Category: Design

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.

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Are Touchscreen Tablets Effective Design Tools?

Regardless of the final platform — desktop, tablet, mobile — most designers start their explorations on paper. Depending on the designer’s preference, the paper may be bound or unbound, lined or unlined, smooth or ridged. And while the materials may differ, the goal is the same: to quickly explore a variety of concepts.

Are Touchscreen Tablets Effective Design Tools?

The designer’s sketching tools haven’t changed much over the years, but the role of sketches has evolved. Instead of rushing to convert them to a more polished form, designers now often share early sketches with clients. Their roughness suggests that the designs aren’t “done,” which encourages feedback and facilitates collaboration.

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Examining The Design Process: Clichés and Idea Generation

Where do good ideas come from? It’s a question that matters a great deal to designers, yet seems to be curiously discounted in the common perception of graphic design. Any time I talk with, say, an uncle at Thanksgiving about my work, I’m reminded that, in most people's minds, the job of being a designer is mainly a matter of learning a set of computer applications — programs which, when properly operated, presumably do the work of generating ideas on their own.

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If pressed further, most people will offer up some version of the Genius Theory: the idea that certain individuals are simply blessed with a force called ‘creativity’ that (as the theory goes) allows them to summon remarkable visual solutions to problems where the rest of us see only a blank canvas.

In this article, we will look at four examples of successful visual solutions created by well-known designers, and examine the process by which each designer arrived at his final concept. In each case, we will see that the solution did not arrive as a sudden flash of inspiration from out of the blue; rather, a good idea emerged methodically out of a sensible analysis of readily-available ideas and impressions.

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The Design Matrix: A Powerful Tool For Guiding Client Input

I used to think the beginning of a website design project was the best part. Hopes are high. People are full of great ideas. Nobody is disappointed yet. But as I gained experience, I found that learning about a client’s brand, competitors and customers doesn’t always give clear direction about design goals.

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Brand discussions can generate goals like “be modern,” but they don’t necessarily determine how to accomplish those goals. Competitor reviews can devolve into cherry-picking sessions that spawn “frankencomps” rather than provide helpful feedback. And mood boards, which communicate a general feeling, don’t help to articulate or prioritize design goals. With a design matrix, you can guide discussions and establish clear direction.

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Time-Saving And Educational Resources For Web Designers

Web design community is strong and hard-working. We have plenty of useful resources, tools and services created, developed and released every single day: apart from goodies such as free fonts or icons, there are also many educational resources and little time-savers that can significantly improve designer's workflow. We permanently look out for the new projects and support them by presenting them on Twitter, Facebook, in our e-mail newsletter and, evidently, in Smashing Magazine's posts.

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Today we are glad to present one of such posts: an overview of handy new resources for web designers; most of them were released recently, but some of them are a bit older. Still, they were included to supplement the overview, making the post more comprehensive and complete. Please feel free to discuss the featured resources in the comments to this post. And, of course, thank you guys for creating and maintaining all these useful resources. Your efforts are deeply appreciated.

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E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More

Quality product descriptions can transform e-commerce conversion rates — it's common to see increases of 30-100%. As well as converting more visitors, search traffic increases drastically when unique copy is written for each product. Most online retailers use manufacturers' copy or rely solely on images to sell products. They then use inadequate copy elsewhere on their site and fail to achieve a consistent tone to persuade their audience. This creates a compelling opportunity for savvy retailers: by writing quality e-commerce copy you will create a unique competitive advantage.

E-commerce: a product page

Essentially, your copy must achieve two goals — establish trust and convince visitors that your product is right for them. Potential customers cannot see or touch the product since it's not physically there in front of them. This is why it’s important that your copy anticipates the needs of your visitors while convincing them that your company can be trusted to provide excellent products. Persuasion and creating trust are difficult things to do with words alone; yet, they are still achievable.

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Web Design Questionnaires, Project Sheets and Work Sheets

It's nearly impossible to provide an accurate quote to a prospective web design client without first gathering information about what that particular client needs. Some designers do this in either a face-to-face meeting or over the phone, but more often, they have a questionnaire that prospective clients fill out. This is preferable for a couple of reasons, but the most important is probably that this document then becomes an integral part of the design process and is available to refer back to along the way.

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So the question is whether you should put that questionnaire up on your website, or only send it to prospective clients once they've contacted you. There are a couple of reasons you may want to make it available online, but the obvious one is that clients are often eager to get started with their projects and so by providing the questionnaire online, this eliminates a step in the pre-contract part of the process.

Here, we've collected questionnaires and worksheets used by actual web design companies, including some of the leaders in the industry. There are both online and downloadable forms included, as well as the pros and cons for each format.

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Multivariate Testing in Action: Five Simple Steps to Increase Conversion Rates

The attention span on the Web has been decreasing ever since Google had arrived and changed the rules of the game. Now with millions of results available on any topic imaginable, the window to grab a visitor's attention has decreased significantly (in 2002, the BBC reported it is about 9 seconds). Picture yourself browsing the Web: do you go out of your way to read the text, look at all the graphics, and try to thoroughly understand what the page is about? The answer is most likely to be a straight "no." With bombardment of information from all around, we have become spoiled kids, not paying enough attention to what a Web page wants to tell us.

A/B testing example

We make snap decisions on whether to engage with a website based on whatever we can make out in the first few (milli)seconds. The responsibility for making a good first impression lies with designers and website owners. Given that the window of opportunity to persuade a visitor is really small, most designs (probably including yours) do a sub-optimal job because the designer in you thinks in terms of aesthetics. However, most websites do not exist just to impress visitors. Most websites exist to make a sale. Whether it is to get visitors to subscribe to the blog feed, or to download a trial, every website ultimately exists to make a sale of some kind.

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