I cut my web design teeth in the age of skeuomorphism1 and flip phones. It’s OK if you don’t know what skeuomorphism means because no one is ever going to talk about it seriously again. In those days (this is 2003-2008) there was a culture of one-upmanship at work among web designers. We were pushing the boundaries to introduce more realism - more feeling and warmth - to the web. Your website was meant to feel like a room that was specifically yours - with your posters on the wall and your coffee rings on the desk. It’s no surprise that the actual content and function of the website was largely ignored. How many times did you have to wait for a painfully slow flash website to load just so the designer could literally add a flicker to the lightbulb that was inexplicably included in the design?
Recent Posts by Sam Gerdt
THIS OLD MAN SOAKED A ROLL OF TOILET PAPER IN KEROSENE ON HALLOWEEN NIGHT. WHAT HAPPENED NEXT WILL BLOW YOUR FLIPPIN’ MIND.
Remember when everyone (Waypost included!) was talking about “responsive design” like we had finally arrived at Web Nirvana? Chalk that one up to old dogs learning new tricks, I suppose, because the reality being revealed is that there is no final destination in sight and this train we’re on is more akin to the Japanese Bullet than your garden variety freight train.
We've covered research and prototyping, and now we actually have a fleshed out design to work with. It's time to do some testing. Usability testing is the last step in the UX design cycle (I say cycle because testing often results in more research and prototyping) and, sadly, is an often ignored part of the equation for one simple reason – nobody wants to pay for it. While it is true that whole-hog usability testing is expensive, you don’t need 100 strangers in a room with two-way glass to test a website. There are many ways to accomplish small scale usability testing with zero added cost, and I would highly recommend these practices to any small firm or sole-proprietor for whom proper testing is not an option.
The planning stage of a new design doesn’t end with research. Research answers the “who” and “what” questions, but not the “how” questions. The next tool in the true UX designer’s tool belt is most commonly referred to as prototyping (or wireframing). In a nutshell, prototyping involves taking all of those funnels, forms, and CTAs, organizing them in a way that makes everybody happy, and defining specific functionality before you start design – and it can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. This is where true UX designers stand above the rest and where we could all stand to improve.
How much you, as a designer, research before you start new design speaks volumes of your claim to be a “UX designer.” As a student, and even as a young professional starting out, I was convinced that there was such a thing as “an eye for design,” and it showed in the amount of research I did (or didn’t do). While it is true that some people grasp the rules of design much more naturally than the rest, and perhaps some do possess greater natural ability in lesser regards (say, color vision); there is no natural ability contained within any person to divine rules for design and usability out of thin air and without prompting. All designers must research.
Research takes many shapes. For the more naturally gifted, research can be as simple as looking at other people’s work, or better yet, looking at nature. Personally, the majority of my early research that made up my misunderstood “eye for design” came from over-exposure to TV and the internet from a young age, a somewhat photographic memory, and a knack for pattern recognition. But for most designers, research looks more like work – especially when you dig deeper into functional design (web/application design, industrial design, packaging design, etc.).
Responsive Web Design (RWD) is popular for many reasons:
- It allows for quick implementation of mobile-friendly websites.
- It doesn’t require a separate platform or database.
- It is as flexible as the CSS used to create it (extremely flexible).
But while everyone is thrilled that we finally have a simple, broadly accepted solution to the years old question of how best to develop mobile websites, there is a big question that has been largely ignored in the mainstream. What about mobile usability?
You already have a website. It's a few years old and conversions are not where you would like them to be, but you can't quite justify a full-scale redesign. It's time to think about a few bandaids - short term fixes to get you through the next year or two while you save up for that nice new website and marketing strategy from your friends here at Waypost. Here are three simple ways to increase your conversions on an existing website.
1. Replace your image rotator with a single call to action.The data is in and image carousels often have a negative impact on conversion. This is primarily due to visitors not hanging around on your home page long enough to see more than one slide. It's time to focus that valuable home page real estate in three easy steps.
So, what exactly is ‘Responsive Web Design’?
The emergence of responsive web design is largely due to the rapid growth of smartphones and other mobile devices. More people are using smaller-screen devices to view Web pages.
Responsive web design is an approach that a web designer uses to create a website that “responds to” or re-sizes itself depending on the type of device being used to view it. The objective is to have one website with elements that respond differently when viewed on devices of different sizes. The result is an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices, such as desktop monitors, laptops, iPads, tablets, and smartphones.
Note: In 2012, Google recommended responsive web design as the best strategy for smartphone-optimized websites.