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:
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.
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 and more optimized conversions. Does a minimal website design really improve website conversions?
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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 →
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm an author, web designer, content strategist... like many people in this business, I wear many hats. I am also the creator of digitalfamily.com which is an interactive design and training agency.
Thanks. I created DigitalFamily.com 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.
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.
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!
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.
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, Ancestry.com, SocialEyes and Flurry.
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.
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.
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 »
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.
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 www.webex.com to record your next user testing session. If budget is a concern, try Join.me and Quicktime to record your session.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To 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-renowned iPod music device and how its cultural impact made consumers aware of their need to have an entire music collection in one place.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 game-changer 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:
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.
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.
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.