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Updated: 12 hours 29 min ago

AddThis Pro introduces new pro tools for website owners

13 hours 15 min ago

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



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Can web animation save flat design?

13 hours 16 min ago

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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Comics of the week #243

Sat, 07/12/2014 - 09:16

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…

Mini me reminder

 

Not approved

 

New Year delay

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

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The secret to designing website layouts without CSS floats

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 08:15

If you have been designing for the Web at all over the past decade you are undoubtedly familiar with the CSS float property. Since the industry (thankfully) adopted the principle of tableless layouts, floats have been the weapon of choice most of us use to lay out our web pages, but is it the best choice?

Despite the popularity of this method it is regularly the cause of frustration and confusion for new designers and becomes a problem when floated elements are left “uncleared”. These uncleared floats can cause multiple issues ranging from sloppy aesthetics to complete inaccessibility. With a small project it’s pretty simple to trouble shoot a float issue but when working on a large web app with dynamic content it can be a tad bit trickier, eating up precious time and costing you money.

 

A better alternative

Even when used correctly, floats change the normal flow of a document which can cause unexpected behavior and limit styling options. Since a float is not in the ‘normal flow’, non-positioned block boxes created before and after the float box flow vertically as if the float did not exist. With responsive design, where sizes are dynamic and flowing to fill up available space, this is far from ideal. What if there was a better way?

Flexbox is the exciting future of web layouts but, for those of us that must support legacy browsers, this is still a far-off dream. The display property, on the other hand, has full support and can provide almost all the layout functionality of a float without the drawbacks.

 

inline-block to the rescue

The display property, in combination with float and position, determines the type of box or boxes that are generated for an element. In a very simple nutshell, block level elements span the entire width of their container forcing all subsequent elements to the next line while inline level elements only span the width of their contents, allowing any inline level element to flow up next to it on the same line.

Applying display: inline-block to an element generates an inline-level block container. Think of the text inside a tag. They are all ‘inline’ with one another while the tag itself is a block-level container. By understanding this behavior we can use the display property to inline our content next to each other. Since all of our elements remain in the normal flow, we have no issues with a collapsed parent element. In my opinion this is a much cleaner solution which still achieves the desired result.

See the Pen Inline-block over floats by davidicus on CodePen.

 

The technique

This method works just about anywhere you would normally apply the float. Let’s take a look at the classic main/sidebar layout. For the HTML we have a wrapper element with two child elements inside like so:

<div class="wrapper"> <div class="mainContent"> <!-- Main content goes here --> </div><!-- No Spaces --><div class="sideBar"> <!-- Sidebar content goes here --> </div> </div>

Our CSS:

.wrapper, .mainContent, .sideBar { //change the box model for simplicity -webkit-box-sizing: border-box; -moz-box-sizing: border-box; box-sizing: border-box; } .wrapper { font-size: 1em; padding: 1.5em; width: 100%; } .mainContent, .sideBar { display: inline-block; vertical-align: top; width: 100%; } @media (min-width: 700px) { .mainContent { margin-right: 5%; width: 60%; } .sideBar { width: 35%; } }

Just like that we have the main content and side bar laid out.

The direction of the “float” is determined by the text alignment of the wrapper div. Since default alignment is left we didn’t have to do anything. However, you could easily set it to center or right to achieve some layouts that are not even possible with floats (more on that later). Notice the “no spaces” comment placed in between the two child divs of the .wrapper container. This is important to note, and the reason for doing it is the one “con” about this method.

 

White space

Let’s go back to the tag example. When writing text in html all white space is wrapped into one single white space character regardless of the amount of spaces you have in your HTML document. So, any gaps you have between your “floated” elements in the markup will actually register as a space between them in the browser, just like our paragraph text. This will naturally cause your size calculations to be off knocking the last element down to the next level of the page. No bueno! Luckily for us there are several solutions to fix this little issue. Such as:

  • Set font-size: 0;. The space that we are dealing with is a character space so setting the font-size to zero makes the size of the space zero as well. The issue with this is that you must bump the font sizes of the child elements back up and any ‘em’ sizing goes completely out the window. This could get a bit cumbersome to keep on top of, so this way is not ideal.
  • Remove the space between your elements in your HTML, thereby removing the space from the equation. I did this for a while but it just looked sloppy and made it more difficult to read.

  • Adding an HTML comment between your elements will also remove the space character as it did in our example. This is my preferred solution. The text highlighting in most text editors is such that the contrast between the note and the elements are enough to significantly improve the readability of your mark up. This will also allow you to keep the proper indentation of the actual element itself.

 

Floats work for me, why change?

You may be thinking, “This is good and all but why would I change a method that works just fine for me?” Well, even if you are a float master there are certain things that they just can’t do. For instance:

  • The elusive “centered float”, which is oft-times desirable, requires additional markup and multiple CSS properties to achieve. With the display method this is simply done by applyingtext-align: center to the wrapper.

  • The biggest advantage of choosing the display method is the ability to vertically align your content. How often have you wanted to center an element to its sibling? You could use positioning with the negative margin/translate trick but, again, with a responsive, dynamic environment this is not preferable. Instead applying vertical-align: middle; will perfectly center your elements every time with no extra work on your part. (See the Pen Inline-block over floats by davidicus on CodePen.)

To wrap it up

In reality there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to web design and it really boils down to personal preference. I still use floats in certain situations and sometimes it really is the best tool for the job. I do, however feel there is a definite advantage to using the display method. From my experience, I have found it to be the best, least error prone method for dealing with layouts. For those of you that would like to explore this method more, I have created a “Just Say No To Floats” grid: Inline-block Grid with SASS on CodePen.

 

Featured image/thumbnail, collapsed wall via Chris Cotterman



2,000 iOS7-Style Icons With Reselling License – only $17!


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Deal of the week: Creative edge design bundle (worth $1,000)

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 17:15

It turns out, that sometimes, size really does matter. And never more than when you’re download a super-sized bundle of web design goodness.

So we’re extremely excited to announce that our sister-site, MightyDeals.com, has managed to arrange an amazing 95% discount on a huge bundle of creative assets that, in any other circumstances, would set your wallet back over $1000.

The huge 2Gb+ download includes flat style icons, vintage design elements, training discounts, abstract stock illustrations, plugins, textures and much, much more. Take a look at all 24 packs:

 

Mobile icon collection

Designed by Solarseven the set contains 150 flat-style minimal icons.

 

Ultrashock ink set 04

Provided by Ultrashock the set is a huge collection of ink-based design elements.

 

Vintage design elements

Add an old-world edge to your design work with these stock elements from Anna Ozerina

 

OSTraining coupon

Save a huge 50% off more that 1800 training sessions provided by OSTraining.

 

Vector special effects series

Another great addition from Solarseven, these beautiful light effects are great for adding a spark to your design work.

 

Abstract backgrounds set

15 abstract background images designed by Anna Ozerina.

 

Abstract light

More light-based stock, this time provided by Ultrashock.

 

Royal audio player

A powerful, and highly popular, HTML5 MP3 player designed and built by FWD.

 

Halftone collection

A cool set of vintage half-tone stock from Solarseven.

 

Modern labels

Ultrashock’s set of 12 high-quality vector labels ready for your next hipster logo.

 

Modern design collection

Anna Ozerina’s set of illustrations, infographics, icons and more. All in .eps format.

 

Dissolve coupon

A $25 discount off HD stock footage.

 

Easy video player

A responsive, easy to manage responsive video player from FWD.

 

Infographic collection

Solarseven’s set of data assets to help you build infographics fast.

 

Ultrashock letterpress ink textures

15 assorted letterpress ink textures delivered in high-resolution .jpg format.

 

25 abstract architecture images

An assorted set of stock images of abstracted parts of buildings. Very modern.

 

Ultrashock modern banners

21 banners and ribbons for use in your design work, supplied by Ultrashock.

 

Royal dock menu

Fully responsive dock menu built by FWD, perfect as a unique way to present your company.

 

Dissolve HD fire

6 HD, slow-motion video clips of fire, to add a touch of life to your sites.

 

Ultrashock ink set 02

A companion to ink set 04, organic ink splotches, drips, and marks designed by Ultrashock.

 

Summer collection

Anna Ozerina’s collection for Summer, bringing freshness, fun and retro to your designs.

 

Ultrashock ink textures

More ink graphics from Ultrashock, provided as high-resolution .jpg files.

 

Simple 3D coverflow

FWD’s fully responsive 3D coverflow plugin.

 

Ultrashock ink set 01

The final piece in the puzzle, the fourth of Ultrashock’s ink sets and one of the most popular of their stock offerings.

 

The regular retail price of all of these assets would be over $1000, but for a limited time you can download them all for an insanely low $49!

Head over to MightyDeals to grab this massive 95% saving today!



2,000 iOS7-Style Icons With Reselling License – only $17!


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What’s new for designers, July 2014

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 08:15

The July edition of what’s new for web designers includes new web apps, frameworks, grid systems, game platforms, inspirational resources, Photoshop plugins, text editors, and some really great new fonts.

Many of the resources below are free or very low cost, and are sure to be useful to a lot of designers and developers out there.

As always, if we’ve missed something you think should have been included, please let us know in the comments. And if you have an app or other resource you’d like to see included next month, tweet it to @cameron_chapman for consideration.

Inbox

Inbox is a new email app that aims to change the way we deal with email, by innovating in a space where many of the established companies have stopped. You can sign up or run it yourself.

 

Format

Format is a new portfolio host for creatives. There are multiple themes available, and plans start at under $6/month (and there’s a 14-day free trial).

 

Slight

Slight is a free anonymous chat app for iOS that lets you chat with everyone in your immediate vicinity (like a room).

 

Base

Base is a simple responsive framework that’s fast and lightweight. It’s built on Normalize.css and includes styles for typography, lists, tables, blockquotes, forms, and more.

 

Sitedrop

Sitedrop makes it easy to collaborate visually using Dropbox. Just pick which folder to turn into a Sitedrop and then you can gather feedback, receive files, and manage everything from your desktop.

 

Crafted by Love

Crafted by Love is a gallery of beautiful website designs, broken down by category. It includes agency sites, blogs, event sites, news sites, and much more.

 

CodeSnip.it

CodeSnip.it is a free code snippet tool with free, private storage. It includes a search function so you can quickly find what you need, plus syntax highlighting.

 

Name Mesh

Name Mesh is a domain name search tool that includes over six million words and over 20 generators. You can search for the most common TLDs or new GTLDs, find domains that mix words, create short domains, and more.

 

Kuoto Swiss

Kuoto Swiss is a complete CSS framework and toolbox for Stylus.

 

Tavern

Forrst has gotten a big update, and is now known as Tavern, currently only a private release. The site is devoted to product design, and gives designers a place to be heard, share opinions, and share your experiences.

 

Teleport

Teleport is a “search engine for digital nomads”, giving creatives insight into how relocating would affect their income. It will include info on both relative incomes and expenses in various cities when it’s released.

 

Meeet

Meeet aims to bring together designers and developers who can help each other complete side projects. You can list your own idea or find one to collaborate on.

 

Cardboard

Cardboard is a simple virtual reality project from Google that aims to transform your smartphone into a VR headset using a no-frills enclosure.

 

Web Starter Kit

Google’s Web Starter Kit is a boilerplate and toolkit for multi-device development. It helps ensure that you’re following the Web Fundamentals guidelines right out of the box.

 

Outdated Browser

Outdated Browser shows you what the latest version is of each of the major modern browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera.

 

Headstart

Headstart is an automated front-end setup that’s easy to use and gets you up and running in seconds. It uses a no-class grid system, supports rudimentary templating, and includes image and SVG optimization, among lots of other features.

 

Odyssey

Odyssey is an easy platform for journalists, designers, and other creatives to craft interactive stories. Just pick a template to start creating your story.

 

Frontenda

Frontenda is a drag and drop Bootstrap 3 EVObuilder that lets you create responsive templates in just 3 easy steps. It includes a drag and drop editor, HTML editor, Less, and CSS editor, among other features.

 

PixiClip

PixiClip is an interactive whiteboard that lets you upload images, draw sketches, and share with others. You can even include audio and video messages.

 

Minimalist Newsletter Subscription Form

This Minimalist Newsletter Subscription Form has an intuitive UI, and only presents the submit button once a correctly-formatted email address has been entered. It’s also available in plugin form.

 

Licon

Licon is a set of useful icons created with pure CSS3. There are SASS and LESS versions, too.

 

Simple Sharing Buttons Generator

This Simple Sharing Buttons Generator makes it easy to create HTML sharing buttons for Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and other social networks. No JavaScript required.

 

Niice

Niice is a tool for gathering inspiration and ideas. It provides you with your own private inspiration space, and makes it easy to create moodboards with a drag and drop interface.

 

Bootsketch

Bootsketch is a Bootstrap 3 theme for wireframing, providing a sketch render that removes all the “design feeling”. It includes typography, buttons, tables, labels, and more.

 

Type Sample

Type Sample is a tool to make identifying and sampling of webfonts easy. Just drag the bookmarklet to your bookmarks toolbar to get started.

 

Octicons 2.1

GitHub’s Octicons 2.1 are a set of open source icons that can be used for any project. Just download and install them as a font to use them locally, or include them in your projects.

 

Splashbase

Splashbase is a collection of free, public domain, high resolution photos from around the web. You can search or browse, and the home page shows you what’s new each week.

 

Android Material Illustrator Kit

This Android Material Illustrator Kit puts all of the interface elements in a single document rather than scattered across multiple files.

 

LiveShare PS

Ever wanted to have a real-time meeting right inside Photoshop? LiveShare PS is a free plugin that lets you do just that.

 

Focus

Focus is a free Mac app that blocks distracting websites so you can get more work done.

 

New Emoji List

The Unicode 7.0 update is going to include around 250 new emoji characters, chronicled in this New Emoji List. While not all have images associated yet, the list itself is complete.

 

Boom Boom Boom

Boom Boom Boom is a Chrome web app that interacts with audio to create visuals on your screen. You can even link it with your mobile device.

 

Homeless Fonts

Homeless Fonts is a series of fonts based on the handwriting of homeless people, with proceeds from their sale going to the Arrels Foundation.

 

Random ($5+)

Random is a typeface that consists of what appears to be a random collection of fonts, exploring the visual value of letters and extremes in dramatic forms.

 

Brite Script ($25)

Brite Script is a brush script typeface that isn’t overly perfected, so it retains an authentic and organic aesthetic.

 

Awning Display ($15)

Awning Display is an approachable, easily legible display font inspired by a bike ride through downtown LA.

 

Clarke ($10)

Clarke is a caps only sans-serif typeface that has rounded edges and a bit of a vintage feel.

 

ATC Timberline ($40+)

ATC Timberline is an ultra-wide sans serif that comes in seven weights and fourteen styles, with Latin accents and ligatures included.

 

AM Gaea (free)

AM Gaea is a free display typeface that is a marriage of Times and Helvetica, combining the two typefaces in each letterform.

 

AENEA (free)

AENEA is a free sans-serif display typeface designed by Veronica di Biasio. It includes caps, numbers, and a variety of glyphs.

 

Anders (free)

Anders is a free geometric typeface perfect for display use.

 

Peaches and Cream ($65)

Peaches and Cream is a bold brush style script font with three weights, plus an ornament and an all-caps font.

 

Felt Noisy ($32)

Felt Noisy has a cool organic feel, and comes with four variations for each letter and two for each number. It was drawn with a bad felt tip pen, resulting in two well-paired fonts.



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25 back to school themes for WordPress

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 08:15

With back to school season right around the corner, chances are that educators are thinking about the best ways to present their class information. An easy way to connect with students and parents is through a website. Here we look at 25 great options for creating a WordPress website using a theme designed just for schools, educators or learning professionals.

What’s in a theme? With so many options and choices, how do you know what’s right for your site? It might help to start with a theme that is designed for your type of website. Every month we are going to round up collection of “themed” themes – paid and free – to help you get the most of your WordPress site.

Academica (free)

Academica has the look and feel you might expect from a university website. The theme includes a simple, yet modern design on a three-column template. The theme is easy to customize and includes plenty of options including, custom background and logo, menu management, easy color customization, custom shortcodes, slideshows and is translation-ready. Academica also includes multiple post formats and is search engine optimized.

 

Academy ($55)

What’s the most-liked class at your school? The awesome ratings system in the Academy theme can help you find out. The theme is packed with educator tools including lesson attachments, a lesson support system and WooCommerce integration. The theme allows users to create individual profiles and customization is a breeze.

 

Book Lite (free)

Book Lite is a simple theme with a focus on photography. The theme includes a great featured image area, stylized type, featured header images and elegantly simple design. The theme allows for the addition of up to three widgets in the footer and has a custom menu, header and background.

 

Campus ($45)

Campus features an aesthetic you would expect with a collegiate theme. With block-style lettering and bold color, the theme is packed with backend options as well. Campus features a login area for students and an easy to build framework. Campus is fully-responsive and retina-ready and includes an unlimited color palette – so you can use your school colors – and more than 10,000 font options. Campus also includes multiple sidebar and widget areas, sliders, shortcodes and a professional-grade lightbox.

 

Carry Hill School ($45)

Carry Hill School is a theme designed with youngsters in mind. The responsive theme features a drag and drop builder, premium slider, boxed and wide layout formats, unlimited colors and more than 500 Google fonts. What’s unique about this theme is that the large fonts, bright color options and icons are all design to appeal to young schoolchildren and enhance their learning experience. You can use on of the nine predesigned color schemes or create your own. This theme also features animated tools and a nice sense of whimsy and fun.

 

Chalk ($75)

Chalk continues to be one of the more popular education themes available on the WordPress website. The theme features a fun and modern design on a responsive framework. And it’s packed with tools for teachers — post lesson lists, share a syllabus or a class schedule, track a group to-do list, review a discussion. The theme also includes an optional print link with any post or page. Chalk is also fully customizable, with seven font options and multiple color and background choices.

 

Chalkboard (free)

Chalkboard is a super-simple theme designed as you would expect. The theme comes with the look of whimsy and can work great for a virtual chalkboard or learning blog. The theme comes with widget areas in the sidebar – a great place for a class photo — and footer and available customization for the menu, header and background.

 

City College ($12)

City College comes ready for educators right out of the box with template pages for current students, international students, study departments, research and more. The theme also includes a news blog and photo gallery options. The theme includes some basic customization, including four color scheme options – blue, green, red or yellow. You can customize it even more using the included PSD files.

 

Dreamy ($35)

Dreamy is a simple and fun theme designed for child care, kindergarten and preschools. The responsive design comes with multiple page templates – blog, contact, gallery, testimonials and full width. Dreamy also includes custom widgets, Google Maps integration, multiple color skins, a shortcode generator, translation options and comes with PSD files for additional customization.

 

Educator (free)

Educator is a blog-style theme featuring a skeuomorphic design style. The responsive design includes an easy-to-use dynamic content loader, Google maps shortcodes and custom sidebars. The theme also comes with modern features such as social sharing tools, custom widget capability, contacts page and search engine optimization.

 

EduPress ($75)

EduPress is a university-style theme that comes packed with widgets. With seven custom widgets from WPZOOM, it’s easy to build a website packed with information. The design is simple and clean and works best for a blog or news feed. EduPress comes with a featured image slider, customizable logo and backgrounds, menu management, shortcodes, slideshows and is translation-ready. Multiple page formats also make it easy to create a fairly robust site.

 

Hot Academy ($39)

Hot Academy is a responsive theme with plenty of customization options. While the theme comes with four predefined styles, there are an infinite number of combinations. The theme includes a full carousel, film tape and gallery plugins. There are an unlimited number of widget areas and the theme comes with PSD source files. Hot Academy features a flat-style design with plenty of open space and clean typography.

 

iEducation (free)

iEducation is a responsive theme with a simple, easy to use design that works great for school or education-based sites of any level. The theme includes a main content area, featured post area and sidebar with a variety of widgets. The theme is customizable and is integrated with WooCommerce for product sales.

 

I Love Math (free)

I Love Math is designed for elementary math classes, with a fun, cartoon style design and easy to read format. The theme includes an extensive color palette and allows you to change the background image with some included patterns. I Love Math includes tools for commenting, linking, multiple content categories and archives.

 

Kids Zone ($55)

If child education – from preschool to kindergarten to day care – is your thing, Kids Zone may be the theme for your website. The theme features six home page design, four gallery options, hand-crafted slider animations and three skins for an easy to create site. The responsive theme also supports some of the top WordPress plugins such as WPML, WooCommerce, Event Calendar Pro, Buddy Press, bb Press and Contact Form 7. Kids Zone also comes with MailChimp e-newsletter integration, plenty of shortcodes, Google Map integration and Font Awesome icons.

 

Learner (free)

Learner has a simple and professional design with features made just for educators. The responsive theme includes multiple page templates, including contact forms, a sitemap and multiple pages and is easy to customize and organize. The theme includes WooCommerce integration and could also work for an educationally-based business. Learner also comes packed with widgets, including plenty of social media integration in the sidebar.

 

Molecula (free)

As the name implies, Molecula would be a great theme for science-based sites. The theme has an open layout and design, which would work best for blog-style sites. The responsive theme supports Google maps, WooCommerce, custom sidebars and is SEO-ready. You can also add social media in the sharing bar or custom widgets. Another fun option with this theme is multicolored related posts, which tags relevant posts by color to help keep users on your site longer.

 

My College ($45) 

My College is a responsive theme that is designed for the modern student with touch and swipe features enabled “out of the box.” The theme features three – blue, green and orange — available color styles, search engine optimization, custom widgets and a slider. One of the nicest features with this theme is the searchable course list builder. You can customize My College even more using the included PSD files.

 

Pachyderm (free)

Perfect for a preschool or kindergarten class, Pachyderm is a responsive theme that supports a variety of formats – image, video, quote, link, gallery, status and chat. The blogging theme also includes a custom menu, widget areas, custom header and background and template for a wide-format option.

 

SciencePress (free)

SciencePress works for more than just science class websites. The responsive design includes a lot of features, including Google maps integration, customizable sidebars, a dynamic content loader and WooCommerce integration. The theme also comes with a contacts page, social sharing tools, customizable menus and allows for the addition of a slider and custom widgets.

 

Statfort ($55)

Statfort is specially designed for colleges, universities and educational websites. This theme is easy to modify and ready to go right “out of the box.” With course and event management and a drag and drop builder, Statfort has powerful admin tools. The responsive theme also features unlimited color options, Font Awesome icons, unlimited sidebars, plenty of widget options and is WooCommerce-ready. The look of the theme is also super-clean and modern; all you need is a collection of great images to get your site running.

 

StudentBlog (free)

StudentBlog is a simple blogging theme with two columns and a sidebar. While this theme does not offer a lot in the way of customization, it can be a great starter theme. It comes with a blue background and image of students that can be used in the header. The theme also includes a simple slider, popular posts widget, calendar and social media integration.

 

Universe ($45) 

Universe is a clean and modern theme suitable for educational websites of any level; it is packed with features and a theme options panel to control every aspect of your theme design. The fully-responsive theme is also retina-ready and features a flat, block-style design. It includes multiple color schemes, plenty of widget areas, MailChimp e-newsletter integration, unlimited sidebars and Google maps functionality.

 

WP Education ($45)

WP Education claims to be one of the original education themes for WordPress and has stood the test of time for a reason. This theme has a classic design and plenty of features for educators. The fully-responsive theme features an unlimited color palette, blogging network, schedule management tools, file sharing and plenty of theme options. WP Education also has plenty of school-specific tools as well – course lists, calendar, user groups and an events widget in a block-style design framework.

 

WPLMS Learning Management System ($60)

WPLMS is a theme and learning tool all-in-one. The theme allows you to create and edit courses, units and quizzes; set prices; ask questions; create categories, groups and forums and more. The theme also features an instructor dashboard and evaluation tools for instructors and students. The theme features a modern, almost-flat design style, widget areas, slider, shortcodes, multiple layout options, a form generator and is responsive and retina-ready.



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How to optimize your website’s landing page for mobile

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 08:15

It’s no longer necessary to underline the importance of preparing your site for mobile. The mobile revolution is the single biggest change in the Web’s short history. The only question is whether smart phone and tablet users will make up more than half of your audience this year, or next.

Bearing this in mind, optimizing your landing pages for mobile is now an essential process for every designer. It doesn’t have to be difficult however, there’s a simple checklist that you can run through to ensure your site is ready for mobile browsers:

 

Scale appropriately

The ability of a website to scale to various devices is vital. There are thousands of devices are out there, so selecting a few representative screen sizes isn’t practical.

The accepted answer to this is responsive web design, some people argue adaptive is better, other people argue adaptive is the same thing. These arguments are really semantic, the bottomline is that you have the ability to make your site work on any device, current or future. To fail to do so would be irresponsible.

One important consideration: make sure that your site scales properly in portrait and landscape.

 

Select content carefully

Obviously, mobile offers much less space to fit content onto a landing page. Ideally, keep headlines short, succinct, to the point and around three to four words. Likewise, keep the page as clutter-free as possible, with a low number of links and a maximum of one image, if feasible.

Put content in bullet points so that the eye can take it in easily, without having to pause and squint. Also, create a clear call to action to tempt the visitor to visit the rest of the site. It should give some kind of incentive and could be as simple as a button that allows visitors to call the business, especially useful for local businesses that also use location services.

Something like 75% of searchers take action on their search results within an hour, so it’s easy to see why a call to action should be strong. Also, put the call to action somewhere near the top of the page, so that it’s one of the first things the mobile visitor sees.

 

Size matters

Yes, size really does matter—file size, that is. A landing page should always be quick to load, especially one that will be accessed via a mobile device.

There’s no set rule—the faster the better—but as a general guide, if your landing page takes longer than 3 or 4 seconds to load you’ll start losing a lot of users.

Ideally, your page should be extremely lightweight, below 20 kilobytes. Images take a lot of time to load and so should be kept to an absolute minimum. Keep all of your code nice and tidy, use image sprites if necessary, and use CSS instead of images where possible.

As well as file size, think about the number of requests that are being made to the server; typically those requests cause more of a delay than the actual file download.

 

Are you local?

Mobile users are often on the go, so use location services. Tailor the landing page to be relevant to local users, and offer incentives to them too. You could customize content to the local branch of a store, for example. 

Depending on the size and scope of the project, you could also adapt the core content itself to the location.

 

Readability matters more than ever

Being able to read what’s on the screen is vital, which is why less is more. If you can’t read the text with the phone held at arm’s length, then it needs to be bigger. You really are limited for space.

Don’t make users endlessly scroll either, or else they will get bored quickly and move on. Yes, people do have a short attention span on the Internet, much shorter than when reading a magazine or book, so everything you do must grab their attention immediately.

 

Thumbs up!

Anything clickable on your landing page should pass the thumb test. If it can’t easily be clicked using the thumb, then rethink it. Pad links to leave as much space around them as possible, and leave ample room between links. This will reduce the chances that the user taps the wrong links and leaves out of frustration.

Plugins can be used to ensure that photos can be easily swiped, although putting photos on the landing page is not exactly recommended.

 

Forms and input

If you do put a form on the landing page, keep it very simple, and don’t take up a lot of space. Forms that require a lot of input are off-putting and achieve a lower conversion rate than simple forms. So, add as few fields as possible.

Again, people get bored quickly, so giving them a lengthy form to fill in will make them more likely to abandon the site.

 

Simple navigation

Navigation should be simple and straightforward. Keep buttons to a minimum, and ensure that they pass the thumb test. Try adding buttons to different areas of the page so that a logical path can be followed.

 

Testing, testing, testing…

Thoroughly test your landing page to ensure that it works effectively on mobile. Consider A/B testing, which has been shown to increase leads by up to 40% in some cases.

With an A/B test, you would create two designs of the same page, A and B. Traffic is then split between each design to see which performs the best. Use metrics that are the most important to the project, such as conversion rate, sales, bounce rate. At the end of the test, go with the one that performs best, and you’ll be halfway to having a proven design.

There are lots of mobile simulators out there, but whichever one you choose, make sure you only use it for the first round of tests. To test properly you have to use real devices. Beg, borrow, and steal if necessary, just check out your site on as many real devices as you can lay your hands on.

 

Keep actions to a minimum

The more clicks or actions a user has to make, the less likely they are to complete them. Allow people to get from point A to point B in as few clicks as possible. Make every aspect of the navigation and the call to action incredibly simple.

These are the most important things to bear in mind when optimizing a landing page for mobile. Remember throughout the design process that mobile is a different medium to PC. People have even less patience on mobile because they are usually on the go and want to complete their task with a minimum of fuss. Slow loading times and unresponsive interaction also irritate people, so take the time to get them right.

Getting it right can be rewarding and could mean the difference between the site performing well against the competition and losing visitors.

 

Featured image/thumbnail, mobile image via Shutterstock.



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7 simple ways to achieve a user-centered website

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 08:15

Designers should be obsessed by designing with the user in mind at all times.

If you’re designing a site with a main focus solely on fancy features, business objectives and the tech capacities of software tools and hardware, then you’re making a huge mistake because you’re neglecting the user. More importantly, you are contravening rule one of web design: Design for the user experience.

User-centered web design is defined as the objective of designing to increase the usefulness as well as usability of websites. There are many factors that apply to both usefulness and usability; navigability and efficient information retrieval are just two examples. Another way of looking at usefulness is how relevant the web content of the site is to the user, and usability can also be looked at in terms of ease of use.

The most vital part of the process is the end user, period. User-centered web design builds sites from the users’ perspective and with their satisfaction in mind at all times.

 

1) Concentrate on visibility

Visibility refers to vital site elements like navigational aids being highly conspicuous to the user. This allows the user to figure out immediately what he can do and what he can’t. Thus, visibility is a great help in assisting users to predict their actions’ effect.

The navigation bar of Cisco, the huge designer and manufacturer of networking equipment, demonstrates visibility perfectly. No matter what page of the site a user goes to, he’ll always be able to easily find his way to another section since the navigation bar is ever-present and grabs one’s attention. This creates a feeling of confidence and order for the user.

 

2) Memory load should be kept to a minimum

Navigating a poorly designed site will be taxing on the average user’s memory. There’s nothing worse than actually forcing users to remember what certain site elements mean from one page to another. The way to deal with this is to ensure that screen elements are purposeful and consistent over the whole site.

MSN.com is a portal that understands this principle well and executes it faithfully, too. No matter where you go on the site, memory load is kept to a bare minimum thanks to the site’s navigation bar that stays the same no matter what page you visit and a site layout that remains quite consistent from page to page.

 

3) Feedback ought to be instant

There’s nothing like instant feedback to make a site as user-centered as it can be. Fast feedback tells the user that actions on the site—such as clicking a button—registered and mattered. For example, in its most basic application, something on the site must change after the user clicked a button.

On Microsoft’s site, users interested in purchasing  the new Xbox One simply have to click “products” on the navigation bar to get a drop-down menu that features a link to the company’s Xbox site.

 

4) Make accessibility a priority

Your users wants their information found efficiently and quickly. Accessibility can therefore take the shape and form of any number of things, from the good, old sitemap to a basic search feature. Other ideas include the organization of web content into smaller pieces of easily digestible sections by utilizing a format that’s sensible to the user and even making it effortless for the user to skim your text.

Apple, unsurprisingly, epitomizes accessibility to the hilt. On its Mac webpage, the company organizes various aspects of the Mac—everything from buying a Mac and Mac customization to a behind-the-scenes look at the construction of the PC—in easy-to-absorb sections that are highly meaningful to a user shopping for a Mac.

 

5) Don’t forget site orientation

Site orientation is achieved by way of navigational clues that can take various forms. The most powerful examples include the sitemap, descriptive links and highly visible site elements on each page that tell the user where they are relative to other pages, as well as how to navigate to different pages.

The sitemap may be taken for granted by some designers these days, but it’s still a solid way of providing orientation to the user. PayPal’s sitemap may have too many links, yet for a user struggling to find where everything is on the site and how to navigate it, nothing beats checking out the sitemap.

 

6) Make your site pleasant

Making a site “pleasant” is open to interpretation, so let’s define this more specifically: the site ought to be simple to both use and look at. After all, the more satisfied the user is with your site interface, the likelier he is to have confidence in the dependability of the information on the site, perceive the site to be user-friendly and be motivated to learn how to utilize the site.

Flickr demonstrates this design principle nicely. The site is basically a repository of photos, and to start, users simply search for whatever type of photo they’re looking for, and presto. The user sees an endless list of photos that match the search query. Not only is this a pleasant experience, but it also encourages confidence in the quality of the photos while also being motivated to become more adept at using the site. Such a positive experience works as a kind of positive-reinforcement tool, where a user is consequently prompted to explore the site in greater detail to see what else will pleasantly surprise.

 

7) Tie it together with visual design

Visual design is the aesthetics of your entire interface. This takes center stage as the most important vehicle in communicating both tone and information to users. Some of the most vital aspects of good visual design include webpages that feature a mix of being interesting and simple; the conservative use of color; and making the most vital elements the most visually prominent.

Sony has taken this advice and run with it. Its homepage is a celebration of these three points, with the layout being simple though eye-catching, and colors that are used sparingly.

 

User-centered web design should not be an afterthought

Too many designers forget the whole point of their trade: designing for the user. When that happens, you get sites that frustrate users and end up being nothing more than a hard slog through which to navigate. Having your name as a designer associated with such a sub-par site could be the death knell of your design career.

Yes, there are many aspects of user-centered design on which to focus, but the consummate designer will take great care to see that all of them are addressed in turn. Good design is a process from start to finish, one that can’t be rushed and demands a good deal of thought and consideration. Your users are everything, so it stands to reason that you should be designing to make their experience as delightful as you can.



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Our favorite tweets of the week: June 30, 2014 – July 6, 2014

Sun, 07/06/2014 - 09:04

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

This version of the Iron Throne is exactly the way George R.R. Martin wanted it to look

 

Facebook tinkered with users’ feeds for a massive psychology experiment

 

A developer’s guide to building your first app

 

Use natural language with Betty, your digital assistant in the Linux Terminal

 

Top designers react to Google’s new ‘Material’ design language via

 

Three ways to use WordPress to send newsletters

 

Why your marketing needs to include your company’s story

 

The Rise And Fall Of Orkut: Google’s Decade-Long Social Media Experiment via

 

Good read – Never Skip A Test

 

Denny’s Teams With Atari To Integrate Menu Items Into Classic Arcade Games via

 

Is this the crowdfunding site app developers have been wishing for? via

 

LinkedIn’s new app: Will it transform the job search process?

 

Awesome find: Grandpa’s Photos

 

Awesome product – The Cloud: An Interactive Thunderstorm in Your House

 

I broke the Army’s rules and won a medal in Iraq—for coding

 

Interesting: How to Use Persona Empathy Mapping

 

Apple Store conversations that make me want to turn around and say, “Did you REALLY just say that?”

 

Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List

 

Interesting via : How to Write 225 Words Per Minute With a Pen

 

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



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