Author:

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.

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10 Usability Nightmares You Should Be Aware Of

Sometimes you just want to get the information you're after, save it and move along. And you can't. Usability nightmares — which are rather the daily routine than an exception — appear every now and again; usually almost every time you type your search keywords in Google. In his article "Why award-winning websites are so awful" Gerry McGovern points out that "the shiny surface wins awards, real substance wins customers" and that is absolutely true.

Nevermind what design you have, and nevermind which functionality you have to offer — if your visitors don't understand how they can get from point A to point B they won't use your site.

In almost every professional design (except from special design showcases such as, e.g., portfolios) you need to offer your visitors

  • a clear, self-explanatory navigation,
  • precise text-presentation,
  • search functionality and
  • visible and thought-out site structure.

And that means that you simply have to folow the basic rules of usability and common sense. You want to communicate with your visitors, don't drive them away, right?

Real Player

In this article we take a look at some of the usability nightmares you should avoid designing functional and usable web-sites. At the end of the article you'll also find 8 usability check-points you should probably be aware of.

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Selected Wallpapers For Your Desktop

If you can't live without a nice wallpaper on your desktop you might need to invest many hours in the search for the perfect one - that fits to your resolution and has an appealing theme. The quality of the desktop images is often not the one you'd praise over and over again looking at your desktop. The best wallpapers aren't cheap photos, but are works of art in their own right.

In the third part of our collection you'll find many different types of background images - beautiful wallpapers, devkits, Flickr pools, Widescreen and HD-monsters and even wallpapers-related social communites and wallpapers for gamers.

Wallpaper Screenshot
Wallpaper Screenshot

You might want to take a look at the previous collections of wallpapers we've already put together:

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Attractive Online Diagrams, Charts And Maps

Data charts and diagrams are used when statistical data has to be presented in the most convenient and usable way. Visual charts are clear, visually appealing and easier to perceive than some simple enumerations or tables - mainly because users don't have to analyze the meaning of presented facts, but can perceive main tendencies through the visual weight of the facts — directly.

amCharts
amCharts

You can create charts in graphic editors or use special applications (software or web-apps) which can help you to create your charts in few minutes. However, 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. Or maybe you just want to offer your visitors not a simple image, but a powerful dynamic chart.

To gain a greater level of flexibility you need to take a closer look at further approaches.

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Free Fonts of the Month: Revalo, Nadia Serif, Qlassik

Sometimes web design is just about beautiful typography. Used with a profound understanding of white space, basic typographic principles and usability heuristics, it can sufficiently highlight the main sections of the site and its key-elements. Font size of headers, body copy and navigation is important. Leading is important. Line length is important. And the visibility of links is important. Basically, that's it - really, you don't need more.

There are literally thousands of professional typefaces you can use, you might use dozens of them; however there is also a plenty of high-quality freefonts which can serve as reasonable and feasible alternatives and fulfill your requirements just as well. We collect all of them regularly, so you don't have to.

Nadia Serif Freefont

Over the last month we've found six high-quality free fonts you can use for both private and commercial projects. Please check out the license agreements before using these typefaces - disclaimers can change from time to time.

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170+ Expert Ideas From World’s Leading Developers

Few days ago we've published the first part of our survey "50 Designers x 6 Questions". We've presented the first three questions which we've asked and 175 professional suggestions, tips and ideas from some of the renowned web-developers all around the world we've received. Today we'd like to present you the second part of the article, which covers the rest of the survey and also presents an overview of the most important ideas and suggestions you should be aware of if you'd like to become or remain a professional.

Three More Questions

  • What is one thing to do before starting a new project?
  • What is one common mistake you should always avoid developing web-sites?
  • What is one device/tool or/and service you can't imagine your life without?

Even More Expert Ideas!

You can find even more expert ideas, solutions and tips in our articles You can also win one of 40+ books for professional design and development as well as one of 53 presents. First a brief summary of all 300+ suggestions, ideas and tips we've received from the world's leading web developers and experts out there. Under the summary you'll find a detailed review of all answers we've received. Read more...

40+ Books For Professional Design & Development

Professionalism is built upon knowledge and experience. To become or remain professional, you permanently need to improve your design and programming skills, be aware of new approaches and now how other designers and developers achieve both beautiful and effective designs. And to improve your design and programming skills all the time you need bulletproof sources to learn properly and to learn from masters who have a profound understanding of the field they're working in. Renowned books from well-known designers, developers, artists and authors might be just the right thing - serving as the inspiration or helping you to stay in touch with popular techniques in your field. Over the last weeks we've selected over 40 expert books in the fields of typography, color, graphic design, brand identity, inspiration, web design and programming, Web 2.0, usability, data visualization and simplicity.

Book Cover

Book Cover

We've ordered most of them (some books were unavailable). And we'd like to give them all away - to you and for free - as the appreciation of your trust, your interest and your support of Smashing Magazine over the last year.

How can I participate?

To participate, you have to
  • answer the question "What is the best thing to start a perfect day with?" in the comments to this post (one word is enough),
  • choose one book in the table (not in the list!) you like most and post the number right after the answer (on the next line).
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ConceptShare: Online Design Collaboration Made Easy

We've all been there: a typical task web-developers permanently have to deal with: how to communicate with clients in an effective and convenient way? How to make sure that the best compromise between designers' professional decisions and clients' personal interests is indeed found? The more organized and convenient you handle the communication issue, the more conflicts and additional work you can avoid.

The answer is actually quite simple: you need to listen to your clients, although you shouldn't follow their wishes blindly. Clients don't always know what they really want and even more often they don't know, whether the changes they'd like to introduce are effective in some way. You also need to make sure that your clients are listening to you, which is why you also have to build up the trust and respect for your professionalism and your work.

To achieve both goals, you need to discuss your concepts, ideas and sketches in a simple, descriptive and convenient way. You also need to receive a precise feedback on what details your clients would like to change or improve, and - more importantly - why they'd like to do that. Sending screenshots via e-mail often causes conflicts and misunderstandings, particularly because clients can't articulate directly and have to describe with words what they actually mean.

ConceptShare

Good news: there is an effective all-in-one-solution which can make the communication process much easier. ConceptShare is an optimal web-based idea and design sharing and collaboration tool you can use for virtual workgroups with clients, customers and colleagues.

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20+ Free And Fresh Icon Sets

User-friendly icon sets are always nice to look at and useful to have ready to hand. Since effective designers guide their users' attention using visuals, icons can (and probably should) be used in almost every project you are or will be working on. Whether for an illustration, sketch, site or weblog - used moderately, icons can point users' attention to the key-aspects of an article or specific site sections and communicate the message of the site in a more effective way.

This is why web designers need them. And this is why we look for them. Regularly.

Smiley
Flags

Let's take a look at over 20 free, beautiful and fresh icon sets as well as references to further free icon libraries. Some of the sets can be used for free only for private projects, however most of them can also be used in commercial projects. In both cases - before using icon sets please read the license agreement carefully; it can change from time to time.

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Creativity Spark From Masters Of Illustration

Creative thinking is an essential part of design workflow. Whatever sketch you are working on, at some point you find yourself in the situation where you simply need some fresh ideas to find your path around the creativity block. Going away may help. Listening to the music may help. But particularly the works of the famous graphic artists may help. In fact, studying them very closely, you can not only explore new ideas, but also learn the smallest details - they form the profound foundation of every masterpiece.

In this post we'd like to present you an ultimate breakthrough for your creativity blocks; over the last weeks we've been searching for the most popular graphic designers, illustrators and artists around the world. We've selected some of their works to give you an idea what style they have and what details of modern design you can expect and learn from them.

So what do we have as result? Over 100 breathtaking illustrations from some of the best contemporary graphic designers, illustrators and artists; besides you'll also find references to further (mostly unknown) sources for inspiration you can use on a daily basis.

Peter Jaworowski
Chuck Anderson

Once you've selected the artist whose works you like, click on the image to get to his/her portfolio and explore his/her work in more depth. Please notice that most artists listed below are well-known in the worldwide design community (and so are their works); hopefully you know not all of them.

Please be patient, it may take a while until the images are loaded. Please be aware that it also may take a while until you've seen most of showcased images.

Further suggestions and ideas? Please comment.

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404 Error Pages: Reloaded

Three weeks ago we’ve showcased some of the most beautiful, creative and user-friendly 404 Error Pages; we’ve collected some interesting ideas one can use to help out the visitors once they got lost ony your page. We’ve also asked our readers to design their own 404 pages and promised to present the best solutions afterwards.

We’ve received over 100 entries. The choice wasn’t easy, so evaluating the quality of the entries we’ve considered - among other things - the communication with visitors, precise and clear navigation, the use of graphics, creative ideas and some outstanding solutions. Some of the solutions presented below might not be as helpful as they could or should be, however they include some creative approaches you should be aware of designing your 404 error pages.

404 Error Page Example

We’d like to thank to everyone who participated, your input means a lot for us and for web-designers worldwide. You help to improve the quality of the Web. Don’t underestimate it.

404 Error Page Example

So here is what you’ve come out with: over 45 working examples of user-friendly, creative and outstanding 404 error pages - in a brief overview.

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