Users always have a need for speed. Think about it. Have you ever thought, “I wish this webpage would load slower?” And it’s not just because technological advances have skewed our expectations in favor of the fast lane. We rely on the internet more now than ever to provide basic information and services. But economic inequality or geography means users are accessing these on devices and networks with a wide spectrum of speeds. To build webpages to perform as identically as possible in all conditions is to show care and consideration for all users. One of the biggest impacts you can make on load speed is optimizing your images.
Semantics is the study of the meaning of words and in computer language making something semantic means using terms that both humans and machines can discern the meaning of. If you look at any chunk of HTML, you can easily identify terms that have no immediate meaning outside the language. HTML semantic tags more clearly describe the content within them, making webpages more accessible.
If you want to start learning how to build websites or web apps the most basic thing you need to understand is that HTML is the standard language of the internet. Learn about the structure of this language and the process from writing your first HTML document to using it to make a webpage come alive online.
Building a website is not just about deciding how it’s going to look, how it’s going to function, or what content it’s going to contain. You also have to decide how you’re actually going to build it. When building a website, you have 2 general directions you can choose from: hand code or use a content management system (CMS). There are pros and cons to both directions so one is not necessarily better than the other. You must evaluate your situation and decide which one works best for your needs.
A key component in your website’s feel, and some might argue the most readily noticeable, is color. We all have a favorite and before we can even read, we’re taught names and cultural associations for each. But choosing a color palette for a website that inspires the right emotions and works well with existing branding or content can be a challenge.
You should design your website to evoke the emotions that you want users to have, ones that make them have a positive opinion of your brand or content, and that motivate them to take actions you desire. Mood boards help with that. Mood boards are physical or digital collages of images, icons, typography, colors, patterns, textures, and other design elements that together speak to the intended mood you want to set with your visual design.
Like architectural blueprints, wireframes depict the structure of a webpage but not the visual design elements of it. You can learn the layout of content blocks on a page, the types of content a page will contain, and some of the basic functionalities of a page from a wireframe.
Designing the bones of a website is the focus of an area of UX design known as information architecture (IA) design. IA design is about creating a structure on a website that helps a user understand where they are in the site and where they can find the information they are seeking. Information architecture is visually represented using a sitemap.
Users’ attention spans are short. They make judgments they may not even consciously realize about websites in seconds. Every element of a website’s design works in coordination to sway those judgments negatively or positively. There’s an overwhelming list of elements to consider for web design, but to be helpful I’ve highlighted the following 8 design areas I think are important to offer a good user experience.
Websites are like living creatures. We’re constantly interacting with them, updating them with new content, and making technological and design advances that shape our expectations of them. Knowing when it's time then to redesign a website can be tricky. Learn how I identified what needed updates on my WordPress blog one year after starting it.
Having strategy for your brand on social media is always important, but when you have a specific goal you'd like social media to help you achieve, it becomes vital. I've previously posted about how to determine a small business' social media presence, create a calendar, build personas, and write community management guidelines using one of my favorite businesses, Scratch Baking in Milford, CT. Based on this work, I've created the following slides and presentation outlining a social media strategy they could use
Social media has given everyone a voice and in doing so the general public has taken control of the conversation. Some businesses, used to having all control over their brand narrative, may find themselves lost as to how to effectively operate in this space. Instead of saying “why bother” or, worse, futilely moderating your social media presence within an inch of its life, effectively killing all authenticity, you should place your brand as the steward of your brand community by creating community management guidelines.
Whatever the business-related goals of your strategy, you need to focus on the user-centered goal of bringing value to your audience through your social media presence. By empathizing with your audience you will build content that will make your brand more relatable and more trustworthy which will ultimately translate into brand awareness, website traffic, customer leads, revenue, brand engagement, loyalty, or success with any other goals you may have. Personas are good tools to help you start building a social media strategy with empathy.
In my last post, I explored how to decide the social media presence for a small business using one of my favorite small businesses – Scratch Baking in Milford, CT. Now it’s time to activate that presence. It’s time to plan and create content. No matter how strategic you are in choosing your business’ social media platforms, that will mean nothing if you’re not strategically and regularly creating engaging content for them.
Small businesses can face challenges such as human and financial resource shortages when trying to access the benefits of social media. With little money to pay someone to focus on this for them and little time or energy to do it themselves small business owners sometimes don’t even know where to start. Using one of my favorite small, local businesses – Scratch Baking in Milford, CT – as an example we’re going to walk through how to approach evaluating and planning your business’ social media presence.
The sheer amount of information social media now presents us to digest is enough in and of itself to overwhelm us in to being less discerning about the truth. Add into this mix every individual’s opinion and the voices of those interested in misleading others or sowing division and social media becomes a very chaotic and confusing source from which to get your news. I decided to find out just how much of a filter I had to apply to find factual news on my social media accounts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our daily lives, perhaps forever, in countless ways we are still trying to grasp. But as a social media professional I’m acutely interested in how this crisis is affecting the medium I work in. What I’m seeing is the possibility that we are moving into a new phase of our relationship with it.
There comes a time in every project when an idea transitions from conceptual to actual. In website and app design that time generally comes during the prototyping process. Prototyping can be done in a range of fidelities, or levels of detail, from low to high. Low-fidelity prototypes can be a great tool for quickly iterating design ideas and starting usability testing early in your design process, but the type of experience they offer is quite removed from a product’s endgame. High-fidelity prototyping is when things start to feel and look real.
Good, usable design comes from an iterative process in which you create and revise designs in repetitive cycles, coming closer to the desired result with each cycle. One of the best ways to learn how a design needs to be revised is usability testing. Many development process eliminate this important step or leave until the final product is built for a number of reasons. Learn how I used the Prototyping on Paper app and Zoom to push forward with usability testing of paper prototypes for an app I'm designing despite the social distancing restrictions of COVID-19.
Sometimes when designing technology, you have to forgo technology and get back to basics with good ole pen and paper. With so much tech around us every day it’s pretty easy to just jump straight to software to start designing when the most helpful tools are actually the ones already sitting in our desk drawers. If you’re designing a website, app, or other tech product one of the best tool to use to start deciding what it will look like and how users will interact with is a paper prototype.
Flowcharts are a common tool used for a variety of purposes in a variety of industries, including engineering, business, and education. UX designers create a type of flowchart called a user flow to depict and communicate the process of user movement. User flows utilize the same symbols as flowcharts in order to represent every route users can take to achieve a specific goal on a site or app. See how I've developed user flows for a proposed Resident app for the city of Milford, Connecticut and how these charts can improve user experience design.
Information architecture (IA) design involves creating an organized structure in a website, app, or product that helps users navigate and understand where to find what they need easily and quickly. Hear about my experience creating a proposed site map for a resident companion app for my hometown and find out how and if designing IA for apps differs from websites.
What else is a website or an app, but a container for copious amounts of information like a library? Left unorganized or badly organized, a website experience for a user can quickly become consumed with simply trying to find what they want instead of accomplishing their intended goal for visiting. Information architecture (IA) design is about creating a structure on a website, app, or other product that helps a user understand where they are in it and where they can find the information they are seeking.
What if there was an app for centralizing and connecting those in our communities with resources and will to help with those in need? So many of us are ready and willing to help our neighbors and local communities, but we just don’t know who needs help and where to look all the time. Our efforts often siloed by our social circles. I decided to do some ideation on this problem of how to crowdsource a community to see if I could spark the beginning of an app solution.
There are an endless number of ideation techniques you can try. You should pick one, though, that works best for the kind of ideas you need and the experience and abilities of those who will be participating in your ideation session. My current abilities, being the frazzled mess that they are because of the current pandemic and social distancing, called for a technique that could help me get my perspective and spinning thoughts in order: mind mapping.
To be a UX designer is to understand the holistic picture of an experience while simultaneously paying attention to minute details in the pursuit of identifying and solving problems. Whew! Approaching this subject may seem overwhelming or intimidating at first, but good UX design is an invaluable asset for a product, service, or brand. That’s a tall order. No matter your project, to create a good user experience you must understand some of the key principles of UX design.
For businesses, it’s important to know the points in a user’s journey that they influence or need to consider in order to provide the best user experience possible. Journey maps are a great visual and shareable tool for understanding this important information.
Knowing where to start is the hardest part of any project. In the design thinking process, you spend a lot of time learning to empathize with your users through research, then properly defining the problem that your project needs to help them with. At some point, though, you have to pivot your brain to put all this understanding and definition to use. Luckily, there are ideation techniques that you can employ to add guidance and structure to your efforts, sparking creativity and innovation.
One of the obstacles to good ideation is that people often practice it in a haphazard or chaotic way. Everyone today likes to talk about the value of brainstorming, but they often think of it as unstructured imagination that magically and randomly produces ideas. Effective ideation requires that you stop thinking in terms of these amorphous activities and instead apply a rigorous and purposeful set of rules to your efforts. One technique to help guide you in brainstorming is mash-up ideation.
Being a UX designer is, of course, about designing a solution to a problem that users of a product or service have. It can be really fun and exciting to brainstorm, come up with new ideas, and maybe even change the world. But if you base all your work on the wrong problem, you won’t change anyone’s world with your designs. This is why you use a tool like point of view (POV) statements to add rigor and structure to your problem definition.