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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.
The entire process of designing digital applications comes with many challenges and decisions. For the majority of projects, you will be designing in somewhat familiar territory. But what happens when you have to design something to be used by hundreds of children around the world? How do you accommodate your design for kids of different ages and backgrounds? What special challenges emerge, and how can they be overcome?
For a project of this scale, the design process we follow might require modifications. These modifications would be to accommodate the needs of younger age groups and would shape the entire length of the project, from user research, brainstorming, interface design and interaction design all the way to the final stages of usability testing and user support.
Endless layers in Photoshop. Overstuffed image folders. That jQuery plug-in that has 12 files associated with it. Hundreds or thousands of individual pieces go into making a website. No wonder we go off the deep end when we can’t find a closing div — er, section tag.
We work with a ridiculously large number of things, and how we organize them (or choose not to) is often left to personal preference. But our messy habits result in confusion for the designer or developer who inherits your work. Does it really need to be this way?
Recently, a couple of things happened in my design career that have made me sit down and reflect a bit on where I’m at and how I can improve what I deliver to my clients and their users. I’d noticed that my source of inspiration had changed and that I was being inspired more by clever solutions and ideas than by visual flourish.
Like many designers, my RSS feed of inspirational websites is full of great work and posts. I’m also active on Twitter, and I meet up with other designers regularly at local events. But I find that at a basic level, I actually don’t draw that much inspiration directly from these things anymore.
An understanding of typographic etiquette separates the master designers from the novices. A well-trained designer can tell within moments of viewing a design whether its creator knows how to work with typography. Typographic details aren’t just inside jokes among designers. They have been built up from thousands of years of written language, and applying them holds in place long-established principles that enable typography to communicate with efficiency and beauty.
Handling these typographic details on the Web brings new challenges and restrictions that need to be considered. Below are a few rules of thumb that will have you using typography more lucidly than ever before.
Just how we are constantly trying to fit in with a certain crowd or to be seen in a certain way by our peers in real life, we are doing the same in our digital lives. And by digital lives I mean our social media profiles. If you come to think about it, our online profiles are a lot more than just an extension to our real lives.
I truly believe that in the online world, we are given a lot more freedom to be our true selves as opposed to in ‘the real world’. In the same way many people find it easier to ‘text’ bad news rather than to share it via phone or in person, social media allows us to be the person we want to be without having to face the immediate physiological reactions from others.
Mention Jamaican music to someone who isn’t a fan and you can bet that a fairly predictable image pops into the head of your listener. Chances are this image looks something like the cover of Bim Sherman’s Exploitation. Same old Rastafarian colors… Some guy with dreads… A title that refers broadly to political oppression or positive thinking without much in the way of self-critical awareness or irony.
For many people, this vision — of roots reggae and its deified lead singer — is the only face that Jamaican music has to offer. (To be honest, the Jamaican music industry, in its eagerness to capitalize on the popularity of this face, hasn’t done much to contradict it.)
Games are becoming more Web-like, and the Web is becoming more game-like. If you need proof of this, you have only to look at Yahoo Answers. Random questions are posed, the top answer is chosen, and credibility points are given to the winner. It's a ranking system that accumulates and unlocks more and more features within the system. It works because of the psychology of achievement and game mechanics and thus encourages interaction.
This raises the question, what can a Web designer learn from games, or — more specifically — video games? Good game interfaces have to be highly usable and intuitive, capable of handling a lot of repetitive actions in the fewest clicks possible. They need to be attractive and engaging. They need to be likeable. A good game interface adds to and enhances the user’s experience. In a game, people want the content delivered to them in a way that doesn’t break the fantasy. Any dissonance with the interface will cause an otherwise great game to fail.
Art critic Emilie Trice has called Berlin “the graffiti Mecca of the urban art world.” While few people would argue with her, the Berlin street scene is not as radical as her statement suggests. Street art in Berlin is a big industry. It’s not exactly legal, but the city’s title of UNESCO’s City of Design has kept local authorities from doing much to change what observers call the most “bombed” city in Europe. From the authorities’ point of view, the graffiti attracts tourists, and the tourists bring money to a city deep in debt.
This article looks at the development of the Berlin street art scene, from its beginnings as a minor West Berlin movement in the late ’70s to its current status: the heritage of a now unified city.
Since the early days of communication, humanity has been captivated by the methods it uses to convey and preserve information. How we communicate with each other defines who we are and constitutes so much of what makes a culture and an individual unique.
Over the centuries, we have seen media evolve across a wide array of channels, from print to radio to television to the Internet. Each one of these channels, or media, has its own unique characteristics, much like the people who use them.
For designers, Android is the elephant in the room when it comes to app design. As much as designers would like to think it’s an iOS world in which all anyones cares about are iPhones, iPads and the App Store, nobody can ignore that Android currently has the majority of smartphone market share and that it is being used on everything from tablets to e-readers. In short, the Google Android platform is quickly becoming ubiquitous, and brands are starting to notice.
But let’s face it. Android’s multiple devices and form factors make it feel like designing for it is an uphill battle. And its cryptic documentation is hardly a starting point for designing and producing great apps. Surf the Web for resources on Android design and you’ll find little there to guide you.
No matter how brilliant a website’s design, no matter how elegant its navigation, sooner or later visitors will decide whether to take action because of something they read. In the end, the effectiveness with which a website converts visitors hinges on words. If a new website is going to hit all the right notes, its content must be just as well crafted as its design and programming.
However, as you might imagine, there are many ways to go wrong with content in a Web development project. The errors discussed in this article have the potential to undo a website and are issues that I run up against time and time again in my nearly 12 years of producing Web content. Half the battle in avoiding these traps is simply recognizing them: all too often, content is handled as an afterthought, hurriedly completed to meet a project’s deadline.
The input form is an essential element of almost any website or application these days. Input is a core method of interaction, and in many cases it represents the hard conversion point between success and failure. With the amount time and effort we put into bringing users to our sign-up and contact forms, it’s surprising that we tend not to spend a proportional amount of time on the forms themselves.
A number of techniques and elements can be used in Web forms to turn them from abject failures into successful conversion points. In this article, we'll present some interesting examples and useful guidelines for Web form design.