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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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When Does Emotional Design Cross a Line?

Designing for emotion in and of itself is not a problem. Websites are bound to elicit an emotional reaction from visitors, even if it’s as simple as them feeling at ease because of the soft, pastel color palette you’ve designed the site with.

I don’t want to outright villainize emotional design. Unless there is some form of unethical manipulation at play, designing for your visitors’ emotions can actually provide them with a more positive experience.

So, here’s what I’d like to look at today:

  1. What is emotional design?
  2. When does emotional design cross a line?
  3. What’s the right way to design for emotions?

1. What Is Emotional Design?

When we look at emotional design in the context of a website, we’re focused on three types of emotional reactions:

a. Visceral Reactions

Visceral reactions are instinctive ones. Usually, visitors experience these as their first impressions of a website or web page. For instance, a cluttered or otherwise poorly designed homepage might leave visitors feeling overwhelmed, hesitant, or wanting to flea.

A minimally designed homepage interface, on the other hand, might have visitors not feeling much of a reaction at all. In this case, no feeling is a good feeling.

Like Irene Au said:

b. Behavioral Reactions

Behavioral reactions stem from the usability of a website. There’s a lot that can stir up negative emotions here, like:

  • Extra-long contact forms
  • Confusing menus
  • Error-ridden content
  • Slow-loading pages
  • And more

Again, if a website is easy to get through and attractively designed, visitors aren’t likely going to “ooh” and “aah” with every step they take on the site. And that’s a good thing. If they’re focusing more on how the design looks, they’re not paying attention to the brand’s actual offer.

c. Reflective Reactions

Reflective reactions are the third type of emotions we design for.

This is complicated because there’s a lot wrapped up in how visitors feel about a website after the fact. Sometimes the most well-designed interfaces and experiences can’t save them from a bad experience, whether they realized too late that the products were overpriced or they were treated poorly by a live chat representative.

As a web designer, all you can really do is to make sure you’re working with reputable companies and then aligning the designs of their sites with their values.

When Does Emotional Design Cross a Line?

There’s already enough social pressure online; your website doesn’t need to be one of those places, too

Emotional design shouldn’t be about manipulating consumers’ emotions. In most cases, emotional design is about controlling the environment of the website so that emotions don’t go spinning wildly out of control — in either direction.

It’s when we take what we know about influencing someone’s emotional state to monetarily benefit from it that emotional design becomes problematic.

Here are some ways in which you might negatively impact the emotions of your visitors through design:

FOMO

The fear-of-missing-out isn’t always a bad marketing strategy. However, when FOMO is used for the purposes of rushing consumers to take action now and without time to really think it through, it definitely can be.

Chances are good they’ll feel badly no matter what. Either because they regret the rushed (and probably unnecessary, or expensive) decision or they blame themselves for missing out on an opportunity to be like everyone else.

There’s already enough social pressure online; your website doesn’t need to be one of those places, too. So, be careful with how you present customers with limits (on time, on products, etc.) or how you frame the call-to-action (“If you don’t buy this now, expect to fail/be miserable/suffer even more”).

Analysis Paralysis

It doesn’t matter why people specifically seek out your website. They have a problem or a hole in their life, and they’re looking for something to fix it.

Now, you can’t help it if the website has too much to offer in the way of options or solutions. Companies have to provide every possible solution/option so their users don’t feel like they have to go somewhere else to get what they need. However, the way you design these options can lead to a negative emotional state if you’re not careful.

For instance, your visitors might experience analysis paralysis, where there are so many options that it becomes impossible to take action. Similar to FOMO, this can lead to regret either with the decision they made or the one they were incapable of making.

By simplifying how many choices are presented at once, or designing a clear and supportive pathway to the right option of many, your website will leave visitors feeling much more positively about the whole experience.

Trendy Nostalgia

Nostalgia can be a great way to play upon the positive associations and emotions consumers feel towards an era gone by or a place they once knew. But, again, it depends on how you design with it.

For example, if you design a vintage website for an agency launched in 2019 and run by a group of 20-somethings, it might come off feeling disingenuous once customers start to catch on.

For a restaurant known as the oldest bar in the state, that would be a different story. That nostalgically designed website would be a real part of its story; not just done as a sales gimmick. As a result, customers would likely embrace those warm feelings for the “good ol’ days” they get from the website.

Also, think about how quickly nostalgia fades if it’s done to align with a trend. Unless you’re committed to redesigning a website the second that nostalgic feeling falls out of favor, you could be condemning your client to an outdated website mere months after launch.

What’s the Right Way to Design for Emotions?

Like I said before, there’s nothing wrong with designing for emotions. You just have to make sure your website visitors don’t feel manipulated and that they welcome the pleasant feelings the site gives them.

make sure your website visitors don’t feel manipulated

It might seem harmless at the time. After all, what are they doing on the site if they weren’t interested in the first place? And it’s not like they were bullied into spending their money, right?

But if they sense in any way that their response was driven by an emotion they wouldn’t have otherwise felt, they’re not going to be happy. While it might not be enough for them to cancel their subscription or services, or to return products they bought, it will definitely leave a bad taste in their mouth. And, ultimately, it can cost your website loyal visitors and customers.

So, if you’re going to use emotional design on a website, do it to improve their experience, not to put more money into your clients’ pockets. That means your emotional design choices need to be honest, transparent, and focused on eliciting naturally positive emotions like:

  • Satisfaction
  • Feeling impressed
  • Trust
  • Calm
  • Feeling valued

Go back to the three emotional reactions I brought up earlier. If you can design a website to give off a positive first impression, and to be pain-free and usable, you can spend the rest of your time injecting small bits of happiness and positivity into the website with color choices, friendly micro-interactions, personalized content, and more.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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5 Best Free Courses and Resources to Level Up As a Web Designer

I often see freelancers on social media asking what the secret is to working fewer hours, making more money, and helping new clients to find them. While those things tend to happen the longer you’ve been freelancing, it doesn’t happen without some effort.

If you’re wondering how you can change things so that your business becomes more profitable and easier to manage, education is the key.

But it’s not just mastering new design techniques that will take you to the next level. It’s important to invest your time in a well-rounded education so that you can grow not just as a web designer, but also as a freelancer and business owner.

The good news is that you don’t have to spend a ton of cash on courses or resources. In the following round-up, I’m going to share some of the best free courses to help you level up.

5 Best Free Courses and Resources for Web Designers

Rather than sign up for Udemy, Skillshare and other premium course membership sites, I recommend taking a bootstrapping approach to self-education. I mean, the whole point in learning new skills and strengthening existing ones is so you can run a better business and make more money, right?

Once you have extra funds to throw at premium courses, definitely explore those options. For now, let’s focus on the free courses and resources that’ll help get you to that next level:

1. edX

edX was created by Harvard and MIT in order to provide university-level training and education to anyone, anywhere. While you can’t get certified without paying a few hundred dollars, you can go through entire courses for free.

Courses are offered over a wide range of categories. As a freelance web designer, you’d do well to focus on the following areas:

Design
Learn more than just how to design beautiful interfaces. Learn about the technical side of it, too — things like AI, IoT, and cybersecurity.

Computer Science
Learn web development and coding.

Business & Management
Learn essential business skills like:

  • Project management
  • Finance management
  • Leadership
  • Marketing and analysis

Communication
Learn things like branding, negotiation, reputation management, and critical thinking.

2. Envato Tuts+

Envato Tuts+ might be best known for its succinct step-by-step design and development tutorials. However, it has a new section of free video courses to take advantage of.

Although you won’t learn any soft skills here, this is a great resource if you want to master the tools of your trade.

Free courses give you a deeper look at tools like:

  • HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Adobe’s suite of software
  • Sketch
  • WordPress
  • Video conferencing tools

3. YouTube

YouTube is more than just a place to watch entertaining videos. There are some amazing YouTube channels for web designers at all skill levels.

When choosing a design channel and course to follow, look for ones that are well organized. If they’re just posting videos at random without any rhyme or reason, it’ll be difficult to focus on and master one skill set before moving onto the next.

Here are the channels I recommend you follow:

Flux

Learn skills related to:

  • Web design
  • Getting started as a freelancer
  • Strengthening your processes
  • Building your portfolio
  • Design theory and strategy

CharliMarieTV

Learn skills related to:

  • Web design
  • Building sites with Figma or Webflow
  • Career paths for designers
  • Productivity hacks

NNgroup

Learn skills related to UX:

  • Web design
  • User psychology
  • Usability testing
  • Design thinking
  • Research and data analysis
  • Journey mapping
  • Get access to UX Conference seminars, too

4. Moz Whiteboard Fridays

Even if you don’t offer SEO as a standalone service, it’s important for web designers to understand the role they play in SEO and to stay abreast of the latest and greatest strategies.

If you haven’t tuned in for one of Moz’s Whiteboard Fridays yet, I’d recommend you start now.

Some of the topics might not be relevant to you (like creating a content strategy). However, there are others you’ll get some great tips from, like the one above that talks about creating great visuals, preparing web pages with tags and schema markup, and optimizing for featured snippets.

5. Nir Eyal – Indistractible

Nir Eyal has made a name for himself over the years as an author and presenter on the subject of human psychology and behavior. His first book (Hooked) examined consumer behavior and how to design around it. His second (Indistractible) turned the focus on us — the doers and creators who build experiences and products for consumers.

The first of his free resources to explore is this 30-minute presentation on why we’re so easily distracted and how to keep those distractions (and ourselves) from getting in the way.

The second free resource to snag up is the 80-page workbook available on the homepage. Here’s a preview of what it looks like:

You’ll learn about common distractions, identify those that are specific to you, and then work through exercises to defeat them.

If this is something you’re struggling with, these resources will empower you to make a much-needed change.

BONUS: WebDesigner Depot

Although WebDesigner Depot doesn’t offer video courses, I consider each of the articles contained within this site to be mini-courses of their own. And you’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about becoming a web designer and growing your freelance business.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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12 Best Google Design & Development Tools

Google resembles an iceberg: there’s the part above the water we can see and use everyday; there’s also the part beneath the water, that we don’t see and know little about.

While many of us are concerned about the aspects of Google we don’t see — the parts that threaten our privacy, or monopolize the web — there’s no denying that Google offers some amazing products and tools, many of them free, all from the convenience of a single login.

Today we’re going to take a look at 12 tools from Google that really do bring something positive to the table.

1. Polymer

Polymer is an open-source JavaScript library from Google for building web applications using Web Components. The platform comes with a ton of libraries and tools to help designers and developers unlock the web’s potential by taking advantage of features like HTTP/2, Web Components, and Service Workers. 

The main feature of Polymer is Web Components. With Web Components, you can share custom elements to any site, work seamlessly with any browser’s built-in elements, and effectively use frameworks of all kinds. Products like LitElement (a simple base class for creating fast, lightweight web components) and PWA Starter Kit make Polymer easy to use. If you like, you can build your app entirely out of Web Components.

2. Lighthouse

Google Lighthouse is an open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages. The software allows you to audit web pages for performance, SEO, accessibility, and more. You can run Lighthouse using ChromeDevTools, directly from the command line, or as a Node module. 

To use Lighthouse in Google Chrome, just go to the URL you want to audit (you can audit any URL on the web), open ChromeDevTools, and click the Audits tab. After you have run the audit, Lighthouse will give you an in-depth report on the web page. 

With these reports, you will see which parts of your web page you need to optimize. Each report has a reference doc that explains why that audit is important and also shows you the steps you can take to fix it. 

You can also use Lighthouse CL to prevent regression on your sites. Using Lighthouse Viewer, you can view and share reports online. You can also share reports as JSON or GitHub Gists. 

Lighthouse also comes with a feature called Stack Packs that allows Lighthouse to detect what platform a site is built on. It also displays specific stack-based recommendations.

3. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the gold standard of analytics services. Google analytics can be installed on your site for free with a small amount of JavaScript and allows you to see all kinds of details about your site visitors, like what browser they’re using, and where they’re from.

By using Google Analytics you can make decisions about your site based on science, and therefore be somewhat confident that the decisions you make will result in the outcome you are expecting.

4. Flutter

Flutter is Google’s UI toolkit for building natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase. The toolkit is open source and free to use. The best part of Flutter is that it works with existing code. 

The toolkit has a layered architecture that allows for full customization, which results in fast rendering and flexible designs. It also comes with fully-customizable widgets that allow you to build native interfaces in minutes. With these widgets, you will be able to add platform features such as scrolling, navigation, icons, and fonts to provide a full native performance on both iOS and Android.

Flutter also has a feature called hot reload that allows you to easily build UIs, add new features, and fix bugs faster. You can also compile Flutter code to native ARM machine code using Dart native compilers. 

5. Google API Explorer

Google has a huge library of APIs that are available to developers but finding these APIs can be difficult. Google API Explorer makes it easy for developers to locate any API. On the Google API Explorer web page, you will see a complete list of the entire API library. You can easily scroll through the list or use the search box to filter through the API list. 

The best part of Google API Explorer is that each link to a reference page comes with more details on how to use the API. API Explorer is an excellent way to try out methods in the Monitoring API without having to write any code.

6. Puppeteer

Puppeteer is a project from the Google Chrome team. The platform enables web developers to control a Chrome (or any other Chrome DevTools Protocol based browser) and execute common actions, much like in a real browser. Puppeteer is also a Node library and it provides a high-level API for working with headless Chrome. It is also a useful tool for scraping, testing, and automating web pages. 

Here are some things you can do with Puppeteer: generate screenshots and PDFs of pages, UI testing, test Chrome Extensions, automate form submission, generate pre-rendered content, and crawl Single-Page Applications. 

7. Codelabs

Google Developer Codelabs is a handy tool for beginner developers and even advanced developers who want to improve their knowledge. Codelabs provide a guided, tutorial, hands-on coding experience. Codelabs’ site is broken down into several tutorial sessions on different topics. 

With the tutorials on Codelabs, you can learn how to build applications from scratch. Some of the tutorial categories include Augmented reality, TensorFlow, Analytics, Virtual Analytics, G Suite, Search, Google Compute Engine, and Google APIs on iOS. 

8. Color Tool

Color Tool makes it easy for web designers to create, share, and apply colors to their UI. It also measures the accessibility level for any color combination before exporting to the palette. The tool comes with 6 user interfaces and offers over 250 colors to choose from. 

The tool is also very easy to use. All you need to do is pick a color and apply it to the primary color scheme; switch to the secondary color scheme, and pick another color. You can also switch to Custom to pick your own colors. After you have selected all your colors, use the Accessibility feature to check if all is good before exporting it to your palette. 

9. Workbox

Workbox is a set of JavaScript libraries and Node modules. The JavaScript libraries make it easy to add offline support to web apps. The Node modules make it easy to cache assets and offer other features to help users build Progressive Web Apps. Some of these features include pre-caching, runtime caching, request routing, background sync, debugging, and greater flexibility than sw-precache and sw-toolbox. 

With Workbox, you can add a quick rule that enables you to cache Google fonts, images, JavaScript, and CSS files. Caching these files will make your web page to run faster and also consume less storage. You can also pre-cache your files in your web app using their CLI, Node module, or webpack plugin. 

10. PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights is a handy tool from Google Developers that analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions on how to make the page faster. It gives reports on the performance of a web page on both desktop and mobile devices. At the top of the report, PageSpeed Insights provides a score that summarizes the page’s performance. 

11. AMP on Google

AMP pages load faster and also look better than standard HTML pages on mobile devices. AMP on Google allows you to enhance your AMP pages across Google. It is a web component framework that allows you to create user-first websites, ads, emails, and stories. One benefit of AMP is that it allows your web pages to load almost instantly across all devices and platforms hence improving the user’s experience. 

12. Window Resizer

When creating websites, it is important that developers test them for responsive design – this is where Window Resizer comes in. Window Resizer is a Chrome extension that resizes the browser window so that you can test your responsive design on different screen resolutions. The common screen sizes offered are desktop, laptop, and mobile, but you can also add custom screen sizes. 

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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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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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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All Things Java 8 [Tutorials]


Java 8
No matter what version of the JDK we are on, Java 8 is not going anywhere.

Java 8 introduced a new era of Java. Everything from lambda expressions and functional programming to Streams and collections — DZone was there to document it all.

So whether you’re migrating over to Java 9 or Java 11, or maybe even Java 13, Java 8 concepts and features are still very much alive in the JDK. And understanding these core concepts can help tremendously when it’s time to move beyond Java 8.

Source de l’article sur DZONE

Default Implementations Coming to Interfaces With C# 8

C# 8.0 will introduce new language feature — default implementations of interface members. This means that we can define a body-to-interface member and implementing class that doesn’t implement the given interface member and will use the default one from interface itself. Here’s my deep-dive and analysis of default implementions of interfaces.

Default Implementations of Interface Members

Let’s start with a classic example based on Mads Torgersen’s blog post, Default implementations in interfaces, and take a look at this famous logger example. Let there be an interface for a logger.

Source de l’article sur DZONE

Responsive design : l’approche « Mobile first » – Source : Le Nouvel Economiste

La mobilité et la multiplicité des écrans, nouveau casse-tête des éditeurs de sites pour distribuer des contenus sur n’importe quel support avec une qualité d’expérience optimale.

Cet article publié sur le Nouvel Economiste aborde cette problématique et l’orientation prise par les éditeurs de contenu qui considère que le point d’entrée du digital à partir des smartphones est prépondérant et amène de fait à une approche « Mobile first » dans la conception des interfaces.

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