This category features articles on general design principles, Web design, typography, user interface design and related topics. It also presents design showcases and practical pieces on the business side of design. Curated by Alma Hoffmann.
The story of usability is a perverse journey from simplicity to complexity. That's right, from simplicity to complexity—not the other way around.
If you expect a "user-friendly" introduction to usability and that the history of usability is full of well-defined concepts and lean methods, you're in for a surprise. Usability is a messy, ill-defined, and downright confusing concept. The more you think about it—or practice it—the more confusing it becomes.
There has been a long-running war going on over the mobile Web: it can be summarized with the following question: "Is there a mobile Web?" That is, is the mobile device so fundamentally different that you should make different websites for it, or is there only one Web that we access using a variety of different devices? Acclaimed usability pundit Jakob Nielsen thinks that you should make separate mobile websites. I disagree.
Jakob Nielsen, the usability expert, recently published his latest mobile usability guidelines. He summarizes, "Good mobile user experience requires a different design than what's needed to satisfy desktop users. Two designs, two sites, and cross-linking to make it all work."
Our world is getting louder. Consider all the beeps and bops from your smartphone that alert you that something is happening, and all the feedback from your appliances when your toast is ready or your oven is heated, and when Siri responds to a question you’ve posed. Today our technology is expressing itself with sound, and, as interaction designers, we need to consider how to deliberately design with audio to create harmony rather than cacophony.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the uses of audio, where we might find it and when it is useful. This is meant not as a tutorial but rather as a discussion of some basics on using audio feedback.
This year’s experiment: a 3D pop-up book á la Dr. Seuss. If you haven't seen it yet, hop on over and take a look. The website was a test to see how far SVG and CSS 3D transforms could be pushed. I learned a lot in the process and wanted to share some of the techniques that I found helpful when working in 3D space.
Before we jump in, please note that explaining everything about the website without boring you to death would be damn near impossible. For your sake and mine, I’ll provide just brief takeaways. As you skim through the code snippets, be aware that jQuery is being used and that a lot of code has been removed for simplicity (including browser prefixes).
The practice of using a large letter to mark the start of a text has been around for almost two thousand years. Illustrated caps increased usability by marking important passages and guiding readers through the text. Unlike their historic counterparts, drop caps on the Web don’t add value in terms of usability or readability—and they are hard for Web developers to control, often rendering differently across browsers.
Yet, front-end designers and clients often want to use drop caps as decorative elements. How should we implement them? Just as scribes, artisans, and early printers had a variety of methods for creating initial capitals, we Web designers have multiple methods to choose from. We can use an image of a letter, create a class to enlarge and place a letter, or use a first-child:first-letter to enlarge and place the first letter of the first paragraph. But which method should we use? Which method remains consistent across browsers? Which is most accessible?
When users look for information, they have a goal and are on a mission. Even before you started to read this article, chances are you did because you either had the implicit goal of checking what's new on Smashing Magazine, or had the explicit goal of finding information about "Navigation Design".
After a couple of seconds of scanning this article, and maybe reading parts of the introduction, you may have started to ask yourself whether the information that you’re consuming at the moment is actually relevant to you—the user. Unfortunately (and as certain as death and taxes), if users cannot find the information they are looking for, chances are they will abandon their track, never to return.
Good typography shouldn’t have to rely on ornamental crutches to stand tall. Yet despite all the tools and knowledge available to us, we readily embrace a flourishing, decorative typography, with cheap tricks used in a misguided attempt to make it “pop”. This ancient art may rapidly be gaining popularity, but are we paying it the respect it deserves?
Take a snapshot of the visual culture that surrounds you—magazines, movie posters, packaging, websites—how much of it relies on typography? How much of the typography around you is actually well considered?