The Future of Interaction Design With Noessel and Hendrie

The Los Angeles web design community focused on the future of interaction design last week at Art Center in Pasadena. Two speakers took the stage to discuss what users can expect in the near future for user experience (UX), interaction and visual design. The first speaker, Maggie Hendrie, is a user experience designer and educator, who is the Chair of Interaction Design at Art Center. She highlighted some student and graduate work from Art Center IxD students to see how social and creativity have become central to their practice. The main speaker of the night was Christopher Noessel (@chrisnoessel) who recently co-authored the book Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Sci-Fi. He discussed the relationship of design to science fiction, and how sci-fi continuously inspires people to be more innovative with interaction design. The Media Contour team had the opportunity to sit down and talk with both before the show, here are the main ideas:

Mobile Design and Beyond

The first topic Luke Swenson asked the pair to talk about was what is next after mobile design. He noted an increase in business for website design on a mobile interface but what's the next big technology that will further improve user interaction?Chris Noessel is excited about future technologies and began, "I think that the Leap Motion millimeter-wave gesture recognition is going to be super promising. Now that we can read fingers it's going to get a lot more interesting as far as gesture recognition, and we'll be able to maybe even sort of meet sci-fi at what sci-fi has been promising for that sort of thing."Gesture based technologies sound fun and futuristic but it’s not what Noessel is most excited about. He is interested in eyes. "I am most excited about our eyes because there are two technologies that, I believe, are on the verge of breaking through, that is going to change our experience with technology. One is “gaze monitoring.” It’s been around in art for twenty years." He then explained the method of how it works, involving infrared LED monitors that triangulate gaze. As a pointer on a screen, this would be far more efficient than a mouse. "I think we'll be able to relate to computers a lot more when they know where we're looking, especially given that we're entering a world of multiple devices, multiple screens, and multiple touch points. Knowing where I'm looking is pretty critical and computers will be able to know that," said Noessel.

Consumers, Existing and Future Technologies

The discussion of future technologies led to trying to discover how customers will be reached by brands in the coming years. Many references to the Google Glass project were made because of the bridge it has built between mobile interfaces and a eye-projected interface.Maggie Hendrie began with this important point to consider, "A lot of technologies exist today that we just don't use. So near frequency, RFID, know the fact that we still have so many connectors instead of bluetooth-ing a lot more is kind of untapped but I do agree that the opportunity to have a personalized, visual experience is new for people. People have had the data experience or a promotional experience or a mobile experience but they haven't had an immersive visual experience outside of gaming and it could naturally focus our attention in a way that our devices used to distract our attention."Hendrie theorized another good point after she had brought up the patent case issue between tech-giants Apple and Samsung. The issue was over a patent Apple had made for its "pinch" screen gesture which led to Hendrie asking "What happens when people patent our gestures?" She continued, "There's an increased understanding of the connection between design innovation and IP creation, right? A lot more people are investing in IP creation, they're beginning to invest in design innovation." Her next call was for designers to be conscious of picking the best medium for their work. In science fiction technologies are functioning in an ideal world where the technology in real life is just now being realized. "Again I think that's going to be the role of designers is choosing the right interactive medium for the desired outcome."

How Businesses Can Conceptualize Ways to Reach Consumers

The last major idea Luke asked Chris Noessel and Maggie Hendrie to touch points on was how a business can conceptualize ways to use technologies to reach consumers. It may be hard for a client to understand the best way to implement new technologies into marketing efforts and ultimately what will the adoption curve rate be of these new technologies.Noessel began, "We often ask our clients to do one of two things. One: Imagine its sci-fi...sci-fi is a language in and of itself. For example, imagine it’s in Minority Report, or imagine it’s in Star Wars. That frees them up from the constraints of “what can be done” to what would be awesome? What would be useful?"Hendrie added that when meeting with clients there are always two big questions to ask and consider. The first question is "What business are you in?" and the second is "What kind of organization are you?" It comes down to what kind of opportunities are available to your type of organization.


The round table interview ended on a positive note with many delightful insights on the future of technology as a business tool. Many thanks to Art Center in Pasadena and Jon Fox and Petra Wennberg Cesario of NorthEast LA User Experience (NELAUX) group who made it possible to interview Maggie Hendrie and Chris Noessel.Christopher Noessel's new book Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Sci-Fi is available on (

A minimal website naturally improves website conversions

A minimal website naturally improves website conversions

There is a lot of debate over how much your website design and user experience (UX) actually matter when it comes to online conversions. While some people swear by elaborate, flashy designs that wow users and keep them engaged, others maintain that keeping everything minimal and clean will naturally result in better conversions. Does a minimal website design really improve website conversions?

A minimal website removes the barriers to action

A minimal website naturally improves website conversions because it removes the barriers to action.  A minimal website has only the core or essential components, reducing confusion and distraction. Minimal designs focus on simplicity by eliminating distractions, making messages clear and navigation easy, so visitors know where to go and what to do next. The main objective of minimal web design is to make the content stand out clearly without 'pushing' anything else onto users/visitors - no gratuitous animations or special effects that might distract them from actually reading your valuable content. Animations can be fun and engaging without being distracting. They can, and must have a purpose or they should be removed. Ask yourself, if it is adding to the clarity of your message?

A website is a reflection of your business

If your website and message, are too complicated, then maybe so is your business. By creating a simple, easy-to-navigate website, you'll be sending your visitors the message that you have clarity, leadership which ultimately builds trust. Minimal websites build customer trust when you need to demonstrate product quality without confusion. This helps your users focus on what matters, making their path to conversion smoother. By eliminating distractions and features that are not essential to the website's goals, you'll be able to focus on one thing only - improving conversions.When people visit websites, they make split-second decisions about whether it meets their needs and to which content they should pay attention. As such, users need to understand your website in seconds, not minutes. Minimal websites are designed in a way that "forces" visitors to focus on the content, not everything else around it.

A minimalist website makes for a more enjoyable experience

Minimal design is effortless to digest which makes users happier when they visit your website and spend more time browsing through your site's pages. Simplicity is also comforting for both the business owner and the user. Since minimal designs focus on ease and clarity, users aren't confused by complicated structures or distracted by too many elements vying for their attention at once. This helps your users find what they are looking for faster because it doesn't distract them with other things instead of the core purpose of the website - to convert leads into paying customers.In conclusion, a minimalist website design improves website conversions by removing barriers to action, reducing confusion and distraction, and allowing users to focus on your message. Plus, it shows clarity and leadership – a direct reflection of your business. Ultimately, focused attention accelerates user comprehension and action. What are some of your favorite minimalist websites? Let us know in the comments below!Reach out to learn more about minimalist web design or get started with one for your own business. And don’t forget to comment below with your favorite minimalist websites!

7 Reasons to Publish an Email Newsletter Today

It started with a simple box inviting people to subscribe. Today, Geoff Bartakovics has transformed Tasting Table to a thriving newsletter with over one million subscribers. It only took four short years and a fair amount of elbow grease to do it. Not all businesses will grow to one million subscribers. But, it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibilities. Here are seven reasons your business needs to publish an email newsletter beginning today.

Keeps Your Business Name Fresh in the Mind of Customers

Every single time you send out a news email “blast” or email newsletter to your subscribers you’re sending them a reminder that your business is the one that can meet their needs. Whatever business you’re in, this is advertising that keeps on giving – even if they don’t need your products or service today, your business will be the first one that comes to mind when they do because they consistently see your name in their email inboxes (whether that’s on their computer or mobile device).

Brings Customers to You Week After Week

You no longer have to wait for customers to come to your website when they need something you have to offer. Now, you can bring your website, products, and/or services to them with a few keystrokes and a click of the mouse. And – it’s instant! You don’t even need to wait on the postal services to deliver it.

Lets Your Customers Advertise for You

When you send consistently high quality email newsletters to your customers, the chances are good that they are going to share your newsletters through social media or with other friends and family who need the information, services, or goods you have to offer. They become advertisers for your business and all it took was for you to give them the tools to help you out via your email campaign.

Drives Traffic to Your Website

No matter what line of business you’re in, no matter how good you are at taking care of your business, your website isn’t going to be successful without traffic. Email marketing through a well-designed and well-thought out newsletter brings a steady stream of visitors to your site week after week. The best news is that these visitors are generally people who are already interested in the products you’re selling.

Helps You Build Relationships with Your Target Market

More importantly, email newsletters help you build trust with your target market. The more reliable and informative news you share with your audience, the more often they will turn to you for solid industry information. There really is no better way to build solid, trusting relationships with your customer base than email newsletters.

Establishes Your Business as an Industry Leader

For the people who subscribe to your newsletter, you are the voice of authority in your industry. The more information you provide them with, the more proof you’re giving them that this is the case. Give expert advice to your customers and they will keep coming back to you for more and more advice in your industry. Newsletters are, by far, the easiest way to share that advice.

Gives you the Chance to Provide a Compelling Call to Action

More importantly, it gives you this vital opportunity every time you hit the send button for your email newsletter. You’re not just sending one call to action. You’re sending calls to action to each and every newsletter subscriber on your list. And, they’ve invited you to do it. They want to hear what you have to say and when the timing and product is right, they are your most likely buyers on the World Wide Web (and sometimes off the Internet too).

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do all these things so easily? You can! We can help. Contact us today to to see how we can help you get your email newsletter up and running today so you can enjoy amazing results like these tomorrow.

Roundtable: Lean UX with Lane Halley and Jaime Levy

Jaime Levy and Jane Halley

At this month’s much anticipated Los Angeles User Experience Meetup event regarding Lean UX, Media Contour had the opportunity of conducting a round table interview with Lane Halley and Jaime Levy on the benefits of Lean UX strategies and practices for startups and enterprises.Lane Halley is a digital product designer and UX facilitator at Carbon Five. Jaime Levy is a User Experience strategist and principal at JLR Interactive. She also teaches User Experience at UCLA Extension.They are both pioneers in the topics of User Experience and Lean Startups and offered innovative insight at this great event. Below is an excerpt of our round table.LUKE: Hello. Our community consists of both agency UX’ers and designers, but also startups, small businesses and marketing teams within medium-to-enterprise level companies. I’d like to start with them. Let’s define Lean UX and discuss why it’s beneficial to their projects.

What is Lean UX?

LANE HALLEY: Lean Startup is a growing movement focused on customer understanding, experimentation, validated learning and iterative product releases which shortens product development cycles and increases the chance of product success. Lean UX combines elements of design thinking and Agile development practices. I think of Lean UX as the evolution of user experience methods which allow us to continue as UX practitioners in the modern world.Lean UX is an alternative to the “waterfall” method of product development which involves distinct phases, handoffs and an over-emphasis on deliverable documents. By working in small validated cycles, teams can reduce risk and minimize waste in their design and development process.

Jaime Levy and Lane Halley

Jaime Levy, Chris Chandler and Lane Halley discuss Lean UX at Cross CampusJAIME LEVY: User Experience is typically practiced as a linear methodology with the output being a static product design document jammed with wireframes and functional specification. The biggest waste to me is the precious time that we creative professionals spend designing products that potentially nobody wants or needs.LUKE:Reducing waste. How often do we end up at the final QA phase of a project only to find out that we should have done something another way? These realizations are often unavoidable growing pains of developing something new, but Lean UX can help businesses find out what they REALLY need earlier on.

Why is Lean UX Better for Businesses?

LANE HALLEY: The first question would be what does this business do and who is their audience? With that sort of foundation, you can better determine ways to deliver what meets your client’s needs without getting caught up in the hubris of what you think they need.LUKE: It’s almost planning by doing. You don’t know what you need or what you’ve missed until some sort of final product is in front of you.LANE HALLEY: Working in this kind of environment, you have to create a different kind of collaborative relationship with your client, where you become explorers together, and you have to recognize that all of your ideas are assumptions until they’re validated with happy, paying customers. This shift in consciousness and way of working based on this philosophy really does yield better results.LUKE: Happy paying customers. I’m finding that it’s really important to get real user feedback sooner in the process and in Lean UX it’s a must.JAIME LEVY:  I would add that getting stakeholders and users together as quickly as possible really applies in any type of work environment. For example, a technique I employ is bringing startup clients and potential users into an informal environment (i.e. a cafe) instead of a traditional focus group setting. We show the potential users a quick and dirty prototype as opposed to a polished product. This relaxes the atmosphere. It makes the interview more conversational, and we increase the likelihood of receiving both immediate and more thought-provoking feedback. I did these "guerilla"-type interviews with the CEO of TradeYa recently. He saw how the potential customers not only stumbled on the prototype but just did not understand the product's value proposition. Because he sat in on the interviews as a notetaker, it allowed us to get on the same page more quickly and with a sharper focus toward product optimization and value innovation.

Adopting a Lean UX Philosophy

LUKE: Let’s shift back to agency life. For teams unfamiliar with Lean UX, how can they start implementing the Lean UX method into their practices?LANE HALLEY: It’s really about changing the relationship between the client and the team that’s doing the production and design. The first thing is to make talking to users an ongoing part of your process. It’s not a special occasion and it’s not just at the end of the process. It’s about continual user engagement, constantly mixing that conversation into the project, and engaging the people who are making the decisions in that process too. Step two is really empowering and aligning the team around a shared vision. We use a technique at Carbon Five called “design studio.” It’s a collaborative design session facilitated by a designer where everyone sits down with pencil and paper and sketches solutions to the problem. This is a great way to get the right conversation flowing around the product that is being created.JAIME LEVY: Well, it’s so dependent on the client because a lot of times clients come in and already have a specific idea for something. It’s also really important to do market research so you know what direct competitors are doing so you can consider what’s being done outside of that particular vertical in terms of feature concepts. This allows for new ways of approaching things and problem solving. Oftentimes, you need to shift the mental model of how a product works to something totally different. Lean UX advocates for UX practitioners to ask clients about who they think are their customers and what problems they are actually trying to solve. But UX Strategy is about balancing the validated solution against smart market research so you can find new opportunities to exploit.


Lean UX is defining a problem and then finding a solution by doing. By getting started, you provide your team with the opportunity to catch missing functionality that you couldn’t of otherwise caught without some type of prototype. It’s also about getting customers in front of your project as soon as possible to learn as much as you can about real user interaction.You can start practicing Lean UX by bringing together collaborative teams and giving them tools to create working prototypes. These prototypes do not have to be complex. At our studio we use a combination of marker boards, paper sketches and Balsamiq Mockups to create working prototypes with your clients and their customers.

Make Smart Updates and Avoid Being Distracted by Website Trends

In any field involving design, there will always be trends. Sometimes, these trends offer easy ways for designers to make certain that one of their creations looks contemporary. In other cases, these trends are destined to be short-lived and may not really offer anything to the end result. Website updates generally will follow some dominant design trends in the Internet world but, that being said, it's important to understand what types of website trends may constitute wastes of time and money.

Layout Trends

Today's websites tend to be much more content rich on a page by page basis than were the websites of the past. In fact, multicolumn designs allow website designers to pack pages full of information.  This is an example of an effective website trend. When this is done right, your website visitors won't have to click through a lot of different pages to get to the information they want. When it's done incorrectly, your visitors won't be able to figure out what part of the page they should be looking at to find what they're after.If you are expanding your website from a one-or two-column designed to a multicolumn design, make certain that you're doing so in a way that makes life easier for your visitors, not more complicated.

Graphic Trends

One of the very noticeable website trends in design over the last few years is that graphics have become more functional than they ever were before. For instance, rather than having a pretty picture on a page to keep visitors interested, most images on webpages these days are very specific to the content on the rest of the page. For businesses, rather than looking for a nice image to put on a webpage, the current trend – and this has been a trend for a while – is to utilize the branding theory as much as possible in image selection.Branding is an example of a good website trend as far as design is concerned. It comes from the accumulated knowledge that marketers and businesses have built up over years of being on the Internet now.

Too Trendy

Remember not to get too trendy with your website design. You may notice that a lot of websites are starting to adopt a particular design style that appeals to you. Your website designer can help you to take advantage of what's good about these website trends but, if they're a very good website designer, they will also show you how you can be different and original at the same time.

Update Your Website : Work With Your Designer to Prevent Hack Attacks

It's safe to say that, when most people think about web design, they think about appearances more than they think about anything else. Web designers do far more than make an attractive website for their clients, however. It's also safe to say that most people are probably aware of the fact that some websites are dangerous to visitors. A good web developer can make certain that your website does not pose a risk to your visitors and implement techniques to prevent against hacking as you update your website.

Avoiding the Dangers of DIY Sites

Some companies and individuals who have websites set up for business purposes try to have the website designed in the house or try to do it on their own. Designing a modern website is a task that requires the skills of several different types of people. This is also the case as far as the effort and team needed to update your website.  Graphic designers work on the looks of the site, developers work on the code and other professionals handle their own elements of the site.When people try to do it themselves, they oftentimes end up using premade plug-ins and other features to increase the interactivity on their site. The problem with this is that the people adding these features oftentimes don't understand web programming enough to know when there installing something that could pose a threat to their visitors. Some of the worst threats on websites don't come from the website that the person is actually looking at: they come from websites that are linked to through malicious add-ons or advertisements. Good web designers can help you avoid falling victim to this as you update your website, and prevent you from getting a reputation as someone with a dangerous website.

Membership Sections

For any type of business, one of the worst possible public relations events is having your member's credentials stolen by hackers. The people who steal this information sometimes go as far as to offer it for sale on certain websites.A good website designer can make certain when you update your website that your website is secure, rather than just appearing to be secure. Understand that security is an ongoing effort.. Security isn't a goal that you reach, it's a constant battle between security experts and the hackers trying to exploit people who use websites. With a good web designer, you can make certain that your website is always updated so that it is ready to handle the latest security threats out there.As is the case with most security issues, website security comes down to knowledge. When you are ready to update your website or if you're having a website newly built , be sure you're using a knowledgeable firm.

Event Review: Understanding Content Strategy with Janine Warner

Last week, Janine Warner (@janinewarner), self-described Digital Alchemist, presented Understanding Content Strategy to the Southern California Web Designers & Developers MeetUp group at Huge, Inc.’s new LA Office. Janine gave us a top level look at Content Strategy. Below you will find a brief overview of her presentation and a few links to resources that can help you with your content strategy.After Janine’s presentation, I was able to sit down with her and talk a little more about the Los Angeles design community, helping clients create content and how we can become better at Content Strategy. Read the interview →

What is a Content Strategist?


According to Janine, a Content Strategist might be a 6-7 headed mythological creature that is likely an ambitious kapelophile. Or in the real world... a Content Strategist is a person who can wear multiple hats through the content creation process. Experts in the Content Strategy field help plan, organize, manage, and create content for websites and other projects. Content Strategists work with clients to discover the best way to communicate key messages that best serve company goals. They also keep the projects on track.

Tools of the Trade

Keeping tabs on a site’s content strategy can be a daunting task that really comes down to organization. Janine showed us some of the tools Content Strategists use to keep everything in check.

Flow Charts

example flow chart

Also known as site maps, flow charts outline how a user will navigate a website. This is also a good way to track of all your pages in the structure of your website. On big projects, content strategy professionals will usually work closely with an information architect to create flowcharts or site maps. On smaller sites, a content strategist may be expected to do this task as part of managing content integration.The flow chart above was created with MindMap, a free mind-mapping tool.

Content Inventory

content inventory spreadsheet

Most content strategists start a project by conducting a content inventory, a detailed document designed to assess the current content on a site and to keep track of each page's content, importance and overall goal. It can also be used as a checklist to make sure nothing was missed.Check out Maadmob's free template to get started with your content inventory.

Gap Analysis

A Gap Analysis is a great way to find out what is missing on your website and what actions are needed to take place to fill those 'gaps.' It generally involves sitting down with the client, the Content Inventory and your client's goals for the website. Is everything listed in the Content Inventory facilitating those goals? If not, add it to the Gap Analysis worksheet and assign team members to fill in the gaps.

Crafting Content for the Web

Source: a similar approach to journalism, the content strategy for the web should be developed in the model of the inverted pyramid, a technique that prioritizes the most important content first rather than in chronological order. Similarly, Janine recommends that you limit each paragraph to one idea and write headlines that clearly convey the meaning of the story and include keywords for better search engine optimization.

3 Seconds or Less

As web designers, we often fall victim to knowing our clients too well. In the process of working with a client, we should get clear on their goals and their backstory. But never forget that visitors may not see a webpage the same way as you do. Janine recommends a 3-second test. Show your website to friends and potential visitors and make sure they can identify the goal and purpose of the site in 3 seconds or less. Make sure that headline says what your client does!

Don’t Forget the 404!

When was the last time you redesigned a 404 page? If you are a designer, Janine hopes you respond with, “Last project!” The 404 page is one of the most overlooked and underrated pages on a website. Done well, the 404 page can serve as an opportunity to demonstrate your client’s voice and even be a bit silly if the mood calls for it. You can also create a better user experience by giving the site’s visitors the option to search for new content or to visit a new page.Find more inspiration at can watch Janine's course on Content Strategy on at visit her website at to learn more about her books, videos, and consulting services, as well growing collection of free tutorials on web design.Lastly, I would like to thank Mario Noble (@mndtwit), the organizer of Southern California Web Designers and Developers, for putting on this event. I recommend checking out his next event. No matter what your level expertise you will get something out of it. And, Mario is always great for a good laugh. Thanks Mario!

Interview: Janine Warner on Content Strategy

Janine Warner recently presented Understanding Content Strategy to the Southern California Web Designers & Developers MeetUp group at Huge, Inc.'s new office in LA. After her presentation, I was able to sit down with her and talk a little more about LA, helping clients create content and how we can become better at content strategy.

Tell our readers a little bit about what you do.

I'm an author, web designer, content strategist... like many people in this business, I wear many hats. I am also the creator of which is an interactive design and training agency.

Your site has a lot of great content targeted towards small and medium-sized businesses.

Thanks. I created to provide additional resources to people who buy my books and training videos and now it gets quite a bit of traffic on its own. Most of the content is basic web design 101, but you’ll also find tips on social media and, of course, content strategy. Because I’m the author of every edition of Dreamweaver For Dummies, you’ll also find a large collection of tutorials on Adobe Dreamweaver. It’s a good place for clients to begin their journey in web design and a place where I help people who want to create their own websites on important topics such as content strategy.

Are there advantages to working with small businesses?

In many ways the smaller clients are the most fun to work with because they haven’t figured out their content yet and that’s really where you get to do your best work if you’re into content strategy.

Sometimes it allows for more creative direction as well.


We see that you’re a fellow Angeleno. How do you use the city to motivate your work.

I often say Los Angeles is a city that you can choose to love or hate and I choose to love it. What I most love about LA is the diversity and the vibrancy, the great museums, the art scene and the creative talent you find here in every shape and form. And in large part because I run my own business, I get to choose where I get to live and work and I don’t have to commute every day in LA traffic! [laughs] That definitely makes people hate LA! I avoid rush hour whenever possible!

You’ve written a lot of books about the Internet. How has writing helped you become am expert in content strategy?

I studied journalism, and I remember one of my professors said, “If you want to be a great writer, the first thing you have to do is write hundreds of thousands of sentences. It almost doesn’t matter what those first two hundred thousand sentences are about. It’s more of a right of passage.” So after writing 25 books, I think finally know how to write [laughs]. I say that with great humility and passion for writing!

"If you want to be a great writer, the first thing you have to do is write hundreds of thousands of sentences..."

I call myself a journalist turned geek. I went from being a traditional reporter to being really interested in the internet, and then I realized that most people as techy as I am couldn’t write very well —some couldn’t communicate their expertise at all, so I found a niche for myself somewhere between technology and journalism, and that set me up well to become an expert in content strategy today.If you can bridge the worlds of writing and technology, content production and development, and you understand something about multimedia and all the different forms of storytelling that exist today, you are in a really good position to work as a content strategist and guide the creation of content in the increasingly complicated world of content design and publishing.

I received similar advice from an art teacher, "First make 10,000 paintings and give them away to your friends. Once you’re done with that, you can then become an artist."

[Laughs] So it sounds like we received similar advice. For me, there were two parts to it. One, it was great practice. But the other is maybe more related to my profession today in that much of working in technology is about learning new things all the time. In a funny way, writing books gave me an opportunity to go deep into a topic and thoroughly study it so that I could write a book about it. Writing books has afforded me the time to get new expertise that I could later use with clients and apply in my own business.So the fact that I spend about half my time writing books, creating training videos, and teaching -- and the half working with clients and doing fairly technical development myself works well for me. That way I’m constantly learning new things as an author, writer, researcher and constantly testing those theories out in practice with real clients.

Starting content for a new website can be intimidating. Where does one start for optimizing content strategy?

All big tasks are best done when broken down into little pieces. The same is true for content strategy.  The first thing I do with a client is sit down and put together a production schedule with a lot of milestones. And one of the things I learned early on was that content development had to be started early in the process. I usually take a three-pronged approach to developing a website. One of them is getting the content started, the other is design, and third, developing the technology and programming. Some people wait to do the content until after the design and technology have been finished, but I think that is one of the biggest mistakes in web design. You really should be thinking about the content strategy from the start.I think a lot of why content strategy is getting more attention today is that people are starting to realize that you need to think of content up front and the best websites are designed with a very holistic approach, developing some content and getting started with the message -- what are the key things we need to get in -- and then designing around that content so you create a design and content strategy that work well together.

"Some people wait to do the content after the design and technology have been finished, but I think that is one of the biggest mistakes in web design."

Did I answer your question about getting clients started? [Laughs[ Content isn’t free and doesn’t grow on trees. There is an investment in time that someone has to make. But I think breaking it down into pieces can be helpful when it comes to content strategy.

In last night’s presentation you suggested having the client get away from the office when they’re having trouble writing content. When content creation stalls, how do you get the ball rolling again?

When you get the client away to a place without all the distractions, having a list of interview questions can help. I’ve seen this with videos, biographies and websites, if you just start by “What goes on the website?” the client kind of gets lost, or if you point a camera at someone and say, “Talk!”, it’s really hard to do. But, if you feed them some questions and just start a conversation, you can bring out those gems that can help start to shape the heart of the most important content.So I’ve developed questionnaires that I use with clients. For example, What are your top goals? Who are you customers? What do you want people to do as a result of visiting your website? And the more specific you get with those questions the more you start walking them through a process that leads to creating content that is the most valuable for their site and a successful content strategy. If you can capture some of their answers in an interview format, then with a little editing and revising, you can massage it into content that you can use on the website.

"Clients need deadlines..."

One more thing. This might seem obvious, but client’s need deadlines the way everyone else does. Sometimes we think the client is boss and we should follow their lead, but most clients need to know that content strategy and creating content is an important part of the process. From my experience, client’s benefit when deadlines are set for them.I will set up a schedule with milestones then I will reassure them that all they need by the first deadline is the first draft. It takes them off the hook just a little bit so that they can get something out, knowing that it doesn’t have to be perfect. One of the misconceptions for people have that haven’t written hundreds of thousands of sentences, is that they think it has to come out perfect the first time. It rarely does. The best writers revise and revise, and then have really good editors revise their writing some more. If writing and editing is not your skill set, consider hiring a writer or editor to help them.If you’re not a professional writer you may underestimate how much everything you read has been edited. Every book I write has 3 or 4 editors that work on it with me. There is a technical editor who reviews all the technical aspects, a copy editor who makes sure everything is spelled right and that the commas are in the right place. Then there is a product editor who looks at the overall message and makes sure it is appropriate for the audience. And finally there is a proof reader who gives it a final review.On small websites, most people don’t have a team like that. But leverage whatever you have. For example, get the administrative assistant to write the first draft, then have a good editor go over it, and finally let the client review it.Part of being a Content Strategist is being able to training other people how to create good content. If there is no one on your team with writing and editing experience, you may need to find a freelancer to fill in that gap and part of what you may want them to do for you as part of the content strategy is to teach others how to develop content, too.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. We like to give our readers a tip they can take to work with them tomorrow. What advice would you give our readers to become better at content strategy?

One of the best ways to become a better writer and to become experiences in content strategy is to read a lot. A great way to make better websites is to look at a lot of websites and really study what they do right and where they fail. Companies like Apple and Mint have done a pretty solid job of summarizing complex concepts in a few words, illustrating them visually, and walking their audience through the points that tell their stories quickly and succinctly. Seeing how other content developers distill complex messages into a few works is a powerful way to learn to develop great content yourself. Just like readying a lot of fiction is a great way to write a better novel.

"Companies like Apple and Mint have done a pretty solid job of summarizing complex concepts in a few words, illustrating them visually and walking their audience through the points that tell their stories quickly and succinctly."

It is very easy for us as web designers to get caught up in the projects we’re doing and forget that we should go out and surf the web every once in a while. One of the reasons I got my iPad is so that I can get away from my desk and sit and search and read and think and study for a while. It’s a very import part of keeping your skills up-to-date and integral to optimizing content strategy for any project.

Practice through imitation. Is there anything you would like to add that we haven’t covered?

Content Strategy is a hot new job category and a hot new term people are talking about, but it’s a skill a lot of people have had for a long time and a skill that has been evolving for a long time. You’ve probably been doing this for a while, but just didn’t have a name for it.

"It's a pretty cool career for a lot of people."

One of the things to recognize about content strategy is that it is an emerging specialty because it is increasingly needed, increasingly important and increasingly complicated because we have so many different kinds of content and publishing channels today.But at its core, the skill set of content strategy is relevant for an audience is what a lot of us have honed over the years and many people do in related professions. Since a lot people in web and digital design come from the world of print or broadcast media, they bring these skills already they just don’t necessarily recognize that they and many are already pretty qualified for a Content Strategist position. They might just need to supplement what they know about content strategy with a little more understanding, a little more vocabulary, a little more experience, a little more thinking about how you tell a story in multimedia. It’s a pretty cool career for a lot of people.

Being in charge of content strategy and creation also brings you in a little earlier in the process. Being able to orchestrate all these pieces gives you a lot of creative opportunities.

In my own experience, projects that had someone in charge, whether it be the project manager, art director or an administrative assistant, typically were more successful than those that did not.

I’ve seen a lot of web designers run into trouble because they start into a project and they get stuck waiting on a client to deliver content, and it never happens. The more successful web designers tend to take a very proactive role in helping clients develop content and I think that is part of where this specialty is coming from. Many web design firms, and big businesses that produce a lot of content, have realized that not everyone is good at creating content.

"The more successful web designers tend to take a very proactive role in helping clients develop content..."

I think there is a lot of overlap between what traditional Creative Directors have done and what Content Strategists do today. It’s not just about writing copy, it’s about thinking through what the goals and objectives are considering what kinds of content will help move an audience towards those goals and objectives. Content Strategy takes a lot more than writing. It takes business sense and strategic sense and a deeper understanding of the audience and the company’s goals. It can definitely become a time consuming part of any web project.

I think that creative content strategy is an exciting area to work. Developing a brand’s voice and how it can lead a client toward their goals is a rewarding endeavour. Thanks Janine!

You can watch Janine's course on Content Strategy on at visit her website at to learn more about her books, videos, and consulting services, as well growing collection of free tutorials on web design.

UX Breakfast : Craig Peters Interview

At last week's UX Breakfast: Service Design & Design Thinking event, I was able to sit down and speak with Craig Peters, CEO of Awasu Design and UX Evangelist. Craig leads a super talented team of strategists, designers and writers who pride themselves in finding eloquent solutions to complex problems including those in UX design. Awasu Design's growing list of clients include HP, Wells Fargo,, SocialEyes and Flurry.

1.) Hello Craig. Tell our readers a little bit about what you do.

I run Awasu Design, an agency in San Francisco. We love complex design challenges; sites, applications, strategy. Clients come to us for great designs. More and more, they’re asking for organizational help; they want their design teams to be more effective. We “design” the organization, as well.

2.) The words "experience" and "learning" have a lot in common. How did your experiences teaching help you become better at UX design?

I love this question because there are so many ways that teaching has helped me when it comes to UX design, both as a designer and also as a leader and facilitator.As a teacher, it was my job to create an environment where my students could learn something. As much as I might have wanted to, it wouldn’t do any good if I simply gave the answers to the class. They needed to go through the process of figuring things out, make connections, and really take ownership of what they were learning. Not only that, but when I forced my ego out of the way, I realized that I didn’t really have all the answers; there was a lot of creativity, energy, and perspective in those kids that needed the right space to flourish. My job was to create the environment and facilitate the experiences for learning.

"When we push our ego aside, we’re able to realize there’s a lot of creative design thinking in everyone on the project."

It’s not much different leading a UX design project. My job isn’t to solve all the design challenges. It’s to create the right situation for the design team to do what they do best. And, as we’re evolving as a design team – and also as an industry – it’s our job to spread that outwardly to everyone else on the project team; business partners, engineers, product managers… everyone. When we push our ego aside, we’re able to realize there’s a lot of creative design thinking in everyone on the project. Sure, we’re still experts at UX design, but we’re going to get a lot further when the entire project team is part of the creative process.

3.) Storytelling is the new buzz word these days. Why is this concept rising back to the top of UX design world?

We’re living in an age of increased interconnections that brings with it complexities like we’ve never had to deal with before. Storytelling is one of the best tools for making sense of a complex situation such as those involved in UX design.Here’s an old example from kids TV to illustrate what I mean. In the 70s, there were these wonderful animated shorts on Saturday mornings that taught kids something. One of them, “I’m just a Bill,” showed kids how laws are made. They didn’t do it by describing different branches of government, listing how many congressional committees there are, or showing some sort of business-process diagram. Instead they made a main character – a bill (named, of course, Bill). By riding along with Bill through his journey, even a third-grader can understand how laws are made.Today’s UX design challenges, and the organizations that are trying to tackle them, are complex. If we can get the audience – the project team – to feel like they’re identifying with a main character – a persona – then we can walk them through a complex story – a scenario.

5.) What does your team do to test out new ideas and concepts for UX design?

As a general rule, we try to get user feedback often and early. In the early stages of UX design, we test with static screens and flows. Those quickly turn into low-fidelity prototypes. Since we specialize in rich, complex interactions, we often need a more interactive prototype to really get into the experience. It’s invaluable for user testing, and it's also a great tool for making final tweaks and adjustments to the UX design.We also have a process/culture that helps us validate our work internally along the way, so there’s a better chance the prototype will be awesome, and only require tweaks and evolutions, not full overhauls. Here’s how we work.1. We share ideas constantly, whether it's showing our own sketches, whiteboarding together, reviewing wireframes internally, etc.2. We don't get attached to our designs--we're always coming back to the bigger questions/high-level goals and throwing out things that aren't working, finding better solutions, so that by the time we're ready to show work to the client or build a prototype, we feel pretty confident that we have a solid foundation.3. We design flows, not individual screens, so we're always checking the design's ability to support scenarios.

6.) Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. As we leave today and return to our projects, what can our readers do right now to become better at UX design?

There are two things that always help. First, take your current design challenge; whatever you're working on today. Step back from the traditional notion of "designing" and ask what the big picture purpose is. I know it sounds obvious, but it's so easy to lose sight of. Then, extend that to every meeting you have with your designers, the project team, and any business partners. At the start of the meeting, revisit the reason for this project. We sometimes call it the Eyes on the Prize page of our presentations.The second thing is to pay more attention to how you present your work; how you tell the story of the project. Put yourselves in the shoes of your audience for every meeting. A business partner likely hasn't been thinking about user flows and wireframes for the past two weeks, so take a moment to tell them what's been happening since the last meeting, what's going to happen today, and how they should participate. A few minutes at the start of the meeting is always worth it.---After our interview, Craig told me that he's been working on a few event presentations and workshops. Be sure to look for his name at upcoming design events! He has a lot of fascinating concepts and processes that he uses everyday with his team that are definitely worth listening too!Follow Craig on Twitter at @craigpeters!Follow Awasu Design on Twitter at @awasudesign!Visit Awasu Design's website at!Be sure to check out my event review of UX Breakfast: Service Design Thinking. I run through some of the topics we talked about. Enjoy! Read Review »

UX Breakfast: What is Service Design Thinking?

Last month I was able to participate in the latest UX Breakfast, Service Design & Design Thinking at Cafe Laurent. If you're not familiar with the event, the Los Angeles web design community gathers once a month to discuss many of the hottest topics buzzing around our industry including UX design. I encourage you sign up for next month's event before it sells out! Before I get started, I want to give the event organizers a BIG shout out! Thank you Crystal Ehrlich (@cbehrlich) and Charlie "Carlos" Salazar (@CharlieSalazar) for putting on this awesome event month after month. High-fives!In my corner, I was privileged enough to sit next to Craig Peters (@craigpeters), Hunter Ochs (@hunterochs), Yoko Nakano (@yknakano) and Charlie Salazar (@CharlieSalazar). Below, you'll find a few of the topics we chatted about. Let's get started!Be sure to check out my interview with Craig Peters, CEO of Awasu Design. We discussed Service Design Thinking, storytelling and ways that you can become better at UX design tomorrow. Read Interview »

What is Service Design Thinking?

Service Design Thinking is a holistic way of visualizing a brand's overall user experience. Though the phrase has been garnering a lot of attention in the media, our table agreed that the concept has been around for awhile and that the new moniker is merely a change in semantics. This doesn't denote the importance of Service Design Thinking and UX design. The phrase is tangible for clients, and taking the time to see how your brand's touch points interconnect with each other can help you identify ways to strengthen their relationships and, even better, discover new innovating ones.For example, mapping out the user experience of a bank customer might help a UX design team visualize a connection between a bank's mobile app and their ATMs. This might lead to a new innovative idea such as allowing customers to automatically sign in to ATMs as they pull up in their vehicles.Want to know more? Check out these Service Design Thinking videos.

Selling Usability to your Clients

Yoko Nakano asked our table "How do you guys convey the importance of UX design and usability to your clients?" Craig Peters quickly answered, "You have to sell it!" He gave us an example where a client wasn't 100% convinced on usability testing. His client didn't see the importance (ahh!). Craig's team quickly gathered a group of users and had them complete various tasks on the client's website. They recorded the tests then compiled the videos and presented it to the client. Once the client saw that their users were having issues purchasing their product, they quickly understood the importance of usability testing and UX design. This is something you can try with your clients tomorrow!Try to record your next user testing session. If budget is a concern, try and Quicktime to record your session.

What is UX design?

Hunter Ochs lead us into our next topic. He wanted to know what UX Design meant for each one of us. He went on to discuss the technology aspects of user-interface design, best-practices and UX design in terms of user workflows and patterns. These are all important areas of Service Design Thinking. We also discussed the emotive portion of UX Design, in terms of how an interface interacts with the user on an interpersonal level. A good interface should have an engaging relationship with the user. By doing so, the experience becomes comfortable and user friendly leading to a more productive user.Check out our Los Web Design Community: Event Review on Dani Chisnell's Deconstructing Delight: Pleasure, Flow and Meaning. She discusses the emotive side of UX Design.

Sell User Experience by Telling a Story

Storytelling may be the buzzword of the year. Craig Peters discussed how it is not only beneficial to the actual product, but to the sales pitch for UX services such as UX design as well. He went on to talk about how important a good presentation is and how's it's not created overnight, but is the culmination of many iterations and planning. It's about preparation. Hunter Ochs also discussed how improv lessons can help during presentations. He said he saw dramatic improvements after a colleague signed up for an evening improv workshops.

Getting Better Client Participation Through Workshops

There can be a ton of moving pieces, decisions and sign-offs that need to be made throughout the life of a project. Craig talked about how his studio uses workshops to help get stockholders involved in the project. Are wireframes taking too long? Invite your client over to the studio to knock them out in collaborative workshop.For more information about running productive workshops, making decisions and moving projects along. Check out Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making by Sam Kaner.

Hindsight is 20/20. Harness Hindsight Now with Heaven and Hell Technique

If you could see into the future, what would you do to help your product today? Try fore-sighting with the Heaven and Hell exercise. Have your team look gaze into the future and under "Heaven" write the best case scenarios for your project, i.e. "featured as top app in iTunes store" or "increased monthly sign-ups by 10%". Now for each of these, have your team team write down possible reasons why they came true, like "feature on TechCrunch lead to 20,000 new sign ups" or "created a blog with a steady feed of updates." Now do the same for Hell. This isn't as fun, but can be the most beneficial part of the exercise. Examples might be "competition surpassed us with new features", "new memberships plateaued" or "could not find interested investors." Reasons could be "not enough attention and budget for research and design", "failed to get attention of review sites" or "overlooked SEO".Even though these are assumptions, they can give you a place to start thinking about potential opportunities and pitfalls that might lay ahead. Try it!

Next UX Breakfast: NFC and RFIDs

Crystal and Carlos are busy getting things ready for the next UX Breakfast. UX'ers will gather to talk about NFC (Near field communication) and RFIDs (Radio-frequency identification). Potential guest speakers include Phillipe Tregon, Theresa Billy and someone from VIVOtech.---I hope you enjoyed my synopsis of last month's event. I think there are some good nuggets in here. I definitely encourage you to take the topics discussed and do a little more research to see what you can learn. Personally, I am pretty excited to incorporate some of Craig's suggestions on UX design in to my future projects. Also, who knows. It might be time to sign up for an Improv class. It sounds like a fun way to sharpen up the presentation skills.If you have an comments, suggestions, please let me know. You comment below or email me a Thanks!

Update Your Website - Using Retro Design Trends

The idea that everything old becomes new again is, appropriately enough, nothing new. Design aesthetics that were popular in the past have become very popular with web design. The field of web design is relatively young compared to other forms of graphic design and, because of that, web design conventions have not had long to mature. Some of the most interesting design trends of the past are providing new ways for graphic designers to envision a site and to create something truly remarkable for their clients and can be used as a theme when you update your website.

Layers and Shadows

If you look at some of the best graphic design from the past, you'll see that it incorporates depth a great deal. Different elements of the image will be layered on top of one another and shadow will be used to offer an illusion that there's genuine depth to the image. Using today's graphic design technology and the body of skills that have been developed since the Internet became important to commerce graphic designers who can create these types of effects on a computer screen. Keep this in mind when working with your designer to update your website.


One of the truly lacking elements in early graphic design for the Internet was that things tended to look cartoonish and not at all real. Today, between very sophisticated displays and powerful graphic design tools, graphic designers can create images that are very real; so real looking that it looks like you could pluck them right off of the screen.Creating the illusion of texture, such as you would see on paper and canvas or other materials is well within the range of most graphic designers these days. You can give your site a classy and antique look when you update your website by giving things an appearance that is quite simply less computerized looking.

Ornate Lettering

There are literally hundreds of fonts available to any graphic designer, but they can also get creative and develop specific and very ornate lettering for logos. This can give your logo a touch of class and a timeless quality that really makes it stand out when you update your website.When you discuss incorporating retro elements into your site design as you update your website, be sure you ask your graphic designer how much they believe to be enough. It is possible to go overboard with this and end up with a very cluttered looking site. Then again, cluttered was once an aesthetic used in a great deal of graphic design and, perhaps, it would work for your site.

Update Your Website : Renewing The Design of Your Banners and Logos

The positioning of your banners and your logos should tell you a lot about how important they are to your site overall. They are, of course, positioned right on the top of your site, in most cases, meaning that they make the first impression that visitors get. If you have a banner or logo that is far past its prime in terms of design and looks, you may want to consider redesigning your logo when you update your website as a major part of any web redesign plans you have in mind.

Check the Colors

If your logo or your banner was designed a long time ago, it may well reflect more primitive graphic design. One of the areas in which graphic design has improved a great deal is in color. Today's graphic designers can incorporate gradients and other sophisticated effects to make a truly eye-catching design. In addition to making your design more eye-catching when you update your website, selecting the right colors can prevent your design from looking cheap. Blocky designs with unsophisticated color selections do not catch people's eyes.

Your Fonts

Perhaps 20-point Papyrus font looked good when you selected it, but it probably looks outdated right now. Consider revamping your logo with a new font selection when you update your website.There is a caveat here. For some businesses, your font selection is an important part of your branding. Even though this may be the case, a good graphic designer may be able to recommend some slight changes to your font selection that could have a big impact on how your logo looks overall.Your graphic designer may also recommend some interesting visual effects, such as increasing the size of one letter but not of the others. Typography is a big part of good graphic design and, provided you have a good graphic designer working with you, you should be able to find a very attractive solution to any lacking elements in your logo's fonts when you update your website.

Fast Loading

If your site suffers from a lack of professional design considerations, your logo might actually be bloated and cause people's computers to load it more slowly. A graphic designer may be able to improve the quality of your logo and compact it in terms of the size it takes up when you update your website. This may not be a very big consideration for a site that doesn't get a lot of traffic but, if you do get a lot of traffic, reducing your bandwidth requirements in any way – even reducing the size of graphics slightly – can make a big difference in how much money it costs to run your site.

Update Your Website : The Pros and Cons of Minimalistic Website Design

Minimalism is a popular aesthetic for business sites. Done properly, it can be quite effective. For some businesses, it's a natural choice because it tends to create a very refined and reserved look. If you're considering a minimalistic aesthetic when you update your website, here are some pros and cons of this very popular design trend.


Minimalism as an aesthetic for web design presents the fewest possible distractions to your visitors.  Consider this as you update your website.  They're generally presented with the text that you find important for them to read, the navigation menu and, perhaps, one or two images and your logo. Negative space tends to figure very prominently in the minimalistic aesthetic and many of the best minimalistic sites have more blank space than they do occupied space.The big advantage in this particular style of design is the fact that it gives the image of a business that is very serious. There is nothing frivolous to distract people and there is nothing overly trendy about the site. The effect, in the end, is somewhat like the classic banker's business card. A simple font, the information you need and nothing else. This simple sort of aesthetic is excellent for conveying information when you update your website.Minimalistic sites, because they are not overcrowded with many different elements, also tend to load very quickly. Particularly for tech businesses, this is a real advantage. When your site instantly pops up on the screen in all its glory, it does give an image of efficiency and technical ability.Of course, minimalistic websites are also very easy to populate with content. Because you'll have very little space to fill up, you can concentrate on making very high quality content that is brief, to the point and easy to read. These are just a few of the pros of going with a minimalistic design when you update your website.


Despite all of their advantages, sites that have minimalistic aesthetics can also be quite dull. A white background with a logo and some text on it doesn't really stand out much compared to other sites on the Internet. In fact, if it isn't done properly, minimalistic aesthetics can make a site look underdeveloped or cheap. The key to avoiding this is working with a designer who knows the difference between doing as little as possible and using as little as possible to convey a great deal of important information when you update your website.As your site grows and becomes more complex, a minimalistic design may become something of a hindrance. Designs that are more complex allow you to fit more information on a page. If you start adding features to your page, you may find that the minimalistic framework you started out with is inadequate when you want to put more information or features up to keep your visitors interested.One other thing that you may want to consider when you update your website is that minimalism for business sites is a very popular trend at the moment. If you look at websites designed in the late 1990s or early 2000s, you'll find that many of them look dated. If they haven't been updated, they'll still be representing trends that may have gone out of style a long time ago. For example, using images for navigation was once a very popular trend. Today, text menus are the norm and websites that have images that are used for navigating the site tend to look a bit old.Talk to your web designer about whether or not minimalism might work as an aesthetic for you when you update your website. In some cases, whether or not it's trendy won't even matter. If it's the right way to go for your website, something that's trendy can easily become timeless and something that simple can be very powerful.

Update Your Website : 3 Questions To Ask Your Site Designer

If you know that you need a website designed for you but have no idea what it should look like or what it should do, don't think that means that you're not ready to talk to a designer about actually having the site started. If you're at a loss as to where to even begin, here are some questions you can ask your designer that will allow them to spark your imagination and to get you going when you are ready to update your website.

1: What Are the Trends in My Industry?

Website designers are constantly learning new and updated tools that allow them to design great sites. Part of this learning process usually involves looking at some of the more successful sites on the web and seeing what they did with that technology that's really impressive. Sometimes, the way a skilled designer will use a technology is so clever that it becomes a trend. Ask your website designer if there are any trends in your industry that you may want to incorporate when you update your website.A good site designer will be able to let you know what's really working for sites in your industry and how you might incorporate that technology as you update your website without blatantly ripping anyone off. 2: What Technologies Do You Use?Some website designers plateau in terms of their skills and technical knowledge relatively quickly. You need to make certain that the website designer you're working with is always updating their knowledge and utilizing new tools when they provide a better way to do something than the tools of the past when they are helping you update your website. Right now, HTML5 and CSS3 are innovating the web design industry in very meaningful ways.When you're talking to a web designer or a web design shop, make sure they know all of the latest technologies and that they at least have access to people who know specific technologies that some websites need to use when you update your website. For example, if you were opening up an eCommerce site, you would want to be working with a web design firm that had programmers who work in languages such as PHP, or another language that provides the same types of functionality, that eCommerce sites need to do business. 3: MaintenanceBe sure you ask your website designer if they have any programs you can sign up for that allow you an easy way to get maintenance done on your site. Websites are enormously complicated and, sometimes, you'll find that some element of yours needs to be replaced or rewritten or that one of the technologies you've used has become outdated and the site needs to be updated because of that. Most good website designers rely on repeat clients quite a bit and, because of that, most of them will be more than happy to come to some sort of arrangement for maintenance on your site.Another important thing to keep in mind when you update your website and about site maintenance is that you need to make certain that your web designers design your site up to web authoring standards. If everything is done according to the standards of the World Wide Web Consortium, another designer should be able to move in and make changes to your site if your old designer is no longer available. If the designer you're using isn't one who adheres to standards, other designers may have a very difficult time figuring out their code or may spend a great deal of time going through that code and fixing errors.These three questions can give you a rather complete picture of how working with the website designer will go when you update your website. Essentially, you'll be asking them what kinds of features they believe would work for your site, how they would go about making those features for you and what they could do for you in terms of maintaining the site they create. All of this is vital information when you are ready to update your website.

Update Your Website : Using Galleries to Make Your Images Stand Out

Incorporating galleries into websites is certainly nothing new. When you are ready to update your website, however, realize that there are far more options than were available for galleries even a few years ago. Some of these options have to do with technology and some of these options simply have to do with the evolving aesthetics of website design.


There are quite a few different options for how you can display your images in a gallery when you update your website. For instance, instead of going with page after page of thumbnails, you can utilize a design that creates one page that infinitely scrolls and presents more images as the user progresses downward to the bottom of the page.You can also utilize displays that allow people to look at thumbnails, see an enlargement of that thumbnail on the same page and then click on the enlargement to see a full-size image displayed on their screens. This does more than provide an interesting look. It provides a way for people to look at an image in a slightly enlarged size to see if they are interested in it enough to bother clicking on it to see it in its full size.


Light boxes are among the very popular features on galleries these days. They allow you, among other things, to create a selection of images that you can review after you have reviewed the total number of images in a gallery. They oftentimes also provide a more attractive way to view an image so that the gallery itself is less distracting.One of the elements that you'll want to take into consideration when you update your website and are redesigning a gallery is speed of loading. Some gallery effects and some add-ons that you can utilize on gallery pages that will slow down the load speed for your page somewhat. If you have a lot of visitors  with slower computers, you may want to avoid these when you update your website.With the right display, your images will look more attractive, they will be easier to decipher when they are thumbnail sized and it will be easier for your visitors to browse through your collection of images to look at your products or to see your photography. Looking at any gallery sections on your page is among the first things you should do when you start working with a graphic designer to update your website.

Update Your Website : Adding Interesting Shapes to Your Site Design

Sometimes, the Internet can seem a little bit square. Not square in the sense that it doesn't know how to have fun, but square in the sense that just about every element you see on any page involves a right angle at some point. Most menus are nothing more than rectangular shapes that span the top portion of the screen. Banner advertisements and most graphics have square borders. If you're looking to update your website, you may want to consider adding a bit of variety where shape is concerned.


Circles provide among the best choices for innovative ways to present content on the web. Pictures can be made into circular thumbnails that create an element of visual interest and that will make some users more likely to click on them simply because those graphics catch their eyes. Company logos and other important logos can be formatted in circular or other shapes to make them more interesting.Adding circular shapes when you update your website can make it stand out a bit from others. For example, even using circular buttons for calls to action and other purposes can draw people's eyes to them simply because they look a bit different.

Other Shapes

Graphic designers have tremendous capability where designing websites is concerned these days. Because the Internet has been around for long enough to have developed its own conventions, however, this tremendous capacity that developers have is sometimes underutilized. People tend to gravitate to the same layouts, the same menu structures and the same graphic layouts more than not.If you're working with a good graphic designer and a good web developer, they can certainly find ways to incorporate shapes other than circles or squares into your design when you update your website. For example, triangles are dramatic shapes that also, because of the fact that they are shaped like arrows, tend to draw people's attention very easily.Discuss shape with your graphic designer when you are ready to update your website. Ask them how they could use shape as a way to make your site more interesting. Remember that the fact that most websites are designed with a lot of right angles is something that was decided for you without your input. It's just a trend. A good website designer can help you to break trends in constructive ways when you update your website that offer a more interesting experience for your visitors and that provide no compromises in the functionality of your website because of the innovative design.

Jod Kaftan of BLITZ Shows How to Design Beyond the Device

The word of the night was meaning. On August 23, Jod Kaftan from BLITZ Agency talked to the Los Angeles web design community at large about how to give meaning to a user experience. "The device should not prescribe what the experience should be," Kaftan said. Throughout the night he discussed four main points which all related to the idea that interaction design should have meaning when implemented onto a device. "Really what this exploration is about is thinking of the device last," he said."For me, meaning in terms of interaction design is about resonance," Kaftan said, "meaning should serve as a beacon for interaction designers to push us into new, interaction paradigms." Next he mentioned that he has only scratched the surface with contemplating what meaning is and how it relates to design. The LA web design community was then taken through the four dynamics of what connects interaction design to meaning.MEANING MAKES THE DEVICETo begin, Jod Kaftan presented the definitions of Device and Purpose. A device exists to serve a particular need or purpose. "The thing is, we're not always conscious of our needs," Kaftan explained, "we need to dig deeper and we need to dig into their context so we can flush out unstated and unconscious needs." Kaftan expertly brought this point alive by using the popular Instagram app as an example. "We probably had a conscious need to share our photos on mobile," Kaftan stated. He then asked, "but did we have a conscious need to be aesthetic with our photos?""Ultimately my point is about focusing on needs, threading them through meaning and creating culture with that," Kaftan stated, "it's about culture." The message was brought home when he gave an example of the world renown iPod music device and how its cultural impact made consumers aware of their need to have an entire music collection in one place.START WITH THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY"The first thing we need to recognize is that marketing is dead," Kaftan said as he presented a quote from the Harvard Business Review. "People get informed from word-of-mouth, customer reviews and so on," Kaftan said. The customer journey has changed from a traditional buying process relying heavily on advertising to a buying process that is more personalized. "We simply have so much more data to process now," he pointed out, "there's so much more information so whereas the old way we went from broad to narrow; we actually start narrow."For brands today it is harder to retain active loyalty from consumers because of competition, new technology and different ways people can now buy. It is imperative for a brand to maintain active loyalty. "We have to serve people more meaningfully; we have to go further," Kaftan said. To support this idea; he gave an example of when he once had to return a television to Amazon. It's excellent customer service made his experience with Amazon a meaningful one. "Wow, okay, I'm never not ordering a tv from Amazon," Kaftan concluded the story.CONTENT vs. TASKThis portion of the night dealt with the differences between content and tasks. Which one is to be designed first? "Content first verse task first is really a question of emphasis," he said. It is not a matter of 'either' 'or' because both must be considered in design. The goal is to pay attention to both and understand that they do not interfere with interaction designs.GO BEYOND THE SCREENThe final dynamic of the night Jod Kaftan expressed his concerns for a single device performing all the functions one could humanly need. Everyone is staring at their phone screens. The crowd roared with laughter when he joked about the movie Wall-E. Connecting with fellow UX designers Kaftan stated, "While we need a seat at the table at the strategic level; we also need a seat at the product design level. We can create really cool, integrated experiences that are minimally invasive."The lecture was followed by a question and answer session. The Los Angeles web design community and UX designers were pleased to learn about designing with meaning. The topics were intriguing and were supported by relevant, everyday examples. Many thanks to speaker Jod Kaftan and host LA-UX Meetup for an engaging and informative evening! Also, thanks to the sponsor Yahoo! for providing a great venue and refreshments.Taken from Kaftan is the Experience Design Director at BLITZ Agency in Santa Monica, CA. Prior to BLITZ, Jod worked at The Los Angeles Times, Schematic, Razorfish, Citysearch and AOL. In addition to being the Design Director at BLITZ, he is also a writer. And, as a writer, Jod has been published in Rolling Stone, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, New York Magazine, This American Life and UX Booth.Jod can be found on Twitter at

Hierarchy - 6 Simple Ways To Structure Your Website

What Is Hierarchy?

Have you ever visited a website and said to yourself “Whoa, where do I start?” If you have, then you are looking at a page that lacks a little something known as hierarchy. If that page you were looking at was your own, then this blog is for you.Hierarchy gives a focal point to a design. A properly structured website brings attention to the most important information first and makes sure that the reader understands what to read next. Your page’s hierarchy is critical to capturing the reader’s attention and hold their hand as they are guided through your website.

Why Is Hierarchy important?

Ask any salesman about their sales pitch and they’ll tell you that it’s all about the flow and pacing of how you inform your audience about your product. Consider your pages hierarchy like a set of pauses that pace the speed in which your viewer takes in information. A good website hierarchy will increase a company’s ROI because it makes your pitch more effective by delivering it the way it was intended. By using an array of visual cues, a site's hierarchy will create a natural rhythm that holds your audiences hand and walks them through your message; the same way they would if they were in the store with your best salesman. Let’s take a further look into the many ways you can structure your content in a more effective way.

How Do You Make Your Hierarchy Better?

Below are a few ideas on how to organize your site as to better lead them on a journey through your site. Use only one as a means to bring uniformity to your site or multiple tactics in conjunction for a more layered and structured concept.

Large Images

web design los angeles

Using a large image on a page is a great way to grab the user’s attention and keep them focused on one your message for a few seconds. The eye will tend to lead to a caption next then to the adjacent words. Use this as an opportunity to hook them in with copy that pertains to your image and carries them to the next point.

Color & Contrast

Use vivid colors to draw attention to important elements. Using contrasting colors separates blocks of text and keeps them visible. You can also use color to highlight important parts or to hammer home a subject. Consider this tactic when separating two articles that are side-by-side or to isolate captions to a photo.[newslettersignup]

Tip: Take the main color of your color scheme and use its complementary color for important elements and call to actions.


Creative typography can add interest, but also capture the user’s attention for longer than the regular fonts they see everyday. Don’t use extra fancy fonts that are hard to read or look like they belong on a greeting card for long pieces of copy; use them to separate messages and create banners or titles.


Let your idea's breath. Give space around important headlines so that it take longer for the user to get distracted by other elements. It is also a valuable tool in decluttering your site and keeping the message simple. Too much going on within a page makes the reader’s eyes lose focus and detracts them from taking in your message.

Shapes and Containers

Shapes and containers can help organize and section important areas containing key messages. Once contained, these key messages act as stand-alone statements that can hold anything from an important tip to a sage quote from your copy. When used properly, keeping messages within certain boundaries gives your site a feeling of depth and clean structure. Shapes and containers are a great way to bring emphasis to a call-to-action. Avoid overusing this method however as after while it will clutter your site with lines and boxes that can detract from your message.Hierarchy is an important piece of the design process for websites. Play around with different ideas on structuring your hierarchy and see how each one changes your message.Do you have any other questions on hierarchy or site structure? Send us a message and we will get back to you!Find this helpful? Check out these articles:Web Design Los Angeles: What You Should Know5 Ways To Optimize Your Blog For Your Customers

Creating Relationships With Your Customers On The Mobile Web.

Cell phone this, iPad that. Around half the time America spends nowadays on the Internet is through some sort of mobile device. With the emergence of the mobile web comes the opportunity to try new things and become a gamechanger in the market. Glenn Cole at 72 & Sunny says that "Mobile devices are now the place where you can have your most meaningful, most valuable, and even most inspiring relationship with a brand." What are some of these ways and what do you need to know now to stay ahead of the curve on this emerging field? Let’s brush over some of the basics and explore some possible ways you can harness the mobile web environment for your company’s gain:1. Mind the MediumUnderstand that mobile web is a different animal than regular web. Keep it simple, stupid. Mobile web is viewed on tiny screens and navigated with stubby fingers. The typical mobile web user isn’t going to be concerned with lengthy company bios, wordy mission statements or press releases. Mobile web users want quick hard info; they want photos and products/services to be provided up front in an easy to use way. Simply put: give them the facts. Retain the familiar tones and themes of your traditional website; your mobile site’s user interface should take after your traditional site and friendly to those navigating within such a compact medium. Also be aware that many phones and tablets, particularly iPhones and iPads, do not use or allow flash; so make sure to not use it when programming your site.2. Mobile Web is MobileIt may seem like a no-brainer, but things like this can often be neglected at the research and development phase. Think of your end user. Where will he/she be viewing your web site? Will they be on a tablet? A smartphone? What is nearby the user when he/she is checking your page? Assessing these variables can yield some great ideas on how to create an interactive experience with your site. Mobile marketing allows you to target those nearby the location of your business. For example, if you’re a local restaurant owner and a pedestrian decides to search for “good food nearby”, you could possibly appear as a top result in whatever medium they decide to search for you in. Companies like Chili’s have succeeded in using location based coupons to attract more customers. In Chili’s case, they offered a free queso dip appetizer to anyone within 200 yards of a Chili’s or adjacent commercial location. There are a few location-based ad services that are worth researching, including Google’s Admob, Apple’s iAd service and Millennial Media.3. Mobile Web Is InteractiveA new word being thrown around the web these days is “gamification” which is just a buzz word for the integration of game mechanics or game dynamics into a website, service, community, campaign, or application in order to drive participation and engagement. Think of gamification like a modern day version of frequent flyer miles or hotel loyalty programs. Location based services like Foursquare uses “checking in” to your local spots and offering up “mayorship” (the Foursquare user who has checked in the most at a location) as a form of gamification. Other sites like Gowalla will offer badges to gamify locations, encouraging users to visit multiple locations and rewarding those who do with online promotions. Consider promoting photo/video-uploads to your social media pages. Working interactively with your clients will tie their emotions with your company and may create an ambassador for your brand.4. Mobile Web Is Contextually Different For Each Company, Customer, and Situation No path is ever walked the same way twice. Apply that old adage to the way that you think about your mobile web presence. How is your client most likely to be using your mobile site? Will they be in a store, comparing your brand against another? Are they sitting at the bar on their tablet shopping online? Will they be standing on the side of the road looking for assistance? Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and aspire to make a site that is easy for them to use in the situation they will be in when they view your site. It is also good to imagine which platform they are accessing your site from, a site accessed from a tablet provides more space for larger images and grants a bit more leway for entering text. Someone viewing from a phone however, may not want to wait for larger images to load or input copious text with a small virtual keypad.5. Mobile Web Gets Your Customers Through The DoorIn the end, it should be noted that like all forms of media, a mobile website is a marketing tool, and all marketing tools need a call to action. However, a call to action for the mobile web can be a bit different. Mobile web allows for two-way communication between you and your audience. Have direct conversation with your clients via the mobile web and create a personalized call to action for them. Apps like Yelp and Foursquare enables your customers to leave immediate feedback about your establishment. Remember those who laud your service and make an individual effort to show them your appreciation, either live or on the web. If you have one, remember your Foursquare mayor by name. Make incentives for those checking in on Foursquare and Yelp. Consider creating a coupon or offer on Google Places. These are the personal touches that will keep your business thriving and put your company on the forefront of the mobile web.How are you using the mobile web? Does your company use the mobile in a unique way. We’d love to hear about it! Comment below or send us an email: this article? Check out these blogs: Consumer Intent Data And Social MediaA Website Is More Than A Site, It’s Your Brand

Is Your Website in Need of a Facelift? The Pros & Cons of Redesigning Your Site

Many business owners who have seen success from their company website in the past are now stuck in the world of Web 1.0.  Some do not feel a need to update their web presence and others do not understand how redesigning their website can result in increased traffic and sales.  With the Web 2.0 revolution, web designers and developers have gained the ability to present information and services in a simple and interactive format.  Websites that have a professional look, organized structure, and intuitive user interface are more appealing to customers and more likely to convert visitors into sales.Yet website redesign is not as simple as it sounds and can result in a negative experience for users accustomed to the old design.  While there are many pitfalls surrounding redesign, there are also solutions to help you avoid these problems.

A Case Study in Redesign: FacebookAnyone who has used Facebook in the past few years must have noticed the frequent design and layout changes they have implemented.  While many of these changes have improved usability and aesthetic appeal of the site, other changes have resulted in a backlash from Facebook users.  You have probably seen one of the many groups created to allow users to vent their frustrations over the modifications.  These groups have accumulated millions of members who are against new changes in design.So why exactly has Facebook's redesign been met with such great opposition?Those die hard Facebook users who have been members of the social network since its inception became used to the simple, unadorned layout that Facebook initially offered.  They valued the fact that this social network lacked the pesky customization options and add-ons that cluttered similar networks.  They liked Facebook simply because it represented a fresh and easy alternative to MySpace.  While the addition of applications, fan pages, and the new Twitter-like design of the home page were created to improve usability, many argued that these changes ended up taking away from the overall purpose of Facebook as a network to connect friends, peers, family members, and co-workers.

While Facebook’s redesigns have created discord, it is possible to redesign your website without upsetting your current users and past clients.  By taking the time to research the opinions of your users, what they like and dislike about your current site design, you can figure out which features are worth keeping and which need to be rethought.Benefits of Redesigning Your Site:•    Improved usability and aesthetic appeal.•    Improved ranking in search engine results.•    Improved ability to view and interact with your website in mobile browsers.•    Creates a buzz for your website.Solutions to the Pitfalls of Website Redesign:Problem: Potential loss of brand identity and change in values. Solution: Do not radically change logos or names associated with your company, instead update, freshen, and modernize.Problem: Potential loss of customers who are used to and preferred the old design. Solution: Before redesigning, perform a usability survey among customers to see what they like and what needs improvement.

A Website is More than a Site, It’s Your Brand

It is well known that branding is crucial to the success and survival of businesses. Yet too often, businesses overlook the importance of applying branding strategies to their website. Whether you're a big business or a small online retailer, your website is more than just a site – it's your brand! Many people think branding is about little more than name recognition. However, brands are better utilized when viewed as a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer. Thus it is essential your website properly relays the message that you want to resonate with your consumers.  When a brand is functioning at its fullest potential consumers will think of it first. Two of the vital responsibilities branding takes on, especially in terms of your website, are as follows:

  • 1. Branding has the power to make people trust you more than your competition. This trust will equate to increased sales and loyal consumers.
  • 2. Branding can bring people to your website first. When they need your product or services, they'll search specifically for your website instead of searching by topic or niche.
  • Making use of branding strategies on your website puts you at an advantage over others. In this cutthroat, highly competitive Internet marketplace, you can't afford to ignore the power of branding on your website.[newslettersignup]

9 Unusual Ways To Increase Traffic To Your Website

If you’ve been doing online marketing for any time at all, then you already know the traditional methods of attracting visitors to your website and increasing traffic: social networking, social bookmarking, blogging, email marketing, PPC, forum and article commenting, directory submission, etc.  But at some point, these methods begin to lose effectiveness and new marketing and promotion channels must be discovered.  Listed here are nine non-traditional methods that can help you increase website traffic.

1.    Submit your website and logo to design galleries – Even if your business is not in the design industry, you can attract a sizeable new traffic base by posting your unique and interesting website or logo to one of the hundreds of galleries currently on the web.  An expansive list of these galleries can be found on the CSS Gallery List.
2.    Create a Wiki – Create more interaction among employees and potential customers by creating a wiki for your business.  With a wiki, employees can post info they find useful and can allow clients and potential customers to collaborate and add to the open projects.  A wiki can be a very valuable source of both information and interaction, making your customers feel like they are part of the company.  
3.    Record Videos of your Meetings and Processes – If you are going to a particularly interesting meeting, you can use your camcorder, cell phone, webcam, digital camera, or screen capturing program to capture the event.  You can then go back and edit out any portions that are boring or contain sensitive info.  Interviews with various employees of your company can also act as promotional vehicles for your website.  Processes such as the design of a website or the coding of a particular widget on your site can also become a viral sensation if made interesting, funny and useful.  You can post these videos on your site as well as on YouTube, Viddler, and Veoh to gain maximum exposure.
4.    Cold Calling and Spam Email Reversal – We have all gotten those annoying calls from telemarketers and it is safe to say that you have at least a few spammy emails in your inbox.  The next time you get a solicitation for a certain product or service, turn the situation around and offer your products and services to the telemarketer or spammer.
5.    Use your network of friends and family to spread the word – Is it too much to ask your brother, uncle, or girlfriend to mention your website on their own social networks?  Ask them to post your link on their profile(s) or to check out your site once in a while.  If you get the right person to endorse your product or service, you can instantly gain recognition and a significant new group of followers.
6.    Design and Provide Library Bookmarks – You can promote your website while at the same time contributing to local bookstores and libraries.  Although libraries usually have a surplus of these cheap pieces of cardboard, you can create an interesting design with your company logo and the URL of your site to attract all of the knowledge-hungry bookworms.
7.    Create Customized Merchandise - Use CafePress or another custom printing service to create t-shirts, mouse pads, stickers, leotards, or anything else with your company’s logo or name.  Ask your designer to make the merchandise look cool so that people will buy it despite the advertisement.  You can also get your employees to rep your customized gear at the office and on their personal belongings.
8.    Write your URL on Dollar Bills – While this method for attracting new visitors to your website is considered defacing US currency and is technically illegal, the rewards may be worth the punishment.  Money is constantly changing hands between new people in different locations from different backgrounds, making it a very effective medium to advertise your company’s website.
9.   Use Your Pet as a Walking Advertisement – Your dog will not mind a quick hair cut, but the people who see him will definitely notice.  A cat, dog, rabbit, or any other pet can be converted into a walking advertisement with personalized pet clothing or by shaving the company website or logo into their fur.  Just make sure that you know what you are doing before you get a call from PETA.

While the traditional methods for promoting and advertising your website are often quite effective, sometimes they aren’t enough to get your site to the next level.  The nine tips listed above will surely attract the attention you need to get new visitors to your website and increase exposure. Though some of the methods described here are slightly unusual and can be controversial, they all can be accomplished with little to no budget, making them viable options for any web-based company.