9 08, 2013

Redesigning Without Frustrating Your Users

By | 2017-06-16T13:05:30+00:00 August 9th, 2013|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|Tags: , , , |

Your users rely on your website to get things done. They are used to doing it a certain way. So when things change, people get frustrated. Nevertheless, change is necessary. So the job of your web design and development team is to try to make the changes go over as smoothly as possible.

Communicate with Your Users

Testing is a valuable tool to help you figure out where the problem areas of your website are. Gathering information by polling or asking your users to give their feedback can be incredibly valuable. But, keep in mind that sometimes what a user tells you about their experience with your site may not exactly match what really happens when they are actually on the site. There may be inconsistencies with a users intent and their action because of the contextual factors involved. Every time someone uses your site, the situation is different and therefore the results are different. Monitoring and using things like Google Analytics metrics will give you facts to compare to your collected empirical data.

Types of Change

Design changes are more immediately noticed, while workflow changes may take time to be detected by your users. Dissatisfaction with design changes may not be enough to keep them from using the site, but if the functionality of the site is compromised users may be discouraged. Therefore it is vital to ensure that any workflow changes will benefit the user in the end. Workflow changes can bring short term user dissatisfaction but valuable long term gain. Ultimately people are able to learn and adapt to the changes within a few days, and as long as the benefits last longer than this relearning period, their experience will ultimately be positive.

When is change necessary?

Change is always necessary when it solves a problem or serves a specific purpose. Ease of use, being the ultimate goal. Increased and varied functionality is only valuable when truly needed. You also need to consider the types of users you are designing for. There is no need to hold back for a small portion of your users, while inhibiting the experience of most of your users. Maintaining core consistencies with your old site, such as keeping things in the same general location and using familiar visual cues, will assist your user with making a smooth transition to your new design.

22 04, 2013

Considering Drawer Style Site Navigation

By | 2016-05-27T10:13:29+00:00 April 22nd, 2013|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|Tags: , , , , , |

Lately we have been utilizing a drawer style navigation in our designs to provide a better user experience in our websites. The request for quite a bit of content in the drop downs themselves (mega drop downs that span the full width of the site no matter which tab you have clicked) in some of our more complex higher-ed sites also creates the problem of covering up the content of the site and proving tricky when the site responds to mobile screen sizes. Putting the navigation in a sliding drawer is proving to be a unique solution that translates beautifully to mobile in responsive design.

If you look on Mashable, a popular news article site, the nav drawer does not shift the page down, but is a full width mega drop down menu. Compare to the University of Wyoming, a site recently developed by Beacon, which has a drawer based nav.

Mashable mega drop down navigation

University of Wyoming drawer based navigation

Whether or not this is the right nav for your site will probably be based upon a lot of factors like what type of content is in your drop downs and what type on content is on your homepage. If you have a lot of content in your navigation it may be worth while to put that navigation in a slider so that the homepage remains visible, even when the navigation is open. Also, you need to think about what your navigation does on mobile devices and tablets and how to best integrate this with your drop downs. Mashable.com serves up a different navigation for it’s tablet users, for example, simplifying the menu, so they put it in a side drawer. On the higher ed sites we develop here at Beacon, we need to provide a consistent navigation for users on every type of device, so we might use a similar drawer on both mobile and desktop, but just change the navigation to stack taller on smaller devices and open and close subsections. This also can allow us to integrate deeper navigational tiers in the main nav on mobile devices so we can keep the content area cleaner and simpler.

This solution can be elegant and it even translates very well to touch devices that do not have the ability to open menus on-hover. This keeps the experience more consistent through all the screen sizes by utilizing an on-click drawer.

Ultimately decisions like these need to be made on a case by case basis.

16 11, 2012

GIF wins Oxford’s ‘Word of the Year’

By | 2016-11-23T10:52:04+00:00 November 16th, 2012|Categories: Creative Design|Tags: , , , |

I really was looking for some nice serious techie news to blog about today, but this article was just too irresistible to ignore: GIF wins Oxford’s ‘Word of the Year’.  Despite the hilarious sub-title “JPG and PNG decline to comment“, I really did learn a lot  in the guts of the article.  For example, I didn’t realize that our friend the “GIF” (graphic interchange format) has been around for 25 years (almost as long as me!) and that nearly every Internet browser ever made supports it (and believe me, that’s A LOT of programs, cause we test our sites in most of them).  The acronym has also evolved from a noun to a verb (“Most recently many media outlets were live-GIFing the 2012 presidential  debates.”).  According to the article “it’s the easiest way to share a quick animation.”

And as a completely un-techie side note, who even knew that Oxford Dictionary selected a “USA Word of the Year“???

A GIF of GIF

A GIF of GIF

9 07, 2012

On Hover Alternatives for Touch Devices

By | 2016-05-31T16:50:39+00:00 July 9th, 2012|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|

Even though touch screen devices make up only a small fraction of users that visit your site, the number of these devices hitting your site is only going to increase. This doesn’t just include mobile devices, but also tablets that are being served a full site version. Your site should take this into account and any mouse hover effects need to be rethought and accommodated by some other means.

Designers are trying to come up with clever ways to deal with this issue. But sometimes the simplest answer is the right one. Especially in this case, where the user is expected to know how to use the site, it’s best to keep things clear and intuitive and not throw them any type of interaction with the site that is outside of the norm.

The simplest ways to deal with hover actions on a site are to replace them with:

Direct Action This removes the content from the hover and instead places it directly on the page itself. This makes sense for some things and not others, such as small bits of info or tooltips. This content can be integrated in the page itself as long as it doesn’t make the page awkward and cluttered but maintains and elegant usability.

On Tap Menus This is a quick and easy fix as long as the content of the hover menu makes sense to be presented to users with a tap and it doesn’t interfere with the use of the site.

Separate Pages This is a better solution for hovers that would present the user with extensive amounts of extra content. The content may be so much that it warrants it’s own separate page.

 

So this seems like a Sm, Med, Lg approach where how you serve up the hover content depends on the amount of the content, but the way in which the user will expect to use the site needs to be factored in as well so that usability is not compromised.

No matter which solutions are used, it’s important to remember throughout the design process that the devices that are being used to browse the web are becoming more and more varied and even though we don’t have to eliminate hover completely, we do have to accomodate devices that don’t allow this action.

6 03, 2012

Free Social Media Vector Icon Set (including pinterest and google plus!)

By | 2016-11-21T17:21:13+00:00 March 6th, 2012|Categories: Creative Design|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

First I would like to say I am a Web Developer here at Beacon so Design is not my specialty. However, I’ve gradually been getting annoyed by the round corners that are on most social icons. I think there is always the ‘too much’ factor and for me I’ve been given too much round icons. So the only thing that looks fresh and appealing to me anymore is square. I’ve looked at other free icon sets out there and still have yet to find a basic and simple square set. So I decided to give it a shot :).

All these icons are vectors I created within Adobe Fireworks CS4. For most of these I used the method mentioned in this post (http://trentrichardson.com/2009/04/11/convert-bitmaps-to-vectors-in-fireworks/) and others I copied the company provided vector into fireworks and modified from there. Feel free to download and do what you’d like with them. I have them all within one file for ease of creating/posting but again each is its own vector so you can copy it into another document or slice them out from the file.

Download Here

This Vector set includes:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • WordPress
  • Google +1
  • RSS
  • SlideShare
  • Goodreads
  • GitHub
  • Forrst
  • Amazon
  • Blogger
  • YouTube
  • Dribbble
  • Skype
  • Vimeo
  • Delicious
  • Technorati
  • Last.fm
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo!
  • MySpace
  • Foursquare
  • Flickr
  • Tumblr
  • Meetup
7 02, 2012

Design Freebie: Photoshop Tessellation Patterns

By | 2016-05-27T09:42:01+00:00 February 7th, 2012|Categories: Creative Design|Tags: , |

While working on a site design recently I played with creating some tessellation patterns (I’m pretty sure I had been looking at M.C. Escher that morning).  I never did use these graphics for the site design I was working on, but I thought I would colorize them and create some seamless Photoshop pattern files to provide as a download. Enjoy!

Download Tessel.pat.zip

13 10, 2011

The Redesign Bug

By | 2016-11-22T18:07:35+00:00 October 13th, 2011|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|Tags: , , , , , , , |

We recently launched the Beacon site with a new design which included a handful of jQuery animation, many of which had replaced the the previous design’s Flash-intensive content. We have recently come across an issue with the jQuery library with some builds of IE7 and IE8 that resulted in an extensive trail of debugging. We concluded that it was a browser issue (even in different OS environments) that was only fixed by re-installing IE. Here I will outline the issue and the debug trail–and hopefully maybe even think up some potential fixes that weren’t explored when testing was originally performed.

The Issue

In IE7 and IE8 we found that refreshing the homepage would crash IE and sometimes handle restoring the tab, other times not.  Microsoft has acknowledged this error in an KB article.

Error Screenshots

Initial view of most common error displayed.

Error message that would periodically show right before the tab recovers.

Details of error.

Advanced error detail screen.

When tab is not recovered, this screen is shown. Had to repeatedly refresh until this error occurs.

Just-In-Time Debugger error found from a different machine.

The Debug Trail

  • Initial replication of issue in IE 8.0.6012 on one of the test machines using a Windows XP environment.
  • Attempted browser-configuration changes that might’ve caused issues including:
    • Privacy Settings
    • Security Settings
    • PrivateBrowsing
    • Add-Ons disabled
    • Just-In-Time Debugging (picked up from a slightly different error that was sent to me as a screenshot from Mark Dirks — last one on right shown above) Unfortunately not of these seemed to be the culprit.
  • Disabled JavaScript in IE altogether–which of course fixes it but not what we we’re aiming for. This confirms it is a JavaScript/jQuery related issue
  • Attempted using different versions from currently used (1.6.1) to most recently published version from jQuery site (1.6.4) – tried both compressed/uncompressed versions without any success.
  • Checked a  changelog of jQuery since version 1.6.1 onward for IE7/8 errors. *Anything related to these browsers I had checked out scripts for any instances of (CSS background-image in jQuery and other function calls)
  • One Google search led me to a site that reported changing the jQuery file name had corrected their similar mshtml.dll error—-not the case here)
  • Double checked the in-line JavaScript as well as .JS file functions dependent on the jQuery library contained no redirects or any instance of the window.location method Since the IE8 error that comes up sometimes on the test machine says the browser attempted to load more than twice) – the only instance of this I found is a comparison checking if ‘#beacon-video’ is in the URL and if so, it runs a function to scroll the Beacon video into view and sets the tabs display(css) values. The window.location value is never assigned anywhere.
  • Checked that there weren’t multiple instances of window.onload or jQuery(document).ready()
  • Ran the jQuery library file through a beautifier to get a better look at the pin-pointed trouble spot you found and checked for any obvious issues. Justin Klingman found that in the compressed library he could comment out the last half of the code which removed the crash so before ‘beautifying’ the code I had marked this position with a comment and looked in the region after the code was cleaned up.
  • Removed all other scripts from the page to see if those dependencies may have had an impact on the crash, but removing them all (including the JavaScript function calls in the body,) except for the jQuery Library. No difference, same crashing effect.
  • The only change that did successfully fixed the crashing tab to load was removing jQuery from the page, however, when the content of another root level page (the SEM pages) into the root default document, that loads/refreshes fine without crashing. The only difference between interior/homepage in terms of JavaScript is the presence of the homeScripts.js file and the inline function calls on the homepage. After further testing this, removing only homeScripts.js still crashed the tab on the homepage (unless jQuery was also removed) — All internal pages use the same copy of the jQuery Library and they don’t crash, so the exact source of what’s crashing the page/tab is still not clear to me.
31 08, 2011

The Expressive Web (Beta)

By | 2016-11-04T08:52:46+00:00 August 31st, 2011|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|Tags: , , |

The Expressive Web (Beta) was recently released by Adobe to showcase some of the newest and most expressive features that HTML5 and CSS3 can add to the web today. Personally I found this to be an amazing example of what’s in the future for web designers and developers.

The Expressive Web

The site highlights the following HTML5 and CSS3 features:

 

Each feature page contains:

  • A demo of the feature.
  • Data on browser support.
  • Links to examples in the wild that use the feature.
  • Links to more in-depth resources and tutorials.
  • Detection and fallback strategies for the feature.

 

To read the full article about the development and design of the site visit Adobe Introducing The Expressive Web

24 05, 2011

The Benefits of Using jQuery

By | 2016-11-22T10:57:29+00:00 May 24th, 2011|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|Tags: , , , |

Recently I have had the opportunity to make really exciting and interactive web pages using jQuery. Before working on these projects I had very little understanding of jQuery and what all it could be used for. So I decided to do some research on what the benefits are of using jQuery over other applications such as conventional JavaScript and wanted to see what all I can build using it. Basically you can do almost anything with jQuery to make effects and animation on your site and still be SEO friendly and cross browser compliant.  But those aren’t the only benefits….

What is jQuery?

“jQuery is a fast and concise JavaScript Library that simplifies HTML document traversing, event handling, animating, and Ajax interactions for rapid web development. jQuery is designed to change the way that you write JavaScript.” http://jquery.com/

Benefits of using jQuery:

  • Search Engine Optimized – While search engines are getting better at being able to read content within some Flash, everything within jQuery is setup as text. This means it is completely readable to all the search engines, exposing all your keyword rich content.
  • Save Time – Five lines of jQuery are equivalent to 25 lines of conventional JavaScript code. This means smaller files and faster loading web pages.
  • Plug-ins – There are an abundance of plug-ins on the web that make creating special effects simple and fast for web developers.
  • Help? – With an abundance of plug-ins comes with an abundance of help. There is a large helpful support community on the web to help you quickly remedy any bug issues.
  • That was easy! – jQuery has easy implementation for web developers in comparison to other applications.
  • Cross Browser Friendly – jQuery is currently the most popular JavaScript library and works in all browsers.
  • FREE! – free, open source software.
  • Mobile Devices – jQuery is supported by any mobile device whose web browser supports JavaScript. A lot of mobile devices like iPads and iPhones don’t run Flash at all.
  • Simplifies AJAX
  • Wow Factor – Web developers use jQuery to make web pages more exciting, interactive, cleaner, and more user friendly. Make your users go WOW!

jQuery in action! A few examples of jQuery Usage

13 04, 2011

Backgrounds made easy!

By | 2016-06-09T16:50:57+00:00 April 13th, 2011|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|Tags: , , , , , |

When working on a new web site design, I often have projects where a client is interested in having a nice background pattern or texture as a part of their design. I recently found a great tool that makes background images extremely easy:

http://bgpatterns.com/

With this tool, you can choose a background texture, image pattern, foreground color, and background color. You can adjust the opacity of the image pattern, scale the image pattern to change the amount of spacing between the pattern repeat, and rotate the pattern.

You can preview the background image and continue to tweak it. Once you have the look you want, just click the download button, and you will get repeatable .png.

It’s so easy! I <3 this tool!

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