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This post will serve as the final recap post for the Future of Web Design in NYC. Below are the quick notes from several of the presenters and here are links to the full speaker recap posts:
- Joshua Davis
- Ryan Sims/Keith Robinson
- Ryan Singer, 37Signals
- Mathew Patterson
- Jeffrey Kalmikoff
- Brian Fling
- Lea Alcantara
Allen’s note: A big thank you to Rachel Clarke for covering FOWD. She rocked!
Some presentations were either very short (primarily sponsor ones) or I came away with only a few key points. Here’s a round up of those.
Sean Seibel of Microsoft as promoting Phizz Pop, a new website for agency professionals. Of interest was the Design Challenge, where they are pulling together agency teams ot compete against each other for a best designer trophy.
Cindy Li talked about the Beautifying the web with Illustration. A run through of sites where illustration is being used to make messages more powerful and to personalise the web. As she pointed out, a photo can be only of one person, an illustration can be anyone, even you.
There was a panel discussion with Andy Clarke talking to Josh Williams and Jeffrey Zeldman. Unfortunately sound issues meant I did not hear all of clearly and much of what I did here was more discussion about histories. Some key points were:
- designers are increasingly becoming their own clients as their frustration grows with having to follow a client line. There’s a growing need to see things through from start to finsih
- most of what a designer learns is not taught but is built up through experience or is self-tought. This should demand respect but rarely does so how can they change that.
- designers should stand up for what they believe is the right thing and not just follow the client line, eg about everything looking the same in all browsers.
Jonathan Snook> gave a quick run through of using AJAX in design. He strongly emphasised the need to consider how you are changing old interactions, ie clicking on a link, which may no longer take you to a new page but change the current page. You have to know what people expect, don’t break too many metaphors and make sure you are obvious with any changes. Most importantly, keep asking people to use it and see how they do – if you have to explain things, it isn’t working.
Jina Bolton took us through some of the new things that will happen with CSS3. CSS2 was released in 1997 so this is a long time coming, in fact CSS2.1 is only now going into Candidate Release. As Jina says, they waited for the browsers to implement before releasing, which is the wrong way round. On this, the thought would be to release the standard and let the browsers catch up. CSS3 is being broken up into modules and different apps can implement different modules.
In 10 minutes Elliot Jay Stocks managed to get most of us laughing as he talked about the web2.0 design look. Characterised by vibrant high contrast colours, special offer badges, gloss/sheen, bevelled edges, gradients, diagonal lines (a bastardised version of go faster stripes),soft focus effects and reflected logos he just wanted to moan that Web2.0 does not mean a design aesthetic so what you are building does not have to have all of these. Following trends is good because it can make money and stereotypes exist for a reason but the best stuff takes the cliches and does something different with them, moving the design along.
Greg Rewis from the sponsor Adobe can up to talk about flash and flash movies, which now has the ability to play h.264 quality video. 92.6% of browsers now have Flash 9 and there are 300 million devices that have the flash players, including the Jaguar XK90. He’s suggesting to his boss that the company get his the car for testingbut so ar they have not gone for it.
David Martin from Fantasy Interactive talked about flashturbation, that malady that digital agencies get wjen all they do is produce in flash with every bell and whistle that can be thrown at it. His company has now seen the light and is using flash more sensibly to build tools and useful sites, eg a lot of work with Time Warner digital and phone systems sites. They are also looking at building out own properties where they have complete control.
Ryan and Keith discussed how they took IMDb and thought about a redesign for it. The result, a new IMDb design can be found at justwatchthesky.com
This is about process. You need to start with content and context and the process is about solving problems and documenting the solutions. But the process is a means to an end – don’t kill yourself when it does not work. We looked at IMDb as a project to redesign – with some caveats. We did not have a whole load of time, it was not a real project, we had limited resources, no clients or stakeholders. We made a lot of assumptions
Keith does theinformation design, thinking about orgnaising the info, He does the research, think about what data is available, thinking about the problems that need to be solved – solutioneering. You have to identify problems before pffereing solutons
So IMDb is very top heavy, lots of info. Site itself is very top heavy. with a lot of information on the page. It’s not the best use of space and the negative space does not really work. It’s not supporting user behaviour and not the best use of ad space
Start with the goals- what are we trying to do. Define them..group them..prioritise and balance. Need to get business, user and tech goals aligned. You can then pair your goals with the content
He tends to start with analogue, the power of the pen. Don’t let digital drag you down. He sketches, doodles as he thinks about things.
The he moves to document solutions – page descriptions and wireframes. HE prefers to use a narrative description of the wireframe, with no layouts, describing elements (attached to the goals) so that the layouts do not cramp the creativity. Wireframes can be a tricky delivery especially with clients. The deliverables should document and inform. They should not be used to build consensus., the believes that consensus is for losers. You get a watered down design with compromises.
He calls it Cinematic Web Design. Like the movies, thousands of pieces that go into the shots; he treats websites in the same way, bringing together lots of small pieces. You need to find the right balance – entertainment, education, editorial. With IMDb it was all about the editorial. The best designs are the ones that are done quickly and efficiently, but remember it can take years of practice to be able to do that. He has three quick tips – trust you instincts. design at the highest possible standards and use real copy.
Ryan Singer, 37 Signals
- the company is known for making software that is easy to use, clear, that people like to use.
- you know when things reach critical mass when you get a lot of bullshit and jargon (referring to all the usability and design talk)
- we talk about clear, fast, easy, fun and good. usability does not mean it is good.
- for us, the interface is the product. Going to take a look at 3 areas that get focused on: screens, flow, language
- on hitting a screen, focus on what is most important for the user, why they are on the screen and make sure that is easy to find. On the files tab of basecamp there is a lot of information but the main focus is on file icon and file name. Think about what the immediate hit is, see the parts, see the relationships.
- he thinks there should be a ‘weak’ tag, to de emphasise things. so we have strong, normal and weak across the page
- he looks for elements he can use to act as handles, to act as ‘containers’ for the content to organise things – gives context… looks to de-emphasise things when they do not need to catch your eye at the start. add colour to bring attention.
- you use elements to direct attention and to support the content. making things clear and well structures often end up looking good. think about importance and priority and user stuff and it helps on the art side.
- DECIDE WHAT MATTERS…MAKE THAT POP OUT…MAKE EVERYTHING ELSE FADE BACK
- your screens could be beautiful, but if finding your way through them is horrible, then it is still bad. always need to think about flow and how people will move through the screens.
- think about why people load up an app – it needs to be fast and smooth. you can have a great product but if is not easy to use, then won;t be.
- what do people need to do and make it as easy as possible
- think about making it frictionless – what do most people want to do next and get the app to do it and drive you along
- interface design on copywriting
- speak your users language
- in order for people to use something it has to make sense to them
- talk like a human. think about it being a conversation
- long labels are OK…they are descriptive. instead of ‘submit’ what are they actually doing.
- Be opinionated about everything and decide what matters
- walkthrough processes
- emphasise and de-emphasise
- reduce friction
- clarify your language
Mathew Patterson Campaign Monitor Good Practices in Newsletter and email design
- standards based designers do like html email…..they have a ‘just say no’ approach. But it does not matter what the standards people think, we are not the ones using it. Just because you hate it, that won’t stop people using it; just becuase we are designers, it does not mean we control how people use technology and it is not going away.
- the ROI in email means that it is the one of the most effective actions you can take
- it’s not completely evil..so how do we make it better? We have to go back in time!
- we started doing standards for browsers to try and get some consistency. HTML email is still left behind in 1998. To design it today you still need the skills that you had then.
Clients think that customers love their emails. ..Customers don’t really – many are just annoyances. We need to design for hatred/annoyance of email. As a designer have to stand on boundary and translates between them, so the client understands what they can do and what they should not do
When creating the message, you have to love the text! The core elements are the permission, unsubscribe and contact details; tell them why they are getting the email, how to get off the list and how to contact you.
Then you are back to using tables, to get any consistency across email clients. You need to think about images…or lack of images. Most clients do not show them by default. The text has to stand on its own.
So is email dead? No, it just needs to get a bit more bionic, faster, stronger better.
Jeffrey Kalmikoff SkinnyCorp Community centered design
Jeffrey is the Chief Creative Officer at Threadless and asked the Threadless community to ask questions that he would answer in the session and on the site. They had around 500 questions, chose 25 to answer and based the talk around some of them
1. what are some of the most important design details for a community- based site that are practical and still stimulating?
Use the 3 C’s when designing for community – consistency, clarity and crazy awesomeness.
Consistency – use of colour and expectation of functionality are 2 key bits. Try and keep things simple but find ways for people to know where they are at all the time. basic colour set- green, blue and pint. the point is to keep it simple and obvious to avoid people to get lost. In designing a new area – have to make sure that people still know what they are doing so the threadless kids site, it needs to behave the same way/expectations.
Clarity - thinks about user base. someone who is 13 or 70 needs to be able to navigate. I think about my mom when designing the site. The question I always ask – what does email have in common with gay porn? – when a freshman at college, I was moving from university system (flunking) so needed a new email address. I told her the email address…and she gave to her friends and family. But the mails were bouncing, it was the wrong address. I’d created a hotmail account, she’s told everyone hotmale.com…everything bounced. To my mom, it was not obvious that it was hotmail. It needs to be very clear
Crazy awesomeness – has more to do with ideas. ie removing Flickrs images from a set you get an explosions- it’s fun and crazy awesome keeping things fun will keep your community around, You need to understnad the the value of exceeding expectations within a genre. Have to keep it fun to keep community
2. Can a web designer be an active member of a community and still be great at the job
Yes you have to be an active member. activity leads to awareness. On threadless people were using blogs to post designs before they submitted to the site. We watched how they were using it and then we changed the way the site worked instead of convincing them to change their behaviour. We created the critique section on the blogs to get people to critique the designs….submit before they submit,.
3. Does the community matter of the site managers make the decisions- do the community members make a difference?
Yes and No. You choose to be democratic or you do not. We deal with democracy. A while ago we changed things and the people did not like it and told us. We changed things live until we got a sort of consensus. It’s not something I like but it is what the community decided. We facilitate it, not lead it.
4. What is the biggest surprise you have had?
You’re not as talented as you think you are, that is the biggest surprise. There is an inherent amount of ego involved in being a designer. You need to check your ego. It’s not finished until the community says it has finished Also, you may become more important than you realise- people can become important to others
Brian Fling (Blue Flavor) – Taking Your Site Mobile
The next session from Brian was really an overview of the mobile market not necessarily addressing the issues about designing a mobile web. What he was clear on is the the market is far more fragmented in browsers than the desktop ever was and you will never be able to design for them all with the current lack of standards. So know your target and focus on the main devices for that target.
- mobile design should be easy and anyone who says it is not is trying to sell you something!
- mobile device is the device fragmentation..on web
- a few browsers. mobile is bigger. 45 different browsers, 200 devices.
- create solutions based on goals, think about your content in multiple facets of distribution
- there have been 7 phases of mass media
- printing press, recordings, cinema, radio, television, internet, mobile
- mobile is the only mass media that can do everything the others can.
- mobile has unique benefits. It is the first mass media device that is personal, always on, always carried, built in payment channel, chain of thought
- can do things anywhere you are.
- mobile can sit at a sweet spot between technical, business and user goals.
- you have to balance the three goals
- but you have to find a need and fill it.
- mobile touches far more people than will ever have PC access.
- mobile will revolutionise the way we interact with and gather information
- local information, location based services.
- local businesses need to be aware of the local stuff
- get the on the mobile web and be present.
- We are the precipice of the next gen of the web. it’s mobile
- so are you ready?
Lea Alcantara – Lealea design – Session: Building a brand through design
Lea talked about the process of building a brand and how she built and designed her own personal brand.
A brand is not a logo. It is an idea, the perceived value formed by its intended audience about a product, service or culture. A brand is like a person. The total person is similar to the overall idea and appeal. The face is like the logo – an immediate visual appeal and impact. The muscles are like the warranties, the quality and performance of a company. The heart of a brand is the culture, people, attitudes, environment, values and customer service. The bones of the brand are the process and systems and procedures. Branding is consistency and credibility. The more consistent you are the more people will trust you. The act of branding is a conversation between you, your clients and the customers. Brands are built about what people are saying about the product; when you have a great product and you get people to spread the word about it.
You have to think about who you are and why should anyone care. if you brand yourself properly you differentiate yourself
The process used is discover, design, deliver. You need a set process but it has to be adaptable.
Discovery – encourage everyone to have amnesia…you have to find out who you are – what peoples perceptions are about you. Find out what everyone thinks about you, bring it back to basics. Who am I, what am I, Where am I, Who are you? Stereotype yourself- simplify the image. When preparing her personal brand she interviewed friends, family, colleagues, blog readers. She asked them all to give her three adjectives to describe her. Some of the best dialogue was driven from the negative feedback when she explored it. She then put it all into a brand statement and a creative brief.
When moving onto Design, she has some rules:
- always start in black and white. it focuses you are the overall.
- use a vector program.
- get testy – test your designs against everything
- let it be for a day or two – leave it alone for while and come back
- gather feedback
- think about web specifc rules – adaptabilty and flexibity and user expereince and typography
- typography..you have to think about websfe fonts etc