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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.
Good Web designers know what many others might not realize: that creating a truly beautiful website requires care, time and craft. And similar to how a craftsperson molds their creation by combining raw materials, skill and unwavering focus on the vision, a beautiful design is planned and executed with exceptional focus on what is to be achieved by the website. It is important, however, not to confuse a beautifully crafted website with one that simply brushes over the content with attractive visuals.
This article provides a small selection of tried and true methods that Web designers regularly employ to give a website that bespoke look and feel. Make no mistake: these methods do take extra time, and they often result in improvements that the untrained eye might not consciously register. Users will leave with a smile and a lasting impression or relationship with your website, even if they can’t quite put their finger on why.
There is no doubt about it, I am a hypocrite. Fortunately nobody has noticed… until now. Here’s the thing. On one hand I talk about the importance of having a good work/life balance, and yet on the other I prefer to hire people who do personal projects in their spare time.
Do you see the problem with this scenario? How can one person possibly juggle work, life and the odd side project? It would appear there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Being the arrogant and stubborn individual I am, when this hypocrisy was pointed out to me, my immediate reaction was to endeavour to justify my position. A less opinionated individual would probably have selected one or the other, but I propose these two supposedly contradictory viewpoints can sit harmoniously together.
Can you have your cake and eat it, by working on side projects, holding down a job and still having a life beyond your computer?
To understand how this is possible we must first establish why a work/life balance is important and what role side projects play. Let’s begin by asking ourselves why it is important to have a life beyond our computers, even when we love what we do.
Emergency car shopping is no fun. This past month was the second time I had to shop for a car in a short timeframe without advance warning. Like most informed shoppers, I went online to get a feel for my options, armed with knowledge of what I was looking for: apart from safety, gas mileage and reliability, it had to comfortably seat six and not require me to take out a second mortgage.
I felt like a persona out of a scenario that I had role-played a few years ago when our UX team conducted a global UX benchmarking project for General Motors. That year, a JD Power consumer satisfaction study revealed that 68% of GM’s US websites were below the industry average, with two in the bottom 10%. This time, though, the experience was personal and made me think about the lessons to be learned from the experience of shopping for a car online that could be applied to any website.
We’d like to believe that we use established design patterns for common elements on the Web. We know what buttons should look like, how they should behave and how to design the Web forms that rely on those buttons. And yet, broken forms, buttons that look nothing like buttons, confusing navigation elements and more are rampant on the Web. It’s a boulevard of broken patterns out there.
This got me thinking about the history and purpose of design patterns and when they should and should not be used. Most interestingly, I started wondering when breaking a pattern in favor of something different or better might actually be OK. We all recognize and are quick to call out when patterns are misused. But are there circumstances in which breaking the rules is OK? To answer this question properly, let’s go back to the beginning.
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.
In my nearly two decades as an information architect, I’ve seen my clients flush away millions upon millions of dollars on worthless, pointless, “fix it once and for all” website redesigns. All types of organizations are guilty: large government agencies, Fortune 500s, not-for-profits and (especially) institutions of higher education. [Links checked February/18/2017]
Worst of all, these offending organizations are prone to repeating the redesign process every few years like spendthrift amnesiacs. Sadly, redesigns rarely solve actual problems faced by end users. I’m frustrated because it really doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s look at why redesigns happen, and some straightforward and inexpensive ways we might avoid them.
The gaming industry is huge, and it can keep its audience consumed for hours, days and even weeks. Some play the same game over and over again — and occasionally, they even get out their 15-year-old Nintendo 64 to play some Zelda.
Now, I am not a game designer. I actually don’t even play games that often. I am, though, very interested in finding out why a game can keep people occupied for a long period of time, often without their even noticing that they’ve been sitting in front of the screen for hours. I want my apps and products to affect my visitors in the same way.
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. [Links checked March/06/2017]
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.
Emotional design has become a powerful tool in creating exceptional user experiences for websites. However, emotions did not use to play such an important role on the Web. Actually, they did not use to play any role at all; rather, they were drowned by a flood of rational functionality and efficiency.
We were so busy trying to adapt to the World Wide Web as a new medium that we lost sight of its full potential. Instead of using the Internet on our terms, we adapted to its technical and, at first, impersonal nature. If it wasn’t for visionary contemporaries such as Don Norman or Aarron Walter, we might still be focusing on improving processes, neglecting the potential of emotional design.