Wait! Hold it right there..
The average attention span for a visitor online is far lower than when compared to traditional forms of media. In fact, if you’re reading this far, you’re already an exception to the statistics. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but the rule of thumb is that you have roughly 4 seconds to convince a visitor to stay. And of course, this becomes even more important to bear in mind when designing a page for an e-commerce site.
Think “visitors” rather than “readers”. A big difference is that visitors tend to drop in straight from Google, looking for something specific. If they don’t find that by quickly scanning the page, they’ll bounce.
The Fold Doesn’t Exist
This one is a debatable topic that hangs over from the early days of print. Designers putting together the front page of a newspaper would have to grab the reader’s attention with the space above where it was folded in half.
Now, “The fold” refers to the line which separates that which is immediately visible to the visitor, and that which will require scrolling to see.
Many designers (or should I say, stakeholders) insist that if it’s not above the fold, the visitor won’t see it. The problem is that now with so many varying devices being used to read webpages, the line is very difficult to define. Generally users are very used to the need to scroll as well. A great example is the Amazon product page design.
As I mentioned before, it’s important to get your point across as soon as possible, but not by cramming everything at the top of the page. White space is a good thing!
SEO and Semantics
Probably the most important difference, despite not being a particularly visible one, is the need for SEO consideration.
There’s an awful lot more to SEO than semantic coding, but to generalise; content on a website isn’t only read by visitors, but by search engines. If that content isn’t semantically coded, those search engines won’t understand it. Ultimately, if the search engines don’t understand it, they won’t rank your content, and no visitors will find it.
It’s still a new enough practice that most of the big players are still a long way off releasing their sites using a responsive layout.
Mobile and tablet traffic are on such a rise that alienating such a chunk of your traffic is becoming fatal. For this, a layout that fluidly adapts to whatever screen size the visitor is using is vital. The problem is that designing without a fixed grid is much harder work to test and optimise, but it will soon be the norm for every website.
I write this article purely as a personal opinion, because I love a rant – so please don’t expect any citations. That said, I’ve spent the entirety of my life engaging heavily with social media sites and working in the field as well, so you know.. my opinion is essentially fact. Ok? Good.
Back in 2003, I started my social media addiction with a profile on “Nexopia” – an early Canadian social network. After that was Myspace, which we all begrudgingly remember and nowadays laugh at, thanks to its incredible downfall.
Facebook gave us everything we wanted from Myspace, but with order. Clean white and blue layouts with sensible standardisation. No more flashing glitter gifs of unicorns and Carebears, or arguments over who would be in your “Top 8″ this week. In fact, letting a user override the default CSS by chucking a little code in the “About Me” area is mind-boggling nowadays. It was this new cleanliness that won everybody over. Facebook could attract older users and the timing was absolutely perfect. Facebook just happened to be in the right place at the right time. The world was ready for, and getting dependant on social media.
Once Facebook had become the norm for so many people, we were all locked into it and to an extent we still are. We’re in too deep – it’s our birthday calendar, photo album, instant messenger (remember MSN messenger?).
So where did Twitter come from and how did it become so popular? It’s one of the most stripped-down services the internet has presented us with. 140 character messages sent to everyone following you – no friend confirmations, no “Top 8′s”. Not even a properly working direct messaging function.
For me, Twitter found its success through “gamification“.
It’s like the once unstoppable craze that was Pokémon cards – you just “gotta have ‘em all!”.
Tweeters are addicted to “collecting” followers. Your follower count is like a badge of honour. It’s like playing a game. This isn’t the case for those not (yet) addicted, but then with all their friends addicted, they’d be left out of many conversations if they didn’t sign up as well.
So then Google+ came along, boasting an impressive list of excellent features, a clean layout and a solution to what had frustrated us for a long time – organising our friends.. to stop our bosses reading us slagging them off, or so that your ex doesn’t see the photos of you celebrating your birthday alone with your cat.
Google+ is superior to Facebook, but we just don’t care.
Twitter may have tricked us into thinking that other social media sites will come along and history will repeat itself, just like with Myspace. But Twitter isn’t a social media site like Facebook – it’s a gamified anomaly that will eventually die out just like Pokémon did.
Facebook on the other hand, as much as we hate it nowadays, is too prevalent.
It’s going to take a lot more than Google+ to win us over.
But yeah.. follow me on Twitter? @alexreekie
Before starting up PUSH Designs, I worked as an in-house design team manager and senior designer for a couple of brands. Every now and then I’d work with various design agencies who would pitch ideas and try to share our workload whenever resource was stretched a bit thin.
There was no doubt that the agencies I worked with had bundles of creativity, enthusiasm and eagerness to impress. However, I quickly learned that their priorities were exactly that. Simply, to impress the client.
Obviously, that’s very important.. If the client isn’t happy, you’re not going to get any more work from them any time soon. But that said, the client doesn’t always necessarily know what is best for them. For example, if you’re hired to design and build a client’s website..
If the client doesn’t have a web design/development team and could really use your knowledge, I feel it’s part of the agency’s job to counter any requests with advice and education. That was the initial reason for me to decide to start our agency. I like to consider that to be one of our USPs.
Great web design is a balance of many things, and if your focus is simply to finish another slide for your portfolio and to get that invoice paid as soon as possible, then the client won’t see the results they were expecting for something precious they’ve invested in.
Not everything in the balance is as important to some clients, but it’s always important to remember:
The site obviously needs to be pretty. After all, it is the most important impression on the customer.
If the site is built without consideration for site-speed it might load much slower than it needs to. This can have a serious effect on the customer’s experience.
UX or User Experience
The user experience is not just the customer’s impression, but also the ease of use, the intuitiveness, and even the enjoyment a customer can experience from browsing a well-designed site. This is where it’s sometimes important to be able to make design sacrifices in favour of functionality. In my experience, a lot of designers struggle to do this.
UI or User Interface
Again, it’s important that the customer knows exactly how to use a site without having to figure it out. Sometimes design choices can get in the way of this. For e-commerce websites this is especially relevant. That “Buy” button shouldn’t be the colour that simply looks the nicest, but the colour that proves to convert customers the best.
SEO or Search Engine Optimisation
An area that even the experts are still and always will be learning.
It’s vital to consider the importance of SEO from the get go. The structure of the page URLs, the site’s content and the mark up used are all important to get right if the site is going to compete for rankings.
Search engines need things explaining. If a site isn’t coded up semantically, they will struggle understanding context. If something is a list, code it as one. All styling belongs in a stylesheet and nowhere else. A great design is one that can still be browsed with all the stylesheets turned off.
Web designers are tech savvy. We’ll always be using the latest and fastest browsers, but it’s important to remember that most people aren’t. It’s an annoying part of the job, but good web design degrades with the browser and leaves no one left out. (Except IE6 users, of course.)
With the rise of smartphones and tablets, it’s becoming increasingly important to consider a mobile layout or to design using a responsive grid. If this isn’t discussed at the start, it may end up requiring a re-build in the near future.
This is just a summary of course. If there are any subjects or details you’d like to discuss, you’re more than welcome to join us on Facebook or Twitter! And of course, please like, share and all that other jazz.
It’s important to remember that logo design isn’t only about a single, standalone graphic.
It needs to be an adaptable element that feels welcome wherever it needs to be. For example, when designing a logo, I start with a monochrome version and work from there. Will the logo still work and be legible if it were on the side of a branded pencil, or embroidered onto a polo shirt?
That said, a good logo is only part of an overall package. It’s the face of your brand, but we still need the rest of the body. Things like the typeface used, the style of the call-to-actions, the tone of voice and every other element of communication you have with your customers are just as important.
At PUSH Designs we like to help solidify your brand and build a set of guidelines that’ll have customers recoginising your brand without needing the logo at all.