Tag: web design

Standard Bearing

An end-user may not notice or care if you stick a form class on your form element, but you should. You should care about bloating your markup and slowing down the user experience. You should care about readability. And if you’re getting paid to do this stuff, you should care about being the sort of professional who doesn’t write redundant slop.

Tim Baxter in 'Meaningful CSS: Style Like You Mean It'A List Apart

I've had this argument with colleagues a lot over the years. Attention to detail is important. The errors that come from a lack of attention to detail are what used to separate professionals from dilettantes. It doesn't matter that most people won't notice. It should matter that you know the difference between excellence and slop and that you reach for the former and are ashamed of the latter.

It's why having standards is so important.

How Over-Specialisation Ruins Us

UX teams and practitioners should strive to create products that users want and need, and design them in a way that is easy and joyful to use. User experience is concerned with everything that affects users and their interaction with the product.

from 'UX Without User Research Is Not UX' by HOA LORANGER on the Nielson Norman Group website

Recently I gave a talk at a local meet-up about what I do in my job. I was there as to talk about content so I was introduced as a content specialist (or content strategist).

When we work with clients, often we're the UX people. (UX is short for 'User Experience').

But I see content and UX as being part of the same club. I see them both as the responsibility of everybody who works on a project.

If we take, for example, the building of a website. A coder doesn't just take the pictures that a designer makes and turn it into code. She has to think about the semantics of the code. She has to include code that will aid accessibility software to access the information properly. There's the "weight" of a page to take into account so that it loads quickly.

All of this could form a part of the user's experience.

Similarly, a designer can't produce a comp without an understanding of the content on the screen.

All of these things just come under the heading of "things we have to think about before putting something into the world".

This is what "design" means. It means thinking about the things we're building and understanding how they can best be used.

Design is a form of communication. All design involves some kind of content. "Content" doesn't just mean words and "User Experience" doesn't just mean stopping people swearing at their computer. These things are inherent in a design. The words, images and interactions of a website make up its design. We used to be just called "web designers" but now we're content strategists, UXers, performance analysts and accessibility experts.

There aren't chefs who specialise in how a plate looks and other who only care about how food tastes. So why do we split designers into all these different categories?

We are the designers and the best time to call us is when you have the idea. Our work touches every single stage of the project you're trying to get off the ground. If you start without us you'll be sorry because we're used to thinking about these things that we put into the world. We've spent our careers seeing the things that work and those that fail and knowing how to improve on both. We will give your audience a good experience and know how to track that experience. We will ensure that the words, pictures and interactions provide the message and emotion that you're looking for. We'll make sure that everybody you intend to use your idea will be able to use your idea. That's our job. That's what "design" means.

The more we segment our skills into specialised areas, the more things are going to fall down the gaps between UX expert and graphic designer or between content strategist and accessibility expert. The finished product doesn't exist in separate silos and neither should the people who design and build them.

Building Sustainable User Personas

We've done a lot of work over the last 12 months for sporting codes, energy companies and banks. (Maybe plural is overselling it. It was one of each.)

As part of that we built user personas.

Creating user personas is hard work but totally worthwhile. They give us a sense of who it is we’re really designing for: an audience to target. They help us ask questions like: "Is Jamie interested in getting the latest scores while at his desk?" and "How important is it that Sonja see an incident report immediately."

The personas help us make the myriad decisions that we might not otherwise be equipped to make. They boost our empathy.

But there's a hole that clients and colleagues often fall into when it comes time to create personas. Continue reading

Controlling what we put into the world

Day two of the Webstock conference looked at the near future and our responsibility to take as much control as possible from the organisations that seek to control our lives.

Karen McGrane kicked the day off speaking about content, for want of a better word. We need to plan everything we produce for metadata and use on multiple devices and syndicated to multiple platforms. That's the only way to ensure longevity and flexibility.

Continue reading