Category Archives: Web Design

Trends For Modal Windows On The Web

Modal windows are those popup windows that appear over the screen rather than opening a new tab/window. They usually darken the background to bring attention to the popup.

Most websites running modal windows add some type of call to action whether it’s a button or a form or something. But it can also be a simple message about browser features like disabled JavaScript or an adblock extension.

Everything in the window takes precedence over the page so these modals are meant to draw attention. They can be annoying and outright infuriating but numbers don’t lie: they work.

Let’s delve a bit into current trends of modal windows to see how they work and why you’d use them.

 

Dark Backgrounds & Clickable Areas

Modal windows follow a similar design strategy and they’re not very complicated.

They mostly all use a darkened background on the page to bring attention to the modal content. This shouldn’t be a pitch black background because that can feel intimidating.

Instead the user should see a touch of the page behind the background, but it should have a reduced opacity. This could be 90% or 50% depending on how much you want to hide the page.

This isn’t universal but I hate when designers remove or ignore this feature. Yes there’s usually an X button or close button, however it takes more effort to move the mouse onto that button.

It should be possible to just click the background and hide the message right away.

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).

This might seem strange, but the main purpose of my personal portfolio is not to hire me. In my case 90 percent of the inquiries I get are via Dribbble, so I decided to focus more on showcasing personal favorites.

 

Wireframing

Now that you’ve seen the examples, you probably want to start redesigning right away. That’s fine, but don’t open Photoshop yet. Grab pen and paper instead.

Set a time limit; let’s say one hour, and sketch out all the things that come to mind. Even when you think you’re done after 30 minutes, keep pushing. Nothing is “ugly” or “not done” in this stage. Aim for 20 completely different layouts.

After this brainstorm session, it’s time to filter sketches and come up with a wireframe. Since the choices are personal (obviously) I cannot give you a set of rules, but I have a few pointers:

  • Be clean and clear. It shouldn’t be that hard to explain what you’re doing. Make sure the first impression is clear and inviting.
  • Make choices. As a designer you’re probably pretty well-rounded. This doesn’t mean you need to highlight everything you did in the past. Highlight strengths rather than overall experience.
  • Focus on your products. Unless you really want to express your brand identity I think it’s best to keep your design minimal. It’s like an art gallery; you don’t want the showroom to get more attention than the actual artwork right?

The Best Web Designer Ideas

Hiring a web design can be an exciting process. When I talk about hiring a web design in this post, the advice can be applied in a variety of ways. First, it could mean hiring a single, usually freelance, designer for a job you need to be done. It could also refer to a web design agency.

Additionally, it could be advice for hiring a web designer for your own team. The advice is valuable for web designers who are looking to improve their portfolio. Now, let’s discuss five different but important things when trying to hire a web designer.

 

The work shows off responsive design

It’s still surprising how many times responsive designs don’t make it into a web designer portfolio. It’s hard to say if a designer is capable of delivering responsive design if it’s not there. It could be omitted by mistake or because they have never done it. You can’t tell if it’s not there. Now, this guide refers to a web designer.

The web is a flexible medium that works on the tiniest devices and their tiny screens to larger devices and their larger screens. It’s important for any website to have a good responsive design. At this point in time, there is no excuse in not at least including a screenshot of the responsive design as part of a project’s case study.

Great Icons Can Affect The User Experience

Interfaces are all about communication and getting things done. A website’s UI is a means to an end, and the designer’s job is to create an interface that helps the user reach that end quickly.

Icons are perfect for interfaces because they convey meaning without words. Users can learn how an interface works just by studying the visuals and interacting with the elements.

In this post I’ll cover a few different ways to use icons to improve the quality of UX on a website. There are no perfect uses but there are commonalities between great icons and an improved user experience.

 

Enhanced Navigation

Icons naturally help users navigate through a website based on visuals alone. The best icons are the ones that most people recognize so you always want to stick with these first.

Tim includes icons above each link label to distinguish between purpose and behavior. It’s one of the clearest methods for icon use because it’s easy to see and easy to understand.

Always remember to include text labels for links too. Pure icons for navigation rarely works, or at least it’s not the best case for usability.

Another really important icon is the three-bar menu icon. This is also called the hamburger menu and while many designers hate it, more people are slowly realizing what this symbol means.

The menu on Inc is another great example showing how icons tie into navigation.

Trends Web Design Ideas

All major trade & specialty magazines have built a web presence online. Many still release print editions but the Internet is a much cheaper medium to publish content.

The future of online blogging seems to be moving towards a magazine trend. But what does this mean? How do you differentiate between a blog and an online magazine?

In this post I’ll cover some basic design trends that have seeped into the blogging world and radically changed how we view online publications.

Ironically there aren’t many differences between a blog and an online magazine. The biggest factors are public opinion and the website’s overall design.

 

Featured Stories Widgets

Every magazine homepage should have some type of featured posts widget. This is the best way to set your blog apart from the rest and give it a professional look.

Each featured widget should include thumbnail images for the posts organized in a grid or carousel. This could be a large rotating carousel or a fixed grid with varying thumbnail sizes.

There are no wrong answers and the more creative you get the more unique your design will look.

The top-most article is meant to draw the most attention. It has the largest featured image and spans the whole page width. Three smaller articles are situated underneath with smaller square thumbnails.

Each variation follows a different grid and they all deviate from the normal page flow. This is a tame example but it’s a good one to demonstrate how featured stories can be organized.

Looking into the design space you’ll find Hongkiat which does brand itself as a blog. However the site uses a featured story widget to craft a magazine look on the homepage.

The widget spans the entirety of the screen and it uses a variety of post thumbnail sizes. Again we can see one super large story meant to draw the most amount of attention.

Then as you move from left to right you’ll find smaller and smaller thumbnail widgets. It’s also fully responsive so even mobile users can access this cool featured posts widget.

These designs are meant to showcase popular stories and to help garner attention to the most important posts.

Some featured story widgets use carousels to move between different stories. This is a decent strategy but not great.

Best Guide for Designers

Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. Being good at your craft is not enough these days, being unique and authentic will make the cut, but only if enough people know about you. As Michael Simmons writes, authenticity is key in the digital age. Having a strong personal brand and following can lead to enormous opportunities and recognition.

Personal branding is becoming one of the most important key factors in any industry. Skills and boring resumes are not guaranteeing you anything anymore. You have to really start developing your own brand and building a tribe, or in other words an audience that will help you getting jobs, supporting you, sharing your work and getting recognition.

In today’s article I’d like to share some personal branding guidelines I’ve been experimenting with in the last couple of years. The techniques and methods used led me to speaking engagements, interviews on Forbes and Fast Company, business growth and business leads, not to mention the connections and friendships I’ve made.

 

Why should you care about building a personal brand?

There are numerous of reasons why you should consider strengthening your personal brand. The thing is your personal brand exists anyway, it’s how people perceive you, your work and your actions. To make sure that your brand goes together along with your values and how you wish to be perceived is to manage it. Moreover, building a recognizable personal brand will help you with the following:

 

Vision

Develop a strong vision and make sure that you use it everywhere you go. Whether it’s to go to the moon or sail around the world, make sure it’s something big and bold, people remember these things. If you haven’t watched Simon Sinek TED talk “How great leaders inspire action” presenting “the golden circle” and “start with why” theory, make sure to check it out and come up with your own vision.

 

Who are you targeting?

Who is your message receiver, who are you talking to with your brand? The common mistake is everyone, we want to appeal to as many people as possible. The harsh truth is that if you try to please everyone, you’ll please no one. There is always someone who loves you for one thing and hates you for the other. Every person has an opinion, so you shouldn’t be concerned about appealing to everyone. Better think about your vision and long-term goals.

 

Use high quality images

No matter how great your website looks like and how many great stories you have to tell, people are visual creatures after all. Humans form opinions based on the first impression and images send more than needed information to make a strong impression and form an opinion about the brand.

Create a Perfect Color Scheme

Nothing can make a project stand out or identify your brand or business like color. Just think: What would the “Golden Arches” of McDonald’s be without the signature red and gold?

When it comes to creating the perfect color scheme, there are plenty of things to consider. Established branding is important and should be honored if colors already exist. But if not, the world of color is open for you to explore.

Much of the design theory involved in creating a great color palette starts with the color wheel. The somewhat abstract illustration depicts the relationships between primary, secondary and tertiary colors, as well as tints, shades, tones and color combinations. Understanding the theory of the wheel can help you create and establish color schemes that are harmonious and beautiful.

There are plenty of ways beyond theory to create great color schemes as well. While the most common color schemes contain a dominant color and several secondary colors, every palette is somewhat different. You can pick a color from a photo or nature to get started or just an online tool or swatch builder as a reference point.

The colors you choose can impact the meaning of projects. Each color comes with distinct associations. Some are universal, while other color associations can have cultural ties. It is important to think about your audience in relationship to color choices so that you end up with a good fit.

No matter where you start, the idea is to create a color palette that grabs the attention of users, sets the right mood for a project and helps deliver content effectively.

Are you ready to get started? We’ve got a great infographic to help you create the perfect color scheme.

 

UX Design Tips

Dropdown menus have come a long way thanks to modern JavaScript and CSS3 effects. But not all dropdowns are created equal, and some UX strategies work better than others.

In this guide I’ll cover a handful of design techniques for building usable dropdown navigation menus. This includes multi-level dropdowns and mega menus which all rely on the same core design principles.

 

Markers For Sub-Menus

It’s a good idea to include markers for links that have sub-menus attached. These small visual indicators let users know where links are placed and how to access them.

And these rules apply to all menus whether you’re designing with 1 tier or 4 tiers of links.

The Threadbird navigation is a fantastic example of this effect in action.

Some of their links have sub-menus while others don’t. In fact some of their links have sub-sub-menus which you can only discern by their unique marker next to each link.

Threadbird uses the right-pointing double angle quotation mark, simplified to raquo. Web designers prefer this symbol over a single arrow because it’s bulkier and easier to notice at a distance. Plus it holds its shape well even at smaller sizes.

One thing I don’t like in this design is the sub-menu arrow style. The arrow icons only appear while hovering a menu item, even though all the other links have submenus too. Good design practices would encourage keeping these arrows visible at all times.

But I do like the simplicity of the TutsPlus design. It’s a perfect example of how tiny little markers can go a long way towards better usability.

Web Design Style Guide

Creating websites is getting more and more complex and is usually not a one person job. It is important to ensure that design is consistent and optimized to meet business objectives and create enjoyable experiences for users.

One of the ways to ensure that team is on the same page when designing separate parts of the website or saving designs from developers is to create design documentation or a web design style guide.

It is beneficial to have a style guide in order to create a cohesive experience among different pages. Also it helps to ensure that future development or third-party production will follow brand guidelines and will be perceived as part of the overall brand.

Luke Clum has touched the surface of using style guides as your first step in web design last year and I would like to take a more in-depth look on how to create a usable web design style guide for your projects.

 

What is a Style Guide?

A style guide is a collection of pre-designed elements, graphics and rules designers or developers should follow to ensure that separate website pieces will be consistent and will create a cohesive experience at the end.

 

Why Is It Important?

It is extremely important when multiple designers are working on a big website or web app to ensure that they don’t interpret too much and don’t alter or adjust styles based on personal preference. In development, having defined elements of the website makes it easy for developers to reuse these elements. Moreover, it can make it easier because they will get what elements they have to code and will see exactly how they need to look from the start.

In order to make developers lives easier, it is the designer’s duty to include all possible interactions such as hover, click, visit and other states for buttons, titles, links, etc.

 

Creating a Web Design Style Guide

1. Study the Brand

First, you need to study the brand so that you understand what it stands for. Get to know the story behind the brand, observe the team and figure out the vision, mission and values of the company. It is important to dig deeper into the brand so the style guide you produce will visually and emotionally represent the organization.

If you’re a designer who can’t code, simply open Photoshop and give your document a title and a short description of what the document is and what it is for.

If you can code, it is better to create an html document with pre-coded assets so they can be easily reused.

2. Define Typography

According to Oliver Reichenstein, typography is 95 percent of web design.

You must get typography right because it is one of the most important communication tools between visitors and your website.

Set hierarchy and identify it. There are headline types: h1,h2, h3, h4, h5 and h6. Then body copy, bold and italic variations. Think about custom copy that will be used for smaller links, intro text and so on. Provide font family, weight and color.

Reviews for Web Designers

A great UX review can do wonders for any website. By looking over the entire design you can learn what’s working, what’s not, and maybe find solutions that can increase the UX and ultimately increase revenues.

But learning how to conduct a review is the first step to solving problems and creating a better experience. In this guide I’ll cover the basics of a UX review and how you can get started running your own.

This does require some background in UX design but it also relies on basic principles of making great websites. If you’re willing to learn and put in some elbow grease then a UX review of your own website can be a great opportunity for growth.

 

Conducting a Review

The goal of a UX review is to comb over an entire site and find spots for improvement. These spots could be obvious or they could be small, but you should aim to improve the site as a whole.

If you’re working on a personal project then you can set the metrics yourself. But client projects require collaboration because you’ll need to know what the company wants to improve.

How you conduct the review and how much information you gather will differ based on the client. Larger businesses can require more information where you’ll need to compile everyone’s goals into one big strategy.

The initial stage of a UX review is about information gathering moreso than anything else. Once you have enough raw data you’ll begin to see patterns, and these patterns can lead to insights for solving the tasks you’re faced with.

Planning Specific Goals

It’s easy to keep asking yourself questions and never really coming to detailed conclusions. But with specific goals you’ll be forced to study certain metrics and try to solve for very specific end results.

Think about the goals you need to aim for and what they mean. A high bounce rate means people leave the first page they enter. But are they on that page for a while? If yes, then they’re probably finding the information they need and leaving.

But what if it’s a landing page? Then people are leaving because they’re not interested. But why? Maybe they just don’t see the CTA button to sign up, or maybe they don’t understand what the page is for.