Category Archives: Web Design

The newest trend in web design

It involves moving elements, but it’s not really animation.

It includes plenty of great color and physical elements, but it’s not material.

This background trend includes elements of plenty of other trends for truly engaging moving elements that draw users in and keep them on the site with great scrolling actions. This new parallax with a twist is the latest craze to fascinate website designers.

Parallax with a twist is different because it is so much more seamless than what we’ve seen with moving background trends in the past. It is identifiable by a moving background that is activated with scroll, very much like parallax scrolling effects.

The key difference is in the lack of “screens.” The scroll creates a continuous and moving dynamic flow where the background changes color, includes moving animations and elements that move with the screen and other elements move in to and out of the focus area.

It’s different from the parallax scrolling trends we’ve seen in the past because the elements move so seamlessly and smoothly that you don’t see the layers interacting. In contrast with parallax of the past, users often saw the layers of elements interacting with each other. So you might have a background that moved over a photo or a layer that “snapped” into place as the scroll came into a specific location.

Many of these parallax with a twist designs have a few common elements. In addition to scrolling effects there are a handful of other commonalities that designers are using, although these elements aren’t truly required to make the effect work.

  • One-page design: To maximize the impact of this technique, these websites often feature a one-page design. Some use the effect on a long-scrolling homepage with navigation to interior pages with a more standard format.
  • Bold typography: Big lettering with interesting typeface choices are a common factor. Designers are mixing thick stroke serifs with novelty typeface options for maximum impact and ease of readability.
  • Bright color: Colors from flat and material design are a common factor. Big, bright, bold options are common. The palettes are pretty simple, but often include more color options that you would commonly see to facilitate background hue changes.
  • Changing content types: The content on the page often changes with the scroll, so that the user might first get a hero image, then a “page” of text, then more images and then a form or call to action. This moving content pairs well with the interactivity of the movement in the scroll and with the background.
  • Continuous story: While the content types may change throughout the design, a single story is the element that ties it all together. This continuous story is a two-fold design element. The content story must have a flow from chapter (page) to chapter (page). But the visual story must include a common thread as well. With so many changing visuals, it is important that they feel like they belong together.
  • Big images: Whether designers use illustrations or photos, the images – particularly on the home page – are oversized and impactful. Most of these websites start with a hero header-style image with a cue to scroll.
  • Scroll instructions: With anything new, users often need a cue as to how to proceed or interact with the design, and these sites do just that. Most have a simple instruction to scroll or icon (often with a simple animation to grab the attention of the user) that tells users what to do and how to engage.
  • Simple language: Because the framework behind this moving background is complex, everything around it tends to be simple, including the language on the site itself. This contrast is complexity and simplicity keeps the site easy for the user to understand and interesting enough to encourage engagement.

Conduct a Card Sorting Study

Opinions differ just like tastes. That is why when making important design decisions we need to consider what users think. We may argue whether contact information should go in the “about us” section or in the footer or elsewhere and each team member may be right in a sense, but the only opinion that matters is that of the user.

But how can you incorporate users’ ideas into the information architecture of a product?

I suggest card sorting. It’s simple, easy to conduct and analyze and it’s an informative UX design process.

Card sorting is a user study where participants organize content pieces into groups based on topic similarity. The group labels may be predefined (closed card sorting) if you already have some kind of information architecture and navigation. However, it’s even more informative to leave group labeling to the participants (open card sorting), especially if you are unsure about the category naming. This way you will get an understanding of how your users “speak” about the same topic.

 

Choose Your Methods

Depending on your project goals you can choose to conduct either an open or closed card sorting study. While closed card sorting results may be easier to analyze, open card sorting provides more insights into user mindsets.

Another thing to consider is the medium of the card sorting research: web/remote or traditional paper based studies. There are plenty of online services that give you every single tool you need for a remote card sorting study. Just like remote usability testing, this type of research method comes with pros and cons.

On one hand it’s easier than ever to create cards, send the test to a bunch of users and let the system analyze gathered data and give you a final category tree. On the other hand during a moderated, real life card sorting session the researcher can observe and take notes of discussions, behavior, ideas and questions, which brings a somewhat emotional touch to the raw data.

How Cards Dominate Design

Practical as they are visually attractive, card interfaces are more than just a trend.

With 2014 marking the first time mobile internet usage exceeded desktop, web design is now favoring the small screen as responsive design becomes mandatory. The result: simple interface styles like the new flat design, minimalism, and especially cards are more popular than ever.

The usefulness of the card UI pattern goes beyond loading times and translating across different screen sizes. Bite-sized content matches the attention span of most web users (especially on mobile devices). Nurtured by Pinterest and then popularized by social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, card UIs can now be found across websites of all industries.

In this article, we’ll explore the rise of the card UI pattern: why they’re useful, how they fit into responsive and material design, and what to expect from them in the future.

 

What’s Container-style Design?

To understand this pattern, you must first understand the card itself.

Cards are basically small containers of each information, with each card representing its own singular thought. A card can hold all types of content — visuals, text, links, etc. — but all fall under a single unified theme.

Filling the screen with such independent containers of information is what the Guardian calls the “container model.” This provides a mucher cleaner and instantly comprehensible interface, attuned to quick browsing so the user can go straight to what they’re looking for. (On top of that, this method lends itself to gesture controls, which we’ll explain below.)

Trello lets users create any card they want. Anyone can create “to-do” cards and categorize them as needed.

Not only does this illustrate the card’s flexibility, it also demonstrates its organizational power. Trello succeeds because their card format feels simpler than traditional list-style task managers.

 

UI Cards in Mobile and Responsive Design

As mentioned above, cards offer excellent compatibility with responsive frameworks, causing some like Des Traynor of Intercom to call it “the future of the web.” The pattern translates well to mobile devices for a variety of reasons, which we’ll explain now.

A Successful Onboarding Experience for New Users

The term onboarding comes from the HR department. It was originally used to refer to new hires and having them “acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders.” If you replace the aspect of new hires with new users the idea is exactly the same.

Think of it as part of the whole signing up user journey. Onboarding is part of the funnel and it’s part of the user’s first experience with you app. Onboarding experiences can be good or bad. However, I’ve found that app which see onboarding holistically within the whole picture – from getting the user to click the sign up CTA to the user using the product – have the best of experiences.

 

What does the user need?

Let’s starts with the purpose of creating the onboarding experience. What does the user need? What kind of information do they need to acquire in order to be successful with using your product? Do they even need an account in order to use your product? If not that affects how the user. I don’t need an account to use wireframe.cc but, it is handy if I want to save my work. Since I don’t need an account, I can start using the app right away and it’s a pretty intuitive app.

The onboarding experience here is pretty minimal but I do have everything I need in order to use this product.

 

Do you really need their email?

What about something more complicated? What about onboarding for an app like Slack? In order to use Slack, I do need an account. Therefore the onboarding starts on their home page.

 

Lets bring on the web design trends

The new year will come with plenty of new techniques and trends, but the dominant theme is likely to be a continuation of things we have started to see at the end of 2015. More video, vertical patterns, Material Design-inspired interfaces and slide-style sites will grow in popularity.

And it’s not hard for you to make the most of these concepts. Here, we’ll ring in the new year with 11 web design trends (and plenty of great examples) that designers will be seeing a lot of in 2016. (Make sure to click the links as well and play around with some of these sites to really get a feel for them. Many of the trends are just as much in the user interface as the visuals.)

One of the biggest elements to spring from Material Design has been the emergence of card-style interfaces. They are in everything from apps to websites to printed pieces. Cards are fun to create, keep information organized in a user-friendly container and are engaging for users. The other bonus is that they work almost seamlessly across devices because cards can “stack” across or down the screen (or both).

 

Hero Video Headers (Think Movie-Style Sites)

Websites design is going to the movies. Higher speed Internet connections and better video plugin integration is making it easier for more websites to include an immersive movie-style experience. Video clips are growing from small snippets to almost full-length preview clips. The images are sharp, crisp and in high definition, creating a video experience online that is new to users, but familiar from other devices, such as televisions.

 

Tiny Animations

Animation has been one of the “it” trends of 2015. From hero-style animations that lead off a site design to those tiny divots that you almost miss, moving elements are everywhere. And they will continue to grow in popularity, even as they decrease in size. Animated user interface elements are a fun way to help engage users, give them something while they wait for content to load and provide an element of surprise.

How to Make a Great Personal Online Portfolio

As a designer I think we’ve all experienced the difficulty of creating something personal, including a portfolio. You end up spending countless hours in Photoshop, trying a hundred different things and after two months you realize that your homepage still says “under construction.”

This might not be the case for everybody, but being my own client is quite challenge and that’s why I want to share how you can better set up a personal portfolio.

 

What’s the Purpose of Your Portfolio?

Before jumping in Photoshop and pumping out cool ideas, start with the core of your “business.” You are the client. Just as any other project you need to set goals first.

  • Do you want to sell products?
  • Simply showcase your products?
  • Get to know you?
  • Educate your audience?

These are just a couple of examples and you don’t necessarily have to pick one. A good idea might be to write down the goals you came up with and give them values. In my case that would be: Sell products (0/5), showcase products (2/5), get to know you (2/5), hire you (1/5).

The most creative and productive designer in the world

You can be the most creative and productive designer in the world, but it doesn’t mean anything without paid work. Designers can rely on repeat clients but it’s important to keep meeting new potential clients and building future relationships.

In this post I’d like to share tips and strategies for getting your work out there into the eyes of clients and other designers. There is no one best method to use, and in fact you should employ multiple strategies to garner the largest reach possible.

But make a game plan and learn why self-promotion is so important. Through practice it’ll become a lot easier like second nature.

 

It All Starts With A Portfolio

This should be obvious but I’m surprised how many designers have a weak portfolio of work, or even worse nothing at all.

Everyone uses the Internet and there’s no reason to believe this is slowing down.

If you do any digital work then you should have an online portfolio. This includes all creative jobs whether you’re an icon designer, web designer, digital artist, motion graphics designer, or anything similar. And this doesn’t mean that you need a custom website domain (although it’s a big help).

But you can setup a simple free portfolio on a service like Tumblr, Dribbble, or Behance.

People often browse these websites specifically looking for talent to hire. Your work needs to be good to actually land jobs. But having anything online is better than nothing.

You can always delete old work and upload new work as your skills improve.

But just get yourself online and get your work up. This makes it so much easier to share your work whenever someone wants to see what you can do.

The worst situation is when you meet a new potential client that’s looking for a designer but you have nothing to show them. So if you don’t have anything up online that should be your first step.

The Uncomfortable Side of Design

It was awesome, but as soon as the day was over the animation was gone too. Some people don’t care and some didn’t even notice but those who did were left with a void. I’m not exaggerating; hear me out. The heart explodes with confetti, it bounces and is jolly and colorful. Overall, it makes the mundane tasks of liking or favoriting a tweet much more interesting and fun. When you take that away it’s a little sad and underwhelming.

Since it’s birthday, Twitter did update the heart animation to be a little but more than just a color change but it’s still nothing compared to the confetti explosion. All in all, this is a silly complaint yet people are disappointed enough to blog about it on The Next Web. It actually bummed people out, which is rude and awful.

 

Taking a Step Back

Let’s also talk about the aspect of hearts versus stars. If you recall, late 2015, Twitter changed its UI from stars to hearts. “The heart is a universal symbol, it’s a much more inclusive symbol,” said Casey Newton. Check out Twitter’s gif for what the new heart UI is all about. (No, it’s not the same as the confetti explosion from their birthday.)

The decision was business oriented because Twitter was excited for increased interactivity due to the change. Again, that’s all fine and dandy but what happens when you have a negative thoughts. How is a heart at all an appropriate response for a negative remark? It’s not, it’s insensitive and unhelpful. A star is also unhelpful, for what it’s worth.

Interactive Mockup Exercise

When you think of a good website design, what comes to mind?

For me, it’s Airbnb. I like its design not just because it has a pretty color palette or an eye-catching video on the front page, but because it was built with good user experience in mind.

But how do you define good user experience for a website?

For one, it has to be both easy to navigate and easy to search. Websites for businesses, by and large, provide information for customers and potential customers. If your customers don’t understand the information or can’t find the information that they’re looking for, then your website will have failed.

To design a great website, both the structure and the content need to work together to present valuable information at the right time and the right place. There’s a lot of coordination involved, and often times things go wrong. You can’t rush it. You have to build your website to fit the content from the ground up.

How do you start designing a great website? Build a wireframe, then iterate into an interactive mockup.

 

Why Wireframe?

Wireframing is a great way to quickly communicate concepts and experiment with multiple iterations of any design.

Wireframes are not full-blown coded prototypes with actual visual design. They are just low-fidelity static designs that allow you to test iterations quickly and get feedback. The best wireframes are also interactive, allowing for more insightful testing of how the design actually works.

Content is the heart of design. People use products and visit websites for the content not because they want the design. And when you wireframe, you allow yourself freedom to experiment, fail, and improve the structure of your most important design asset.

 

Timeless UI Design Principles

Before we dive into the wireframe and mockup design exercise, let’s first deconstruct how Airbnb’s website works.

 

1. Bring Attention to Stunning Imagery

When you’re thinking of a place to travel, you’re probably not thinking of your travel itinerary or your rental car information.

Whatever you’re thinking of, it’s likely visual. Pictures of where you’ll be staying. Images of all of the cool sights to see. When you want to travel, you’ll want to see pictures.

That’s exactly what Airbnb did on their website. Every element is highly visual.

All of the content, meaning the house listings and suggestions for places to travel, prioritize images over text. The picture frames take up most of the space, leaving a couple of bold words and a button aside for the user to act on.

The entire header is a video of Airbnb travellers experiencing different cultures and environments around the world. That’s what people want to see in a travel website. They don’t want to just fill out some plain text forms and book a home. They want to travel while they’re planning to travel.

Purposeful imagery is always more powerful than mere words.

 

2. Simplify Your Content

Unfortunately for people wanting to travel, the process is often very complicated.

You have to scout out the places you want to visit, decide on your trip’s location(s), find a place to live, plan at least some of your time there, buy plane tickets or plan a driving route, and so much more. It’s just a big hassle.

The last thing anyone wants to add to their travel experience is more complication.

Tips and Tools for Designers

The task of prototyping a website is an extensive process of creating a basic wireframe with interactive features. While a wireframe may be static images or sketches, a prototype is often interactive with functionality for all the major pages.

Graphic editing programs have always been the most popular choice for prototyping. But in recent years more developers are switching to in-browser prototyping. It’s much faster, cleaner, and simpler when constructing a brand new project. But how do you get started?

In this post I’d like to cover the basics of prototyping in the browser and give you some tools to help you along the way.

 

Basics of In-Browser Prototyping

Websites can be described as digital interfaces built to run in a web browser. Many designers like to create these interfaces in graphics editors before moving on to coding.

But it makes more sense to prototype websites in a browser to see how each feature works, and to gauge initial concepts like layout structure and page animations.

There is no single best way to prototype although most designers have their own routines for getting started on a new project. Many designers still prefer to start in Photoshop, but starting in the browser has many advantages.

  • Easier to test & change grid systems
  • Breakpoints can be added on a whim
  • Dynamic effects like dropdown menus can be tested live
  • You start with a small codebase and slowly add more as you go

Photoshop doesn’t allow you to dynamically interact with a mockup. This is also true for responsive breakpoints where you’d need to create individual documents or layer groups for breakpoints.

Ultimately browser prototypes are a more accurate representation of the final interface. Mockups and sketches are flat and static. These are still valuable assets, but eventually you’ll need an interactive layout. This is why browser prototyping saves a lot of time.