good. And although those intentions are good, the execution can become too much. That’s why I’m a big proponent of removing any decorations that are not necessary. The great thing about decorations is that they don’t hurt the user experience if you remove them.

Great Personal Online Portfolio

As a designer I think we’ve all experienced the difficulty of creating something personal, including a portfolio. You end up spending countless hours in Photoshop, trying a hundred different things and after two months you realize that your homepage still says “under construction.”

This might not be the case for everybody, but being my own client is quite challenge and that’s why I want to share how you can better set up a personal portfolio.

 

What’s the Purpose of Your Portfolio?

Before jumping in Photoshop and pumping out cool ideas, start with the core of your “business.” You are the client. Just as any other project you need to set goals first.

  • Do you want to sell products?
  • Simply showcase your products?
  • Get to know you?
  • Educate your audience?

This might seem strange, but the main purpose of my personal portfolio is not to hire me. In my case 90 percent of the inquiries I get are via Dribbble, so I decided to focus more on showcasing personal favorites.

 

Wireframing

Now that you’ve seen the examples, you probably want to start redesigning right away. That’s fine, but don’t open Photoshop yet. Grab pen and paper instead.

Set a time limit; let’s say one hour, and sketch out all the things that come to mind. Even when you think you’re done after 30 minutes, keep pushing. Nothing is “ugly” or “not done” in this stage. Aim for 20 completely different layouts.

Promoting Yourself and Your Work

You can be the most creative and productive designer in the world, but it doesn’t mean anything without paid work. Designers can rely on repeat clients but it’s important to keep meeting new potential clients and building future relationships.

In this post I’d like to share tips and strategies for getting your work out there into the eyes of clients and other designers. There is no one best method to use, and in fact you should employ multiple strategies to garner the largest reach possible.

But make a game plan and learn why self-promotion is so important. Through practice it’ll become a lot easier like second nature.

 

It All Starts With A Portfolio

This should be obvious but I’m surprised how many designers have a weak portfolio of work, or even worse nothing at all.

Everyone uses the Internet and there’s no reason to believe this is slowing down.

If you do any digital work then you should have an online portfolio. This includes all creative jobs whether you’re an icon designer, web designer, digital artist, motion graphics designer, or anything similar. And this doesn’t mean that you need a custom website domain (although it’s a big help).

But you can setup a simple free portfolio on a service like Tumblr, Dribbble, or Behance.

People often browse these websites specifically looking for talent to hire. Your work needs to be good to actually land jobs. But having anything online is better than nothing.

Web Design Trends

Ready to refresh your website? The start of the year is a great time to take a hard look at your existing design – or even new projects – and think about how to incorporate some of the latest trends into the framework.

From functionality to color and typography, 2017 will be a year of new ideas and new visual concepts to explore. Some of those designs are already starting to pop up, providing you with just enough visual inspiration to get off to the right start in the new year. Let’s take a look.

 

1. Gradients

Missing from the design landscape for a few years, gradients are making a major comeback. But the look of the color blurring technique has shifted.

In the last round of gradients, there were subtle variations throughout the design. Apple’s iOS icons were a prime example. Now, gradients are big, bold and use plenty of color.

The most popular usage is a two color gradient overlay on photos. (This technique can look absolutely amazing!) It’s a great option to switch up your look or to make a less-than-interesting photo a little more intriguing. You can also use a gradient background to draw the eye when you don’t have other imagery to work with.

 

2. Video with Sound

People are becoming more accustomed to watching videos – from short bits of YouTube to movies – on their devices. Websites can mimic this cinematic experience as well with a full-on video with sound display on the homepage. (It does not have to be auto-play to be effective.)

Proceed with caution. Include an option to toggle sound off and on, because not all users will appreciate it. The content needs to be so stellar that users will demand sound as part of the experience. (This is a trend that can be tough to pull off but can work beautifully if you have the right video and sound content combination.)

 

3. Virtual Reality (Almost)

Virtual Reality will likely be the most talked about design element of 2017. With more devices on the market – and at affordable price points – VR is going to be big. Gamers will probably get the most out of VR initially, but it could definitely reach into marketing and other applications.

Affect The User Experience

Interfaces are all about communication and getting things done. A website’s UI is a means to an end, and the designer’s job is to create an interface that helps the user reach that end quickly.

Icons are perfect for interfaces because they convey meaning without words. Users can learn how an interface works just by studying the visuals and interacting with the elements.

In this post I’ll cover a few different ways to use icons to improve the quality of UX on a website. There are no perfect uses but there are commonalities between great icons and an improved user experience.

 

Enhanced Navigation

Icons naturally help users navigate through a website based on visuals alone. The best icons are the ones that most people recognize so you always want to stick with these first.

Tim includes icons above each link label to distinguish between purpose and behavior. It’s one of the clearest methods for icon use because it’s easy to see and easy to understand.

Always remember to include text labels for links too. Pure icons for navigation rarely works, or at least it’s not the best case for usability.

Another really important icon is the three-bar menu icon. This is also called the hamburger menu and while many designers hate it, more people are slowly realizing what this symbol means.

The menu on Inc is another great example showing how icons tie into navigation.

Features That are Missing from Your Web Design

As a business owner, have you ever been totally clueless as to why your website isn’t converting? Do you feel like you have everything in place, yet your audience isn’t following through on your call to actions buttons, and your bounce rate is sky high? There could be a few crucial web design features that are missing on your website, and adding and adjusting them might mean the difference between success and failure.

Use this article as a ‘checklist’ to see whether your web design is on par, and which features you can implement to boost conversions and encourage engagement.

At the end of the day your audience will be attracted to modern design, elements they sub-consciously accept as the norm, because they’ve had that user-experience on other websites. Think of modern design as a combination of art, design, and functionality. When these elements ‘work’ in harmony your page will be undeniable and ultimately guide the visitor to where you want them to be.

So, ‘What’s Missing’?

 

1. Web Design That’s not Unique to Your Industry & Brand

Your web design is the first impression a visitor will have about the business. This page should not only be reflective of your industry, products or services, but it should stand out from competition and reflect your company culture. The Following should be considered:

  • Design should attract and imprint in the memory of your visitors to create “awareness”
  • Content should create a narrative to ‘tell your story’ through the website.

Make sure that your web design is unique and recognizable. Distinct visual approach & style, typography and interactive design elements play a big role in this department. All this creates the first impression in your visitor’s head and is crucial for the next interaction with your website.

Your content should engage. It shouldn’t be boring. A great way to incorporate additional interaction, to make your visitors stay connected is through the use of bold hero sections with enriched sliders, video content and content animations.

  • Hover Animations will make the website more intuitive and will give additional information regarding a feature function. Hovering over a feature or image will allow for instant visual feedback.
  • Large Scale Animations include effects like parallax scrolling and pop-up notifications.
  • Loading animations are used to keep a user engaged and are popular for one-page sites, flat design and minimalism.
  • Background animations and videos should be used in moderation but can add to the storytelling element of the page. It should be seen as an add-on and not a distraction.

A great example of this aspects is the creative WordPress theme TheGem recently released on Themeforest marketplace. This theme understands the need for individuality, creativity, awareness and interaction, offering many industry specific unique design concepts . When going through the demo pages of this theme you will see how different industry stories can be told in an attractive visual way, involving the user in interaction and remaining in his/her memory.

 

2. No Trending UX and UI Features

Even though your page visitor might not be able to pinpoint the exact reason why don’t find your website appealing, their subconscious will pick up that your page is sub-standard. Trending features within design can take a variety of forms, but for the last few years, these features are taking the front seat for UX and UI.

  • Scroll Jacking is where the user’s scrolling is directed to an exact vertical point on the screen, such as the top of the next content container. It’s replaced native scrolling and is more targeted. Here are some examples for that:
    1. Design for Your Satisfaction
    2. Lookbook
    3. Brilliance of Perfection

Hiring The Best Web Designer

Hiring a web design can be an exciting process. When I talk about hiring a web design in this post, the advice can be applied in a variety of ways. First, it could mean hiring a single, usually freelance, designer for a job you need to be done. It could also refer to a web design agency.

Additionally, it could be advice for hiring a web designer for your own team. The advice is valuable for web designers who are looking to improve their portfolio. Now, let’s discuss five different but important things when trying to hire a web designer.

 

The work shows off responsive design

It’s still surprising how many times responsive designs don’t make it into a web designer portfolio. It’s hard to say if a designer is capable of delivering responsive design if it’s not there. It could be omitted by mistake or because they have never done it. You can’t tell if it’s not there. Now, this guide refers to a web designer.

The web is a flexible medium that works on the tiniest devices and their tiny screens to larger devices and their larger screens. It’s important for any website to have a good responsive design. At this point in time, there is no excuse in not at least including a screenshot of the responsive design as part of a project’s case study.

Trends For Modal Windows On The Web

Modal windows are those popup windows that appear over the screen rather than opening a new tab/window. They usually darken the background to bring attention to the popup.

Most websites running modal windows add some type of call to action whether it’s a button or a form or something. But it can also be a simple message about browser features like disabled JavaScript or an adblock extension.

Everything in the window takes precedence over the page so these modals are meant to draw attention. They can be annoying and outright infuriating but numbers don’t lie: they work.

Let’s delve a bit into current trends of modal windows to see how they work and why you’d use them.

 

Dark Backgrounds & Clickable Areas

Modal windows follow a similar design strategy and they’re not very complicated.

They mostly all use a darkened background on the page to bring attention to the modal content. This shouldn’t be a pitch black background because that can feel intimidating.

Instead the user should see a touch of the page behind the background, but it should have a reduced opacity. This could be 90% or 50% depending on how much you want to hide the page.

This isn’t universal but I hate when designers remove or ignore this feature. Yes there’s usually an X button or close button, however it takes more effort to move the mouse onto that button.

It should be possible to just click the background and hide the message right away.