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20 Freshest Web Designs, October 2020

We have become so used to using web sites just to buy stuff that it is easy to forget that the web has more to offer. So this month we’ve included some because-it’s-interesting sites, some micro-sites and some just-for-the-sake-of-it projects.

Many of these are about selling or promoting products and services too, but in a more oblique way that is frequently more engaging than a straightforward sales site.

Micro sites can be a great way of including content that doesn’t fit in neatly with the rest of the main site, or is temporary, or to show a lighter, more fun side of a brand. And a well thought out micro site can act as a gateway to pull in even more visitors to its ‘parent’ site.

Your World Your Way

Your World Your Way is an interactive portal for the University of Auckland. An optional questionnaire customizes the experience, and clearly a lot of effort has gone into this in terms of the questions and possible answers, and the presentation. It is engaging and enjoyable to use, and the information provides links to the main University of Auckland website.

Blind Barber

This micro site is to celebrate 10 years of barber shop chain Blind Barber, which started as one shop with a bar in the back room, in New York’s East Village. An entirely black and white design provides a clean backdrop for color photos and videos, and some great scrolling animations give a pleasing flow to the content.

Brews & Grooves

Brews & Grooves pairs records with different beer. Although a ‘fun’ project, it is still a well designed piece of work with some vintage style typography and some pleasing rollover animation effects. It is an effective advert for those involved in creating it, as listed in on its ‘credits’ page.

Gucci Bloom

As part of a new campaign to promote it’s ‘Bloom’ perfumes, Gucci have created a Gucci Bloom game. The player has to pick up flowers and perfume bottles, but miss a flower and the vines get in your way.

808303Studio

808303Studio is a digital musical instrument that emulates a Roland TR-808 drum machine and TB-303 bass synthesizer, created in conjunction with the Design Museum (London). It’s fully programmable and there is even short video tutorial with A Guy Called Gerald on how to use it.

Aelfie

Aelfie is a home furnishings brand with a focus on bold patterns and bright color. Their site reflects this with its use of block color, irregular grid, drawings, and type that feels a little off-kilter. It creates a hand-made feel that embodies the brand aesthetic rather well.

Media Election 2020

As we approach one of the most significant, not to mention acrimonious, elections in US history, Media Election 2020 uses AI to analyze the volume of media attention each candidate receives, in real time.

Curbed

Magazine website Curbed has now become a part of New York magazine, and had a redesign in the process. It follows a discernible grid, but distorts it just enough to create an edge. The highlighter color frames, and underlines on rollover, add movement and ‘cool’.

WFN

The WFN (Women’s Funding Network) is an alliance of funds and foundations working to promote gender equity and social change internationally. The site is clean, with strong typography and a sophisticated color palette.

The Fabric of America

Internet, telephone and TV service provider Xfinity is behind the Fabric of America project. It is a collection of voice recordings, the idea being that each voice, and each person’s story, is a thread that makes up the flag that we see on the screen.

Minimal Ceramics

Minimal Ceramics is a concept site, showcasing the work of London based potter, Tom Crew. The design of the site reflects the simplicity of the showcased work, using great photography and simple typography.

Normal Now

Normal Now is part of an awareness campaign to highlight to consumers the positives of electric cars. Taking a fun approach to engage consumers in a serious subject, it uses a fake retro tech style.

Superfood Gin 

Superfood Gin is a gin made using superfood botanicals, that claims to be fruity and fresh rather than crisp and peppery. The soft color palette, along with the soft lines and curves in the background illustrations, reflect this well.

Maison Louis Marie

Maison Louis Marie is a natural fragrance company. While this site does nothing really groundbreaking, it does it well. Botanical drawings on a white background, along with clean typography, help create a refined, luxury feel.

Think Economia

Think Economia is a platform taking a fresh look at economics and the future of economic growth. It doesn’t sound like the most exciting subject, but it is presented here in a playful and intriguing way.

Chernobyl

From Uprock, a Russian design studio that also offers courses in web design, Chernobyl is a thought provoking exposition of the Chernobyl disaster. The design aesthetic is muted, allowing the images their deserved impact, and the brief sections of text to be absorbed.

Declamatuus

Declamatuus is a lingerie company selling gift sets. What stands out here is what you don’t see — live models in underwear. Instead the outline of the body is created with animated particles.

Odisea

Odisea Expedition is a documentary series following two friends, a surfer and a snowboarder, as they explore remote parts of the world. The photographs and video are everything here, and all other elements are kept minimal to avoid detracting from them.

Riffyn

Riffyn Nexus is a ‘Process Data System’ for storing and analyzing scientific data for laboratories. It is a very corporate site and yet it is put together in such a way that doesn’t feel dull.

Maison du Net

This site for digital design agency Maison du Net takes a risk mixing corporate with cutesy, but it works. Offset frames and underlines create interest without overdoing it, and the very bright green is used sparingly enough to liven things up without being overwhelming.

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

5 Biggest Challenges Web Design Agencies Face

With billions of internet users worldwide spending several hours online each day, the online presence of brands is now a necessary avenue for building, boosting, and maintaining positive value and attracting and interacting with customers. 

This has created increasing pressure for web design agencies when creating and managing websites. This pressure is multiplied by all the projects that web design agencies have to handle at one time. This is because different clients demand different things for their websites, whether it’s a signature feature or specialized functionality. 

Hence, it’s vital that the tools the agencies use to work are simple enough and suited to the tasks they have to accomplish in order to build and maintain these projects. Having the right tools can increase efficiency and effectiveness in managing websites.

Challenges in Modern Web Design

Building a website with all the essentials in mind is always easier said than done. Websites have to be both functional and easy on the eyes to invite traffic, disseminate information, or appeal a product or service to a target audience, and all while having an attractive and convenient interface.

The good news is that it’s perfectly possible to design a quality website and without spending a fortune to do so. Below are some of the challenges that web design agencies face when trying to deliver and reconcile efficient user experience and effective user interface in web design.

1. Appealing User Experience

Designing a good website means ensuring that the user experience is appealing to a general audience, but this is one of the most difficult parts of web design. Agencies must be careful not to turn off users with a confusing user experience. For instance, making important information difficult to find on web pages, using technical jargon that ordinary users wouldn’t understand, and focusing too much on the design rather than the overall experience are a few big mistakes that no designer should ever commit.

Instead, web design agencies should focus not only on making the design look good but also on making the experience smooth and fast for the regular site visitor. This includes improving design elements to make navigation easier as well as optimizing webpage load speeds.

2. Working With a Budget

It’s common for the client and the web design agency’s budgets to not line up at all times. Either the client will find the project quote too high, or the designer will find the client’s budget too low. The cost of a web design project can vary greatly, depending on what needs to be done. 

Although having to build a good website on a budget may be difficult, it’s important for both parties to come up with a set amount before the project even starts. The client should always specify what they want to achieve and how much they’re willing to pay to get it, and the agency should let the client know beforehand if this is possible.

3. Integrating Third-Party Functionality

Sometimes, clients may make requests for third-party functions that may not be easily integrated into the site. To prevent this, web design agencies should always consider integration when building a site. Most businesses and companies now have at least one social media account, so it doesn’t make sense for their site to remain disconnected.

When a website visitor shares an excerpt on a social media site like Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, other people who can see their posts may become interested in visiting the original post on the website. Properly integrating third-party applications and functions into a website can get it more online presence and popularity.

4. Suitability to Different Devices

There are many devices that people can use to access the web. From smartphones to desktop computers, from cars to game consoles, and even wristwatches and digital cameras, all of these can be web-enabled as long as there’s an available internet connection. 

Websites nowadays should always be compatible with any of the devices people might use to go to the website. They should look pleasing and load fast regardless of what device a visitor is using.

5. Security of Personal Information

Most websites require personal or financial information, whether for account verification, for website subscription, or something else. Websites should be designed with personal security in mind, which is even more important since hacking has been on the rise since the coronavirus hit.

One of the biggest threats that websites face today is phishing, or when an attacker will pretend to be a trusted contact and attempt to compel you to click a malicious link. Another is ransomware, or where cybercriminals hold customer data for ransom and attempt to extort online business owners. Yet one more is SQL injections, or where hackers will attempt to execute malicious SQL commands in your website’s database. 

The best practices in regards to web design to mitigate these risks include third-party plugins and themes, keeping all of your software up to date, setting your web applications so they run the fewest privileges possible, and utilizing SSL certificates and HTTPS protocols. 

Adopting Site-Building Platforms

Gone are the days where you had to be technologically gifted to design a website from scratch, usually through manual HTML codes. Back then, you had to know your way around the web if you wanted to set-up and manage a site of your own.

Now, there are a lot of good website builders that allow you to create websites in a faster period of time. Even web design agencies now make use of such builders in order to make the job easier and more convenient. Not to mention, it allows agencies to focus on the design alone.

Although these platforms offer predesigned templates based on the most common purposes of websites, they normally allow the user to white label the website into the branding specific to the business or agenda of the website owner. The text styles, colors, and sizes coordinated to the website’s theme, and colors can be designed specifically to match the business or organization’s image and identity. 

Simply put, creating websites through a web builder platform can provide web design agencies with easy-to-understand tools that their teams and members can all uniformly use to more effectively and more efficiently handle all their projects.

With services that allow mobile optimization, site management, and even drag-and-drop editing, web design agencies can now better manage their projects and finish with their tasks more quickly.

Not only that, by using white labelling, services can conserve their time and energy into focusing on creating the best website for their client. With all the website builders currently available on the market today, just picking the right one can give web design agencies the best tools to use when creating, designing, and maintaining websites. 

 

Featured image via Pexels.

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

Making Minimalism Functional in Web Design

Today, great design isn’t just about conveying the right amount of information in a certain number of pages. 

There’s more to creating the perfect website than experimenting with visuals and sound. Designers need to think carefully about how each element of their site impacts the overall user experience. 

After all, with billions of websites available to explore, it takes something truly immersive to convince your client’s audience that they should stay on their pages. The more convenient and attractive your websites are, the more likely it is that visitors will want to stick around. 

Minimalism, one of the more popular styles of web design from the last few years, can sometimes assist designers in making attractive and effective websites more functional.

The less clutter and confusion there is on a page, the easier it is to navigate. 

So, how do you embrace the benefits of functional minimalism?

Understanding Functional Minimalism

Many webs designers are convinced that minimalism is all about aesthetics. 

They see a website like Hugeinc.com and assume that the minimalist appearance is all about making the website as attractive as possible.

However, the underlying ideas of minimalism in web design go much deeper than this.  The history of minimalist design begins with Japanese culture. Japan has long focused on balancing simplicity and beauty with its architecture, interior design, and even graphic design. In the Western world, minimalism got its day in the sun in the web design environment, after customers endured years of cluttered and complicated web pages with difficult navigation, overwhelming information and clashing graphics. 

Designers began to experiment with the idea that less really could be more — particularly when it came to the digital landscape. 

The Functional Rules of Minimalist Web Design

For a while, minimalism was the most popular style for a website. During 2018, in particular, minimalist web design soared to the top of the designer demand list, as companies fell in love with a combination of white space, simple navigation and bold text. 

While now, there are other design trends stepping into the industry, designers can still benefit from exploring some of the essential rules of functional minimalism. After all, visual complexity has been proven to damage a person’s perception of a website

Additionally, a study conducted by the EyeQuant group found that a clean and simple design can lead to a lower bounce rate. Minimalism gives viewers less to contend with on a page, which can allow for a simpler and more straightforward experience. Additionally, a clean website can also drive additional benefits, including faster loading times, better responsivity between screen sizes and more.

Because you’re only using a few images and well-spaced text, you can even experiment with different strategies, like graphics and dynamic fonts. Look at the Manuel Rueda website, for instance, it’s a great example of how a minimalist design can be brimming with activity.

So, how can any designer use the principles of functional minimalism?

1. Focus on the Essentials

First, just like when designing a landing page, designers need to ensure that they’re concentrating only on the elements in the page that really need to be there.

This means removing anything on the website that doesn’t support the end-goals of the specific page that the viewer is using. Any pictures, background noise, buttons, or even navigation features that aren’t going to support the initial experience that the visitor needs, must go. 

Think about what’s going to distract your visitors from the things that are important and concentrate on giving everything a purpose. For instance, the Plus63.org website instantly introduces the visitors to the purpose of the website, then allows users to scroll down to get more information. The data is spread clearly through the home page, pulling the viewer into a story. 

2. Embrace the Positives of Negative Space

Negative space is one of the fundamental components of good minimalist web design. 

Every part of a good website doesn’t need to be filled with noise to make a difference. White, or negative space can help to give your viewer the room they need to fully understand the experience that they’re getting. 

From a functional perspective, it’s the difference between placing someone in an overflowing storage container and asking them to find what they need or placing them in a room where items are carefully spaced out, labelled, and waiting for discovery. 

The Hatchinc.co website uses negative space to ensure that information is easy to consume. You can find the different pages of the site easily, the social media buttons, and the newsletter subscription tool. Plus, you get a chance to see some of the work behind the site.

3. Make it Obvious

One of the biggest problems that consumers have encountered in recent years, is the concept of “choice overload”. 

Whether you’re in a store, or on a website, you’re never sure what to do first. Do you check out the blog posts on the site to learn more about the authority of the company? Do you visit the “About” page, to see where the brand come from? Do you head to their product pages?

As a designer, functional minimalism can help you to make it obvious what your audience should do next. As soon as you arrive on the AYR.com website, you’re not overwhelmed with choice. You can either head to your bag, “shop now”, or check the menu. 

Since the “Shop Now” CTA is the biggest and most compelling, the chances are that most visitors will click that first, increasing the company’s chance of conversions. 

4. Simplify the Navigation (But Don’t Hide It)

The AYR.com example above brings us to another concept of functional minimalism. 

While minimalism and simplicity aren’t always the same thing, they should go hand-in-hand. When you’re designing for functional minimalism, you should be concentrating on helping visitors to accomplish tasks as quickly and easily as possible, without distraction. 

That means that rather than overwhelming your audience with a huge selection of pages that they can visit at the top or side of the screen, it may be worth looking into simpler navigation options. A single menu icon that expands into a full list of items remains a popular design choice – particularly in the era of mobile web design. 

For instance, look at the simple menu on newvision-opticien.com.

With this basic approach, designers can ensure that visitors are more likely to click through to the pages that their clients want their customers to visit. They can still find what they need in the menu, but it’s not taking up space on the page, or distracting them. 

5. Set Great Expectations with the Top of the Screen

Functional minimalism can also help today’s designers to more quickly capture the attention of their visitors from the moment they click into a website. 

The content that’s visible at the top of the page for your visitors is what will encourage them to take the next step in their online experience. Make sure that you’re providing something that keeps your audience interested and gives them the information they need. 

That way, you’ll lower the risk of high bounce rates for your clients, while also taking advantage of minimalism’s ability to deliver quick access to information for your audience. 

At the top of the page, the Kerem.co website instantly introduces the visitor into what the website is all about, and what they should do next. 

You can even deliver more information in one chunk at the top of the page, without cluttering the environment, by using good UI animation. 

Consider implementing a slideshow of pictures that flip from one image to the next, or a font section that dynamically changes as your audience has chance to read each sentence. 

6. Use Functional Minimalism in the Right Spaces

Remember, functional minimalism isn’t just for home pages. 

Depending on what you want to accomplish for your client, you could also embed the components of minimalism into landing pages, portfolios, and squeeze pages too. 

After all, when there’s less clutter and confusion on a page to distract a potential audience, there’s a greater chance that your visitors will scroll to the bottom of the page and complete a conversion. For instance, look at how simple and attractive the Muzzleapp.com landing page is.

The page provides useful information and tells customers exactly what they need to do next. There’s no confusion, no complexity, and nothing to hold visitors back. 

Just be careful. While functional minimalism can be very useful, it won’t be right for every website. A lack of elements can be harmful to websites that rely heavily on content. That’s because low information density will force your user to scroll excessively for the content that they need. Using functional minimalism correctly requires a careful evaluation of where this technique will be the most suitable. 

Minimalism Can be Functional

A minimalist design isn’t just an aesthetic choice. The right aspects of minimalism can simplify interfaces on the web by eliminating unnecessary elements and reducing content that doesn’t support an end goal. 

The key is to ensure that you’re focusing on a combination of aesthetics and usability when creating the right design. An easy-to-navigate and beautiful website can be a powerful tool for any business.  

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

Observability 101: Terminology and Concepts

When I first started following Charity on Twitter back in early 2019, I was quickly overwhelmed by the new words and concepts she was discussing. I liked the results she described: faster debugging, less alert fatigue, happier users. Those are all things I wanted for my team! But I was hung up on these big polysyllabic words, which stopped me from taking those first steps toward improving our own observability.

This post is my attempt to help orient folks who want to learn more about observability but maybe feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the vocabulary list, like I did. My goal is to get everyone on the same page about what these words mean so that we can focus on leveraging the tools and ideas to build better software and deliver more value! 

Source de l’article sur DZONE

How to Get Dark Mode Design Right

Dark themes are everywhere these days. 

As human beings continue to spend more of their time interacting with technology, dark themes provide a more relaxing way to engage with the digital world. More often than not, these themes are easier on the eyes, more attractive, and perfect for the dedicated user

Throughout 2020, countless leading brands have debuted their own version of the dark theme. Google has a solution for your Drive, while Apple and Android have built dark theme performance right into their operating systems. 

If you haven’t learned how to make the most out of dark mode yet, then you could be missing out on an excellent opportunity to differentiate your design skills, and earn more clients going forward. 

Why Dark Mode?

Before we dive too deeply into the possibilities of creating your own dark theme, let’s examine what dark mode is, and why it’s so effective. 

Ultimately, dark themes are created to reduce the amount of luminance emitted by everything from your desktop and laptop, to your smartphone and smartwatch. Dark themes help to improve the visual ergonomics of design, by reducing eye strain, adjusting brightness to suit current lighting conditions, and more. Additionally, many dark mode offerings are also fantastic at conserving battery life. 

Here are some of the main benefits of adding dark themes to your design portfolio

  • Better user experience: A focus on user experience is one of the most important trends of the digital age. You need to be willing to deliver incredible experiences to everyone who visits your website if you want to stand out today. Dark mode reduces everything from eye strain, to battery power consumption. This helps to keep customers on a website for longer.
  • Innovation and cutting edge appeal: Most companies want to prove that they can stay on the cutting edge of their industry. The ability to offer an opt-in dark mode version of a website theme or appearance can help your clients to stand out from the crowd. As the environment becomes more mobile-focused, more companies will be looking for designers that can provide the best mobile experiences. 
  • Support for universal design: Dark mode isn’t just great for people who have light sensitivity at night. This solution could be more comfortable for visually-impaired users who would struggle with eye strain when visiting your websites otherwise. If you want your content to be more inclusive for a wider range of viewers, then learning how to design for dark mode is a good way to start.

Best Practices When Designing for Dark Mode

Designing for dark mode is easier than you’d think. Most of the time, it involves simply thinking about how you can replace some of the brighter, more overwhelming aspects of your site, with something deeper and darker. 

Here are some useful tips that will get you moving in the right direction. 

1. Experiment with Colors

A big issue for a lot of web designers when it comes to developing a dark mode solution is that they get too caught up with things like pure white text against pure black backgrounds. However, this high-contrast option can be a little much after a while. 

It’s often much easier to use a dark grey as your primary surface color, instead of a true black. Additionally, rather than using bright white, think about slightly off-white alternatives that will be warmer to the eye.

Experiment with surfaces and color combinations that are unlikely to cause too much eye strain. Dark grey foundations often offer a wider range of depth, too, because you can demonstrate shadows on grey. 

Additionally, when you are experimenting with colors, remember that saturated colors often vibrate painfully against very dark surfaces, making them harder to read. Desaturating your colors will help to reduce the contrast and make your websites more welcoming. 

Lighter tones in the 200-50 range will have better readability on dark themes. However, you can always experiment with your choices. Google Material Design recommends using a contrast level of around 15:8:1 between your background and text. 

2. Consider the Emotional Impact

Much of the effort involved with dark mode design is figuring out how certain colors work together. It’s easy to get carried away with stark contrasts, particularly when you’re used to working with a white background. However, you need to remember that you’re designing for a user that’s primarily looking for an easier and more subdued browsing experience.

While you’re working, remember to consider the emotional aspect of the design too. The emotion in colors can make or break a buyer’s journey in any environment. However, an often overlooked-aspect of color psychology, is that people perceive shades differently when they’re on a black background

For instance, think of the color green. On a light background, it conveys nature and even financial wealth. However, on a dark background, the same green could come across as something venomous, toxic, or even sickly. It’s important to think about the kind of impressions end users are going to get when they arrive on your site.

3. Give Users the Freedom to Choose

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you begin designing for dark mode, is thinking that you should focus entirely on your dark themes, and nothing else. This lines you up for a problem if you interact with users who want the best of both worlds. If you’re designing for apps in particular, you’re going to need web pages that can switch naturally between light and dark themes. 

Learning how to implement both a dark mode and a light mode option into the desks you create will help you to reach a wider selection of customers. Remember, you’ll need to test the performance and impact of your designs in both themes, to check that they deliver the same kind of experience, no matter how your user chooses to browse. 

Although dark mode should offer a different experience to end-users, it still needs to feel as though they’re browsing on the same website. That means that you’re going to need to experiment with the most natural combination of light and dark mode options.

4. Remember the Basics

Remember, although the three tips above will help you to get on the right path for dark mode design, you’ll also need to consider the opportunities and limitations of the platforms that you’re designing for. The kind of dark mode experience you can deliver for Google Chrome websites is going to be very different to what you can create for something running on iOS.

Examining the documentation provided by the system that you’re designing for will help you to develop something with a close insight into what’s actually possible. 

Other top tips for dark mode design include:

  • Focus on your content: Make sure that your content stands out on the page, without being too overwhelming. 
  • Test your design: In both light and dark appearances, you need to make sure everything is working as it should be.
  • Adopt vibrancy for your interfaces: Vibrancy helps to improve the contrast between your background and foreground. 
  • Use semantic colors: Semantic colors adapt to the current appearance of a website automatically. Hard-coded color values that don’t adapt can seem more aggressive. 
  • Desktop tinting: Try experiment with things like transparency and filters to give your websites and apps a slightly warmer tint – ideal for late-night browsing
  • Icons: Use individual glyphs and icons for dark and light modes if necessary. 

Ready to Design for Dark Mode?

Preparing your web development and design portfolio for an era addicted to dark mode can be a complex experience. You need to think carefully about how people are going to browse through your websites and apps when they’re searching for something more subtle, and less visually overwhelming than the websites that we’re used to making. 

The most important thing to remember is that everything on your website or application should look just as beautifully tailor-made in dark mode as it does in light mode. Simply adding a dynamic black background when people want to switch settings in an app isn’t enough. You need to go in-depth with your designs and examine how different fonts, colors, and images work together.

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

Who Do Web Designers Really Work For?

It would be way too easy to answer this question with: “Whoever pays your bills.” And, honestly, I don’t think you can be a very successful web designer if you’re only driven by what the person paying you tells you to do.

Then again, that doesn’t mean you should swing to the exact opposite end and say that you only serve the end user.

When you take an extreme view or approach to this, you’re bound to leave someone or something important out. Everyone along the chain of command — your boss (if you work at an agency), your client, and their customers — matters.

So, what I’d suggest you do instead is approach the idea of who you really work for the way you would Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Establishing Your Own Hierarchy of Needs

Who do web designers really work for? I think the true answer to this question is: “Everyone.” But there’s a catch…

Think about some of the requests you’ve received from superiors, or clients in the past. How many times have you rolled your eyes at their wacky requests?

  • “The contact form would be better in the header so visitors can always see it.”
  • “Let’s use this stock photo of two women shaking hands that I’ve seen a few other companies use.”
  • “Why don’t we redesign all of this and make it look like this site my brother built last night?”

You’re the design professional. That’s why they’re paying you to design their website and they’re not doing it themselves. So, there comes a point where you have to push aside what they want for what they need. And this will ultimately help you figure out who you work for and what you actually owe them (because fulfilling every nitpicky and unreasonable request will never lead to anything good).

So, here’s where the Hierarchy of Needs comes in. If we’re creating our own, it would look like this to start:

Working for the Boss

According to Dr. Neel Burton on Psychology Today:

Maslow called the bottom… levels of the pyramid ‘deficiency needs’ because we do not feel anything if they are met but become anxious or distressed if they are not.

I’d argue that these basic needs are like the ones we fulfill for bosses (or clients, if you’re a freelancer and work for yourself). It would look something like this:

Of course, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment by meeting these needs, but, as a creator, how important are these really to you? These are the basic things you have to do in order to make your boss happy and to stay gainfully employed. They also help to ensure that the client is happy with the boss and agency in the end.

Bottom line: Without these needs fulfilled, you won’t be able to move any deeper into the triangle/hierarchy. So, when focusing on working for your boss, make sure the basic needs are met so you can move on and serve others as they need you to.

Working for the Client

Now, if your boss and client are two different people, you’ll have a second layer of needs to attend to here.

Just as your boss wants you to help them make more money and earn a strong reputation within their space, so too does your client. However, the work you owe them is different. Here’s how it would be represented in the triangle:

Again, you’ll be pleased if you can do and be all these things that your client needs, but is this ultimately what drives you as a designer? Sure, you want to build great relationships with clients so they return to you time and time again with all their website and marketing needs. But in terms of being fulfilled by being a good listener or a timely communicator? Probably not.

All the same, it’s important to be skilled in this type of work and to know how to serve your clients in order to get to that top level. It’ll also help you prioritize their needs accordingly, so you’re not jumping at every single thing or request they claim to “need” and blowing the budget or scope of the job.

For example, if they start demanding more of you (like bombarding you with emails every day wanting to know what’s going on), you can confidently remind them that things are under control (because you’re adhering to the project deadlines, per your boss) and you’ve already scheduled the next client check-in for this week (because you’ve been a good communicator, just as they need you to be).

Working for the End User (Customer)

Maslow refers to the top-level of the pyramid as the growth need. And here’s how Dr. Burton sums this one up for us:

Once we have met our deficiency needs, the focus of our anxiety shifts to self-actualization, and we begin, even if only at a sub- or semi-conscious level, to contemplate our bigger picture. However, only a small minority of people are able to self-actualize because self-actualization calls upon uncommon qualities such as independence, awareness, creativity, originality, and, of course, courage.

These characteristics perfectly sum up everything you want to and should be as a web designer. Unfortunately, it’s those employer and client needs that can stand in your way before you can truly flex your muscles as a creative.

Once you’ve attended to the basics, though, you’ll get your chance to design the kinds of user experiences you know will delight your client’s customers.

Here’s how their part of the triangle should look:

These are universally applicable needs and cannot be ignored.

After you’ve addressed them, though, you will have fulfilled your responsibility to all three parties: your boss, your client, and your end users. And once you’ve done that, you are free to be the creative designer that you are.

Wrap-Up

What I want you to take away from this, is that there are certain basic needs which you must fulfill when working as a web designer. These are the ones you’ll put into your own hierarchy of needs.

Take a systematic approach, starting with your boss and ending with the customer:

  • What do you have to do to ensure that your boss is happy to have you on the team?
  • And that the client is pleased with the site you’ve built them?
  • So you can design a website and experience that end users respond to positively?

Once you’ve figured all this out, you’ll unlock the answer to whom you work for and, more importantly, how you should work for them.

 

Featured image via Pexels.

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3 Essential Design Trends, October 2020

Design can make a statement. It evokes feeling and can encourage thought and conversation. That’s the common theme among the three trends in website design this month.

Each trend is rooted on the time and place where we live and includes elements that provoke thought. Kudos to these designers and design teams for jumpstarting conversations. Here’s what’s trending in design this month.

1. “Taking a Stance” Design

From social to environmental issues, design projects are echoing the sentiments of their audiences and organization in a way that take a stance on an issue.

Once taboo, this is becoming increasingly used as a technique for brands who are no longer worried about turning off a certain segment. The goal is to rally the core audience and people who feel the same way about an issue or cause.

There’s also a secondary thing happening here. Some designs aren’t really position based, but use imagery and language that resonates with a movement to associate with that feeling.

Never Heart uses “Join the Revolution” and a dark image with a heart to tug at your feelings. It can help create an association to a cause that you believe in without stating that cause directly. The design feels strong and inviting while making you feel like part of something.

Skye High uses “powerful” twice in the headline to convey a particular messages to women. The agency is looking to work with “powerful” women. It’s a timely statement and message that could resonate with a lot of business-women at various levels of their careers.

Discovered Wildfoods is a brand that is rooted in sustainability. The corporate model and responsibility of the brand shows through in the website. This type of design helps connect people with mutual feelings to the brand and products.

It’s refreshing to see more websites and brands embracing social causes and issues. It can be tricky for a number of reasons. But for some brands, it pays off.

2. Abstract Art Elements

If you are worried about a lack of images, or not sure how to portray images in an appropriate way due to the worldwide pandemic – groups or not, masked or not – abstract art elements can be the solution.

Widely used for startups and apps, more abstract design elements are everywhere. It’s an easy way to create strong visual interest without photography.

The most common use of abstract art elements is often in the form of geometric shapes with animation. This is something that almost anyone can understand and simple shapes and movement can be quite stunning when done well.

The good news is this aesthetic can work for almost any type of website. Try it for a redesign when you don’t have photography that feels appropriate in the current environment or if you want to create focus for content that drives website visitors to the words or scroll. This works with more abstract concepts when they are simple and help you move quickly from the visual to text.

Here’s how each of the examples handles abstract art elements:

Indicius uses bouncing circles that move toward text and down the screen to drive users to the headline and scroll action.

With Code uses a fun fuzzy circle with different animations to draw you in.

Appimized uses bright color and a monotone scheme with geometric shapes to sell its services.

3. Images That Make You Think

This might be the most visually interesting, and thought-provoking, website design trend we’ve seen in a while. These designs all feature images with a little something different or unusual that make you think.

There are a lot of different ways to do this – marry photographs and illustrations, create imaginary imagery, animations or effects, visual tricks that play on depth perception or create pseudo-3D effects.

The commonality is that the visual is so striking and unusual that website visitors stop and engage with the design. What do the “oddball” visuals mean? What message do they convey? How did they do that?

All of the questions could be associated with this different style of visual representation.

Bling uses a combination of a photo with illustrated animated elements to draw the eye. The yin and yang between reality and fantasy is quickly evident and makes you want to know more. (It doesn’t hurt that the animation uses dollars and lightning.)

Kibun is interesting because the photo choices create an optical illusion of depth. It matches the content of the design well because the website features artistic textile panels with an artistic design. The illusion is in the angles and coloring of photographs and their placements on the screen. The only downside of this design is that it loses the artistic panache on mobile because the images stack.

Oddball images can sell. We Are Mad stands out because it uses a contrived image, but doesn’t go oversized with it. The more subtle placement is ideal and arguably more attention-grabbing.

Conclusion

Website design can be a powerful thing, as these trends and examples show. Don’t discredit the power of choices in color, imagery, animation, and text when creating a digital experience. Design can mean a lot of different things depending on the audience as these examples show.

At the same time, these design trends are powerful and meaningful. They provide context into our world, our time, and our feelings. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make a statement with your design work. Just remember to keep in mind all potential impacts (positive and negative) before taking the project live.

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Why AI & Automation Are Actually Friends to Design

Artificial intelligence. Just hearing the phrase has been a trigger for many in the technology world since that creepy Haley Joel Osment film circa 2001. But more recently, artificial intelligence and machine learning strike fear into the hearts of skilled workers for an entirely different reason: job security, or lack thereof.

Smart-home devices, streaming services, self-checkouts, even Google searches are ways that artificial intelligence has seeped into everyday life, exemplifying the abilities of computers and machines to master both simple and complex tasks. In some instances, these technological advancements make our lives easier, but for some people, their proliferation has meant job loss and skill replacement. There’s no wonder that when artificial intelligence starts being mentioned along with web design and site creation, the spidey senses of designers all over the world start tingling.

designers think outside the box, something that AI just can’t do

But let’s get real about what AI and automation really mean for designers for a second. Talented designers with busy schedules should view these advancements as virtual assistants. For some small businesses on a limited budget, the websites that artificial intelligence can pump out might be fine…for a while. However, as businesses grow, change, require updating and customization to adapt to their customer base, the expertise of creative and talented designers will always be needed. Even the best AI that we see today is limited by evaluating, replicating, and revising what already exists. It may be able to mix 1,000 different color schemes into 10 million potential combinations, but great designers think outside the box, something that AI just can’t do.

In fact, rather than being scared of automation, designers ought to embrace automation and artificial intelligence as a way to unleash their creative thinking. Delegate repetitive, straightforward tasks to the right software, and suddenly you have time to bring your best ideas to the table and push the boundaries of your own innovation. 

Where AI has Failed in Design

The ultimate goal of artificial intelligence and automation in design work is a grand vision that has yet to be realised.

Consider the case of The Grid, which began as a crowdfunding campaign in 2014. The “revolutionary” product posed itself as an artificial intelligence solution for building thoughtfully, yet automatically, designed websites in five minutes. Research “Reviews of the Grid” in any search engine and you’ll be met with scathing criticism with only some small praise sprinkled in. Most of the initial users cite underwhelming results, the feeling of being duped by the Grid’s marketing tactics, nonsensical placement of text, and ultimately, the Grid being a complete waste of money for the resulting product. Even at the low cost of $100, compared to hiring a talented designer, most users felt their investment was wasted.

For the AI capabilities that exist now, most small business owners, or those looking to put together a simple website, are better off using drag and drop site builders (Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc) that have been around for ages. Even so, there are plenty of businesses still willing to hire designers to take this simple task off their plate due to a lack of technical expertise or lack of time. And let’s be honest, are there even enough talented (keyword here!) designers out there to keep up with the millions of websites created every year, without each one working themselves to death? 

Where Automation Shines for Designers

Fortunately for good designers, it appears for now that the days of artificial intelligence completely taking over their jobs is a fantasy. However, what AI and automation do offer designers is a solid starting point for success, eliminating much of the lower-level grunt work that most designers would rather skip anyway.

Even well-received AI website builders like Firedrop still require a basic eye for design and specialised knowledge to produce truly unique, high-converting, and user-friendly websites. Tools and practices that designers should adopt are the artificial intelligence and automation resources that will help them do their jobs better, faster, and leave them with more time to focus on project elements that AI cannot accomplish on its own.

Bridging the Gap Between Designers and Developers

Well-established brands are likely to already have design systems in place that guide the creation of new elements across their digital profiles whether on social media, various mobile apps, or different sections of a website. But even in large corporations — excepting those who have perfected the process — there’s often a breakdown between a designer’s vision and resulting product from the developers. It stems from the basic difference in how they each approach their work and the limitations of the systems they use.

While component libraries — or even full design systems for that matter — won’t reconcile every question, they provide both developers and designers a source of truth to work from that both parties can understand. Design collaboration tools like Invision and Visme, specifically, keep designers and developers on the same page with automated version saving and code-friendly workflows.  

Understanding the Consumer

I don’t suggest using artificial intelligence to produce content for your site

Digging into and understanding the behaviours and habits of site users is a relatively new component of site design, but offers invaluable insights. Tools like HotJar, Mouseflow, or Smartlook make it simple to see holes or leaks in your conversion funnels, detect which page elements users are interacting with, and which they’re not interested in to refine the look and feel of a page for maximum conversions. Even though these tools provide the data, it still takes a keen eye and understanding of design to implement the right changes to improve site performance.

Site content is another way that artificial intelligence has the potential to improve our understanding of customer behaviour and improve site performance for individual users. I don’t suggest using artificial intelligence to produce content for your site, no matter how much the results have improved. However, static landing pages or a single set of further reading recommendations are unlikely to appeal to the majority of site visitors. Artificial intelligence tools like CliClap and Personyze instantly collect and analyse consumer data to provide dynamic, personalised experiences that drive more leads and encourage conversions. Creative designers will also learn from this data to improve customer experience with other pages or elements throughout the site.

Removing Distracting, Time-Sucking Administrative Tasks

Because “artificial intelligence” has become a term with such negative connotations, we often overlook the simple way that AI actually makes our work lives better and easier. Machine learning in email filtering is a great example of this. Consider a simple interface like a Gmail inbox. We have the option to mark certain senders as spam or as important, and our inbox learns that type of communication is and isn’t useful to the user. Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and more all take cues from the user behaviour of liking a certain song, artists, or genre of music to build customised playlists. There are a myriad of ways that artificial intelligence and its branches of disciplines merge with our everyday lives. 

Some of the most useful automations for business, and especially for designers, are related to the administrative tasks that frequently take time away or distract from more pressing projects. A perfect example of automation that can relieve stress and cut down on mindless work is an email autoresponder. I’ve always found that having time blocked off in my calendar to tackle complex or important projects helps me to focus on the task at hand and be more efficient. In order to more effectively block out my time, closing my email and setting an autoresponder to reply to all incoming emails serves two purposes: 

  1. Lets those trying to get in touch with me know that I only check my email at certain times of the day and that my response may not be immediate — tempering their expectations of when they might hear from me.
  2. Relieves my personal stress of being tethered to my inbox, splitting my focus, and also saves the time of having to initially respond to each email individually. 

This is just one simple way to use automation in your email, although there are many others to explore.

While Zapier isn’t the only workflow automation service on the market, it’s probably the most well known. Workflow automation reduces time spent on mind-numbing, repetitive tasks and helps designers connect apps that might not natively work together. Do you keep a task list in Todoist? Set up a Zap, then create a task in Todoist anytime someone mentions you on Asana or assigns you a task in Trello.

This is especially helpful for freelance designers who work with multiple clients across various project management platforms. The potential for automation to relieve unnecessary mental overhead for designers is nearly limitless.

Don’t be Afraid of AI, Embrace It

The bottom line of this brief overview of artificial intelligence and automation in design is that this emerging technology isn’t something designers should be scared of. In fact, it’s something to welcome with open arms because ultimately it can make our jobs, and our lives, better. Leave the monotonous tasks of collecting and analysing huge amounts of data or administrative minutiae to the machines; they can handle it.

Save the interesting, creative, abstract work for the talented designers who can turn AI recommendations into unique and intuitive digital experiences. Making the relationship between artificial intelligence and design symbiotic will yield the best results for every entity involved: the business, the AI, and yes, even the designer.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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20 Freshest Web Designs, September 2020

This month we’re going big and bold. Oversized type, strong colors, in-your-face layouts, and little touches of playfulness exude confidence and make a statement. There are some quieter moments too, with thoughtful illustration and more gentle use of color. Animation still features strongly in the details, with circles proving popular in rollover effects. Enjoy.

Fledge

Fledge is a film production company based in Belgium. Their site uses split screen with looped text scrolling in opposite directions on each side. A minimal color palette adds extra punch.

2ºC Earth

2ºC Earth is a beautiful and also scary website that explores the effects of rising global temperatures by focusing on 5 specific locations. Some stunning photography and subtle use of sound take you to these locations as they are now, then show what they could become. The experience is both immersive and unsettling.

pill&pillow

Unlike many digital studios who use the design of their own site to demonstrate their skills, pill&pillow have taken a very basic approach. It is very self-assured, and it works. Random colored strikethroughs on visited links add a nice touch of playfulness.

Ferrum Pipe

Metal fencing is not the most interesting of subjects to most of us, but this site for Ferrum Pipe is surprisingly appealing. On scroll animation and some off-grid image layout brings life to what would normally be, well, a bit dull.

Lucciano’s

With its focus on mouth-watering photography and videography, the site for gelato makers Luccianos, will have you checking your freezer for any leftover salted caramel or stracciatella. The zoom on rollover is a nice effect, and the use of circles with ice cream color backgrounds for rollover text reinforces the gelato theme.

Björn Wieland

UI designer and artist Björn Wieland has created a portfolio site with a simple, relaxed feel and pleasing transitions. It feels simple, but behind the scenes there is quite a lot going on.

Coloursmith

Coloursmith is a tool from Taubmans paint company which allows you to create a custom paint color by uploading a photo. You name your color and can add a story, then you order a test pot. colors are presented well, in different light and with suggestions for complementary colors.

Finn 

Finn make diet supplements for dogs. Their site is fun, modern and clean. Bright colors and an illustration that manages to be cute but not too cutesy make a bold impression.

Highcourt

Highcourt is a new private membership leisure club set to open in New York in spring 2021. Dark blue text on cream gives a softer edge than black on white. The background color changes on scroll are pleasing, and simple line illustrations with occasional gentle animation add to the overall sense of calm.

Elevence

Elevence is the company of product designer Kazuo Kobayashi. The site uses only black, white, and grays allowing the color photos of his work to really stand out. Circular thumbnails are used to good effect, appearing on rollover.

Playtype

Playtype is a Danish type foundry whose site seems to fit their name. It has a playful, almost chaotic feel, with bright blocks of color and occasional animation. Some pretty nice typefaces too.

Neri Oxman 

Neri Oxman is many things: architect, scientist, engineer, inventor, and designer. This site feels like a really beautiful coffee table art book that you want to pick up and look through every so often. There are some nice details too, like the lens ‘reveal’ effect on rollover in a few places.

Modern Recovery

Modern Recovery is a project by sobriety program Tempest. The interactive illustration encourages exploration, to discover different stages of recovery from alcohol abuse and insights from others who have followed the program. The aim is to change our social attitudes towards alcohol and not drinking.

Bliss

Have you clicked on the link to visit Bliss Search? Yes, the link is correct, no you haven’t been redirected to a Google search results page. This Australian digital marketing company have copied the appearance of different well-known sites for their pages — Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tinder all make an appearance. The humor in this approach shows confidence, and makes it memorable.

Miilkiina

Miilkiina describe themselves as a digital media space and creative agency. Punchy typography, with great use of blackletter, well chosen images, and a strong header video give this home page an in-your-face edge.

Ukrainian Railroad Ladies

Ukrainian Railroad Ladies is a book by photographer Sasha Maslov. Its subjects are the, mostly, women who work as traffic controllers and safety officers at railroad crossings in Ukraine. It’s a simple site — outsized type, black and white, basic image grid, only very brief text — but it is effective in its simplicity.

Una Europa

Una Europa is an alliance of 8 European universities with the aim of offering joint research and study programs. There is some playful scrolling behavior with geometric shapes moving and changing color that enlivens what could otherwise be quite a dry site.

Bureau Cool

There’s a bit of an old school feel about the site of digital design studio Bureau Cool, with its recent traffic animation. The changing backgrounds on scroll are a nice touch.

Gridspace

Gridspace is a multimedia entertainment studio based in Montreal, and their website is a visual feast. Lots of movement, lots of video, some good use of sideways scrolling.

Nolii

Nolii make cases and accessories for iPhone that work together. The sorbet color palette complements the product colors and the block layout provides a visual reflection of the interlocking of the different products.

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AccessiBe Review 2020: Solving Web Accessibility with AI and Scalability

Web accessibility is important for two reasons:

  1. Being ADA & WCAG compliant is required by law (we’ll explain this further) so if your website isn’t compliant, you can get sued.
  2. It allows people with disabilities to browse your website, which increases your potential audience and it is the decent thing to do.

In this accessiBe review, we’ll cover:

How Does accessiBe Work

accessiBe is an automated solution that combines two applications to achieve full compliance.

Foreground application: the accessibility interface. This is the accessibility menu that allows users with disabilities to adjust the various UI and design elements on your website so it meets their unique needs.

Background application: proprietary AI technology that’s responsible for the ‘heavy lifting’, screen-reader, and keyboard navigation optimization.

The combination of these two applications is unique for accessiBe for a few reasons. While most available accessibility solutions offer just one of the two or rely on manual remediation, accessiBe checks both boxes and does it in a fully automated way.

Additionally, and most importantly, accessiBe continuously scans your website, every 24 hours, identifying and fixing new accessibility issues as they arise. Websites are dynamic – meaning, keep updating constantly with new content, pages, images and so on; being ADA and WCAG compliant is an ongoing concern, not a one-time fix.

How to Install and Setup accessiBe

You install accessiBe by inserting a single line of code on your website.

From your end, that’s all it takes.

The first thing that happens is that the accessibility interface appears on your website. The menu is available via the accessibility icon (that also appears automatically.)

Source: accessiBe website

Next, the AI application scans and analyzes your website for accessibility issues and compatibility with screen-readers and keyboard navigation requirements and fixes them. This automated process takes 48 hours.

Once the initial 48 hours have elapsed, your website is compliant.

From here on, accessiBe automatically scans your website every 24 hours to identify and fix new accessibility issues as they arise due to website updates.

Why Ongoing Compliance is Important

We’ve mentioned this already, but it’s important to stress this point.

Whether you have an e-commerce website or a company website, you keep updating and changing your website; new items go up for sale, new videos and content pieces are added. Every addition or removal from your website has the potential of creating accessibility gaps (like missing alt text for images.)

By continuously scanning and fixing your website, accessiBe ensures that you stay compliant. An accessibility audit remediates your website for the specific point in time the audit took place. Meaning, you’ll need to audit your website periodically to remain compliant, which is a costly affair. With accessiBe you don’t need to worry about this.

accessiBe Front End Features – The Accessibility Interface

The accessiBe accessibility interface (the menu that is available for users) is installed automatically on your website once you insert the line of code. Let’s look at the various features that are available for people with disabilities.

Accessibility Profiles Explained

First, it allows you to choose from a pre-defined set of profiles optimized for various disability needs:

When one of the profiles is selected, the required adjustments are instantly applied to your entire website.

For example, The ADHD Friendly Profile creates a reading mark that follows your mouse movements that diminish distractions and allows better focus:

The Cognitive Disability Profile frames all the elements in bounding boxes and adds an ‘reading cursor’ that acts as your mouse to allow enhanced orientation:

Each of the predefined profiles includes a suite of features that target the unique accessibility needs of the disability; the Epilepsy Safe Profile prevents videos from playing automatically, dims all the colors on your website and eliminates flashing and blinking animations; the Visually Impaired Profile enhances all your website’s visuals, enlarges all fonts to allow most visual impairments conditions (degrading eyesight, tunnel vision, cataract, glaucoma and more) to be able to browse your website with ease.

The last two profiles, Blind Users and Keyboard Navigation, work in unison. They allow blind and motor-impaired individuals to browse and use your website as they are used to, through screen-readers and keyboard functionality, respectively.

Two things need to be mentioned here:

  1. Blind individuals have screen-readers installed on their computers in the OS-level, meaning, on the hard drive of the computer. They use them to navigate the internet by having the software read for them every text that appears on the screen. As can be seen in the screenshot above, the Blind User profile is ‘launched’ automatically once accessiBe detects that the user is using a screen-reader. This is a crucial functionality since obviously blind users aren’t able to locate the accessibility icon.
  2. The same goes for individuals that are using the keyboard instead of a mouse to navigate the web, both the motor-impaired and the blind. accessiBe detects and automatically enables keyboard navigation on your website.

On top of the predefined accessibility profiles, accessiBe’s interface allows for further adjustments that can be controlled specifically to allow a personalized browsing experience according to the user’s needs. Let’s look at these adjustments.

Accessibility Content Adjustments Explained

The content adjustments allow you to control every aspect of the written content on your website. The menu looks like this:

Each of these elements allows for granular control of the way content, or text, is presented. From altering the entire website’s text to a readable, sans-serif font that is easier to follow, to highlighting titles and links, to adjusting font size, the spacing between lines and letters and using a text magnifier that follows your cursor on the screen.

Here’s how it looks with Highlight Titles and Highlight Links turned on:

You can see all the links are highlighted with an orange bounding box while all titles are highlighted with a blue bounding box.

Accessibility Color Adjustments Explained

The color adjustments allows users to control every aspect of the color scheme on the website:

From adjusting contrast and saturation, to switching the entire website to a monochrome color scheme, to adjusting textual elements and background colors. Let’s look at a few examples.

Here’s a side-by-side of default appearance and the Dark Contrast adjustment turned on:

And here’s how it looks with the Monochrome adjustment turned on:

Accessibility Orientation Adjustments Explained

The orientation adjustments allow full control of ‘distractions’ that make it hard for individuals with epilepsy, ADHD, and cognitive disability to browse the web:

As such, the orientation adjustments allow users to mute sound, hide images, stop animations and additional ‘focus’ features such as an enlarged cursor and reading assistance that highlights the text being read.

Here’s how the Remove Images adjustment works:

accessiBe Back End Features

Unlike ‘accessibility plugins’ (more on that later) accessiBe provides a comprehensive back end treatment to your website – automated, AI-powered analysis of compatibility with accessibility requirements and fixing of the elements that need adjustment.

It should be noted that 70% of the WCAG compliance requirements deal with screen-reader and keyboard navigation compatibility and all these requirements are not answered by installing an accessibility interface widget that merely makes UI and design adjustments.

For example, an accessibility widget will enable you to enlarge the font on your website, to adjust the saturation or to highlight links, but it won’t enable a blind individual to differentiate between a shopping cart icon and a checkout icon, nor will it enable a motor impaired individual to easily navigate a menu.

This is a crucial consideration to make when choosing a web accessibility solution. Being WCAG compliant is a YES / NO situation. Your website is either compliant or it’s not, there is no middle ground here.

accessiBe’s back end features come to solve and answer all these compatibility issues that enable full screen-reader and keyboard navigation functionalities.

Screen Reader Compatibility Explained

Screen Reader is a software for blind individuals to use computers and browse the web. As the name suggests, the software reads aloud what is seen on the screen for blind individuals.

The screen reader software is installed on the computer. But in order for it to work with websites, the website needs to be compatible with the software. To achieve compatibility with screen reader software, WCAG requires that a website should adhere to a set of attributes called Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) that are installed within the website’s code, allowing it to ‘communicate’ with the screen reader.

Let’s take social icons as an example. We are all familiar with those icons – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – they are instantly recognizable for us visually. A screen reader software doesn’t actually ‘see’ elements on the screen, rather it scans the website’s code to understand what appears on the screen. As such, a Facebook icon code simply says ‘link’ and has the URL that directs the user when clicking the link.

So with a website that isn’t compatible with a screen reader, that doesn’t have ARIA tags implemented, the screen reader will read to the blind person “link” for the Facebook icon; not very helpful, is it?

When ARIA tags are implemented, additional information is added to the Facebook icon – and any other visual link on the website – that describes what is the link. So the screen reader will read to the blind person “Facebook link”.

It’s not difficult to imagine the scope and effort of the work needed in order to implement ARIA tags on your entire website.

Keyboard Navigation Compatibility Explained

Keyboard navigation means that motor-impaired individuals are using their computers only through their keyboard, rather than a mouse. Scrolling, clicking links and menu buttons, opening and closing tabs – everything is done using designated keys.

There are many issues relating to keyboard navigation as today’s websites are highly complex, layered with content elements, and react dynamically to user behavior. Any element of the website must be compatible to allow full keyboard navigation.

Let’s look at a popup as an example.

Popups can be triggered for a variety of reasons. For mouse users, it is a simple occurrence; you can bring the cursor to the area of the popup, click on one of the fields to input details or click the X to close the popup.

But how do you handle the popup using only the keyboard? How do you differentiate between ‘regular’ functionalities of the website and that of the popup? How do you ‘shift the focus’ of the keystrokes to a layered element? You need to allow unique keystrokes to operate the popup, keystrokes that are activated only when a popup appears.

It’s one example of the many challenges making your website compatible with keyboard navigation. The list of WCAG requirements for compatibility with keyboard navigation is a long one, and understandably so as it needs to enable motor-impaired individuals to navigate your website with the same ease as the rest of us using a mouse.

How accessiBe’s Background Processing Achieves Screen Reader and Keyboard Navigation Compatibility

Without getting too technical, what accessiBe does is scan the entire code of your website and adds keyboard functionalities and ARIA tags to various elements on your website directly. It won’t interfere with your site’s code, but rather add an additional ‘layer’.

accessiBe’s AI ‘learned’ all of ARIA’s tags and keyboard functionalities required by WCAG and when scanning your website’s code implements all the required adjustments to achieve full compliance.

How accessiBe Makes Menus Accessible

Menus are a good example for understanding what the accessiBe background processing does and the benefits it provides.

We recognize menus on websites instantly, because we saw thousands and thousands of them. We know how they look, we know what their functionality is, and we know where to hover and click in order to reach the various pages of the website.

But if you remember, we said that screen readers don’t ‘look’ at the screen, but rather scan the site’s code to understand structure, identify links and read them aloud with all the text that appears on the page.

So menus are coded as a list structure, because in a way they are. A screen reader will announce a menu as a list, which might be confusing for a blind user. Additionally, many menus have drop-down sub-menus, accessible via a hover or by clicking a little triangle. Without proper ARIA tagging, a screen reader will miss the sub-menu.

What accessiBe does is adding readable tags for every element in the menu so a screen reader will recognize and announce each element properly. The ‘list’ code structure will get a “menu” tag, and the sub-menu will get a tag for ‘sub-menu’, thus allowing the blind individual to utilize the full functionality of the website.

Additionally, accessiBe alternates the tags on-the-fly while the site is being browsed. Once a sub-menu has been opened, a tag that says “sub-menu open” will be added to indicate to the screen reader what has happened, and will be changed with the tag “sub-menu close” once the sub-menu has been closed.

Image Recognition

One of the key elements of accessibility compliance with screen readers is to provide accurate alternative descriptions for images, known as alt text.

accessiBe utilizes various image, object and character recognition technologies (OCR and Iris) to provide highly descriptive and accurate depictions of images displayed on the website. Without adding screen-reader compatible alt tags to images a blind individual would simply not be aware of the existence of images, and miss out on the information usually displayed on images.

Let’s look at the following banner images from an e-commerce website:

As you can see, valuable information is communicated via the images – sales and discounts – the kind of information any shopper would want to know.

This is the descriptive text that accessiBe’s AI assigned to these images, completely automated with no human intervention (from left to right):

  • Image contains: shopping,  shorts, woman, ashion; image text: extra 50% off shorts
  • Image contains: shopping, red top, woman, jeans, fashion; image text: 50% off bottoms
  • Image contains: shopping, blue jumpsuit, woman, fashion, bed, ; image text: 50% off jumpsuits & rompers
  • Image contains: shopping, shoes, ocean, woman, fashion; image text: 50% off shoes

Again, doing this kind of work for the hundreds to thousands of images that are displayed on every e-commerce website requires a lot of time and effort. accessiBe achieves this in a completely automated way, and every image added to your website instantly gets its alt text.

In-Depth Feature Review and Demo of accessiBe

Comparison of accessiBe with Accessibility Plugins

There are many web accessibility plugins out there. They offer a ‘quick fix’ for ADA and WCAG compliance – add an accessibility menu and you’re done.

As tempting as it may sound, the distinction between an accessibility menu and being fully compliant must be made.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are two parallel tasks that need to handle in order to achieve ADA and WCAG compliance:

  • Front end – UI and design adjustments, achieved by the Accessibility Interface (the visible menu for content, font, color and orientation adjustments)
  • Back end – screen-reader and keyboard navigation compatibility, achieved by implementing ARIA tags and further code adjustments

Reminder: 70% of accessibility compliance requirements deal with back end adjustments, meaning, screen-readers, and keyboard navigation compatibility.

Accessibility plugins, whether free or paid, only answer the front-end requirements. Meaning, after installing an accessibility plugin, you are just 30% compliant. Since accessibility compliance is not a scale (you don’t ‘get points’ for making it halfway through) you’ll need to turn to an additional provider to do the back end work.

accessiBe, on the other hand, provides a full accessibility compliance solution, covering both UI and design requirements through the accessibility interface AND screen-reader and keyboard navigation compatibility requirements through it’s automated AI technology that analyzes and makes adjustments in the code-level of the website.

Benefits of Using accessiBe Over Accessibility Plugins

  • Achieving complete accessibility compliance
  • Dealing with a single provider, rather than two or more
  • Cost-efficiency (manual audit and remediation service are expensive)
  • Complete compatibility with screen-readers and keyboard navigation
  • Enabling true accessibility to individuals with disabilities

Comparison of accessiBe with Manual Accessibility Services

Manual accessibility services can help you achieve full accessibility compliance, but it comes with two major disclaimers:

  1. You’ll still need an additional solution for an accessibility interface, which the service companies don’t provide
  2. The compliance achieved is for the point in time the audit and remediation were performed. Let’s explain this point further.

Companies that offer a manual accessibility service assign a team of accessibility experts to do an audit of your website. The result of this audit is a lengthy document detailing all the accessibility faults that your website has. It is a valuable document as it gives you a precise depiction of what needs to be fixed in order to achieve compliance.

From here there are two possible paths:

You can either take the audit results to your development team and have them remediate your website accordingly.

Or, some of the service companies offer a remediation service, meaning, they’ll assign their own engineers to manually make the necessary changes in your website. Needless to say this extra service isn’t given for free.

In both cases, you are looking at a process that takes weeks if not months (depending on the number of pages your website has.)

Additionally, since it is a manual process done by experts, it comes with a hefty price tag.

But most importantly, the audit and remediation hold for the time they were done. Unless you have a 100% static website, meaning, you do not make any changes to your website – never add or remove products, never update content – the ‘effect’ of the audit and remediation fades away with time.

Since the process was manual, any changes you make to your website must be handled manually accessibility-wise. You added a new banner with a link to items on sale, you’ll need to go into the code and add ARIA tags. You added a new image, you’ll need to go into the code and add alt text compatible with screen-readers. And so on.

Some of the manual accessibility service companies offer maintenance services as well. They will periodically audit your website (manually) and provide a remediation document that will need to be implemented (manually) either by your development team or by theirs for an additional cost.

These costs add up. Having your website audited and remediated for compliance on an ongoing basis takes time, effort, and money. But you don’t have a choice. Being ADA and WCAG compliant is an ongoing task, since websites are dynamic and being updated regularly.

accessiBe, on the other hand, offers a 100% automated and ongoing compliance solution. The initial audit and remediation process is carried out – with no human intervention – in 48 hours (compared to weeks or months by a manual provider). Then, your website is scanned every 24 hours to identify and fix accessibility issues using accessiBe AI technology. Meaning, compliance maintenance is constantly carried out ‘in the background’ keeping you ADA & WCAG compliant at all times.

Which brings us to another crucial point regarding manual accessibility services. They make it extremely hard for you to scale up. Every business has a constant aim to grow, but with a manual accessibility service, scalability becomes a pain point. The more you grow the more time, effort and money you need to put in to remain compliant. You want to add another section to your website, you want to launch an additional website? Using a manual accessibility service will hold you back. You’ll need to account for additional time before going live to manually enable accessibility and additional funds. For fast-moving companies, time becomes a serious burden.

Since accessiBe offers an automated and ongoing accessibility solution, scalability is not an issue.

Benefits of Using accessiBe Over Manual Accessibility Services

  • Time-efficient
  • Cost-effective
  • 100% automated
  • Ongoing compliance
  • Infinite scale
  • Single provider for full compliance (front end and back end)

How to Check Your Web Accessibility Compliance Level

Before you get started on your path to being ADA & WCAG compliant it’s important to understand the current state of accessibility your website provides.

Obviously, if you’ve never taken any steps to make your website accessible to individuals with disabilities, there’s no need for this – your website isn’t accessible in any way.

This is actually highly important if you have taken steps to make your website accessible, like for example, installing one of the accessibility plugins. You might be under the impression that by doing so your website is both compliant and accessible to individuals with disabilities.

There’s a simple and quick way to face the accessibility reality.

accessiBe offers a free, automated compliance audit tool available online named aCe. It uses accessiBe AI technology to scan your site, detect accessibility issues and provide quite a detailed report on the various elements that impact your website’s accessibility, and those include:

  • General score
  • Clickables
  • Titles
  • Orientation
  • Menus
  • Graphics
  • Forms
  • Documents
  • Readability
  • Carousels
  • Tables

Each of these elements is given a score and some explanations to the specific issues that need attention within the context of these elements.

In addition to gaining a compliance audit with the remediation steps needed to be taken in order to fix these issues, aCe gives you a very clear idea of where you stand and what needs your attention in order to achieve compliance.

We gave it a try. We ran a website that has installed one of the accessibility plugins (which was recognized, by name, by the aCe audit tool) and the results cement the point that these plugins aren’t comprehensive enough of a solution for true ADA & WCAG compliance.

Here are the results:

As can be expected, the UI and design side got relatively high scores, due to the accessibility plugin installed on the website, but anything that has to do with back end compatibility with screen readers and keyboard navigation got a failing score.

Conclusion

accessiBe is an automated and comprehensive web accessibility solution that achieves ongoing compliance with ADA and WCAG regulations for your website.

It offers a unique combination of front end and back end compatibility, meaning, it provides an end-to-end solution for both user-facing accessibility interface, and compatibility with screen readers and keyboard navigation.

The solution offered by accessiBe is a no-touch, no-code, continuous compliance utilizing proprietary AI technology that audits and remediates your website.

It is by far one of the most affordable web accessibility solutions, starting at $490 for websites with up to 1,000 unique pages.

When compared to accessibility plugins, accessiBe’s offering is robust and comprehensive, delivering full compliance that plugins aren’t able to.

When compared to accessibility manual services, accessiBe offers a speedy and automated audit and remediation process compared to the lengthy, manual and highly expensive offering of the service companies. Additionally, accessiBe, unlike accessibility manual services, delivers ongoing compliance and the ability to scale with ease and speed.

The combination of AI-based audit and remediation, the most comprehensive accessibility interface on the market, ongoing compliance, scalability, and a highly affordable plan makes accessiBe stand out from the competition by offering a unique end-to-end solution for achieving ADA and WCAG compliance in a fast and simple way.

 

[– accessiBe is a partner of WebdesignerDepot –]

Featured image via Unsplash.

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