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Is Change Positive for Web Designers?

As a web designer, you’re constantly being bombarded with messages that tell you to acquire new skills, try new tools, and keep on hustling.

But if you’re constantly changing things up, does it do the opposite of what you originally set out to do? In other words, if you always have to start over, is it possible to ever really achieve anything?

I think it ultimately depends on why you’re making the change.

When Change Is the Right Move for Web Designers

One of the reasons I despise New Year’s resolutions is because it’s change for the sake of change:

It’s a new year, so it’s time to get all hyped up about this one thing I need to change about myself!

There’s a reason why so many resolutions fail by February. When you force a change, it’s really hard to stay invested in it, especially if it’s something you’ve chosen to do because everyone else has.

Change should be driven by necessity.

That said, when it comes time to make changes as a web designer, is it ever really necessary? Or are you learning new skills, trying new tools, or switching up your client list simply because it’s what you believe you have to do?

It’s important to be open to change, but you should only invest your time, money, or effort when it’s the absolute right move for you. Here are some ways you’ll know when that’s the case:

Learn New Skills To…

…Round Out the Basics

If you’re a new designer and there are gaps in your education and training (and I don’t mean formally, just in general), then there’s no reason to hesitate in spending time to acquire those skills.

This doesn’t just go for basic skills as a web designer or as a coder. This also goes for skills you need to become a successful freelancer.

…Add Evergreen Skills to Future-Proof Your Position

As you move up in your career, you’ll eventually find other skills worth learning. Just make sure they’ll help you move the needle.

The best way to do that is to focus on acquiring evergreen skills that’ll always be useful to you, no matter what stage you’re at in your career or how the design landscape changes. They should also go beyond the average skill set of a designer, so they help you stand out further from the pack.

… Create a Better Situation for Yourself

The web is constantly evolving, which means that your responsibilities and skills as a web designer will have to change in order to adapt. Whenever one of these shake-ups occurs, you should either be ready to master the needed skill right away or, better yet, have been working on it beforehand.

Take, Google’s mobile-first indexing, for instance. It announced it was going to be making this shift years before website rankings were impacted. Designers had plenty of time to not only learn what was needed to design for the mobile-first web, but to get all their existing clients’ sites in shape for it.

Adopt New Tools When…

…Your Existing Ones Are Slowing You Down

If you’re doing a lot of things from-scratch (like writing emails to clients or creating contracts), that’s a good sign your toolbox needs some improvement.

As a web designer, you should be focused on creating, not on the tedious details involved in running a business or communicating with clients. That’s just not a good use of your time. A lot of this stuff can easily be automated with tools and templates.

…You’re Turning Down Business

In some cases, it’s the right thing to say “no” to prospective clients — like when they’re a bad fit or can’t afford your rates. However, there are other times when you desperately want to be able to say “yes”, but you don’t have the capacity for the job or you’re unable to cover the full scope of what they need.

This is where new tools come in handy. For instance, let’s say you’ve been approached by a ecommerce company that not only wants you to build a new store, but also needs it fully optimized for search (it’s not the first time this has happened either). Rather than turn something like that down, you may find that the addition of an SEO tool to your toolbox is all you need to be able to say “yes”.

…You Have Extra Room in Your Budget

Obviously, you don’t want to throw away money on a bunch of tools simply because a ton of people are talking about them. But you’ll eventually get to a point where the tools that served you well in the first year of business need to be replaced.

If you get to a point where you have extra time to experiment and there’s room in your budget for upgraded tools, go ahead and assess what you currently have and test out replacement solutions that will help you work better, faster, and smarter.

Look for New Business Opportunities If…

…You’re Not Doing Well

“Well” here is subjective. For instance:

  • If you’re not doing well financially, you probably need to look for more clients;
  • If you’re not doing well in terms of how you get along with clients, you should explore a niche that’s a better fit;
  • If you’re not happy with your job because burnout and stress have overtaken your life, then you might consider exploring other avenues of work.

When something has been amiss for awhile, the last thing you should do is lean into it and hope it gets better.

…The Web is Changing

Notice a trend here? Each of these changes (skills, tools, and now business opportunities) is often driven by the fact that the web is always changing. And as the web changes, you have to be ready to evolve.

In terms of business opportunities, what you’ll realistically need to do is look for new kinds of design work as technologies make your job obsolete. Take website builders like Wix or Shopify, for example. As business owners and entrepreneurs take it upon themselves to build their own websites, more and more web designers will need to find other kinds of clients and jobs to take on.

…You Want to Diversify Your Income

This is something many web designers are doing already as they’ve discovered how beneficial it is to have predictable recurring revenue streams.

But even if you’ve already found one way to diversify and stabilize your income (like by offering website maintenance services), you may become interested in exploring other opportunities along the way. If you have the capacity to pursue them, then go for it.

Is Change a Good Idea?

As you can see, change can be a very good thing for a web designer, their business, and their clients. However, there should be a very good reason for the change and you need to prepare yourself for how it’s going to impact what you’re doing now before implementing it. No amount of change can happen without some level of sacrifice.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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Case Study: 8 Design Tips That Increased My Ecommerce Conversions By 42% 

When it comes to increasing sales for your ecommerce store, there are 3 levers you can pull: You can increase your average order value; You can increase the amount of traffic to your site; You can increase your conversion rate.

While all of the above are important, the cheapest, most effective way to grow your sales is by improving your conversion rate.

For most online stores, low conversion rates are typically the result of a poor design or a bad user experience. Your visitors may not resonate with the look and feel of your website or they may have problems finding the information they need in order to make a purchase.

In this post, I will walk you through the exact steps I took to increase my desktop conversion rate by 46% and my mobile conversion rate by 39% with my last site redesign. I will also show you how you can apply these same design principles to optimize the conversion rate for your own online store.

Even if your ecommerce business is already performing well, this post will help you achieve even better results.

What Is Considered A Good Ecommerce Conversion Rate? 

Monitoring your conversion rate is crucial to building a profitable ecommerce business. And most analytics tools can help you measure this data out of the box.

Your conversion rate is calculated by simply dividing the number of desired actions by the number of website visitors in a given period. For example, if your website is getting 50 conversions for every 5,000 visitors, your conversion rate is 1%.

Depending on the specific type of online business you run, your conversions may include online sales, email signups, add to carts, or any other KPI you wish to measure. But in the case of an ecommerce store, your primary focus should be your purchase conversion rate.

On average, ecommerce stores have a purchase conversion rate of 1% – 2%. What’s more, experts say a good conversion rate is anywhere from 2% to 5%. This should be your baseline as you measure your online store’s success.

The Conversion Results of My Last Site Redesign

Before we dive into the nitty gritty details of how I improved my conversion rate, here are my overall results and exactly how I conducted my experiment.

First off, I run Bumblebee Linens, an ecommerce store that sells handkerchiefs online.

Because my site gets a ton of traffic from content pages that do not directly convert to sales, I measured my conversion rate based on my most predictable traffic sources.

As a result, all of my conversion data was taken from targeted PPC ad traffic sources like Google Shopping and Google Adwords. After all, my Google ads traffic is very steady and always converts at a consistent percentage.

Before I redesigned my site, the conversion rate for my ecommerce store hovered at around 3% which is above average. But the look and feel of the site was dated and desperately needed a refresh. Overall, the entire redesign took approximately 7 weeks and cost me roughly $1840.

Here are the conversion results from my updated design compared to the original:

  • Desktop conversion rates increased by 46%
  • Mobile conversion rates increased by 26% 
  • Tablet conversion rates increased by 32% 

The remainder of this post will highlight the specific elements of the redesign that contributed to these increases. (Note: I made all of my redesign changes live simultaneously so it’s difficult to determine which specific optimization contributed the most gains.)

8 Ecommerce Design Tips To Optimize Your Conversion Rate

If your ecommerce store is not performing as well as it should, there are many aspects of the user experience that could be negatively impacting sales. Even a seemingly innocuous design choice like your font size or the color of your buttons can have a significant impact on your overall conversion rate.

If you want to systematically improve the conversion rate for your ecommerce store, you should follow these 8 design steps.

1. Use A Consistent and Complementary Color Scheme 

Use color.adobe.com to choose complementary colors when redesigning your website.

A well chosen color scheme can instantly attract a customer’s attention, evoke emotion, and drive users to take action. After all, how a customer feels about your website can be the deciding factor between completing checkout or bouncing from your shop.

A well designed ecommerce store should utilize at least 3 complementary colors that are consistently applied across every page of your website.

If you don’t have a good eye for color, you can use a free tool like color.adobe.com which will help you mix and match different colors that go well together.

For my site redesign, I wanted a modern feel so I chose teal, hot pink, and yellow for my color palette.

I also assigned each color a specific purpose on my site:

  • Teal was applied to give the site a bright, overall color for a young and hip feel;
  • Yellow was used to draw attention to marketing elements like free shipping and special offers;
  • Hot Pink was used for all action buttons on the site.

Overall, every single page of your ecommerce store should have 1 main call to action (using a bright color like hot pink) that guides a customer closer towards checkout.

For example on my front page, the hot pink button “Shop Our Personalized Collection” pops out of the page and catches a user’s attention right away. We want visitors to shop our personalized collection because our personalized products are the highest margin products in our store.

2. Simplify Your Navigation 

Is your menu too complicated? Is your navbar taking up too much screen real estate?

A good rule of thumb for an ecommerce store is to minimize the number of clicks for a customer to add to cart. As a result, you should avoid nesting your product categories in more than 1 level of hierarchy.

If you have too many categories in your shop to display all at once, choose your best selling categories for your main menu and lump your less trafficked categories in a separate tab.

For my store, I decided to use a top-level, hover style drop-down menu as shown in the photo below.

Top-level navigation is one way to organize and display your product categories.

My old design utilized left hand style navigation which took up too much screen real estate. And freeing up the extra space allowed me to blow up my category and product images by 300%. With my new navigation menu, every visitor can add to cart in just three clicks: One click to find a product category; One click to view the product description; One click to add to cart.

Once you’ve designed your menu, pretend that you are a customer and try to shop on your site. Is the content easy to read? Do the important elements pop out? Can you find the information you need right away? Analyzing your site from a customer’s perspective will help you improve your users’ shopping experience.

3. Display Trust Factors On Every Page 

Free shipping, easy returns, and trust are crucial to driving conversions. 

Trust is the most important value you must establish with your customer.

Unless you’re Amazon or a big box store, people have likely never heard of your brand and you have to reassure them that it’s safe to buy from your store.

Due to Amazon’s influence in the ecommerce space, most customers look for 3 things when shopping at an online boutique for the first time:

  • Fast and free shipping;
  • Easy returns;
  • A way to reach customer support.

Displaying your phone number and email address is very important! Adding your store hours also helps to make your site look legit to new visitors. If you don’t have a recognizable brand, customers will want to know that they can reach a real human in case of problems or questions.

In the above image, you’ll notice that I placed my trust factors in the header, so they can be seen above the fold on every single page. We’ve also been featured on the Today show and a bunch of magazines. So I made sure to display this social proof on the bottom of every page.

Don’t hesitate to flaunt your achievements to reinforce trust. 

In addition, customer testimonials provide social proof and credibility to your website. As a result, it’s important to regularly reach out to happy customers for testimonials and endorsements. On our redesigned site, you’ll find the testimonials section right below our press mentions.

Testimonials lend social proof and credibility to your website.

Remember, to generate conversions as an unknown store or brand, you first have to gain your customers’ trust. Make it easy for them to contact you or get a full refund if anything goes wrong with their purchase. By showing a genuine concern for customer satisfaction, you’ll be able to build a solid reputation over time.

4. Emphasize Your Unique Value Proposition

Users spend an average of 5.59 seconds looking at your website’s written content. And in those 5.59 seconds, you must capture their interest or else they’ll bounce from your page. Right off the bat, you must convey to a user exactly what you sell and why they should buy from your store over a competitor.

What’s more, every single page on your site should communicate your unique value proposition. A unique value proposition is a concise statement that describes what makes your business special and outlines what your store does better than anyone else. The best way to show off your unique value proposition is to use an eye-catching image alongside compelling copy.

For example, here’s the first thing a user sees on my home page above the fold:

Right away, a user is shown a large image of one of our best selling personalized handkerchiefs. And right beside that image is a clear and concise value proposition, followed by a call to action to shop in our store.

Displaying your value proposition should not be limited to your home page. We also include our unique value proposition on every category page as well. Overall, you should include your value proposition on every landing page on your website.

5. Optimize The Visual Hierarchy Of Your Product Pages 

Every page on your site should have a single objective. And for your product pages, your goal is to get a customer to add to cart.

When designing a product page, you must apply a logical visual hierarchy to your design. A visual hierarchy is the order in which a user processes information on a page and in the case of a product page, there must be a clear path to your add to cart button with as few distractions as possible.

Here’s a screenshot of my old product page:

As you can see, my old product page is overwhelming. All of the design elements try to grab your attention at the same time and there are many different calls to action that blend together. To improve my product descriptions, I freshened up the color scheme and enlarged my product image by 266%. I also changed the placement of the buttons in a more logical flow.

Here’s what the redesigned product page looks like today:

By adjusting the size, color, contrast, and alignment of the page elements, I now force the customer to process my product information in a set path that leads directly to my primary call to action. For example, the hot pink color draws attention to the “Add to Cart” button over the “Reviews” button. Also, by applying a blue text color and teal background, I reassure customers that shopping with us is safe and risk free.

Overall, rearranging the design elements this way nearly doubled my add to cart percentage.

6. Simplify Your Checkout Process 

With our old site design, we would regularly receive feedback from confused customers who weren’t sure if they needed an account to purchase our products.

Here’s what our old checkout page looked like:

As you can see, there are too many choices. After all, a customer doesn’t need 3 ways to checkout and the choices are a little overwhelming.

Here’s what the checkout page looks like now:

Instead of offering 3 separate options for checkout, I consolidated them all into one and added a separate Paypal option (more on this later). First off, less than 6% of customers create an account so there was no reason to offer account creation as a separate option. Furthermore, displaying a login form was causing more headaches than it was worth because the majority of customers don’t even have an account. As a result, I decided to hide the form altogether by default.

Overall, when you are designing your checkout process, keep these optimization principles in mind.

Principle #1: Remove all unnecessary elements from the page. Don’t make the customer think and hide all elements that are not frequently used.

Principle #2: Display trust logos to assure customers of a secure checkout. In the image above, you’ll find trust logos on the right-hand side of the checkout page.

7. Optimize The Checkout Process For Mobile Users

4 out of 10 mobile users abandon their carts if they have a hard time entering their personal information. People don’t like entering their contact and credit card information using a tiny keyboard. What’s more, small buttons and too many form fields drive away mobile users. 79% of smartphone users shop online with their mobile devices, which is why you should optimize for mobile.

These days, a responsive design is par for the course but you can still screw things up if you are not careful. Here’s what my checkout process looks like on a desktop:

And here’s how the checkout page looks on a mobile device:

On mobile, the user’s cart contents are collapsed so it doesn’t occupy the entire screen. Overall, here were the mobile optimizations I made to checkout:

Optimization #1: Keep Your Checkout Form Short And Sweet

A mobile user should be able to tap buttons on your checkout page without accidentally hitting another option. Also, the buttons should be large enough to tap on a mobile device.

Given the smaller screen size of a mobile phone, keep your checkout form short and sweet with no extraneous options. Also, make sure you turn off autocorrect for your form fields. Otherwise, your phone’s autocorrect feature may frustrate users when they try to enter their address. In fact, we once had a customer get so frustrated trying to type in their city on their iPhone that they called us up and complained in frustration.

To fix this, you simply need to add the following tag to all of your text input fields.

<input type="text" name="name" autocorrect="off">

And to reduce frustration, you should also turn off auto-capitalization and auto-complete by adding auto-capitalization=”off” and auto-complete=”off” to all of your forms as well:

<input type="text" name="name" autocorrect="off" auto-capitalization="off" auto-complete="off">

In addition, for phone number entry, you should always display a numeric keypad as opposed to a regular keyboard:

Optimization #2: Automatically Import Your Customer Data If Possible

The less information mobile users have to enter in, the better. Payment options like Paypal Express and Amazon Payments can simplify the checkout process. These third-party payment processors automatically fill out a customer’s billing and shipping information which reduces typing and increases conversion rates.

To offer a more convenient checkout, I implemented PayPal One Touch, which alone increased my mobile conversion rates by 31%.

Here’s a quick tip when implementing Paypal: Make sure you display the Paypal button early in the checkout process before a user has entered in their information. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of importing their information! In the first step of my checkout process, I explain each payment option in depth.

These simple changes made a huge difference in my conversion rate. And the number of PayPal users on my site nearly doubled from 13% to 23%!

8. Add A Sense Of Urgency

Most customers like to window shop and the best way to get a visitor to take action is to create a sense of urgency.

Whenever I run a sale, a big yellow countdown timer is displayed on every page of the website.

Note: It’s important to note that we only utilize this timer when there is actually a sale going on. Otherwise, you risk desensitizing your customers or losing trust.

In addition, I also display a countdown timer on the checkout page to create a sense of urgency to complete the payment process:

These extra design elements force a customer to take action sooner rather than later.

Final thoughts

Optimizing your conversion rate is an ongoing process. And testing your results is the only way to track your improvement.

Never go with your gut and always listen to the data. After all, sometimes an ugly site can out-convert a beautiful one.

Regardless, the design tips I demonstrated above will give you a solid foundation to start with. From there, you can further improve your website and optimize your conversion rate through repeated testing and tweaks. Good luck!

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Exciting New Tools for Designers, July 2020

Some of the changes we are seeing with where we work are starting to pop up in the type of new tools made for designers and developers. More tools with remote collaboration as a key feature are increasing in popularity. (You’ll find a few of those here.)

Here’s what new for designers this month.

Webdesign Toolbox

Webdesign Toolbox is a collection of tools, apps, and resources all in one location for designers and developers. The best part of this resource is that it is human-curated, so every tool is quality checked and makes the list because it has been tested and researched. Search the collection by design, dev, stock, typography, UX, or workflow tools (and more) and use them to help create more efficiently. The collection is constantly growing, too.

CodeStream

CodeStream might be the new-world workflow tool for web designers and developers. It is made for remote teams to review code right inside your IDE without breaking from development flow. You can post and review changes and comments are all independent of the code itself, even though they link to it.

Litur

Litur is a color management app for iOS. Use it to find and collect color swatches, create custom palettes, and even check color combinations against accessibility standards. The app can even generate color codes for you from swatches you find from a photo or image upload or create. The app works on mobile and desktop Mac devices and is a paid app.

Editor X

Editor X, which is still in beta, is a website building tool that combines advanced design and prototyping capabilities with secure web hosting and integrated business solutions. Go from an idea straight to production in a highly intuitive design workspace. The best feature might be exact design precision tools.

Grid Cheatsheet

Grid Cheatsheet is a visual and code-based set of “cheats” based on the W3C CSS Grid Specifications. What’s nice is it makes these guidelines easier to understand and use if reading through them makes you a little uneasy.

Tutorialist

Tutorialist brings together some of the best development tutorials on the web. All of the tutorials are free videos available on YouTube, and this project collects them all in one place.

Pure CSS Halftone Portrait from JPG

Pure CSS Halftone Portrait from JPG is a beautiful pen from Ana Tudor that shows how to change the visual representation of an image. The examples are brilliant and in true halftone fashion. The code snippet works with color, or black and white images as well.

VoiceText for Slack

VoiceText for Slack is another work from home productivity tool. Integrate it with Slack and send messages with text that’s transcribed right in your channels. It’s a free integration and supports 18 languages.

Feature Peek

Feature Peek is a developer tool that helps you get frontend staging environments on demand and gather team feedback earlier in the development process. It’s made for use with GitHub and works with a variety of other tools as well.

Formbutton

Formbutton is a simple and customizable pop-up form. (And we all know websites have plenty of them right now.) It connects to other services you already use, such as Google Sheets and MailChimp, and is simple to set up.

Blocksy Theme

Blocksy is a WordPress theme that’s made for non-coders. It’s a zippy and highly visual theme made for Gutenberg. It works with other builders and allows the user to customize pretty much everything visually. (There’s even a dark mode.) The theme is packed with tools and options and is a free download.

Oh My Startup Illustrations

Oh My Startup Illustrations is a set of vector illustrations in several categories featuring a popular style on many projects. Use the characters and scenes to create a semi-custom story for your startup project.

1mb

1mb is a code editor and host where you can create a static website with a custom domain and SSL included. The editor works in-browser and everything is saved in the cloud.

Linear

Linear is an issue tracking Mac app for teams. It’s designed to help streamline software projects, sprints, and tasks, and can integrate with standard tools such as Github, Figma, and Slack.

Hosting Checker

Hosting Checker solves a common issue – a client wants you to work on their website, but has no idea who hosts it. Hosting Checker shows the user hosting provider and IP address the website uses, along with where its server computers are located and the host’s contact details. It also claims to be 82% faster than other similar tools.

Spike

Spike alerts you to website incidents before customers. Create alerts and get a phone call, text message, email, or Slack notification right away. The tool provides unlimited alerts and integrations to you can stay on top of issues before they become real problems.

Magnus UI

Magnus UI is a framework that helps you building consistent user interfaces in React. It comes with plenty of components ready to use and you can customize the theme.

SpreadSimple

SpreadSimple uses data in Google Sheets to create styled websites with features such as filtering, search, sorting, cart, order collection via forms, and much more. Update the sheet and instantly see changes on the website.

WebP vs. JPEG

Google is starting to suggest using it’s WebP image format to decrease load times, because of the lighter file size. But is WebP better than the traditional JPEG? Developer Johannes Siipola tested the file types at different sizes to answer the question. The answer is a bit complicated, but sometimes it might be better; read the full analysis for more.

Oh Dear

Oh Dear is a website monitoring tool that can help you keep a check on websites. Monitor uptime, SSL certificates, broken links, and more with notifications that come right to you if there’s an issue.

Airconnect

Airconnect is a Zoom video conferencing alternative that you can use for your brand with a custom header, colors, and portal for clients. The tool includes video calling as well as the ability for customers to access their data and automate your onboarding process.

Free Faces

Free Faces is a curated collection of free typefaces that you can browse and use in projects. Search by type style with visual results that include a download link.

All the Roll

All the Roll is a fun novelty font for just the right type of project. It includes 167 characters with swash characters that can be added before or after certain letters.

Backrush

Backrush is a handwriting-style typeface with easy strokes and a pen-like feel. It includes thicker letterforms with nice swashes and a full character set.

Thuner

Thuner is a slab display font with interesting quirks. It’s made for larger than life designs. It includes a full uppercase character set and numerals.

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8 Design Secrets of B2B Vs B2C Websites

Web design clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds. One day, you’ll be designing a portfolio website for a voiceover artist, the next you’ll be creating a comprehensive ecommerce site for a leading retailer. In an ideal world, you’ll get to a point where you eventually specialize in a niche. However, you’ll need to master both avenues first.

The more time you spend in this industry, the more you’ll learn that every client comes with their own unique requirements and challenges to consider. However, there’s a particularly huge divide between the kind of web design projects you do for B2B clients, and the ones you do for B2C customers.

Both B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) websites need to be clear, concise, and aesthetically pleasing. They should always have a strong focus on user experience, and they need to work consistently across devices. However, being aware of the difference between B2B and B2C projects will help you to deliver better results to your customers.

Defining the Differences Between B2B and B2C Sites

Some web design trends remain consistent in any environment.

Whether you’re creating a site for a hairdresser, or a leading SaaS company, you’ll need to deliver responsive design, intuitive navigation, and excellent site security.

Your process is unlikely to differ from B2B to B2C much in terms of project milestones, phases, prototyping and wire-framing. The differences that arise between B2B and B2C projects often come in the approach you take to building certain elements.

Let’s take a closer look at the things you might need to consider:

1. The Target Audience

In any design project, it’s always important to keep the end customer in mind. Knowing your client’s target audience will help you to create both an image and a tone of voice that appeals to the right people.

B2B Websites

With B2B websites, you’ll be speaking to a range of highly-educated individuals who already have a general knowledge of your service. The aim here will be to show the end-user how you can help them achieve better results. For instance, m.io highlights “syncing communication” so you can “effortlessly chat” with your team.

The language and content of the website is all about highlighting the key benefits of the products, and the kind of outcomes that they can deliver. The Nielsen Norman Group reports that there’s often a lot of discussion between decision-makers when they’re checking out a B2B website.  

Designers need to work harder at convincing B2B buyers that they’re making the right decision. This is particularly true when you’re selling something like a software subscription that requires a lot of long—term investment.

B2C Websites

On the other hand, while B2B customers make decisions based on logic, information, and well-explained benefits, B2C customers are more influenced by emotion. They want quick solutions to their problems, and the opportunity to purchase from a brand that “understands” them.

Look at the Firebox website, for instance. It instantly highlights an ongoing sale at the top of the homepage, addressing any concerns a customer might have about price. That combined with a quirky layout full of authentic photos and bright colors means that customers are more inclined to take action.

2. The Purpose

Another factor that can vary from B2C to B2B websites, is the motive behind a customer’s purchase. Knowing what’s pushing a target audience to interact with a brand will help you to create a website that appeals to specific goals.

B2B Websites

B2B websites often aim to solve expensive and time-consuming problems for companies. To sell a decision-maker on the validity of a solution, it’s important to thoroughly explain what the solution is, how it works, and how it addressees a specific pain point.

Look at the Zoom website for instance, they don’t just tell people that they offer video conferencing, they address the practical applications of the platform:

B2C Websites

Consumers are a lot easier to appeal to in terms of emotional impact, because many of them come to a website looking to fulfill an urgent need. Because of this, many web designers can take advantage of things like urgency and demand to encourage conversions. For instance, look at this website from TravelZoo. It takes advantage of a customer’s desire to get away:

A B2B website needs to focus on providing information that helps companies to make more confident decisions. What’s more, with B2B sites, decisions are often made by several stakeholders, while B2C sites ask a single person to make a choice. A B2C website needs to address immediate concerns and connect with customers on an emotional level. B2C buyers still want to do their research on products or services, but the turnaround is much quicker, and often requires less information.

3. The Design Elements (Visual Appearance)

Just as the focus of your website design and the audience that you’re creating the experience for can differ from B2B to B2C websites, the visual elements of the design might change too.

B2B Websites

In most cases, B2B websites are all about presenting a highly professional and respectable image. You’ll notice a lot of safe and clear choices when it comes to typography and imagery. It’s unusual to see a B2B website that takes risks with things like illustrations and animations.

Look at the Green Geeks website for instance. Everything is laid out to encourage clarity and understanding. Information is easy to find, and there are no other issues that might distract a customer.

B2C Websites

On the other hand, B2C websites can be a little more daring. With so many different options to choose from, and most customers buying out of a sense of urgency or sudden demand, designers are under pressure to capture attention quick. This means that it’s much more likely to see large pieces of eye-catching imagery on B2C sites, with very little text.

Movement, like slideshows and animations often play more of a role here. Additionally, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to experiment more aggressively with color. Take a look at the Yotel website, for instance. There’s very little textual information here, but the appeal of the website is conveyed through sliding images:

4. Website Content

The way that information is conveyed on a B2B website is very different to the messages portrayed on a B2C site. Usually, everything from the language, to the amount of content that you use for these projects will differ drastically.

B2B Websites

When designing for a B2B website, you’ll need to be careful with content, as you’ll be speaking to a very mixed audience. If your site caters to different industries, you’ll need to ensure that you show authority, without using too much jargon. Some companies even create different pages on their site for specific customers. The aspin.co.uk website covers the benefits from a company, sale and integration perspective:

Rather than try to talk to all business owners about their differing communication pains, G-Suite anticipates its audience and creates pages for each.

B2C Websites

Alternatively, B2C websites can make things a little simpler. For instance, on glossybox.co.uk, there’s no need to provide a ton of information for different types of shopper, designers can appeal to one audience, i.e. the “beauty addict”:

In both B2B and B2C websites, the aim of the content should always be to answer any questions that the end user might have.

5. CTA Buttons

Call to Action buttons are often a crucial part of the web design journey. However, it’s sometimes difficult to determine where they should be placed, or how many buttons you need.

B2B Websites

Because the decision to buy something won’t always happen immediately with a B2B website, these kinds of sites often use a variety of CTAs. For instance, you might have a “Request a Quote” button at the top of a page, as well as a Sign in button.

On the Klaviyo site, for instance, you can request a demo, sign up or log in:

You can place CTAs lower on the page with B2B websites too, as it’s more likely that your customers will be scrolling through the site to collect more information before they decide to buy.

B2C Websites

On the other hand, with B2C websites, you usually don’t need to give your visitors as many options. A single option to “Add to Cart”, or perhaps an extra choice to “Add to Favorites” is all your user will need. Customers need to instantly see what they need to do next as soon as they arrive on a page:

On the Evil Hair website, you immediately see how to add a product to your cart.

Remember, the sales process is a lot quicker with B2C customers. This means that you need your CTA buttons to be front and center as soon as someone clicks on a page.

6. Contact Forms

In a similar vein, the way that you design your contact forms will also depend on the end-user that the website wants to appeal to. There’s a very different process for getting in touch on a B2B website, compared to a B2C site.

B2B Websites

B2B websites often require longer contact forms, as clients need to collect additional information about a prospect’s position in a company, and what that company does. B2B companies need to share things like what they’re looking for in a service, and how many users they have, so a sales team knows what kind of demonstration to give.

As with any strategy for contact form design, you should always only include the fields that your client needs and no more. If you demand too much from any client, you could send them running in the opposite direction. Check out this straightforward option from Ironpaper, for instance:

The form addresses as many relevant questions as possible without overwhelming the customer. Because the site handles things like design, it makes sense that they would ask for a link to the company’s existing website.

B2C Websites

On a B2C website, there are very different approaches to contact forms. You may have a dedicated contact form on your website where people can get in touch if they have any questions. A FAQ page where customers can serve themselves is another great way to help your client stand out from the competition. Check out this option from River Island, for instance:

On the other hand, you might implement pop-up contact forms into a website if your client wants to collect emails for email marketing. In that case, it’s important to make sure that you’re only asking for the information you need, and nothing more.

The easier it is to sign up for a newsletter, the more likely it is that customers will do it. Being able to enter their name and email address and nothing else will make the signup seem less tasking.

7. Search Bars and Navigation

Whether you’re designing for B2B or B2C companies, navigation will always be a critical concern. End users need to find it easy to track down the information that they need about a company, whether they’re looking for a particular product or a blog.

B2B Websites

On a B2B website, the search bar often takes up a lot less prominence than it does on a B2C site. That’s because all of the information that a client needs, and the buttons they need to take their next steps, are already visible front-and-center.

As a designer, it will be your job to push as many people to convert as possible, by making the purchasing journey the most appealing path for visitors. For instance, on the Copper website, the “Try Free” buttons are much easier to see than “Continue with Google” or “Login”:

With B2B sites, the focus is on a very specific goal. Although navigation still needs to be available, it doesn’t need to be as obvious as it is on a B2C site.

B2C Websites

On the other hand, most B2C websites offer a wide range of products, and they’re perfectly happy for their customers to purchase anything, as long as they eventually convert. Because of this, they make navigation a much more significant part of the customer journey.

The search bar is often presented at the very top of the screen where customers can see it immediately. Additionally, there may be multiple pages within certain product categories, so that customers can browse through the items they’re most interested in. For instance, look at the homepage on the IWoot website:

The navigation elements in B2C websites need to be a lot more obvious, because consumers are more likely to use them when they’re searching through their options.

8. Social Proof and Testimonials

Finally, social proof is one of the things that will work well for improving conversions on any kind of website. When your customers aren’t sure whether or not they should buy from you, a review or testimonial could be just the thing to push them over the edge.

B2B Websites

On a B2B website, the decision-making process takes a lot longer. Because of this, it’s worth including as much social proof as possible in every part of the website. Client testimonials, reviews and ratings, and even high-profile company logos make all the difference. Many B2B websites include a page dedicated to case studies highlighting the success of other brands.

Your client might even go as far as to ask for a page that highlights their awards and recognition or showcases comparison tables that pit their products against the competition.

For instance, Authority Hacker has a “what the pros say about us” section as social proof:

B2C Websites

With a consumer website, you can include consumer ratings and reviews wherever you like. However, it’s most likely that you’ll want to have a place where customers can see the reviews of other clients on the product pages themselves. On the EMP website the company gives users the option to click on the star review section to jump to a different space on the page where testimonials are listed. This ensures that customers don’t have to scroll through a lot of excess information if they just want to add an item straight to their cart.

Designing for B2B vs B2C

In the world of web design, no two customers are ever the same. While you’ll need to adapt your processes to suit each customer you interact with, you can set your expectations in advance by learning the differences between B2B and B2C strategies.

 

Featured images by Chris Ross Harris and Mike Kononov.

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Why Do Websites Look the Same (And Should We Care)?

If we don’t question this kind of design homogenization, do we put ourselves at risk of perpetuating the same mistakes in the years to come? Or is it even a mistake to begin with?

Today, I’m going to look at four things that are likely causing this, and what you can do to break the mold.

1. Education

We used to have a design school in every city in the world, each with its own design style or, at the very least, the encouragement of its designers to be creative and come up with something new.

These days, though, traditional design education isn’t as popular as it once was. According to Design Census 2019, only about a third of working designers have a formal education and degree:

The rest have been trained through a variety of means:

  • Online learning (17%)
  • Self taught (12%)
  • Workshops (10%)
  • Mentorship (6%)
  • Certificate programs (4%)

Cost and convenience are definitely two factors influencing this shift towards online learning methods. And with a wealth of resources online to teach them how to design and code, why not go that route? Plus, designers have to keep learning new things in order to remain competitive, so it’s not as though a degree is the be-all and end-all of their design training.

Plus, there isn’t as much demand for it from employers. Unless you plan on working for one of the top global marketing agencies, many hiring companies just want to see proof in the form of a portfolio and maybe have you do a test job.

Now, I’m not saying that online courses and other informal design education don’t foster creativity. However, in order to make them cost-efficient and quick to get through, they have to focus on teaching essential best practices, which means less room for experimentation. Perhaps more importantly, their curriculums are guided by fewer voices. So, this could likely be one of the culprits.

2. Design Blogs and Vlogs

You have to wonder if all the design blogs out there (yes, like Webdesigner Depot) impair designers’ ability to break free from the homogeneity of websites.

I think the answer to that is both “yes,” and “no”.

Why, Yes?

What is the purpose of a web design blog? Mainly it’s to educate new and existing designers on best practices, new trends, and web standards.

By their very nature, they really should be teaching web designers the same kinds of things. Let me show you an example.

This is a Google search for “web design trends 2020”:

Most design blogs will publish trends predictions around January 1. And herein lies the problem. The writers/designers can only deviate so far from what we know to be true when writing on the same topic… so these sites end up with similar recommendations.

For instance, the top search results recommended similar things for 2020:

  • Dark mode
  • Hand-drawn illustrations
  • Immersive 3D
  • Glowing colors
  • Minimalist navigation
  • Geometric shapes
  • Inclusivity
  • Accessibility

When web designers receive the same guidance no matter where they turn, it’s only logical that they’d end up creating websites that adhere to those same practices.

Why, No?

Because I write for web design publications, I can tell you that there’s a big difference in the kinds of content some of them publish.

For instance, I find that WebDesigner Depot isn’t interested in rehashing what everyone else is writing about this month. We’re given topics that challenge us to think outside the box and present readers with meaningful insights and recommendations.

So, I think that finding design blogs that push the boundaries and don’t just want to recap what everyone else is saying is really important. That’s how web designers are going to master the basic skills they need to succeed while getting inspired to try new things.

3. Designs Tools and Frameworks

This is another one that’s not as cut and dried. I think it depends on the tools used and the intent to use them.

Where Issues Start to Arise

There are certain site builder solutions that you’re going to be hard-pressed to create something innovative with. The same goes with using templates from sources like Dribbble. It’s just the nature of the beast.

If your goal is to create a cheap website very quickly for a client, then you’re probably going to use a cheap builder to do so. With ready-made templates and a lot of the work already done for you, you can create something that looks good with little effort.

When you’re limited by time and cost, of course you’re going to rely on shortcuts like cheap site builders or boring (but professional) design templates.

How to be More Careful

You can run into these kinds of issues with more flexible content management systems like WordPress or frameworks like Bootstrap, too.

Whenever you rely heavily on ready-made templates, pre-defined styles, or pre-built components, you run the risk of someone else’s work informing your own.

The solution is simple: Use demos, templates, UI kits, and so on as a base. Let them lay down the foundation that you work from.

But if you want your website to look different from the sea of lookalikes, you’re going to have to spend much more time developing a unique visual style that’s equally as effective in its mission. Which also means moving beyond clients that have small budgets or low expectations.

4. User Data

Data gathering is an important part of the job you do as a web designer.

You research the target user (or the existing user, when applicable). You look at industry trends as well as the competition to formulate an idea of what you need to build and how you’re going to do it. And you also use resources like Nielsen Norman Group and Think with Google that put out definitive research on what users want.

Even with the most niche of audiences, consumers’ wants and needs are all basically the same. So, obviously, you have to design experiences that align with them. If you deviate too much from what they expect from your site or brand, you run the risk of creating too much friction.

Is This a Bad Thing?

It’s not in terms of usability. If we build simple, predictable and user-friendly interfaces based on data that successfully drive visitors to convert, that’s great. So long as the content remains strong and the UI attractive, there’s nothing wrong with that approach.

But…

This is the same issue presented by templates and site builders. If you do exactly what’s needed and not much more, your site is going to look and act just like everyone else’s. Which comes at the cost of your brand reputation.

Just look at Google’s Material Design. This design system may have made it easier for web and app designers to create new solutions that were user-friendly and responsive, but there was just too much spelled out. And this led to a slew of Material Design lookalikes everywhere you turned.

This is the whole reason why companies take the time to craft a unique selling proposition. Without a USP, brands become interchangeable in the eyes of consumers.

So, again, my suggestion here is to use data to formulate a strategy for building your website. But don’t forget to spend time adding a unique style, and voice of the brand to the site.

Wrap-Up

It seems like, despite all that we’ve learned to do, websites are becoming less and less diverse in terms of design. And I think a lot of that is due to the fact that it’s much easier to design websites today than it was ten, or even five years ago.

Modern-day education, resources, tools, and consumer data take a lot of the questions and the work out of building websites. Which is good… but only to a point.

Unless you’re building websites for clients who have absolutely no budget, you can’t afford to skimp on the creativity and personalization that will set their website apart. Yes, you need to adhere to tried-and-true practices and standards, but beyond that, you should be experimenting.

 

Featured image uses photo by Kari Shea.

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Show Them Your Assets – Tips for Handing Off Designs to Developers

You’ve been working away at your latest design project, and the client has given the go-ahead on your lovingly created digital concepts. Now it’s time to bring those designs to life, and you have a developer queued up to do just that.

So your part’s done, right? Not quite. You’re going to want to make sure your developer has the best head start they can in order to create the site as you imagined.

Below are a few tips to make that handover process a little easier.

Communicate to Make It Great

Get Talking

Scheduling a face-to-face meeting with your developer to talk over your project’s specifics and ambitions will help align your expectations and make the intent behind your concepts more clear. It’s quite likely they’ll even ask questions and request assets you haven’t even thought of yet!

It’s not just a one-and-done thing either, your developer’s going to have questions or requirements that arise as the project progresses. Deciding on a communication channel to allow easy discussion will help you both immensely.

Annotating Your Concepts

Developers might seem like magicians with the way they bring your websites to life, but they’re not clairvoyant! Annotating your concepts where advanced functionality is required reduces ambiguity and makes it more likely that your cool, quirky idea is going to make it to production. If it’s a feature that’s particularly unusual, you might want to find an example of a website or code sandbox that does something similar.

An example of Figma’s comment tool in use to make developer notes.

Figma and Sketch both have comment functionality in order to make annotations a little easier, also allowing multiple parties to comment. If dealing with PDFs, there is also an annotation tool available through Adobe Acrobat.

Specify the Basics

The basis of modern front end development revolves around DRY thinking. Some might argue thinking about code can be pretty dry, but we’re not talking about that – in this case, DRY stands for Don’t Repeat Yourself.  Most developers will tackle a project by starting with defining variables: what colors, font sizes, grid columns… anything that can be reused! Good, consistent design follows this same principle – although it’s a habit that can be hard to get going at first.

Tip: It’s always easier to define variables if this mentality is approached towards the start of the project!  

Colors

Make a style guide that specifies the colors you’ve used in your designs. Think about their logical applications to help signpost how they might work as a variable – for example, what colors did you use for paragraph text, hyperlinks and backgrounds? Did you consider colors to convey status messaging, such as successes, warnings and errors?

Typefaces

Which fonts have you used for your project? Is there a consistent set of font sizes you used throughout? If you haven’t already, maybe consider a ratio-based type scale – I like to use ModularScale to help with this.

Basic HTML Elements

Think about general styling for these basic html tags:

  • Paragraphs <p>
  • Headings <h1–h6>
  • Bullet lists <ul> and numbered lists <ol>
  • Emphasized text <b>, <strong> and <em>

Buttons

How about buttons and links? What should they do when they’re hovered over, focused (using the tab key on a keyboard) or disabled?

Forms Fields and Inputs

What should form fields look like? Is there any validation checking that should occur when a form is submitted?  How about checkboxes and radio buttons?

It’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to cover absolutely every single eventuality – allow your developer to use some common sense to fill in the gaps, and be available to them if they have any questions. In the words of John Maxwell and your aunt’s home office wall sticker, teamwork makes the dream work.

Get Your Favic-on

Favicons are widely recognized as the small icon that appears to the left of the site title on your browser’s tab bar. Nowadays, the application of your site’s favicon is much further reaching, showing up in Google search results and app tiles. There’s also extra theming options available, such as the ability to customize the color of Google Chrome Android’s browser bar color for your site.

Using a generator site such as realfavicongenerator takes the pain out of much of this decision-making, allowing you to upload specific graphics as desired, creating silhouettes of your icon for Windows Metro tiles and macOS Safari pins, and packaging everything into easy-to-use files and code.

 Compress Your Images

Nobody wants to load a 20MB image when they’re on a slow connection or a data plan – it pays dividends to plan ahead and downsize your images so that they’re production-ready for the web. If you’re worried image compression is going to harm your image quality, fear not – you can go a long way with image compression before quality is seriously compromised.

  1. Start by reducing the image resolution – for batch jobs, I use Adobe Photoshop’s image processor script to downsize images to fit 1920 x 1200 pixels
  2. Alternatively, if you’re working on a static project – where specific images will be used only in specific places – you could use your design software (nearly all mainstream UI software allows you to do this now) to export your images at 2x size to support devices with high pixel densities.
  3. I also convert my image color profiles to SRGB to ensure consistency across most modern display types (this one’s optional)
  4. I then take my newly downsized images and run them through imageOptim at 80% quality. Generally I would aim to get my images under 300kb – if there are any that are still significantly over this target once compressed, I’d run these through again at 70% quality (I wouldn’t recommend going lower than this, though).

Don’t forget you can also do this for PNGs! Enabling PNGCrush in imageOptim will let you significantly reduce the size of PNGs… just be ready for it to take a while.

Make Your Vectors SVG-Easy to Use

If your design contains graphics or illustrations you created using vector software, it can be used on the web as an SVG file. Usually, these files will be a lot smaller than JPGs or PNGs. You can export graphics in most (if not all) vector software in this format.

Optionally, you could use imageOptim or SVGOMG to compress the SVG code without sacrificing quality. Your developer might already use a script that does this automatically when processing the site for production, so it may be worth asking ahead.

Get Your Licenses in Check

If you’re using premium fonts, make sure you’ve purchased a webfont license so you can hand over the correct files to the developer. I’d recommend doing this sooner rather than later – although not often, occasionally web versions of fonts can have slightly different bounding boxes to their desktop counterparts, making it a real pain for developers to work with further down the line.

If you’ve been using samples of stock photos (or if you’ve been going crazy lifting whatever you can find on Google Images), make sure everything is kosher before you go live. Make sure you purchase licensed photos, and if certain photos you want to use require attribution, make the developer aware of this.

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Linux Namespaces and Go Started to Mix

In this blog post, we will follow up the "Linux Namespaces and Go Don’t Mix" post, and we will show how the problem mentioned in the previous post was resolved in the recent release of Go 1.10.

Problem

To recap, the main problem was that the Go runtime did not allow us to safely change a local state of an OS thread ("M" in the Go notation) scheduling a goroutine, even if the thread had been locked with runtime.LockOSThread.

Source de l’article sur DZONE