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Updated: 10 hours 9 min ago

10 rules for designing emails your customers will want to read

10 hours 56 min ago

Email continues to be one of the most popular ways that companies interact with their customers. As with everything else in the design world, how you design an email will have a tremendous impact on things like the click rate and the retention of your subscribers.

When you design for email, you should make the most of the fleeting opportunity you have to make an impression on your subscribers. One of the Cialdini principles of persuasion applies here: if you offer your readers great value through your email, they’ll gladly reciprocate by taking the time to read through and click on any links.

Of course, designing for email also entails responsive email design since almost half of all email opens today occur on a mobile device. Here are the can’t-miss components of successful email design.

 

1) Transparency counts

Double-check the kinds of subject lines, copy, sender names and even preheaders that you use. Never make any of these ambiguous or confusing for your readers. Otherwise, they’ll be so much likelier to mark your emails as junk or outright delete them.

Instead, always tell your readers your identity, what they’re reading and what the benefits of reading will be. The trick is to get all of this information as close to the top of your email as you can. Having all this information stare your readers in the face as soon as they open your email means your proposition won’t be ignored.

This example shows two emails where the sender name’s in a huge font, the subject line’s crystal clear and the benefits of reading are staring the subscriber right in the face.

 

2) Follow a conventional pattern

This is the one time when being conventional and not doing something unexpected helps your cause. People are going to expect certain commonalities in all emails they open. For instance, when designing for handheld devices, be sure to make big as well as easily clickable and tappable buttons for your links. It’s best to even make them 100% of the width of the screen because users want to tap with either thumb!

If you place additional links in the copy of your email, make sure that they appear in contrasting and bold colors to make them stand out and scream for attention. Never put links too close together since it would be annoying if users accidentally tap the wrong link.

Finally, see to it that you also make the advantages of clicking so obvious that they can’t be missed. A good way of achieving this is to combine the advantages of a click with the button itself. For example, ideal button copy would be “get your free demo now.”

Here’s a good example of using bold colors in email links to get the attention of readers.

 

3) Minimalism: say more with less

No one makes time to read that much, especially mobile users, so don’t write a lot in your email copy. Readers will simply scan the email for stuff that holds their interest instead of reading the entire email word-for-word. Split up the chunks of text into small pieces that are easier to consume.

A marketing email, for example, has the objective of getting readers to click back to your website. Don’t stall this intended outcome with a long piece of text. At any rate, longer text just makes it so much more tempting for readers to send your email to the trash.

See these examples of how minimalist emails appear in Evomail.

 

4) Promote scan-friendly reading

Readers love to scan emails, so make them easy to scan. You’ll accomplish this by dividing your text into delineated and orderly chunks that get right to the point. The use of crystal-clear headings and the emphasis of significant concepts in bold will empower your scanning subscribers to get to the gist straightaway.

Geico’s transactional email illustrates scan-friendly emails to the hilt.

 

5) Say as much as you want, just later on

Design your email copy so that the most gripping and shorter details come first; only include your longer content after that. This way, you aren’t making any of your readers slog through the longer content, save for the ones who really want to read the longer content. So there is a place for longer content in email marketing, but it just has to come in the right place in the email.

 

6) Reiterate the call to action

In marketing emails, the call to action is the whole reason for sending your readers the email to begin with. It therefore pays to repeat the call to action later on in the email, particularly if your email has longer content. No one wants to scroll all the way back to the beginning of the email to see the call to action again.

MailChimp’s email repeats its call to action at the top and then again at the bottom.

 

7) Limit the number of choices

An excess of choices in your email will cause a cognitive overload on your subscribers, so they’ll be that much less likely to actually go ahead and make a decision. Ponder carefully over just what the minimum requirement would be to get a reader to click to go to your site. You want to just gradually introduce this necessary detail to the reader. If you give him too much information at the beginning, then he’ll be likelier to abandon his task.

 

8) Rely on that whitespace

Whitespace is very effective even in email design. Whitespace is highly useful when it comes to breaking apart crucial bits of information to make it easier for the reader to absorb important details. If you’ve got a lot of elements that are the same size as well as weight, then incorporating whitespace allows readers’ eyes to focus on the stuff that matters. Without whitespace, your email body can appear as a formless, huge block that readers may just skip over.

Here, you can see how whitespace focuses the reader’s attention to the marketing message.

 

9) A special word on responsive email design

Today, people are looking at their mobile devices around 150 times a day! In addition, 4 out of 5 people will delete emails if they fail to look good on their mobile devices. All this means that you have to focus more intently on bringing your message across to your readers more efficiently than ever.

The media query @media is used in responsive email design. @media is a unique set of CSS styles that behave like either dynamic rules or conditional statements. They can help you create emails that are more readable on various screen sizes.

What they do is identify a device’s screen size and then various sets of rules that apply to said screen size. Based on specifically what you want to accomplish, media queries may be easy or hard to implement. Note that these won’t work in all email clients and also need more planning as well as testing than ordinary emails.

Based on your specific screen size, media types define the exact CSS styles to utilize. Essentially, this media type says, if your email’s viewed on a screen size that’s 480px or smaller, use the following CSS.

So that would be: @media screen and (max-width: 480px)

Responsive email support

Currently, not all handheld devices and clients support responsive email. That’s why designers must keep abreast of what devices and clients support responsive email. That’s why it’s a really good idea to actually test your emails out in a bunch of different devices and clients, so that you can be sure.

Here is where responsive emails are currently supported:

  • Android 4.x Email OEM app
  • iOS Mail app
  • Windows Phone 7.5
  • BlackBerry Z10
  • BlackBerry OS7

Here is where responsive emails are currently not supported:

  • Android Gmail app
  • iPhone Gmail app
  • iPhone Yahoo Mail app
  • iPhone Mailbox app
  • Blackberry OS5
  • Android Yahoo Mail app
  • Windows Phone 7
  • Windows Phone 8
  • Windows Mobile 6.1 

 

10) Design email for readers

As with all other aspects of web design, the job of designers is to design for the user in order to enhance the user experience. That has to be priority number one. Otherwise, your emails won’t be a big hit with your readers and subscribers.

There are so many things to consider, everything from transparency and following a conventional pattern to minimalism and whitespace. If you want to reach folks on mobile, you have to also figure in responsive email design. Keeping these tips in mind will greatly help with your email click rate.

 

Featured image/thumbnail, email image via Shutterstock.



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The best free WordPress plugins for August 2014

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 08:15

Ladies, Gents… welcome back! It’s time for another round of WordPress plugins that you might just find useful. As per usual, I’ve installed every plugin listed here and given it a test.

We have a variety of plugins, too. Some of them add features to WordPress, integrate with third-party services (which seems to be a theme this month), or merely refine existing features.

As always, let us know in the comments if we’ve missed one of your favorites, or if you have any feedback on the plugins we’ve featured.

Conversion optimization by 40Nuggets

Okay, this plugin has its pros and cons. First off, allow me to state its purpose: increase your conversions.

It integrates your WordPress install with the 40nuggets website to create Call to Action (CTA) campaigns, for free.

These CTAs are delivered by modal windows. I know. The thought makes me sick too. I just really, really hate it when an unsolicited modal window comes out of nowhere, blocks the rest of the page, and forces you to deal with it before you can continue browsing the site.

But it’s like any tool: it’s all about how you use it. From the admin interface, you can change the modal window to a “slide-in” affair which won’t disrupt the experience too badly. Pair this with the plugin’s advanced CTA campaign options and conversion reports, you have a powerful tool for attracting new, regular readers.

What’s more, the whole thing is driven by what’s called an “Algorithmic Intelligence”, which will decide when is the best time to show a notification to an individual user. If you want more refined control, you can set the calls to action to show themselves after a certain number of page views.

Other features I like: you can choose to display CTAs only to anonymous users, and how often to show them to an individual user (I’d recommend only once). You can also choose to show them after the user has spent a specific amount of time on the site. You can customize the design of the slide-in CTA, or code your own. You can set CTAs to remain inactive if an individual user has already seen a different one. You can make them appear only in certain subsections of your site.

Features I don’t like: Well, the traditional modal windows aside, you can set these Calls to Action to appear when a user tries to leave your website. I hate that. I REALLY hate that. You can also set them to appear on every page view, and other annoying things like that.

In other words, this plugin has the potential to be a powerful and useful tool for increasing your regular readership. It could also be used to nag your users into leaving forever. Be careful with it.

(Crazy idea: have a slide-in notification that shows up maybe once or twice a month with no call to action, just a compliment for your readers. “You’re awesome!”, that sort of thing.)

 

WPCore plugin manager

This is one of my favorites for the month. It makes use of another third-party service; but again, it’s free.

WPCore allows you to create collections (lists) of plugins hosted on wordpress.org. Then, using their WordPress plugin, you can install/activate the entire collection in one go.

While signing up for their service will allow you to create your own collections, either public or private, you don’t need to. There are a number of public collections of plugins that anyone can use.

For people who make a lot of WordPress sites, this could drastically streamline the initial set-up, especially if you use a lot of plugins.

 

Resume Builder

I’ve never really thought of using WordPress for building résumés visually, but this tool makes it quite easy. You get the standard introduction section, skill list, and so on. But then, you can build more detailed, customized sections for your résumé.

Then, you can use shortcodes to call in each section individually, should you so desire, giving you more precise control over the layout on the front end.

Since the résumés themselves are custom post types, you can create and post any number of them. The potential use cases for this plugin are interesting to ponder. Perhaps a site where anyone in a particular location/industry can post their résumé? It could also be used to build a directory of local celebrity profiles, or any number of things you can imagine.

 

Esty360

The misspelled title aside — an error that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence — this is a simple and reliable way to display the contents of your Etsy shop on your WordPress site.

I won’t go into too much detail here. It’s integrated with an online store, and it works. Those who want to know more should check out the official documentation.

 

Instagram Feed

Need a quick and easy way to pull your own, non-private, Instagram feed onto a post or page with a shortcode? Now you have it.

Install it, and head over to the configuration options. The layout can be percentage-based, but it’s not quite responsive. Further configuration of the gallery layout will require editing some CSS yourself.

 

SVG Support

WordPress normally doesn’t allow for the uploading of SVG files into the media library for security reasons. If you want to work with SVG files, install this plugin, and go.

Additionally, it makes things easier for those who want to use CSS to style their SVG images directly. If you have multiple authors on your WordPress site, you can limit the ability to upload SVG images to Administrators.

 

Remove problematic formatting options from tinyMCE

I know I have, more than once, felt a certain amount of trepidation when handing over websites to my clients. When provided with WYSIWYG functionality, they will almost invariably use it, sometimes to disastrous effect.

In other words, they’ll try to right-align (or center) something that should not be right-aligned (or centered) and screw your layout all to hell.

There are ways around this, and many plugins designed to manage TinyMCE, allowing you to customize it to your will. This one, despite its unwieldy name, does not allow for feature-by-feature customization. Instead, it provides a set of reasonable defaults, and leaves it at that.

Mind you, there’s nothing to stop your clients from making seventy-eight percent of their text ALL-CAPS AND BOLD TOO; but there’s only so much you can do.

 

GuideMe

Handing a WordPress site you just built over to someone else, and want to give them some easy visual references? This tool allows you to select any public page or post on your site, and tie tooltip notes to any element on that page/post.

These tooltips will only display to logged-in site administrators, and they are crazy easy to manage. What’s more, because they are tied to specific elements, and not absolute positions, they work just fine with responsive layouts.

 

Junk Deleter

Warning: back up your database before you try this one!

Junk Deleter promises to clean up your database, making it run faster. How does it do this? Well, here’s a list of everything it cleans out:

  • Old drafts (the ones that have not been edited in the past X days).
  • Post revisions.
  • Automatically created drafts (auto-drafts).
  • Posts in the trash section.
  • Orphan postmeta entries (the postmeta whose post no longer exists in the database).
  • Pending comments older than X days
  • Comments in the spam section
  • Comments in the trash section
  • Pingbacks and trackbacks
  • Orphan comment meta entries

This cleanup can be performed on a weekly or monthly basis. I installed it on my test install, tried the cleanup, and nothing broke. That’s the closest thing to a guarantee that you’ll get out of me.

 

Bonus: Romance admin color scheme

Are you building a WordPress website for Barbie? Do you like pink? Do you want your WordPress admin side to be pink? Get your pink UI here!

Okay, speaking from a usability standpoint, I think this plugin could be improved with a bit more contrast, especially in the navigation bar on the left. The main shade of pink used is a bit too light, and makes my eyes blur the white text.

I’d also take the word “Romance” out of the title. I’ve never actually understood what the color has to do with the concept. Besides, everyone knows romance is red (at least in North America…).



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How to design a successful web app walkthrough

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 08:15

We’ve all interacted with an app walkthrough at some point or another. Heck, some of us designed them.

But when you take a look at the design literature out there, you will notice there is very little that specifically deals with app walkthroughs. They are such an important aspect of an app’s overall experience because, after all, they are the first interaction a user has with an app (if the walkthrough is present that is).

In this post, I have gathered a few tips for you by observing current apps to see what they do with their app walkthroughs and what we can learn from them.

Should your app have a walkthrough?

I wanted to start this post by pointing out that there are some apps with should have walkthroughs but don’t, and some apps that have them but shouldn’t.

The purpose of a walkthrough is to provide insight about what your app can do. If your app is simple enough, or self-explanatory enough, it may not need a walkthrough, in which case save your time for something more vital.

But, if your app has hidden functionality, a walkthrough is a great place to demo it, so that users don’t miss out.

Take Litely for example. Litely is a photo editing app and it has a bunch of hidden gestures that can improve the experience of the overall app. It lets you view the picture, before you added any filters, by simply taping the photo with two fingers. Instagram lets you do this too but it uses only one finger. No one knows about this functionality because Litely doesn’t tell you about it; if you discover this functionality in Litely, you do so by accident.

On the other hand we have an app like SoundCloud, which has a lovely looking walkthrough at the beginning of the app experience. However, one of the screens explains to you something very obvious: how to follow another user and what to expect from the search icon. You’d be ard pressed to find an app user who doesn’t understand the magnifying glass icon, so when it comes to this specific screen from SoundCloud there’s little to gain from wasting a user’s time. The walkthrough would have been just as successful without it.

 

Pay attention to the design

It’s hard to create a walkthrough if you haven’t created the app, so walkthroughs are often created last. This frequently leads to a lot of inconsistencies.

If you are going to have a walkthrough, make sure the design of it is just as solid as the rest of your app. A good looking walkthrough is important because it is in fact the first thing your users will see. It’s crucial to have the walkthrough implemented in your brand’s style so you don’t confuse users.

Take advantage of graphics and animations

Walkthroughs are so much more engaging when they use great pictures or images. Better yet, walkthroughs that use animations are great at catching users’ attention. The best example of this is Box. Box is a cloud based file storing app; when you first use their app they have a quick walkthrough where they demonstrate to you how the app is versatile and supports many different file formats across various devices.

Better yet, the walkthrough uses a single file and it animates it as the file jumps from one slide to another. The experience is so pleasant because it’s clever and looks really well thought out. The visual design of the walkthrough is good too as the slides/pages have a clean design. 

Make it interactive

Because a walkthrough is supposed to educate your user about how your app works you might want to consider making it interactive. The best way to get people to see the cool functionality of your app is by making them use it. The current version of Mailbox, an email client app, has a nifty walkthrough that tells you about the hidden functionality of sorting email by swiping it left or right. It tells you that if you swipe right the email will archive; next, it makes you do it. It can be a dangerous decision to make users interact with your walkthrough but in Mailbox’s case the request is simple, all the user has to do it swipe! It’s a brilliant idea show the user exactly what they can expect from the app.

If done right, an interactive walkthrough can be a fun way to get people excited about using your product.

 

Provide an easy way to skip

I’m sad to say some users will not care for your walkthrough no matter how great looking, how well thought out, or how informative it may be.

It’s a good idea to not block people from using your app, and you don’t want users who aren’t interested in the walkthrough compelled to complete it. An easy solution is to have a simple skip button whether it literally says “Skip this” or it’s a big ol’ X in the top right corner of the screen. If you go with a button you have some room to play with copy; you can say something like “I’ve got this!” or a little bit bolder like “I’ve got it, let me use it.” Have fun with it and maybe you’ll convince your user to stick it out.

Lovely is an app that does this well. When you first open the app there is a walkthrough but you can always skip it by pressing the big orange button that says “Get Started”. It’s always there, from the beginning and not just towards the end.

There are other options available to you. What you can simply do is allow users to freely swipe through the walkthrough. In the case of Box, all a user has to do is wipe left a few times to get through to the end and use the app. There are no gimmicks implemented by the app that stop you from doing just that.

Authentic Weather is another example. When you download the app all you get is a simple page screen walkthrough, which disappears when you tap it anywhere. The walkthrough is then done and the user can enjoy the app. If someone cares to read what the screen said, great! If not, they are into the app now anyway.

 

Walkthroughs and onboarding

Sometimes walkthroughs incorporate onboarding or they are not actually walkthroughs at all and the user has to create an account in order to use the app. Whether or not this is the right thing to do is a whole other discussion. I will point you towards this article, which talks about why you might not want to do that: Two Reasons to Forgo Sign Ups and Let People Use Your Product First. If you are making people follow a strict sign up from the get-go consider these two scenarios.

Scribe is an app which lets you share information between your iPhone and you Mac such as phone numbers or images. In order to use the app you have to connect the two. When you open the app for the first time, it gives you specific and clear instructions on how to proceed. It tells you exactly what to do and if something goes wrong it even provides solutions. The app goes out of its way to help users in completing the onboarding with ease.

Crazy Blind Date was a dating app from OKCupid that found users blind dates, as the name suggests. In order to create an account the user had to upload a photo first. The experience of doing so could be terrifyingly difficult. The copy was actually incorrect – you could also upload a photo – but you could not upload a photo if your phone was offline, fail to take one and the icon itself is not prominent enough. This poor usability is probably the reason Crazy Blind Date is no longer available.

 

Featured image/thumbnail, uses iPhone 5c mockup by Ben Lee



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Comics of the week #245

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 09:08

Every week we feature a set of comics created exclusively for WDD.

The content revolves around web design, blogging and funny situations that we encounter in our daily lives as designers.

These great cartoons are created by Jerry King, an award-winning cartoonist who’s one of the most published, prolific and versatile cartoonists in the world today.

So for a few moments, take a break from your daily routine, have a laugh and enjoy these funny cartoons.

Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below as well as any related stories of your own…

An i want it ASAP

 

In medical terms…

 

They keep coming back

Can you relate to these situations? Please share your funny stories and comments below…

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I hate design…now what?

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 17:15

So you’ve been working as a designer for the past few years. You’re good at it. You’re successful. Maybe even really successful. You’ve had big-name clients, your name is out there, and you’re being sought out by agencies and clients.

In other words, you’ve made it. You’ve achieved what a lot of designers only dream of.

Or maybe you’re still trying to get your name out there, after investing years into honing your skills and your résumé.

But in either case, you’ve come to a startling realization: design may be how you make your living, but you actually hate it; you don’t look forward to work; you don’t get excited about new projects or new client; you’re looking for any other creative outlet you can find, while design just pays the bills.

You have three basic options at this point: you can quit design and find another line of work. For some that’s practical, but for others, not so much. You can keep going the way you’ve been going, hating your work but continuing because it pays the bills and you’re already good at it. Or, you can figure out a way to recapture your passion for design and start loving your work again. That’s what we’re going to talk about here.

 

Why do you hate it?

The first step in figuring out how to rekindle your passion for design is to figure out why you’ve grown to hate it in the first place. There are a few common culprits:

  • boredom
  • disappointment with where you are in your career
  • feeling like you’re not doing anything important
  • general burnout
  • lack of direction
  • lack of confidence in your work or your skills
  • depression in general (which is making you hate more than just design)

Any of those can lead you to hate your work.

Boredom with your work is incredibly common, and often ties directly into disappointment with where you are in your career. If you’re not getting the kinds of projects you really want to be working on, then you’re likely going to grow bored with what you do. Especially if you view it as being too easy or below your skill level.

This is directly related to feeling like you’re not doing anything important, too. While design has a great impact on the everyday lives of people, it can also feel like a fairly superficial impact unless you’re working with organizations that are directly making a positive impact in the world.

Burnout is often the most toxic reason for hating your work, though it can also be the easiest to deal with. A lack of direction or confidence can also be dealt with fairly easily, once you’ve identified the issue.

General depression is something that’s best dealt with by a medical professional, so if that’s where you find yourself, seek professional guidance first. Then turn to the other tips here to specifically address your lack of passion for your work.

 

Find some new inspiration

If you’re bored with your work, one of the easiest ways to regain your passion is to find some new sources of inspiration. Sometimes it’s just a case of seeing the same things, day in and day out.

Look for new design galleries, blogs, and even specific designers to follow. But don’t limit yourself to just other website designs.

Look at other types of design and art, like photography, packaging design, signage, and the like. But also look at things outside of the design and art worlds. Look to the world around you. Look at sites that aren’t related to design, per se. Things like fashion blogs, Pinterest, and Tumblr can be a great way to find new inspiration that isn’t the same old stuff you’ve been seeing for months.

 

Challenge yourself

Taking on new challenges can really reignite your passion for the design world. Challenges can alleviate boredom, as well as give you new skills to further your career. That can lead to new opportunities and new clients.

Taking on new challenges is great whether you’re bored with design in general, or if you’re unhappy with where your career is. It can also bolster your confidence in your skills, if you successfully complete a project you feel is a challenge.

If you don’t have any opportunities from paying clients for challenging projects, then look for personal projects you can complete. This could be a redesign of your portfolio, a theme design you might want to sell, or a side project you’ve been considering for awhile.

 

Find a mentor, or mentor someone else

If you’re not confident in your skills, or you feel like your skills have stagnated, then look for a mentor. You can do this directly or indirectly.

The first method involves actually contacting a designer you admire and asking for their help. You don’t necessarily have to ask for a formal mentorship, but simply emailing them and telling them that you admire their work and would it be okay if you occasionally ran things by them is often enough. Don’t be discouraged if your first choice doesn’t have time. Move on to someone else.

The second method involves more of an indirect mentorship. In other words, find a designer you admire who has a blog or otherwise shares information about their work and their process, and soak up everything they have to say about design. You can do this with more than one designer, too, if you choose.

If your problem is more that you don’t feel like you’re doing anything important, then consider mentoring someone else. Posting on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. that you’re looking for someone to mentor is probably the best way to find someone. Then make yourself available to that person when they have questions or ask for feedback. Just make sure that you keep your advice entirely constructive and helpful, and offer them ideas for solutions rather than just telling them they’re doing something wrong.

 

Re-educate yourself

Taking a class or seminar, attending workshops and conferences, or otherwise continuing your education is a good way to get interested in design again. Your local community college or adult education center likely has some courses, which might fit depending on your level or existing expertise.

Otherwise, check out more advanced online courses and more focused seminars, workshops, and events aimed at educating designers. There are tons of options out there, with many of the leading design websites now putting together conferences.

 

Build a team

Sometimes the challenge is that we can only do so much on our own. If you’re a freelancer who’s been working solo for years, you may find that you have a lot more interesting opportunities if you team up with other designers and developers. Look to your current circle of professional contacts and reach out to those who seem to be working on projects similar to your own, or projects of the type you’d like to be working on.

Your team doesn’t necessarily have to be local. You can easily take on remote work regardless of where in the world you or they are.

Make sure that you agree on some kind of structure, however informal, for this type of arrangement. Are you planning on bringing each other onboard for every project, or just a few? How will you decide? And what about payment arrangements? It’s best to have these things clarified before you actually start working together to avoid future conflict.

 

Outsource and delegate

While teams can be great for some things and some projects, sometimes the issue has more to do with the day-to-day tasks that aren’t specifically design-focused. This includes things like managing client contact, bookkeeping, and the like. These things can quickly drain your energy and leave you with less time for the more skilled tasks you might actually enjoy doing.

This is when outsourcing or delegating to other employees is a good idea. Figure out the necessary tasks that don’t necessarily have to be done by you, and find someone else to do them. If you can free up more of your time to focus on the parts of your job you used to enjoy, then you may find that your passion returns. This can be a huge help if burnout in general is your problem.

Freeing up time to focus on the parts of design that you love (or once loved) saves frustration and makes it easier to do great work. And doing work you can be proud of can make a sizable difference in how your feel about your work overall.

 

Set some new goals

It’s easy to stagnate and find that your career isn’t moving forward. When that happens, your passion wanes and you start hating your job.

What you need are some new goals. Look at the goals you’ve already achieved, and figure out where you can go from there. Your new goals can be income-based, client-based, achievement-based, or based on anything else you choose. For example, you might have met your goal of gaining ten new clients last year. So this year you might want to aim for twenty. Or maybe last year you were nominated for an award and this year your goal is to actually win that award (or be nominated for more).

 

Stop procrastinating

Burnout can lead to procrastinating on projects, either personal or for clients. That procrastination leads to excitement, because suddenly you have to rush to meet deadlines, which can give you energy. But that procrastination can also lead to more frustration and more burnout, especially when you procrastinate to the point where you never move forward.

Stop procrastinating and instead take the time to do better work. Get your projects done early and reward yourself. Find the simplest solutions for personal (or even client) projects so you can get them done. Sometimes we make things overly complicated when a simple solution would work just as well.

 

Take some time off

Sometimes, what you really need when you’ve lost your passion, is to take time off. That could mean taking time off on a regular basis during the day (like finishing work at 5 every day and taking your evenings off, or taking an hour lunch break and getting away from your desk every day), or it could mean taking a few days (or even weeks) off.

A lot of self-employed people, both in and out of the design field, don’t take vacations on any kind of regular basis. Many don’t even take weekends off, and often work way more than 8 hours a day. That kind of schedule isn’t sustainable, and you’re bound to burn out eventually.

If that’s where you find yourself, then do what you need to do to take a break. Even if all you can manage is a long weekend, you’d be surprised at how much it can recharge you and bring back your enthusiasm for your work. Making vacations and other time off a regular part of your schedule will help prevent burnout in the future.

 

Be thankful

One often-overlooked way to regain your enthusiasm is to be thankful for what you have. Think about how many people would love to be in your position. Think about what you’ve achieved and how far you’ve come since you started.

Sometimes appreciating what we have is enough to give us the energy we need to keep going forward.

 

Conclusion

Losing your passion for design isn’t the end of the world, nor is it necessarily the end of your career. Try the techniques and ideas above to see if you can find new enthusiasm for your work. You may be surprised by what a difference a few small changes can make.



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Deal of the week: 100 professional fonts designed by Ingimage

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 08:15

We can never get enough fonts, so we’re always extra excited when our sister-site, MightyDeals.com, manages to pull together a super fonts deal.

This week, MightyDeals are offering 100+ professional grade fonts, for just $19, that’s just $0.19 per font!

Designed by Ingimage, this collection, which includes both display and body fonts, is bound to keep even the most hungry of typophile’s busy.

There’s all kinds of font-goodness in here, from the hand-writtern delights of Vicentino, to the architectural Maychurch, to the vintage delights of Hedgerow; there really is something for every taste and style in this collection.

All fonts come in both OpenType and TrueType formats, suitable for Mac and Windows. And you’ll find a ton of features packed into the files, including specialist kerning pairs, extended character sets, international currency and glyphs, and a lot more besides!

The regular retail price of this awesome set of fonts is $99, but for a limited time you can download all 100+ fonts for just $19. That’s an amazing 81% discount!

Head over to MightyDeals to grab this deal today.



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Discover the Web’s best design resources with oozled

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 08:15

“Curated resources for everything design related.” So?

oozled brings together 586 curated resources in 41 categories.” Gaah!

“Subscribe to as many or as few categories as you want and create your own feed based on your interests.” OK. Now you have my attention.

Oh, and “Submit a Resource”… I’m in.

The story of oozled

Inspired by a talk he gave at his local college, web/user interface designer Dan Edwards compiled a list of books, apps and websites that would be a great guide for the students. It was when he posted that list of 80 items to Medium that he discovered not only did people value it as a resource, but also as something to be part of, and to contribute to (at launch, the article had over 50,000 visits and over 800 recommendations).

By April 2014, Dan had added over 230 resources. Some were his discoveries, but most were contributed by readers.

Propelled by the enthusiasm of the community, Dan partnered with designer/developer Ryan Taylor, and in May this year the beta of oozled was launched.

How it works

oozled appears to be primarily a mobile site, skipping a lot of standard wide-screen navigation and bringing you straight to an app experience. That said, I was able to explore the site on my laptop without becoming annoyed with the interface.

You can browse the resources without signing up, but you’d be missing a big chunk of the magic. oozled allows you to filter its content by a wide range of needs and interests, including tech (such as HTML6, CMS and JavaScript), business (Meetups, Legal, Payment Solutions, etc.), design thought (Colour, Motion Graphics, Responsive Web Design) and of course, inspiration (which they may have actually succeeded at making a less-unwieldy category group—go see).

Signing up allows you to create a personalized feed, and it’s easy to cull it any time: a checkbox near the filter title immediately deletes it from your feed page.

Notes

“Inspiration” tends to be too much like my kitchen’s “miscellaneous” drawer; that out-of-control collection of items I no longer feel safe putting my hand into. Pretty pictures, smart design solutions, influential projects… according to whom? Still, in the process of learning what oozled had to offer, it was the topic link I clicked first.

I was surprised to discover that I wasn’t disappointed. The expected websites were there, but so were a number of newer sites, with fresh perspectives.

Once I extricated myself from niice.com (though I may be leaving the tab open, like, forever), I went back to get a deeper look. The range of categories is relevant for designers and developers, freelancers and studios. There are a few I’d want to add though, and I wonder how they plan to scale their list as it inevitably grows.

I highly recommend the “Just Handy” category, with its collection of web design tools, such as a grid calculator, free placeholder images and a px-to-em conversion tool. The Latest 50 is an interesting category, but doesn’t provide an add-to-feed checkbox, and doesn’t show up in your personal feed. The rest of the categories will be up to individual tastes and needs.

One feature request so far: I’d love a way to filter individual items out of a category.

It was impressive to see that they already have a revenue model in place that integrates elegantly with the experience, and gives hope they’ll be able to make this project a sustainable one.



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How to make whitespace work on the Web

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 08:15

The term white space is sometimes used interchangeably with negative space, and the concept is the same. Though the term refers to “white” space in particular, the area in question does not have to be white at all. It’s just the empty space around the elements of a webpage layout.

Space like this can come in many different forms, such as the space in between images and graphics, gutters, margins, columns and even lines of type. While it seems to be made of “nothing”—only in that no other design element occupies the space—white space should not be treated in that manner. Treating it as “nothing” can lead to missed opportunities in designing something truly aesthetic and appealing.

White space, done right, can actually provide a good amount of benefit to web design. Instead of reducing white space in web design, go against the grain and make sure to increase white space on a webpage. Some well-known and popular brands are already moving in this direction, and it’s time that more designers followed their lead.

 

More white space equals a more luxurious brand and website

Clients typically want designers to use up as much space as possible on a website since it can be costly to pay for site real estate, and there are screen limits to where messaging can be included. However, doing the opposite—increasing white space—prompts the designer to craft a smarter brand message in a more restrictive space.

In addition, perception will be that a website with more white space is one whose content is more vital than its screen space. As a result, a brand seems more luxurious because it appears able to sacrifice more screen space to focus on its content messaging instead.

Luxury brands haven’t failed to understand this phenomenon and regularly use more white space to achieve this precise effect. Pottery Barn is a well-known retailer of more upscale home furnishings, and its website’s smart use of white space reflects this to a tee. White space dominates on the homepage, with a lot of it existing on the sides of the page to better direct site visitors’ attention to its deals and promotions in the middle of the page. Even the brand name itself features generous white space between the characters at the top of the page.

 

White space to promote smooth searches

A simple, though ideal, demonstration of the effective simplicity of white space can be seen in two major search engines: Google and Yahoo Search.

Google understands precisely that users looking for a certain search topic don’t want to be distracted with loud backgrounds and ads. Therefore, white space dominates the entire Google search engine page, with the actual search only occupying a thin sliver of space in the middle of the page. Similarly, Yahoo Search embodies this smart use of white space, too. While the webpage does have a pretty long menu bar at the top, the idea’s the same: a lot of white space so that the user can concentrate on the search and nothing but the search.

 

Readability and legibility get a much-deserved boost

Readability and legibility on any given website are bolstered when white space is smartly used. If the text on a page is squished together excessively, then it will get in the way of a comfortable reading experience, which hampers the overall user experience. More white space improves the reading experience by making text easier to scan, adding also to comprehension.

One individual’s site that has a handle on this principle is Information Highwayman, which is the site of D Bnonn Tennant, a copywriter and marketer. As someone who boasts he knows what great web content can do for any small business, it’s reassuring to see that Tennant practices what he preaches on his own site. The spacing between characters in the headline copy, text and menu bar is conducive to ensuring readability and legibility.

White space can also be used in between different sections of content, not only to improve the reading experience, but to break up various parts of content for easier absorption of information. Andrew Lucas’ site demonstrates this nicely. He’s a web designer from London, and he uses white space effectively on his homepage.

 

It makes colors more vivid

Perhaps the most direct, though simplest, benefit of white space is that it makes other colors on a website stand out to the point that they’re brighter than ever. This is very helpful for catching the eye of the site visitor, as the colors’ depth, richness and even intensity are emphasized more than ever.

The web designer behind the I Am Dan website gets this so well that he epitomizes this concept on his homepage with his sparse use of color. Much of his website is just white space that’s broken up by the rare splash of red. Because of this tactic, the red colors highlighting links to his portfolio and inviting site visitors to browse his site stand out effectively, thus increasing the chances that visitors will complete the call to action.

Zurb is a web-design company that also demonstrates how white space can make colors stand out. Its homepage is characterized by one solid color at the top of the homepage and colorful icons to different webpages (right by the fold). Aside from this minimal use of color, the whole design of the homepage features white space.

Simple colors like green, orange and red will have the effect of creating a look that’s both pleasant and well-focused. Both of the sites mentioned above take a minimalist approach to color because there is so much white space. As a result, the colors are used very judiciously, which makes users appreciate them all the more.

 

White space is not wasted space

Web designers have to increasingly move away from the mistaken belief that they have to cram every element and color possible into the screen when designing a site. As illustrated in the examples above, white space can make a powerful impact when it’s used in such a way to highlight a brand’s content, boost readability and legibility and make minimalist colors stand out.

The phrase “less is more” truly applies to the whole concept of white space, no matter how you look at it. In a broader sense, this take on minimalism in web design has also been getting popular lately, and it’s certainly a trend that will continue.



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AddThis Pro introduces new pro tools for website owners

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 12:15

We all know the importance of social media; content may be king, but it’s a king without a castle if no one is visiting your site.

What all website owners need is a way to encourage new traffic, and retain old users. Sure, Google can help a bit, but the real prize is success on social media, and for that you need something like the AddThis social sharing tool.

You’ll have seen AddThis on any number of sites, including this one where we’re currently testing it out, and the company are now releasing AddThis Pro, an enhanced set of tools designed to increase social media engagement and track your success.

It’s easy to be cynical about AddThis, there are countless tools online claiming to drive more traffic to your site, and they rarely pay off. However, in the case of AddThis Pro, there may be some truth to the bold claims: simply by switching to the Pro option, The Cool Rental Guide increased sharing by 140%; that’s an incredible return on investment, but they’re not alone: Merchtable achieved a 41% increase in pageviews and a 25% increase in sales; and Hijos Del Atomo reduced their bounce rate by 7.75% in just three weeks!

Our favourite feature of AddThis Pro is that it modifies the social media options it displays, dependent on the current site visitor. It’s a great way to show users that you care about them.

There’s only really two downsides to AddThis Pro: firstly the widespread use of the tool means that the default buttons will look pretty generic pretty quickly — fortunately the dashboard has a ton of customization options and if you want to mix in your own code you can do even more.

Secondly, AddThis Pro has a tendency to convince you to use all of its tools, on every page, which is hovering around the area of spamming your own users — on this front you just need to exercise some restraint, test which option works best for you and your users, and then focus on that.

All in all, a 50% higher clickthrough rate, which is what AddThis Pro claims to deliver, is a huge boost for any site. 

Social sharing isn’t AddThis’ only strength, the web tool also features advanced reccomendations, that ensures that when users are finished with your content, they’ll keep reading instead of closing the browser tab and taking their attention elsewhere.

Analytics, dynamic recommendations, and engaging mobile-friendly social media sharing all combine to drive your content to new heights, and make AddThis Pro an great tool for anyone serious about their site’s performance.

Visit AddThis

 

Update: several concerns have been raised about addThis’ use of so-called canvas fingerprinting. addThis have released a blog post that they hope will allay your concerns, you can read it here.



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Can web animation save flat design?

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 08:15

As web designers, we need to make sure we keep our skills fresh and up-to-date. We don’t need to follow every trend that comes along (like long shadows) but we do need to keep learning and improving our skills as the web grows and matures.

One exciting new development that is beginning to gather steam in the web design industry is animation. More and more companies are looking to animation for their apps or websites as a way to delight their users, standout from competitors and improve the usability of their products.

Another reason animation is in high demand is because of the Web’s recent focus on flat design. Flat design, while overall a very positive thing, has a few problems that are driving people to look for ways to improve upon it.

Flat design has a few problems

Today, more and more companies are adopting the minimal “flat design” aesthetic. Websites are beginning to look very similar with not much to differentiate between brands. This opens up the opportunity for designers to explore other means of making their website engaging and exciting to their users.

This is where animation comes in. Animation is like salt on your fries; without it, they are a little bland and lacking flavor. By animating different elements of your design you can add a bit of excitement and delight your users with creative and helpful animations.

Another problem with flat design is that users can lose context of what will happen when they interact with a website/app. When buttons stop looking like buttons or other things like badges begin to look similar, people are confused about what will happen when they click on them.

We can solve this problem by designing different animations that occur when elements are hovered or clicked on, Colin Garven’s submit button for example:

Lastly, one final problem I want to touch on is informing the user when a change takes place. Today, many modern web apps are using powerful tools like AngularJs and Node.js to build “pageless, live-updating” apps. Think of Gmail: in order to get a new email you never have to refresh the page; it simply pops in when someone sends you a new email.

This can be a bit of a problem if users are not given some notification or clear sign that the page has changed or loaded new content. If the page is saved we need to see something that will let us know the app is working and has saved our work in the background.

Animation is a great way to inform users when different events occur.

Let’s say you have a list of registered people for your next meetup or conference. When new people register, you add them to the list in real-time with node.js so they never have to refresh the page. Great, that will be really useful for our users. But now how are people supposed to know when a new person registers?

What we need is a little animation to let people viewing know that a person has registered. What about dropping-in a little alert to the top of the page with a message letting you know they just registered? Or how about fading-in the new person to the list and giving them a little blue highlight so we can tell they are new?

All these things are subtle effects that can really make the difference between an okay product and something that really delights your users.

 

The Web is maturing

Remember the days of IE6 and Netscape? The days when we had to worry if everyone had JavaScript turned on and we built our sites with HTML tables?

We have come a long way since then with great HTML5 support, CSS3, and responsive design, and they’ve all combined to give us amazing options when it comes to animating the Web.

CSS3 animation

Today, every major browser supports most or all of the standard CSS3 features recommended by the W3C. This gives us, as designers, huge potential to create simple yet compelling animations that breath life into otherwise static websites.

Transitions: CSS Transitions give you the ability to perform a simple transition between two different states. Say you have a simple button that you want to change colors and push down slightly on hover, a transition would be perfect for this use-case.

Keyframe Animations: keyframes are a powerful CSS3 feature that allow you to create custom animation sequences. They allow you to control the timing and easing, the duration, any delay needed, how many times the duration repeats, which direction it animates and more. You can even declare multiple animations on an html element.

SVG graphics

One of the awesome new features of the “mature web” is SVG support. We can finally start using images that scale well for different size and resolution screens. Not only that, but SVG’s are way more powerful than png images because you can interact with them in CSS and JS. This gives us the ability to create impressive animations that were previously only able with animated gif’s or Flash.

Take a look at this animated gif that has been recreated in CSS and SVG:

One thing SVG animation can really be useful for is creating animated graphs and charts that can scale to any size. Checkout this simple example on JSFiddle:

The possibilities for SVGs are almost endless!

HTML5 canvas

Another exciting technology that has had full browser support for a while is HTML5 Canvas. The canvas element is used to draw graphics on the web.

It is similar to SVG but differs in several ways. First off, it is a raster format rather than vector. This means it performs better for more complex drawings and animations, but doesn’t scale well for high resolution screens.

One big downside of canvas is that it doesn’t have manipulatable DOM elements. This means every time you want to change the drawing or animate it, you need to redraw the image.

In spite of these downsides, canvas is still a great tool that can be used for more complex animations and drawings.

Javascript animation libraries

Even though CSS3 animations are becoming more and more powerful, there are still some cases for using Javascript animations.

More and more libraries appear all the time that give us amazing animation at a fraction of the resource cost we used to pay for Javascript animation.

Snap.svg: snap.svg is designed to make working with your SVG assets as easy as jQuery makes working with the DOM. It features a super rich animation library with easy event handling that helps you bring your SVG’s to life.

Greensock GSAP: gsap.js is a suite of professional tools for scripted, high-performance HTML5 animations that work in all major browsers. It is 20x faster than jQuery and even faster than CSS3 animations in some cases. Super-buttery 60fps here we come!

Transit: transit.js is a jQuery library that replaces the jQuery animation module with super-smooth CSS transitions & transforms. The great part is that is uses the same syntax as jQuery’s $(‘…’).animate.

Velocity: velocity.js is similar to Transit in that it uses the same syntax as jQuery so all you have to do is include the library and replace jQuery’s animate with .velocity().

scrollReveal: scrollReveal is an open-source js library that helps you create and maintain how page elements fade-in, triggered by when they enter the viewport.

Bounce.js: bounce.js is a new tool for generating exciting CSS3 powered keyframe animations.

Improved hardware in mobile devices

One final reason animation is really taking off is that today’s devices are getting more and more powerful with every new release.

The iPhone 5s, for example, has a super powered a7 chip in it.

According to Extreme Tech:, “The CPU is not just a gradual evolution of its Swift predecessor — it’s an entirely different beast that’s actually more akin to a “big core” Intel or AMD CPU than a conventional “small core” CPU.”

Also, with iOS8, Apple will release Metal, which is a very powerful 3d rending engine that will give you the ability to create desktop-like games that run on mobile devices.

Some Android phone companies like LG have even built devices with as much as 3gb of ram, the LG G3 being just one. I have a laptop from a few years back that barely has that much.

All this to say that not only can we create animations that run great on desktop computers, but the same animations will work great on phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

 

Animations are helpful to users

Animations can really help make your product, app or website more usable and accepted by your users. This is because:

  • they give context to what is happening;
  • they keep people engaged;
  • they help your company standout;
  • people enjoy them.

Think of Kickstarter – a great video explaining your campaign can be the difference between being wildly successful, and barely getting noticed. The best campaigns use powerful videos with a well-crafted story to generate excitement and build momentum for their product or campaign. Animation can do the same for your website or app. It can mean the difference between people being engaged and raving about your app, and another product landing in the app graveyard.



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How to design for mobile devices, when you don’t have one

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 08:15

Once upon a time, about an hour away from where I currently live, worked a web designer who loved his Photoshop comps and fixed-width layouts. And well, I don’t want to spoil the ending, but that designer was me.

Then, as I was minding my own business, the web-based creative community went berserk over this newfangled concept called “responsive design”. As any young, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed professional would do, I investigated. After all, the newest, latest thing should always be given at least a passing glance.

What I discovered, however, left me dismayed. An evil mastermind named Ethan Marcotte had unleashed a dastardly plan to make web designers work harder! His book left people ranting and raving about how we needed to “consider mobile users” and “make our websites work on as many platforms as possible”…the heathens.

Of course, I resisted as long as I could. I fought hard and bravely against this tide of good sense and smart business; but it was all for nothing. Then, I fell back on excuses: “But I don’t have any mobile devices to test with!” And that, dear reader, is the point. It turns out you don’t absolutely need one.

Over time, I’ve come up with a few basic guidelines that, should you find yourself without a mobile phone or a tablet, will help you design websites that make things look good on most mobile browsers anyway.

 

Disclaimer: you shouldn’t be listening to me if…

…you’re building anything bigger than a small, content-driven website. Large websites and application-driven sites should most definitely be tested on actual mobile platforms. I mean, sure, you could probably fake it, but I wouldn’t advise it.

When you’re working with unknown variables, your best option is to keep things stupidly simple. Yes, I’m invoking the almost clichéd KISS rule, because it works.

 

Do your research

Without a rack full of smartphones and so on, you need to rely on what other people know. Thankfully, lots of time and energy has been spent examining the capabilities of the more popular mobile browsers out there, and how they compare to each other.

Find out what your target audience is, and then find out what kind of browsers they’re using. As always, Google is your friend. Then, all you have to do is design for statistics.

If most of your mobile target market uses Android/iOS in one form or another, you’re in luck! Their default browsers (and most popular alternatives, such as Firefox) are modern for the most part. Advanced layout techniques, basic CSS3 effects, jQuery… these will all most likely render reasonably well.

If your target audience uses other platforms, however, you’ll need to do more specific research about them, and find out what they can and can’t do.

Now, what do you do if you have little to no information about your users? Try to at least figure out where they are. Most websites have, at the very least, a general region that most of their users hail from. Get the stats for that region.

Failing all of that, design for the worst case scenario. 

Start here

To make your job a little bit easier, I found a website with a fairly detailed comparison of what the more popular mobile browsers do and don’t support. Check it out at mobilehtml5.org.

And of course, there’s the always popular caniuse.com

 

Consider using frameworks

I know some designers swear by creating custom code specific to each project, but when you’re working blind, so to speak, reinventing the wheel is not a practical option. Frameworks that have already been tested on mobile platforms take a lot of the guesswork out of the process.

Guesswork is bad. Avoid it.

Now, I obviously haven’t personally tried or tested every framework out there, so you’ll have to find one that does what you want it to do, and research it, comparing it against the capabilities of your intended mobile platform. Still, there are a few you could start with:

Kitchen-sink frameworks

These are the ones you can probably name off the top of your head. They are characterized by their sheer complexity. They bring layout systems, UI elements, and jQuery plugins together in one powerful package.

The most famous of these are Bootstrap and Foundation. I won’t bother comparing them here, so go ahead and Google “Bootstrap vs. Foundation” if you need more details. All you really need to know for now is that in each framework, each component has been extensively tested by a rather large fan-base and is mobile-ready. 

Mid-range frameworks

These don’t try to do everything for you, but rather just give you enough to get started. This makes customizing things a bit easier, but the creation and/or styling of more complex UI elements is up to you. 

This category includes Skeleton, LESS Framework 4 and so on…

Layout-only frameworks

This is actually my personal favorite category. I prefer to start with a blank screen and a layout system at the ready, which allows me to create the kind of website I want without having to overwrite a lot of CSS, or try to extract specific parts of any given framework. 

UI element frameworks

These frameworks, for the most part, don’t seem to concern themselves with layout or page structure. They are designed to provide an easy way to add fancy, mobile-compatible application interface elements (read: widgets). 

I’ve only ever tested one, but my research says that the three best (or at least, most popular) frameworks in this category are jQuery Mobile, KendoUI, and Wijmo.

 

Embrace accessibility

It turns out that accessibility is not just for the color-blind or the completely blind. A lot of the older mobile browsers are so limited in capabilities that it’s pretty much like browsing with all CSS and Javascript turned off. 

Your best bet, in this case, is to make absolutely certain that your website is usable under these conditions. Turn all of those pretty things off, and make sure that it’s still possible for users to achieve the website’s goals without them.

 

Use emulators

Device emulators usually aren’t one hundred percent accurate, but you can test the most important things, like layout and so on. Bugs I’ve encountered are often smaller things, like web fonts not rendering. Don’t worry, they should work just fine on the actual hardware.

But which emulators should you be using? 

Android SDK

This one works a bit slowly, but it works like a charm. You have to download the entire developer kit, but it’s well worth having a program that closely imitates not only the Android default browser, but the entire OS. Additionally, you can test your site on a variety of virtual “devices”.

Opera mobile emulator

Another one that works basically as advertised. You download it, pick your “device” and go.

Firefox options

Firefox has several options for testing your mobile content. The first is a simple emulator that mimics the rendering functionality of Mozilla’s mobile Firefox project, codename: Fennec. 

It’s not overly complicated, providing you with a simple, resizable window, so it’s up to you to manually set the screen size you want to test. 

The second option is an add-on for the desktop version of Firefox. Dubbed the Firefox OS Simulator, it provides you with a whole platform to play with, not just the browser (much like the Android SDK). 

Windows phone

I was not able to test this emulator, as it requires installing a very large SDK, and the install was bugged, at least for me. Still, it’s out there for you to test at your own discretion. 

Blackberry

Blackberry offers a number of simulators for BB10. Perhaps it’s me, but I haven’t had much success running any of them. I’d love to hear from anyone who manages to make them work.

iOS

Last, but certainly not least, Apple provide a free iOS simulator that can be used to test for Apple devices as part of Xcode. Unfortunately, because it’s part of Xcode, it’s Mac only.

One size fits all

If you’ve got the budget (or can test really quickly, as their free time is time-limited) you can’t go too far wrong with BrowserStack. They’ll allow you to test on many desktops and a huge variety of mobiles. Not as responsive as the real thing, they will show you issues with things like layout.

 

Final tips Set the viewport size

Mobile browsers tend to play around with zoom settings, or so my experience has been. If you want your website to look the way it does when you shrink your browser window down to mobile sizes, use this beautiful piece of HTML in the head of your document: 

<meta name="viewport" content="initial-scale=1.0; maximum-scale=1.0; width=device-width; "> Learn to love the simplicity

Let me rephrase that: minimalism rocks on mobile. The minimalist aesthetic adapts well to smaller screen sizes with fewer tweaks and adjustments, saving me a lot of time. Maybe this seems like a no-brainer to some of you, but I cannot emphasize it enough.

 

Conclusion

This collage of information is only the tip of the iceberg, of course, and no match for actually testing your websites on real mobile hardware, but it should allow you to get started, and hopefully earning enough from mobile design to afford that device lab you so richly deserve.

 

Featured image/thumbnail, mobile device image via Shutterstock.



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Comics of the week #244

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 09:01

Every week we feature a set of comics created exclusively for WDD.

The content revolves around web design, blogging and funny situations that we encounter in our daily lives as designers.

These great cartoons are created by Jerry King, an award-winning cartoonist who’s one of the most published, prolific and versatile cartoonists in the world today.

So for a few moments, take a break from your daily routine, have a laugh and enjoy these funny cartoons.

Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below as well as any related stories of your own…

Before Kim and Miley

 

Another point of view

 

Another banner ad failure

Can you relate to these situations? Please share your funny stories and comments below…

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The secret to Airbnb’s successful rebrand

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 20:15

Unless you’ve been abstaining from social media this week, it can hardly have escaped your notice that Airbnb, the global accommodation finder, has undergone a rebrand, including a brand new logo.

The official name for the logo mark is Bélo, and they’d like it to become “the universal symbol for belonging”. It’s an appealing notion, even if the cynic in me realizes that Nike would like their tick to become the universal symbol for running, and Apple would like their fruit to become the universal symbol for the Internet.

The new Airbnb logo

Designed by London-based design studio, DesignStudio, the new logo is undeniably a substantial improvement on the original—which looked like the lettering from a ’90s sega video game. Despite this, within minutes of its unveiling the new design had begun to be mocked across the twitterverse.

The new mark has been likened to everything from a bear’s nose, to a stealth bomber, to female genitalia. What’s interesting is that almost everyone has an opinion on the company’s branding — it’s not a new phenomenon, the same thing happened with Yahoo — from hipster wannabe to hippie used-to-be, the whole world seems to value being perceived as design-literate.

The original Airbnb logo

But if that’s the case, why did so many people begin by mocking the new mark? Well, the human eye is a strange device: rather than record what it sees, it records what it expects to see. That’s why devoutly religious people often see the image of a saint in their toast; it’s why people who watch too much porn saw Lisa Simpson doing something unspeakable in the London 2012 Olympics logo. We expect corporate logos to flop, because so many have before.

But if we’re objective, the new Airbnb logo looks no more like genitalia than a lowercase ‘d’, or (heaven forfend) a lowercase ‘a’.

I suspect the real reason most people began mocking the design is that it was simply fun. It’s irreverent, and carries with it a small victory for freedom over the power of the mighty corporation. And that, is exactly what Airbnb were aiming for.

With admirable self-assurance the marketing team at Airbnb have embraced the idea of a logo that can be altered, not just depending on what document it’s presented on, but everytime it’s used. They’ve even created a dedicated micro-site to help you create your own version of the Bélo. Renting out a lodge near Yellowstone park? Why not turn the logo into a bear’s face? Renting out rooms next to an airforce base? Why not turn the logo into a stealth bomber? There are probably apartments in Amsterdam mocking it up as genitalia right now.

My first thought when I saw the new design was that it looked like a map pointer; my second, was that it looked like someone providing shelter with their outstretched arms; thirdly, I felt it resembled the habitat logo that I’ve admired for years. I didn’t see the heart, or the keyhole, both of which are ‘official’ interpretations. But what matters to Airbnb, is that I had both a personal, and an emotional response: if I’m lost, they’ll point me in the right direction; if I need shelter, they’ll provide it; they’ve probably got some comfy bauhaus-style furniture.

Airbnb have recognized that every single member of their community is more than just a supplier; and that just as every room, apartment, town house, or lodge is unique; so too are the experiences they offer us. Airbnb’s rebrand provides a framework for each user to redefine the brand in their own way, without detracting from the overall identity.

The logo is so successful not because it represents the brand, but because it embodies the brand’s core values. It’s a design that is simultaneously intelligent, self-aware and brave.



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Deal of the week: 11 professional email templates from ChocoTemplates

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 08:15

One of the toughest tests any web designer is asked to undertake — and we all get asked at sometime or other — is to design an email.

Sure, we know what we want the email to look like, but how do you make it consistent across all the hundreds of email clients? And what’s this? Layouts built with tables?! Seriously, email design is a hugely difficult task for even the most seasoned of web designer.

So we’re delighted to announce that our sister-site, MightyDeals.com, has arranged a jaw-dropping 95% discount on these 11 professional grade email templates designed by ChocoTemplates.

There are over 100 color variations, so you can be sure to match your desired branding, and if you choose the PSD option with this deal you’ll get 528 layered PSD files, giving you complete freedom to customize any part of the design as you see fit.

All of the templates have been thoroughly tested in the leading email clients, so you can be sure your clients will see them as you intend. Most importantly of all, these templates are both MailChimp ready and CampaignMonitor ready; there really is no simpler way to branch out into email campaigns.

The regular retail price for these templates is $242, but for a limited time you can download all 11 for just $12, that’s a 95% discount! Or, get all 11 templates and their PSD source files for just $18 instead of the regular price of $352!

Head over to MightyDeals to grab this offer today.



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Free download: 100 repeating vector patterns from freepik.com

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 20:15

We all love flat design, but ‘flat’ doesn’t have to mean boring! If you’d like to enhance your projects with some of the coolest repeating patterns around then look no further, because our friends at freepik.com have provided 100 of them, absolutely free of charge, for WebdesignerDepot readers to download.

Whether you’re looking for retro-cool, nature-inspired, or on-trend geometric designs, this huge pack has you covered.

The collection provides the patterns in .ai, .eps, and .jpg formats, and the vector formats are fully editable. What’s even better is that they’re all free for personal and commercial use, all you have to do is credit freepik.com.

Download the files beneath the preview:

Pay with a Tweet Download now

Please enter your email address below and click the download button. The download link will be sent to you by email, or if you have already subscribed, the download will begin immediately.

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11 websites that perfect UX by focusing on details

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 08:15

Charles Eames said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” A website is a composite of details—and its content is communicated through them. Whether designed to provide information or serve as an app, a well-executed site is one that has turned a critical eye to everything, from the copy to images to layout.

Details matter in web design because positive impressions, sparked by a website’s overall presentation and usefulness, matter. To echo Eames, they make the design, and inattention to details can have precisely the opposite effect.

Here are a variety of details — some related to the interface, others to interaction — to consider during your next web-based project.

The speed of Basecamp’s password verification

Basecamp is a web-based tool for project management. Since its introduction, speed and efficiency were paramount.

For its verification interface, what is smartly spared is the need to press an “OK” button after entering one’s code. If the code is entered correctly, the default screen automatically displays. Tiny measures like these support Basecamp’s already fast performance.

 

Colophon practiced by Neoteric Design

Though colophons have been used in books since the 15th century, their purpose is applicable to the web. Neoteric Design shares the production notes of their website — what was used, from fonts to software to programming languages to the content management system. If a visitor wonders about how a site is created, a colophon is a tidy way to help satisfy this curiosity about certain specifics of a website’s build. It also testifies to the exploration of what aspects from printed communication can be made relevant to web-based communication.

 

Versatile typographic grid by Berger & Föhr

Pioneering designer Massimo Vignelli, who passed away in May 2014, championed the typographic grid, which he defined as “the underwear of the book” (from Brain Pickings’ post “Massimo Vignelli on the Secret of Great Book Design”). Minding the underlying grid is a seasoned means to keep the site neatly arranged.

A grid-based structure is evident in Berger & Föhr’s redesign of the site for the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. The apparent distinction is the extent to which the typographic grid is thoroughly applied to the site’s content: it is clearly consistent from the search form, to the navigational pull-down menus, to the calendar views, to the footer text and links. More so, the utility of the grid remains consistent in the site’s responsive states.

When rigorously used to organize content, whatever the type and scale, the typographic grid ultimately imbues an overarching sense of coherence.

 

Pride in place celebrated by Maker’s Row

There is an emerging practice in web design of proudly displaying the place where a website originated. This is commonly found in the footer marked by “Proudly made in…” Maker’s Row emphasizes their team’s roots by revealing their respective hometown as part of their Team page. More than acting as mere “location-based” information, sharing where each team member came from expresses a cherished sense of place.

 

Direct access by TWLOHA to social media

While it’s typical to display a string of icons linking to social-media destinations, TWLOHA uses the entire site name instead. The comprehension is immediate. One obvious benefit: no confusing the icons between “t” of Twitter and the “t” of Tumblr.

 

 Desire by MINIMAL to connect

Often, websites include a page marked Contact. Design studio MINIMAL wants to Connect. A different word evokes a different tone (that could help make all the difference to invite an opportunity).

“Connect” sounds more inviting than “Contact.” More human, less perfunctory.

 

Nudges to access Draft

Because it’s a very spare form, a log-in/sign-up utilizes generous margins. Nathan Kontny, who made writing app Draft, inserted users’ endorsements alongside the form. They may steer a prospective user to try, even adopt, the tool.

From a business perspective, the lesson is: don’t be shy with showing positive impressions by actual users of your web-based app or service.

 

Colors of CreativeMornings

Adjacent to its location, each chapter of CreativeMornings is identified by a distinct color. This element thoughtfully persists throughout CreativeMornings’ site. It appears in the chapter pull-down menu. It accents edges, shapes, and other playful forms. It’s echoed as an animated strip when content is loading.

In substantial and subtle ways, CreativeMornings’ website is elegantly color-coordinated.

 

Ultra-lean sign-in of Pulley

Created by the same group who make creative marketplace, Big Cartel, for creative practitioners to showcase and sell their art and products, Pulley, is an eCommerce app to sell digital downloads.

Its sign-in requires only the password. This is a purposely trimmed case of web-based entry with highly reduced friction.

 

Project stories of Crush Lovely

To put a twist on conventional labels such as Case studies and Portfolio, creative studio Crush Lovely presents what they do as Project stories. This approach speaks to the narrative of the work. For a project is essentially a story, bracketed with a beginning (project’s inception) and end (project’s delivery), and bridged with a narrative thread (the process).

This outline is fleshed out after selecting a client example, of the Project stories series, in order to view it. Other labeling tweaks are noticed: as part of the introduction at the top, instead of the “objective,” it’s re-dubbed as “ambition”; as part of the conclusion at the bottom, instead of “see video,” users are invited to “meet the finished product.”

In total, these adjusted labels don’t point the website visitor to a dry description of the firm’s work. They help pique curiosity and point to a lovely story.

 

Side projects of Knoed Creative

An About us category relates the staple description of the whom and what of the company, which may include their mission/vision/purpose. Knoed Creative inserted a Beyond Nine to Five section that shares work they do on the side. It taps into the phenomenon (and necessity) of side projects. It also diversifies what an “About us” is expected to show.

Both aspects speak to a proactive character of creativity, extended beyond the regular work day and space.



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50 fantastic freebies for web designers, July 2014

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 08:15

New projects are being released all the time that make us excited, curious, inspired and sometimes a little bit jealous. Today we continue our monthly series of the very best free resources for web designers with a collection that includes cool scripts, awesome fonts, great ideas, and must-see experiments.

If this collection is anything to go by, July is shaping up to be a fantastic month. Whether you’re a designer, developer, or enthusiast we’re sure you’ll find something here to feed into your next project.

Draft

A Retro display font.

 

SCSS waves

An artistic sundown effect created with CSS.

 

Wafer

A unique 3D font for display text.

 

Single type

An abstract font based on a single continuous line.

 

Menu transition effects

Elegant transitions for sidebar menus.

 

Socket.io

Featuring the fastest real-time engine.

 

IMDb concept

Movie review page concept template.

 

Instajam

JavaScript wrapper for the Instagram API.

 

Turquoise rings

A seamless high resolution pattern.

 

Raindrop.io

A smart bookmarks manager.

 

Opal

A Ruby to JavaScript compiler.

 

Ouibounce

A library to help increase your conversion rates.

 

Card

A plugin to simplify credit card forms.

 

Motorcortex.js.

A library for creating and managing animations.

 

Cinematic text effect

A stunning 3D text effect, ideal for movie posters.

 

Atvice

An all caps medium contrast font for display text.

 

Baby mega pack

A nice set of retro baby themed badges.

 

Fudi

A multipurpose landing page PSD template.

 

Say two

An experimental 3D font.

 

Hi-res photo set

Almost 30 MB of high resolution photos for designers

 

SilverTrack

An extensible jQuery carousel plugin.

 

Poster mockup

An abstract design for posters.

 

Outdoor camping set

Another beautiful set of badges for camping related projects.

 

JS nice

Makes obfuscated JavaScript code readable.

 

Vintage logos

A set of 6 logos for vintage projects.

 

Rock font

A vector font for display text.

 

Maps UI

An interface with several elements for map creation.

 

Velositey

A Photoshop plugin for faster website layouts.

 

Leather textures

A pack with dozens of beautiful, seamless, leather textures.

 

Monarc

An all caps display typeface.

 

Flat flags

195 flags in flat format.

 

Compressor.io

A powerful online compression tool.

 

Vampirr

A gothic experimental font.

 

Maxmertkit

A fluid and customizable framework.

 

Buttons generator

An online HTML sharing buttons creator.

 

Scratchy

A collection of grunge brushes

 

Uni sans

An all caps display font.

 

One page

A template for a landing page with 3 color combinations.

 

Timber

A minimal PSD landing page template.

 

Summer lettering

A set of 12 retro summer logo templates.

 

3D Neon

A 3D render lettering pack.

 

Summer icons

50 vintage, flat, summer-themed icons

 

Social media icons

130 cubic social media icons.

 

Business card mockup

Photo-realistic mockup for business card presentation.

 

Ozarks

Rough handwritten font for display text.

 

PSD dashboard

A flat PSD dashboard for designers

 

Apple mockup

A set of popular Apple devices including smart objects.

 

Flat animals

An elegant, and cute, set of animals.

 

Blurred backgrounds

High-resolution backgrounds for all kinds of projects.

 

Bliss yeah

An experimental bubble-like font.



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The 10 commandments of documentation

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 08:15

Toyota is well-known as the most efficient organization on the planet outside of the human body, and one of their philosophies is to avoid documentation. Instead of making a “process” for when someone on the assembly line needs more bolts, they simply have 5 bins of bolts on their shelf and when one is empty they move it off the shelf and someone comes by every hour and refills all the shelves from the back. There’s no need to document anything, the process does it for you.

There was a recent article on Quartz which talked about Apple’s attention to checklists.

It turns out that the key to Apple’s creativity, speed, and adaptability is, on its surface, the exact opposite of the kind of free-wheeling creativity one might expect. It’s a checklist…a really long one.

Which got me thinking about what my philosophy about checklists is. There’s a lot wrong with checklists. They get out of date. They can be long and boring and repetitive. Like all metrics they can focus on the wrong things. But all of those things are true of skipping checklists too, right? I mean the third time you’ve made the same mistake it’s probably time to admit that following a checklist might have saved you time.

But checklists are only good if they apply and they’re updated often, and you’re still at the whim of a human who, let’s face it, aren’t built to be perfect all the time.

 

Real world problem

We have a standard Drupal install we start with for most clients who are on Drupal. This includes modules, settings, default users and our default test data. It used to be a checklist, but it was always out of date. Then someone went in and made it so specific that anyone even with limited knowledge of Drupal could do it, so all the die-hard Drupal people in the shop hated it, so we took that out, and then we couldn’t train anyone new on it and only senior Drupal devs could follow it, so then we started hard coding it in Drush.

Drush means that anyone with Drupal experience could run a couple of lines of code and everything would “happen” magically. No more “human error”, it’s a checklist, but instead of a messy human trying to follow a checklist, a computer followed it.

The problem with that was that even the simplest change needed a developer and every change had to be tested and so it fell apart pretty quickly.

Eventually we came across the obvious solution, which is something hard-coded in Drush, which made it somewhat hard to change.

Now we simply have a site called “clone me” or something like that and whenever we have a new client we just duplicate it. Changing it used to involve a programmer and lots of other work, now anyone with the password on our team can go and change something. If a designer wants different test data, they change it and it will automatically be in our next project. If a PM decides we need another default user for training purposes, they create one and it will be in our next project.

“The first time you do something just do it. The second time, do it and take notes. The third time, stop and see if it’s really the same. If it is make a process out of it because there will probably be a 4th, and 5th, and so on.” – Gavin Andresen, CTO Bitcoin

We were lucky enough to have Gavin here at Gravity Switch for a few years. He contributed quite a bit to our culture and our code, but his wisdom about when to “hack” things and when to proceduralize them is something that’s really changed how I approach documentation.

Gavin taught us that good code is self-documenting.

 

The 10 commandments of documentation
  1. Thou shall not over-document — If it takes longer to document than to do, you’re over-documenting.
  2. Thou shall automate before document — Take out the human factor whenever possible.
  3. Thou shall not muddle through the same thing three times — If you’ve messed up or had to figure out the same thing twice, it’s time to proceduralize.
  4. If it’s going to fail, make it fail big — The trickiest things are the things that you miss the first (and even the 10th) time you review them. If you have a choice between creating a process that will stop the assembly line or crash your site if it fails or one that will create a slight error, always choose “take down the site” because at least you’ll spot the problem first time.
  5. Thou shall put the process where one must trip over it — because it needs to be found.
  6. Own it — When following a process, keep in mind your job is to produce the best result. It’s not to follow the process. Always approach it with skepticism and look critically at the results.
  7. Admit when it’s not working — Sometimes things might look the same, but they’re not. In our world, we always need standard test data, but the process for creating that in WordPress is completely different than creating it in Drupal, so we need completely different processes.
  8. Fix it fast — If your process is out of date, don’t just ignore the issue and wing it, or pick and choose the parts you want to follow. Fix it as you go. It will only take you minutes longer to do in most cases, and those minutes will turn into hours next time you or someone else uses the process.
  9. Pick your battles — Steve Krug (the master of usability) says you should test often. Find your biggest problem. Do the LEAST amount of work you can do so that it’s no longer your biggest problem and then repeat. You’re not trying to get any little kink out of the system, you’re trying to get the WHOLE system to run better.
  10. Revisit — If you’ve used a process a dozen times and haven’t changed it, you should think about how you can make it more efficient or if you should just automate it.



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How to get started with next-generation website prototyping

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 08:15

Recently I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the current toolset and accepted practices for creating UI and UX ‘deliverables’.

In my experience, building static mock-ups in Photoshop and Illustrator no longer captures the essence of current UI design. Likewise, creating wireframes and UX documentation in tools such as Axure seem to communicate very little of how a site or app actually feels to use.

These tools are reductive, limiting the design to a series of static ‘states’, rather than communicating the rich, dynamic, immersive experience that we hope to build.

For instance, consider clicking on an item in a list view to reveal an information screen. How is the list item disposed? How does the new screen build? What happens when I click to go back to the list view? How are new items added to the list view?

No matter how many screen-state ‘snapshots’ you make, the essential character of modern screen design is how UI elements transition from one state to another, and how new screen elements are brought on/off the screen.

Animations and transitions seem to me to be where the essence of UI design now lies, as we move to more spatial design patterns.

 

It’s a space, not a page

Part of this is because interactive media are now becoming ubiquitous, we no longer need to make reference to paper-based visual metaphors, such as ‘the page’ in order to make our interfaces easy to use. Now, spatial metaphors for navigating content on screen are more useful, and transitions described in the language of animation.

Pasquale d’Silva calls this area of UI design Transitional Interfaces, and I think he has identified a key area of investigation for modern web and app design.

But most of the current interactive designers’ toolset is inadequate to explore, design and build these interfaces.

Animation software can be used to build mockups and prototypes of interaction. After Effects, Adobe Edge Animate, even Flash, can be used to demonstrate transition effects, which can be output as animated gifs, videos or Flash files.  However, these can be time consuming to build, and while they might be good at showing a particular UI transition effect, tweaking the parameters can also be a highly labor intensive exercise. And of course, once you have built a rich interactive UI demo, you then have to translate all your transitions and interfaces into working code for your app or website.

 

Visual composition tools

It’s no surprise that many of the tools that interactive designers are turning towards are visual multimedia compositing tools, used by VJ’s and video effects programmers.

The best known of these is Apple’s own visual programming tool Quartz Composer which—if you have a Mac—you  may already have on your computer, assuming you have Xcode installed. (You’ll find it in the Developer > Applications folder, or it can be downloaded as part of Xcode).

Quartz Composer has been thrust into the spotlight as an interactive prototyping tool due to an article Go Big by Going Home, where Julie Zhuo, a designer at Facebook, revealed that the design team of the new Facebook Home had used QC extensively to test and demo the UI of Home:

“something like Facebook Home is completely beyond the abilities of Photoshop as a design tool. How can we talk about physics-based UIs and panels and bubbles that can be flung across the screen if we’re sitting around looking at static mocks?

“When you see a live, polished, interactable demo, you can instantly understand how something is meant to work and feel, in a way that words or long descriptions or wireframes will never be able to achieve. And that leads to better feedback, and better iterations, and ultimately a better end product.”

Over at the QC forum at Branch, designers began to reproduce the work of the Facebook team.

Facebook followed up by releasing Facebook Origami, a toolkit for Quartz Composer specifically aimed at interactive designers.

Learning Quartz Composer can take quite a while but its node-based approach (where leads connect inputs to processing nodes (patches) and then to an output) is logical. Its visual representation of a computational process may make it more understandable to designers, and it’s easy to tinker around with parameters and change the wiring of a composition.

With Origami, creating interactive mockups for mobiles and browsers is fairly simple. It offers ready to use interface elements to build up the functionality and interactivity of your app, such as buttons, transitions, text layers etc. It’s easy to tweak the parameters of say a transition, in order to experiment with different effects.

Other node based visual programming tools are also finding favour with interactive designers, including Max by Cycling 74, and the open source Vvvv.

Another new tool which looks interesting is Vuo, currently in beta.

 

Next-gen mockup and prototyping

New tools are being released which are aimed specifically at allowing interactive designers to prototype apps and web sites.

One of the best of these is Briefs. Briefs is a Mac-only tool very much oriented to the creation of apps for iPhone and iPad, though mocking up desktop apps is possible as well. As well as the main Briefs app for the Mac, there is also an iOS app Briefscase, to allow you to publish your Briefs project to an iPad or iPhone in order to demo and share your mock-ups on a real device.

Working with Briefs is very logical. You can import screen images and add simple interactivity to them, or for a richer interactive experience, build up the screen layouts from a library of standard UI elements such as tab bars, search boxes, list elements etc. There are libraries for iOS, Android, Desktop, and a platform agnostic ‘Blueprint’ style. Then you apply the interactivity to those elements you want to demo, for example to show how the search results are displayed, or how the transition works from one screen to another.

In many ways it feels like working with a presentation app like Keynote, but rather than a linear timeline, you can create complex branching, which is when the ability to see your screens as nodes connected by their interactions becomes useful.

The best aspect of Briefs is that it is not just a tool to demo functionality, it is actually a great design tool, to help build good user interfaces in the tight screen space of a phone or tablet.

At $199 for the main Briefs software, it is not a cheap product, but very well designed, and does what it sets out to do very well. (A limited demo is available for evaluation.)

For an open source solution, check out Framer.js, an interactive prototyping framework to quickly build UI mockups. There also a product, Framer Studio, built on the framer.js framework, to provide a ready made prototyping tool.

With Framer Studio, all the screen elements must be created first in Photoshop as layer groups, before being imported into Framer to add transitions and functionality. Framer uses Coffeescript, a “little language that compiles into Javascript”, to keep the code looking clean and simple. However, the code you build has no real value outside of the prototyping tool.

If you are adept at using Photoshop for your mock-ups for web sites or apps, then Framer Studio is a great way to easily add interactivity to your screen designs, to create a demo.

 

Future tools for design and development

As mentioned above, all the tools featured so far might help you visualize and present the UI of the app or site you’re building, but you are still then faced with the task of implementing the design.

This is perhaps an even bigger problem when using these tools than producing static wireframes and mockups: now you don’t just have to reproduce the layout, you also have to implement the same functionality and the transitions.

There’s an argument that designing in the browser is the best way to ensure your comps are not writing cheques your code skills can’t cash.

However, there are some apps that can help bridge the gap between visualization and production ready code.

RealTime Studio by Outracks, is a well implemented IDE for visualization, almost a mix between the node based tools such as Quartz Composer, and a timeline based tool such as Edge Animate.

Because in RealTime Studio you can see both the code and its visual representation, both designers and developers can use and understand it. Outracks uses its own language called Uno, which is very similar to Java or Actionscript. Best of all, because the code can be exported for a number of different target platforms, it’s a practical development tool, not just a visualization app.

With so much going on it’s no surprise that the screen is rather cluttered. There is a node view, a timeline view and a code view as well as the preview window. Some improvements to the UI would be welcome, to make it easier to minimize the views you don’t need, in order to expand the ones you are working in. The node viewer especially is very poor compared to something like Quartz Composer. However, I’m really excited about this product. Currently in beta, it’s PC only, and there is a demo available on the Outracks site.

Another exciting new product is NoFlo, a flow-based Javascript programming tool. Developed as the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign (disclosure: I was a backer), it highlights both the dissatisfaction with the currently available tools, and the untapped potential for flow-based programming tools, that could be more easily understood by non-programmers. NoFlo builds upon Node.js to deliver functional apps to the browser. Native output to Android and iOS is in the works.

The NoFlo engine is open source and can be downloaded for free. There is also a hosted version at Flowhub.io. Flowhub can be run either in the browser, or as a Chrome app.

However, Flowhub doesn’t really live up to its promise yet as an intuitive programming environment, it seems rather slow, flaky and difficult to use. The nodes that you create in the Source Graph represent functions (or methods to use the proper terminology), whose actual Javascript code resides elsewhere.

At the moment, using Flowhub is a hindrance rather than a help. I suspect that most developers would rather hand crank code than use Flowhub. However, these are early days,

That being said, Flowhub and NoFlo offer a powerful glimpse as to where flow based programming may take both visualization and development, and hopefully will develop into the intuitive rapid application development tool it aims to become.

It is my belief that the future of interaction design lies in flow-based tools.



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Our favorite tweets of the week: July 7, 2014 – July 13, 2014

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 09:51

Every week we tweet a lot of interesting stuff highlighting great content that we find on the web that can be of interest to web designers.

The best way to keep track of our tweets is simply to follow us on Twitter, however, in case you missed some here’s a quick and useful compilation of the best tweets that we sent out this past week.

Note that this is only a very small selection of the links that we tweeted about, so don’t miss out.

To keep up to date with all the cool links, simply follow us @DesignerDepot

– watch how a place has changed over a period of 3 decades via satellite images from Google Maps

 

“10 things I learned from taking 100 Usability Tests” by via

 

The A to Z of Inkscape

 

Find out which apps you should remove from your PC with

 

The Science Of Comic Sans (Seriously!) via

 

Designing sites for nonprofits

 

Cool RT : Grunt, Gulp and npm compared. A comprehensive introduction and review

 

Nice read: 10 reasons you should be reading the classics

 

10 signs you’re working too hard – and how to stop

 

How to Customize the WordPress Dashboard to Minimize Confusion via

 

Adobe study: How happy are designers?

 

Interesting: The 4 basic principles of presentation design via

 

The books everyone starts and no one finishes, according to Amazon

 

UI, UX: Who Does What? A Designer’s Guide To The Tech Industry

 

The top programming languages, ranked by job demand, popularity

 

From The Samuel L. Jackson Hack to the Burrito Principle: 12 memorable ideas to improve your marketing

 

Case Study via : PixelMogul, A Simulation Game For iOS

 

How to do SEO without even thinking about it

 

Kickstarter potato salad guy is a hero via

 

Design is the Experience

 

Foursquare and Flickr veteran on how design can influence users: via

 

Want more? No problem! Keep track of all our tweets by following us @DesignerDepot



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