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Tag Archives: Web design

29 June 6
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The future of web design

Under - Design, Media, My Musings, Technology, Usability

First, I’d rephrase the title to ‘The immediate future of web design’. Second, I’d like to clarify that this article is not about design trends, typography and 100 best sites of futuristic designs.

Having visited FOWD this May in London the question that kept popping in my mind was how rapidly the digital media landscape is changing (like always!) and how quickly we can deal with it? Paul Boag from Headspace shared his thoughts around this subject that left me scratching my head. The focus of FOWD conference this time was around CSS3 and HTML5 along with many other ‘hot’ bits and bobs of design and marketing that we all love to read and discuss. The talk however that was missing is ‘What is the future of web design?’.

The capabilities of latest and smart browsers coupled with the introduction of more robust and user-friendly technologies such as HTML5 and CSS3 with JS frameworks etc are definitely affecting the design and usability in a very positive manner. But, these are not the only factors determining the future of ‘web design’ – rather, it is the introduction of new hardware or ‘new categories’ of hardware that are going to shape the future of web design this time. I see web design splitting into two major sub-categories that I call ‘Clicks’ and ‘Taps’. We would soon find designers setting their course for specialization in either of the two (no one stopping us doing both though!).

So what’s it about?

Here I would define the two categories I mentioned above:

  1. Clicks – conventional web design on PCs where interaction is achieved with cursor movement (rollover/rollout) and on mouse press or release
  2. Taps – web design for multi-touch gesture browsing on handheld devices such as:
    • Smartphones – iPhone, Palm Pre, HTC HD2, Else Intuition, Nokia N900 etc, and
    • Tablets – well, this is the redefined tablet category that iPad created. This category is ‘now’ about devices that fall in-between a Smartphone and a laptop computer such as iPad, and all the iPad-killer devices such as joojoo, WeTab, HP Slate, Google Tablet and a dozen more here.

Now, how on earth is this categorization going to affect the future of web design?

The answer lies in the hardware and OS capabilities of these devices, in the refined mobile usability experience and in multi-touch gesture browsing that we are getting accustomed to. These elements are going to drive the future of web design and would heavily affect the ‘Clicks’ side of it.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to us, if we look closely at the development within the Smartphone industry and what these iPad like devices are trying to achieve, that our PCs are going to be offloaded with the Internet that we’d be carrying with us in the form of Smartphones or tablets. This major addition in web design serving platform would trigger a shift in our overall design approach which is governed by the medium and its capabilities – isn’t it?

Photo source 邪恶的正太 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/juehuayin/4556617846/)

Clicks – conventional web design or web on PC

The immediate future on this front apparently seems to be overrun by new browsers (or browser war) and their capabilities in supporting and rendering HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. These technologies are going to change the web and interaction design landscape forever, but the best thing that is going to happen is the amount of unprecedented focus to usability and accessibility (this – mostly for handheld devices!). Web design would ‘seriously’ have to act like an interface between business/communication and technology, and technology and people. A designer can only perform these functions by being part of all of them!

Now, without going into web 2.0 vs. web 3.0 argument we can see that user behaviour has changed within the past few years especially with the introduction of social media, information accessibility on mobile devices and cloud computing. Still, it is changing rapidly with higher expectations as limitations are falling away within digital arena. Such demanding user expectations mean shift in design approach from inside out (function follows design) to outside in (design follows function).

So my dear fellow web designers, to get ready for the future, we have to take seriously what business and market analysis is and how online business strategies are formed. How projects are conceived and KPI’s outlined. How perceptions are changed and online brands are built. How technologies are decided and information architecture is laid out. How user journeys are developed and usability testing is done. How our designs perform functions and deliver results. How we market and measure it.

Our role as a web designer is one of the driving forces behind this web evolution where we have to rediscover our niche every two years or so – or we are simply outdated. We don’t design websites anymore – we are required to design businesses, functions, systems and measurable performance with solid results. This might be the only profession in the world where one can enjoy a successful career by being a generalist than a specialist!

Taps – web design for multi-touch gesture browsing

Mobile computing is the other side of web design that is fast becoming a norm where web interaction is faster and smarter than ‘Clicks’ with less or no bells and whistles attached. Where everyone (business/service) has to redefine (separate websites, widgets and apps) themselves because of the medium itself, its usability and user behaviour.

Apart from a few, all those new handheld devices are coming with their own OS nowadays or adopting new operating systems which may look a bit chaotic right now but within a few years when dust is settled there are going to be a few winners. The most common element in the development of modern multi-touch handheld devices is that they all are focusing on innovation and usability. Usability is universal hence making all these devices look and perform more or less the same in the end! Additionally, these devices are all multi-touch that we run by tapping and swiping fingers on screen with one or both hands. This gesture browsing means that we cannot use conventional ‘Click’ designs or the design approach effectively (where interaction is performed by additional devices such as mouse etc) for this medium.

This fundamental difference in the usability of web design would split it into two categories that I highlighted above. Web on PCs or ‘Clicks’ is where interaction is performed by a mouse so the design would follow conventions set for that medium whereas for multi-touch devices we would be confined (but not) within the capabilities of this medium. This segmentation is creating a whole new exciting conversation. If we look at what Bonnier and BERG has done in the form of ‘Mag+’ for Popular Science magazine the point here would be easier to understand. It was a prototype that they conceived and iPad has actually done it.

Photo source Bonnier R&D (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bonnier_rd/sets/72157622918954909/)

If you have used iPad or watched this Mag+ prototype video, you would agree that this kind of user experience cannot be developed for the web on PCs where user interaction is indirect (though exceptions are there but their practicality is in question!).

We have to come out of ‘Web on PC’ state of mind to be able to conceive the presentation and interaction design for these new mobile devices. This requires extensive research and dedication that would result in unique apps, interface designs and interaction.

Conclusion

I would highly recommend young designers to build skills and/or understanding in frontend development, and keep a close eye on the advancements within this area. If you already have frontend skills then polish them and acquire knowledge in other areas to get ready for a multifaceted role that you are going to play in the coming days. This time, it wouldn’t be a choice to stick to ‘design-only’ excuse.

I shared my thoughts around the ‘Future of Web Design’ here and what it holds for us. It would be interesting to know what you think about this subject so please feel free to share it below.

28 March 2
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LivingDesign.info – Site of the Day at The Css Awards!

Under - Miscellaneous, My Musings

LivingDesign.info has been selected as Site of the Day by The CSS Awards. Please click here to cast your votes.

LivingDesign.info

27 January 9
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20 this and 10 that … 5 best of this and top 100 of that!

Under - Design, Miscellaneous, My Musings, Resources

Sorry, didn’t have anything to write today so I thought of a cliché post title. I don’t know who exactly started this trend but I started noticing it on MSN few years back on their homepage and Yahoo followed soon after. This kind of articles appeared after logging out from email accounts such as Hotmail and Yahoo when you are automatically redirected to MSN or Yahoo homepages with some attention-grabbing top stories.

Those everyday articles used to be interesting, catchy and somewhat spicy. I bet they helped cutting down bounce rate and increased visitor retention on those sites but, the practice of such an approach within online creative community has now gone beyond acceptable. Smashing Magazine could be called trend setter within the creative industry and sort of sole responsible for the influx of such a nonsense that we have to deal with on everyday bases.

Just look at the article/post titles below that I accumulated from just one design resource:

  • 130+ Awesome Photoshop Tutorials
  • 7 Online Form Creation Solutions
  • 14 Great Posts on jQuery Plugins
  • 75+ Top jQuery Plugins to improve Your HTML Forms
  • 22 Stunning Free Download E-Commerce Icon Sets
  • 10 Amazing Avatar movie Photoshop Tutorials
  • 23 sites where to download free icons
  • Top 31 Most Creative and Interesting Movie Websites Designs
  • 20 Amazing Creature Illustrations by Imaginism
  • 35 Amazing Fantasy Art 3D Wallpapers
  • 10 Tips to Create a Motivating Working Environment at Home
  • 10 Beautiful Video Blogging WordPress Themes
  • 50+ Amazing Creatiive & Original Logos
  • 30 Cutting Edge Examples Of CSS Navigation
  • 60 Extremely Creative Movie Posters
  • 50+ Essential Techniques and Tools for Visualizing your Data
  • 40 Mind Blowing Surreal Photo Manipulations
  • 111 Best Online Web Design Tools
  • 27 hilarious stuff you wish, were Photoshopped
  • 27 Outstanding Car HDR Photos
  • 40 best photoshop tutorials for web layouts

Is there any number or combination of mind boggling words left? There were indeed hundreds of such posts/articles on that particular resource but I only picked a few to give an example here. The good thing about Smashing Magazine articles was that they were original, but the SEO orientated minds soon picked up the hidden benefit in such content and the rest is history now.

The type of material seen these days on lots of design/creative resources is meaningless. Although some of such posts provide valuable information (a tiny fraction may be) but most of the time their content is nowhere near to whatever claimed in their titles. Such posts are mostly used as fillers. It is also disrespectful and derogatory to senior designers, artists and creative people when their work is labelled and reviewed under 150 websites with beautiful background or something.

Having such content is supposedly one of the easiest ways to grab user attention and to generate content without much effort – and perhaps earning big plus from SEO point of view. I can generate at least five new articles, or may be more, out of the list above just by shuffling their content but is this what we really want to give to our audience or is this what people really want to see all the time?

16 August Share your
thoughts

Grids, grids and more grids

Under - Design, My Musings, Resources

A while ago I mentioned Grid Designer for web page layouts that I used as Photoshop overlay. I just discovered two more apps that can do the same with some advance features.

Gridmaker

Developed by Paul Holliday, Gridmaker is a free plugin to create grid layers within Photoshop CS4. Gridmaker offers almost the same functionalities as Grid Designer apart from grid export to CSS. With real-time grid formation (online only) and export to a PNG, this utility is quite handy for web layouts.

Gridmaker by Paul Holliday

Gridmaker by Paul Holliday

In my tests the online version appears to be more flexible as Photoshop plugin simply adds a new layer every time you update grid and render it. The best way to work with this tool is to layout grid online and exports it as PNG to use in Photoshop.

Boks

This visual grid editor based on blueprint CSS appears to be the most advance grid solution yet. Built by Quentin T with Adobe Air, the application has a very simple interface to layout grid with PNG and CSS export. You can in fact create a basic HTML structure in Boks and it generates the script for you.

It handles grid configuration, baseline rhythm pimpin’, CSS (with or without compression) and grid.png export, HTML layout and much more goodie-goodie!

Boks by Quentin T

Boks by Quentin T

Grid Designer

Under - Design, Resources

Grid Designer2

Recently came across this excellent handy tool by Rasmus Schultz to setup grid and generate CSS for web page layouts. I like the fact that you can see the grid taking shape in front of you and its flexibility to maximize web page ‘real estate’ use. I haven’t tried it in any of my projects yet but using a grid screenshot as Photoshop overlay in one of my existing web design projects and finding it quite helpful!