Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex UX, front-end and performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.
Over decades we've used to adapt our habits, behavior and mindset to technology. We've improved our productivity by using tools and devices designed especially for the tasks we have to deal with regularly. But we've also constrained our abilities to the features of the very tools and devices we've become dependant on.
We've got used to a number of things. To traditional mouse-keyboard user interaction, to 2D windows-based user interface and to a rather unspectacular user's workflow which enables one user interact with only one application at a time. For instance, while you're browsing in your web browser you can't scale your text and resize your window simultaneously — unless you are a keyboard-shortcut-master.
Good news: it can be different. Below we present some of the outstanding recent developments in the field of user experience design. Most techniques seem very futuristic, and are extremely impressive. Keep in mind: they can become ubiquitous over the next years.
In order to work well, designs have to be optimized for simplicity, transparency and, consequently, optimal user experience. The user experience itself is, however, in many cases just an elegant term employed with false intentions and wrong approaches.
Optimal user experience is rarely achieved by visual design elements, although some stakeholders are strongly convinced that it actually is the case. What actually matters is the fact that the content is accessible and legible — and although visual design can support the content and help to communicate with your target audience in a more effective way, it is not a solid foundation to build a successful web-site upon. (In fact, to compromise stakeholders' understanding of design solutions is your primary task if you strive to be a professional web-developer.)
Whatever stages you are going through in your design process, to perform well you need to make sure that your design works for most visitors, whatever screen resolution they use. It's not about the graphics visitors see; as stated above, it's about the content they are looking for.
In most designs typography is used to present information in a rather static way — after all, it has to be read by users. However, it doesn't have to be like this. What effects can be achieved if typography is set in motion? What happens if letters are suddenly floating, jumping and dancing around while sentences are actually interacting with the readers?
Where motion is involved, video is necessary. Below we present some excellent examples of typography embedded into movies and videos — be prepared, "dynamic" typography can be breathtaking.
Used effectively, Flash-based designs can achieve astonishing presentation and impressive user interaction. (In fact, we've already showcased some outstanding examples earlier.) When supported by intuitive design, a mix of visual effects can create a rich user experience. Flash-designs with 3D-effects can be used to do just that. As a part of our Monday Inspiration series let's take a look at some examples of incredible 3D-experience in Flash.
The importance of typography in design can't be overestimated. The accuracy, precision and balance of geometric forms can give letters the elegance and sharpness they deserve. Besides, elegant fonts can help to convey the message in a more convenient way. In fact, while there are many excellent professional fonts (we've presented some of them in our article 80 Beautiful Typefaces For Professional Design) there are literally thousands of free low-quality fonts which you would never use for professional designs.
Quality costs. The price of "bulletproof" fonts usually reflects their quality and starts at 50$ per typeface. However, before purchasing a font you will probably use only once in your designs you might want to take a glance at outstanding free alternatives first.
Over the last year we've been observing typo-designers and their works; we've regularly collected high-quality fonts available for free download and free to use for personal or/and commercial projects. In this article we'd like to present an overview of over 40 excellent free fonts you might use for your professional designs in 2008. What is your favourite?
Compared to conventional navigation patterns tag clouds don't necessarily offer a more convenient and intuitive navigation. However, used properly, they can provide visitors with an instant illustration of the main topics, giving a very specific and precise orientation of the site's content. Since human beings tend to think in concepts and models, it's easier to get an idea of presented content if the main concepts are given straight away — in digestible pieces, and prioritized by their weight. In fact, the main advantage of tag clouds lies in their ability to highlight the most important or/and popular subjects dynamically which is not the case in conventional navigation menus.
Tag clouds offer a quite interesting approach for site navigation; although the technique is sometimes considered to be an "alternative", it shouldn't replace the "common" navigation but support it giving users additional clues about the content of the site. Due to their "cloudy" form the design of tag clouds sets them apart from other design elements on a page. And although designers don't really have that much choice in designing them, they still find their ways to break through the bounds of creativity and come up with some unusual approaches and solutions.
This article offers some selected examples of tag clouds, its shortcomings and also some suggestions for tagging data and links in a more profound and effective way.
Right, it's the 31st of October. In spirit of the coming Halloween parties we'd like to spark some design flavour by showcasing Halloween redesigns we've stumbled upon over the last few days. Pumpkins, skeletons, dark colors and spiders can be found almost in every Halloween design. In some cases designers replace some of the logo elements by visual elements (images or Flash-movies); other designers tend to add dark background colors and an according Halloween theme to the web-site's header. And sometimes the whole design is completely replaced with a Halloween theme.
Last week we've presented some beautiful wallpapers and tutorials in our Halloween Roundup: Wallpapers And Tutorials and asked our readers to send us their redesigns of our Smashing Magazine logo. As a result we've got a number of Smashing Pumpkings which we'd like to present in this post as well. And we've also replaced our logo with the Halloween logo designed by Marian Buhnici (first logo in the list below).
The Halloween is coming. The preparations are running. Pumpkins are being carved. And skeletons are being packed out from the closets. Since you probably want to set a perfect mood for your coming Halloween party, you might want to set up the party on your weblog as well. So if you are planning on some little redesign you might need some Halloween icons. Besides, what is the Halloween without a scary Halloween wallpaper on your desktop or some fancy decoration for your laptop?
To help you to set the scary mood we've decided to present some of the most beautiful wallpapers, icons, Halloween art works, modding methods, costumes, recipes and tutorials for your tuesday's party. Furthermore we'd like you to collect the best Halloween logos you'll find in the Web over the next week and you can change the Smashing Magazine logo as well.
Every now and again we take a look around, select “fresh” high-quality free fonts and present them to you in a brief overview. The choice is enormous, so the time you need to find them is usually the time you should be investing in your current projects. We search for them and we find them, so you don’t have to.
This month we can present five excellent free fonts. It’s not quite clear if you are allowed to use MyriadPro (Bold, Semibold), Helvetica (Bold) and Humanist Gill 521 (Bold), which are also presented below. Please read the license agreement carefully - it can change from time to time.
You can find over 50 more free fonts in our section Fonts.
Charts are supposed to visualize data in order to give a more profound understanding of the nature of a given problem or recent developments. Whatever type of data presentation you prefer (pie charts, bubble charts, bar graphs, network diagrams etc.), you can create charts in graphic editors manually or use special desktop-software instead. In both cases you have a major problem: once you’d like to update an old chart, or create a new one, you have to run the application and create new images over and over again. That’s not flexible. That's also not usable — e.g. if you'd like to update your chart live.
Please notice that the solutions listed below don't necessarily produce charts which serve the main purpose of data visualization — namely, to provide an easy-to-use visual presentation of (possibly) complex data sets. It's far more important that the presented information is usable and comprehensible rather than presented in a visually appealing way. Outstanding data visualizations aren't achieved by the beauty of data presentation, but by an effective interpretation of the data it represents.