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5 Biggest Challenges Web Design Agencies Face

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

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

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

Challenges in Modern Web Design

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

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

1. Appealing User Experience

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

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

2. Working With a Budget

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

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

3. Integrating Third-Party Functionality

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

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

4. Suitability to Different Devices

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

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

5. Security of Personal Information

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

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

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

Adopting Site-Building Platforms

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Featured image via Pexels.

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

Making Minimalism Functional in Web Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Functional Minimalism

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

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

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

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

The Functional Rules of Minimalist Web Design

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

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

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

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

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

1. Focus on the Essentials

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

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

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

2. Embrace the Positives of Negative Space

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

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

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

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

3. Make it Obvious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Set Great Expectations with the Top of the Screen

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Use Functional Minimalism in the Right Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

Minimalism Can be Functional

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

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

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

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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Branding 101: Choosing the Right Business Name

When starting a new business (or even venturing into the world of freelancing for the first time), there are some really big, important steps you have to take.

Step #1 is choosing the right business name for your brand identity.

Your business name isn’t something you can casually choose either — especially if you have lofty long-term goals for your company. It’s not as though you can’t change the name down the road, but that comes with a ton of work and will require you to rebuild pretty much everything all over again: your visual brand identity, your reputation, and your SEO…

So, it’s a good idea to spend time choosing a business name that’s going to work for you now and long into the future.

Today, we’re going to go through the process of how to name your brand. These questions will have you thinking beyond just “What name do I like the sound of?” and have you more focused on important questions like “What is my unique value proposition?”.

Let’s get started:

How to Name Your New Business

For those of you considering taking the easy way out and using a business name generator tool, let me show you why that’s a bad idea:

This is a list of business names suggested to me when I told the generator that my business is related to “design”:

  • Design
  • Normal Design
  • Regional Design
  • Design Partner
  • Design Stock

Even the more unique names on the list are unusable; they have no connection to me personally or to the kind of business I plan to start.

This is why it’s so important to sort out your brand identity and make sure you pick a business name that resonates with you, and your target audience. To do this yourself, answer the following seven questions:

1. What Services Will You Provide Or Products Will You Sell?

The one thing that name generators get right is including a descriptive word related to your business. That way, it doesn’t take an actual visit to your website or a look through your portfolio to figure out what you do.

Even if you have a very niche specialty, sum up your offering in one or two words. For instance:

  • Web design
  • Digital design
  • Design & development
  • UX design
  • Graphic design

Unless you run your business through your own name (which I’ll talk about shortly), your business name should include a simplified version of your offering in it.

2. Who Is Your Target User Persona?

A user persona is a fictional character created using the demographics and psychology of your ideal customer or client. You can use Hubspot’s Make My Persona generator to create a card that documents these details:

Once you sort out who you serve, what makes them tick, and how it fits into the bigger picture of their business, you can better pitch your solution to them.

For instance, Joanna above is a real estate agent and owner whose primary goal is to capture leads and generate sales. You know how effective a real estate website can be for improving an agent’s visibility online and streamlining how they earn money.

So, including words in your business name that speak to that persona as well as their goals might be really useful.

Just keep in mind that web designers don’t always commit to one niche or stick with the same niche over the long run. So, you might not want to make your business name too specific to an industry (e.g. “Real Estate Design Solutions”) and more related to higher level themes and goals.

3. What Are The Names Of Your Top Competitors?

Do you know who your main competitors will be upon entering this space? If not, now’s the time to look them up.

When it comes to business names, you want to see if you can identify common threads among them. Perhaps they use puns or include location-specific descriptors. Or they just stick with the names they were born with.

While you don’t want to come off as a copycat, you can imbue your business name with a similar theme or tone if it’s proven to be successful with your shared audience. 

4. What Makes You Different?

Every business has a unique value proposition (UVP) — something that sets them apart from everyone else in the space. What’s yours?

Do you operate within a large metropolitan area where your prospective clients’ industry is booming?

Did you previously work in the industry for which you now build websites?

Are you an SEO expert who builds enterprise websites that rank?

In business, it’s good to be different — so long as it benefits your clients.

If you have a particular UVP that’s going to make you stand out, you’re going to use it everywhere to market yourself — your website, social media, sales pitches, etc. So, you might want to consider using a unique keyword from it within your business name.

5. Where Do You Envision Yourself In Five Years?

No one’s future is set in stone. However, if you’re seriously thinking about starting a new web design business, you have some ideas about where you want to go with it:

  • Do you like the idea of being a lifelong freelancer or digital nomad?
  • Would you like to operate your own design agency?
  • Do you have aspirations to build and sell website products, like plugins, themes, or UI kits instead?

If you expect to pivot your business at some point, be careful about choosing a business name that paints you into a corner. Keep it broader so that prospects don’t have to wonder what it is you really do.

And if you plan on scaling your business beyond yourself, using your own name might not be the best idea. You’ll want clients to associate the brand name with your agency, not with you specifically.

6. Will Your Business Name Be Easy To Remember?

At this point, you have some business names brewing. So, now we need to look at the more technical aspects of naming your brand.

Here’s what you need to do.

a. Write down no more than three to five business names you like.

For example:

  • Honeymooners Web Design
  • Charles Murphy Design & Development
  • FoREver Websites
  • SOLD Web Design Agency

b. Mash each name into one long lowercase string. Don’t include any punctuation.

For example:

  • honeymoonerswebdesign
  • charlesmurphydesignanddevelopment
  • foreverwebsites
  • soldwebdesignagency

c. Are any of the names difficult to read? Too long? Do any of them cause confusion and look like they mean something else?

If so, get rid of them as a matching domain name won’t work. Or, if you absolutely love them, fix the name so it’s clear, readable, and short. For instance:

charlesmurphydesignanddevelopment becomes charlesmurphydesign or just charlesmurphy.

7. Does The Name You Want Already Exist?

It’s a good idea to have a backup name in case you discover that the name you want already exists. Due to trademarking issues as well as possible confusion for your clients, you’ll want to avoid using a name that overlaps with or is the same as any other company (in or outside of web design).

Do a Google search for the business name you want to use. Check out the top 10 search results to see if there are any other matches.

You’ll also want to test out the domain name. Go to Domain.com and run your business name string through it:

You have a few options if this happens:

  1. Choose a different top-level domain (e.g. .tech, .io, .design).
  2. Use an abbreviated version of your business name  (e.g. solddesignagency.com).
  3. Move your backup business name to the front of the line and see if it’s available.

It all depends on how attached you are to the business name you’ve chosen. Just make sure that any changes you make to it (like shortening the domain name or using an alternate TLD) doesn’t cause confusion for prospects who look you up online. You don’t want them confusing someone else’s domain name for yours if business name and domain name don’t line up.

Choosing a Business Name Is Just the First Step…

Once you’ve settled on your business name, share it with a few people you trust. They’ll let you know if you’ve totally missed the mark or if it’s something you should be excited to run with.

As soon as you’re 100% sure it’s the right name, buy the domain name and register your company. Then, it’ll be official!

Of course, this isn’t the end to branding your new business. In our next Branding 101 post, we’re going to look at the next step: How to create the visual identity for your business.

Stay tuned!

 

Featured image via Pexels.

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Exciting New Tools for Designers, October 2020

This month’s collection of new tools, resources, and freebies for designers is a smorgasbord of sorts. You’ll find everything from useful APIs to icons to tutorials to fonts.

Let’s get right into it, here’s what new for designers this month:

Tooltip Sequence

Now that your app or website is ready, you might need to help users engage with it. Tooltip Sequence is a simple JavaScript package that helps you create a series of small tooltips that will guide users through product features with a small description of what they need to know. It looks great and the best part is this tool saves you from having to create each tooltip description manually on each page and link them together.

Serenade

Serenade allows you to free up your hands with voice coding technology. Use natural speech and stay productive with this tool that allows you to code without typing. It works across multiple coding languages and platforms. It’s as easy as “add function hello” and the tool knows what syntax to use.

Gazepass

Gazepass, which is still in beta, is a nifty API that allows for passwordless multi-factor authentication for any website or mobile app. It uses biometrics on any device or platform to make getting into apps or websites easier for users.

Filters.css

Filters.css is a CSS-only library to apply color filters to website images. Installation only takes three steps and includes a variety of filers, such as blur, grayscale, brightness, contrast, invert, saturate, sepia, and opacity.

Sidebar Webring

Sidebar Webring is a collection of blogs and websites that are focused on web design. The curated list is handpicked for superb content for designers and developers. But, what’s a webring? It’s a collection of linked websites in a circular structure that are organized around a theme. The term is a throwback to the early days of the web in the 1990s and 2000s.

Wicked Templates

Wicked Templates is a set of responsive HTML templates made with Bulma and Tailwind CSS that you can style and use as you wish. Use these templates to jumpstart projects. Free and paid options available.

WP Umbrella

WP Umbrella will help you keep sites running in a healthy and safe manner on WordPress. Monitor uptime and performance, PHP errors, and keep up with hundreds of websites from one dashboard.

Servicebot

Servicebot helps you create customer-facing embeddable billing pages that work with Stripe payments. This premium tool is quite user-friendly and works with websites or SaaS.

Custom, Accessible Checkboxes with Perfect Alignment

Create custom, accessible checkboxes with perfect alignment every time. This walkthrough shows you how to use CSS to align elements and labels.

Sombras.app

Sombras.app is a nifty tool that creates 3D object shadows. Use the easy on-screen controls to get just the right orientation and shape.

urlcat

Urlcat is a tiny JavaScript library that helps you build URLs with dynamic parameters and without mistakes. The friendly API has no dependencies, includes TypeScript types, and is just 0.8KB minified and gzipped.

Reacher

Reacher is a real-time email verification API that lets you check the validity of an address before you send the email. Reduce bounce rates in an instant. (The personal version is free.)

Swell

Swell is a most powerful headless ecommerce platform for modern brands, startups, and agencies. Create fast and flexible shopping experiences with the API and headless storefront themes. This is a premium tool but does have a free trial.

No Code Founders 2.0

No Code Founders 2.0 is a platform for discovering the latest startups built with no-code and the tools used to build them. Browse startups, tools, perks, interviews, jobs, meetups, posts, and more as part of the no-code movement. The community engages on Slack and requires an email to sign up.

How to Pick More Beautiful Colors for Your Data Visualizations

Beautiful color choices will make your data visualizations that much more impactful. This tutorial by Lisa Charlotte Rost will help you make better color choices on the way to better infographics and charts. Plus, it’s well developed, designed, and packed with useful information.

IconPark

IconPark is a collection of more than 1,200 high-quality icons with an interface that allows you to customize them. It uses a single SVG source file that can be transformed into multiple themes. The library includes cross-platform components and is free to use.

Mono Icons

Mono Icons is a simple and consistent open-source icon set that uses mono spacing. The collection includes 136 icons.

BGJar

BGJar is a free SVG background generator for digital projects. Pick a category and customize the result to fit your project or needs.

HitCount

HitCount is almost too simple to be true. This tiny tool lets you add a hit counter to your website that’s as easy as adding an image. Copy the code and make any customizations you want. Then paste it to your design. That’s it!

Blacklight

Blacklight is a real-time website privacy inspector. The tool by Surya Mattu scans any website you enter in the scan bar and shows what user-tracking technologies are used on the website. This allows you to see who might be gathering data about your visit.

Alter

Alter is a customizable – and experimental – three-dimensional typeface that you can experiment with. It’s as fun to play with as use.

Autobus Omnibus

Autobus Omnibus is a simple all capitals font with new wave styling. The character set has 96 glyphs that are perfect for display use.

Deathmatch

Deathmatch is a seasonal blackletter font that’s ideal for the upcoming Halloween holiday. The character set includes plenty of options and there’s a full version (paid) for commercial use.

Futura Now

Futura Now is a premium typeface and update to a font you may already know and love. The new version has 107 styles in a massive family.

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup is a fun almost handwriting style typeface with a cartoonish vibe. It includes a regular and italic style and is most appropriate in limited use.

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The Ultimate 10 UX Influencers to Follow

The digital world is a place of constant change. Just as you get used to a new design trend, another one appears, forcing you to rethink the way that you approach each client project. 

As a web designer, it’s up to you to make sure that you have your finger on the pulse on the latest transformations in the industry. However, it can be challenging to know for sure which trends you should be taking seriously, and which you can simply ignore. 

One option to refine and enhance your design journey is to pay attention to influencers. 

Influencers aren’t just there to guide customers into making purchasing decisions. These people are thought-leaders in their field. They spend all of their time tracking down ideas and concepts that really work. That way, they can maintain a successful reputation online.

Sourcing information and motivation from the following UX influencers could help you to create some truly amazing websites in 2020: 

1. Andrew Kucheriavy 

Andrew Kucheriavy is the phenomenal co-founder and CEO of a company named Intechnic. Andrew was one of the first people in the world to be given the “Master in User Experience” award. This means that he’s an excellent person to pay attention to if you want help understanding the ins and outs of user experience design

As one of the leading visionaries in UX, business strategy, and inbound marketing, Andrew has a lot of useful information to offer professionals and learners alike. Andrew is particularly active on Twitter, where he’s constantly sharing insights on design and marketing. You can also find input from Andrew on the Intechnic blog. 

2. Jeff Veen 

Another must-follow for designers who want to learn more about understanding their audience and their position in the marketplace, Jeff Veen is a leader in UX and product design. Veen got his start with the founding team for Wired, before he created the Adaptive Path company for UX consulting. Jeff Veen is also known for being responsible for various aspects of Google Analytics. 

Over the years, Jeff has expanded his knowledge in the design space, and mentored various companies, from WordPress to Medium. He also has a fantastic podcast that you can listen to for guidance when you’re on the go. 

3. Jared Spool 

Jared Spool has been tackling the most common issues of user experience since before the term “UX” was even a thing. Excelling in the design world since 1978, Jared has become one of the biggest and most recognizable names in the user experience environment. He’s the founder of the User Interface Engineering consulting firm. The company concentrates on helping companies to improve their site and product usability. 

Jared offers plenty of handy information to stock up on in his Twitter feed. Additionally, you can find plenty of helpful links to blogs and articles that he has published around the web on Twitter too. He’s followed by Hubgets, PICUS, and many other leading brands. Make sure that you check out his collection of industry-leading talks on UIE. 

4. Jen Romano Bergstrom

An experimental psychologist, User Experience Research coach, and UX specialist, Jen is one of the most impressive women in the web design world. She helped to create the unique experiences that customers can access on Instagram and Facebook. Additionally, she has a specialist knowledge of eye-tracking on the web. You can even check out Jen’s books on eye-tracking and usability testing

When she’s not writing books or researching user experience, Jen is blogging and tweeting about usability and researching new strategies in the web design space. It’s definitely worth keeping up with Jen on Twitter, particularly if you want to be the first to know about her upcoming seminars and learning sessions. 

5. Katie Dill 

Katie Dill is the former Director of Experience for Airbnb, so you know that she knows her way around some unique experiences. With an expertise in working with companies that harness new technologies and UX design, Katie Dill is at the forefront of the user experience landscape. Dill attends various UX conferences throughout the year, and publishes a range of fantastic videos on YouTube. 

You can find blogs and articles from Katie published on the web; however, you’ll be able to get the most input from her by following Katie on her Twitter account. 

6. Khoi Vinh 

Khoi Vinh is one of the most friendly and unique UX bloggers and influencers on the market today. He knows how to talk to people in a way that’s interesting and engaging – even about more complicated topics in UX design. Vinh is a principle designer at Adobe, and he has his own podcast called Wireframe. However, he still finds time to keep his followers engaged on Twitter. 

Over the years, Khoi has worked as a Design Director for Etsy and the New York Times. Vinh also wrote a book called “Ordering Disorder” which examines grid principles in web design. According to Fast Company, he’s one of the most influential designers in America. Additionally, Khoi has a brilliant blog where you can check out all of his latest insights into UX design. 

7. Cory Lebson

Cory Lebson is a veteran in the world of web design and user experience. With more than 2 decades of experience in the landscape, Cory has his own dedicated UX consulting firm named Lebsontech. Lebson and his company concentrate on offering UX training, mentoring, and user experience strategy support to customers. Cory also regularly speaks on topics regarding UX career development, user experience, information architecture and more. 

Cory is an excellent influencer to follow on Twitter, where you’ll find him sharing various UX tricks and tips. You can also check out Cory’s handbook on UX careers, or find him publishing content on the Lebsontech blog too. 

8. Lizzie Dyson

Another amazing woman in the industry of UX, Lizzie Dyson is changing the experience landscape as we know it. Although she’s a relatively new figure in the web design world, she’s recognized world-wide for her amazing insights into the world of web development. Lizzie also helped to create a new group specifically for women that want to get involved in web design. 

The Ladies that UX monthly meet-up welcomes a community of women into the digital landscape, helping them to learn and expand their skills. Lizzie regularly publishes content online as part of Ladies that UX. Additionally, she appears on the Talk UX feed – an annual design and tech conference held for women around the world. 

9. Chris Messina 

Chris Messina is a product designer and a technical master who understands what it takes to avoid disappointing your users. With more than a decade of experience in the UX design landscape, Messina has worked for a variety of big-name brands, including Google and Uber. He is best known as the inventor of the hashtag!

Chris is a highly skilled individual who understands the unique elements that engage customers and keep people coming back for more on a website. You can see Chris speaking at a selection of leading conferences around the world. Check out some of his talks on YouTube or track down his schedule of upcoming talks here. Chris also has a variety of fantastic articles on Medium to read too. 

10. Elizabeth Churchill

Last, but definitely not least, Elizabeth Churchill is a UX leader with an outstanding background in psychology, research science, psychology, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, human interaction with computers and more. She knows her way around everything from cognitive economics, to everyday web design. Churchill also acts as the director of UX for Google Material Design. 

A powerhouse of innovation and information, Churchill has more than 50 patents to her name. She’s also the vice president of the Association for Computing Machinery too. When she’s not sharing information on Twitter, Elizabeth also has a regular column that you can tune into on the ACM Interactions magazine. 

Who Are You Following in 2020?

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, guidance, or information, the right influencers can deliver some excellent insights into the world of web design. There are plenty of thought leaders out there in the realm of user experience that can transform the way that you approach your client projects. You might even discover a new favourite podcast to listen to, or an amazing series of videos that help you to harness new talents. 

Influencers are more than just tools for digital marketing; they’re an excellent source of guidance for growing UX designers too.

 

Featured image via Pexels.

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3 Essential Design Trends, October 2020

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

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

1. “Taking a Stance” Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Abstract Art Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Images That Make You Think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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Why AI & Automation Are Actually Friends to Design

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

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

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

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

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

Where AI has Failed in Design

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

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

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

Where Automation Shines for Designers

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

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

Bridging the Gap Between Designers and Developers

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

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

Understanding the Consumer

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

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

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

Removing Distracting, Time-Sucking Administrative Tasks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t be Afraid of AI, Embrace It

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

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

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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AccessiBe Review 2020: Solving Web Accessibility with AI and Scalability

Web accessibility is important for two reasons:

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

In this accessiBe review, we’ll cover:

How Does accessiBe Work

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

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

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

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

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

How to Install and Setup accessiBe

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

From your end, that’s all it takes.

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

Source: accessiBe website

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

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

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

Why Ongoing Compliance is Important

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

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

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

accessiBe Front End Features – The Accessibility Interface

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

Accessibility Profiles Explained

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two things need to be mentioned here:

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

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

Accessibility Content Adjustments Explained

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

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

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

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

Accessibility Color Adjustments Explained

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

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

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

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

Accessibility Orientation Adjustments Explained

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

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

Here’s how the Remove Images adjustment works:

accessiBe Back End Features

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Reader Compatibility Explained

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keyboard Navigation Compatibility Explained

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

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

Let’s look at a popup as an example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How accessiBe Makes Menus Accessible

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Recognition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In-Depth Feature Review and Demo of accessiBe

Comparison of accessiBe with Accessibility Plugins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Using accessiBe Over Accessibility Plugins

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

Comparison of accessiBe with Manual Accessibility Services

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

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

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

From here there are two possible paths:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Using accessiBe Over Manual Accessibility Services

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

How to Check Your Web Accessibility Compliance Level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the results:

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[– accessiBe is a partner of WebdesignerDepot –]

Featured image via Unsplash.

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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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