How dull of a place would the world be without the artistry and passion that graphic and web designers bring to the table? We’ve put together a list of ten exciting resources for all of our creatives worldwide—so whether you’re looking for some Photoshop tips and tutorials, fresh new fonts or themes, or simply a jolt of inspiration, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for on one of these sites. And with over 800 active jobs awaiting graphic and web designers on Elance right now, you can learn some new tricks, get motivated, and then start bidding on some new projects!
A design blog catering to bloggers, freelancers, and web developers that gets 1.5 million hits a month. Includes helpful articles on coding (HTML & CSS, AJAX, and PHP to name a few) and tutorials on effects—3D, photo, and text. There’s also a premium content section ($9.95 for full access) with exclusive tutorials, downloadable source code, and coupon codes for design-related businesses. If you’re into that sort of thing.
A go-to site if you’re looking for some inspiration. Creattica provides galleries of design examples across categories like Business Cards, Flash Websites, Logos, and 3D Graphics, and every piece of work is user-submitted. Then the user community votes on which pieces go up on the site–and consequently which ones gets thousands of eyeballs a day on their creations. To start submitting your work simply create an account on the site.
Be sure to check: Flash | Latest Designs
An online community for designers where you can create your own portfolio and publish it so that you can receive feedback from your peers. Oh, and did we mentioned you win prizes for your constructive critiques? The only knock is that membership is invitation only—though you can get on the wait list, you may be off cozying up to one of the 7500+ “Creatives” who can help get you through the gates. Otherwise there are some great articles and design collections to browse while you wait.
Here we have a traditional but very useful design weblog dedicated to designers and bloggers with tricks, tools, tutorials and a lot of great giveaways to boot. Check out their WordPress tips, grab a couple of new Icons, or just read up with one of their informative article on Web 2.0 technologies.
A daily source of articles and resources with over 45 thousand subscribers and followers. More geared towards web developers and designers, with specific sections dedicated to Drupal, iPhone, Twitter and WordPress design—oh, and a ton of great articles on design for social media.
Be sure to check: 5 Upcoming Web Apps for Designers
One of the most comprehensive places on the web for designers and developers, with resources for everything from HTML5 and CSS to Typography. Their “Smashing Network” is a manually selected collection of articles pulled from the best design blogs on the internet, updated daily. A great one-stop shop if you don’t have the time to peruse a ton of different sites during your day.
Started in October 2007 as the personal freelance web design homepage of Paul Andrew, Speckyboy’s site evolved into one of the leading web resources for design in web, CMS, mobile development and graphic design. If you’re designing for the web and can’t find a relevant resource here—maybe it doesn’t exist?
One of our favorite go-to resource destinations on the internet, geared towards—you guessed it—tutorials for beginner and intermediate web and graphic designers, artists and writers. Tons of great tips and advice to get you up and running on everything from Microsoft Office, Social Media, email campaigning, and maintaining your own freelance career.
Be sure to check: Browse Email Marketing Campaigns on Emailium for Inspiration and Ideas Webdesigner Depot
Touted as a joint effort and collaboration between leading designers around the world, this site is another example of design diversity, with categories ranging from Adobe Creative Suite, coding and typography to best practices for your design business.
Good business relationships rarely just happen. While a smitten designer and their starry-eyed client may start out well with a “honeymoon” of a successful initial project launch, things can get rocky fast. The once-anticipated phone calls requesting new designs that used to be welcomed are now dreaded, and the previously infrequent and brief revision requests are now hostile diatribes critiquing every aspect of a submitted project.
Truly, if you thought that hearing “Let’s just be friends” from your junior high love interest was bad, wait until one of your clients cancels your project with an email that ends with “One of our sales guys bought that Photoshopper thing; he’s going to give this logo stuff a shot.”
Just like a romantic relationship, client/designer partnerships take work to be successful. While each client has their own unique needs, here are a few tips that hopefully will keep your working relationships healthy and enjoyable.
1. Don’t be afraid to say “no”
This may seem counterintuitive, but you certainly can have too many clients that require way more time and effort than they are worth. If you have the time, energy, and manpower at your disposal then, by all means, take on new projects and grow your business. However, if you don’t have these limited resources (and they are limited!), don’t place an unneeded burden on yourself or your team to pull an excellent final product out of thin air. If you over-commit yourself then there is the risk of not spending the time and effort needed on existing work, making your current clients unhappy and potentially driving them away. It can be very tempting to obligate yourself to new projects that could be enjoyable or lucrative for you and your team, but if you know that you can’t handle the work at that moment, it is far better to say “no” then to risk your reputation and good name. At best you will either hand the project in late or you will overwork yourself and your team while sacrificing time on existing work- neither is desirable. Far better to politely decline a request and ask for a rain check- the prospective client will respect you for it and potentially come calling later.
On a related note (and keeping with the relationship theme), sometimes a “divorce” is called for between yourself and a client. If you find that one client is taking up most of your time, causing most of your headaches, and could easily be replaced by someone better, the time may be right to move on. A decision like this should never be made lightly, but it can potentially make your life easier and open up space for better customers.
2. Talk things out
A lot of problems in a romantic relationship can be avoided if both parties are willing to admit that they aren’t mind readers that intuitively understand the needs of the other person. The same goes for designers and their clients: no matter how well a designer thinks they understand a client’s instructions, they likely are missing something because the client either doesn’t think that they need certain information or they assume that such info is a given. By simply asking a few pointed questions to your clients, you can stimulate necessary discussion that will do away with uncertainties that lead to unnecessary revisions and wasted time. Here are a few examples:
What is the ultimate purpose of this design?
Who are you trying to reach with the design?
How will this design be used (flyer, website, billboard, etc.)?
How much time should I spend on this/ how much money are you willing to spend?
Also, if you anticipate any potential conflict or difficulties that will arise with your client while you work on a project for them, negotiate the details before starting work. In many cases negotiation may mean letting them know that you require a certain amount of freedom in your work to make their design a success. To have a reference point for future discussions, write down all the agreements that you and your client come to in your negotiations. Ultimately, you need to make sure that you understand as much as you can about who your client is and what they expect from you before you start work. While talking things out at length beforehand may seem tedious, trying to work solely off of your intuition won’t get you very far and it likely won’t endear you to your clients.
3. Create a work process
Creative types typically eschew uniformity and predictability, but the implementation of a standardized (read: boring) work process might be just what you need to improve relationships with your clients. Yes, “process” has the connotations of an overused piece of management-speak, but what is it really? Simply put, it is a standardized way that you organize your thoughts and work so that you can work more efficiently and effectively. Your process doesn’t have to be too specific or detailed, but it should touch on every aspect of starting, working on, and delivery of your project to a client. What does a process look like? Here’s a general example upon receiving a project request:
Confirm project details (due date, cost, etc.)
Task out every aspect of project
Figure out what tasks are yours; delegate others with specific instructions
Create draft for review
Solicit feedback from client
Make adjustments based on feedback (Repeat steps 5 and 6 as needed)
Check back in 6 months for more projects
You may think that something as simple as this plan is unnecessary, and you may be right. However, it can be very helpful to have an ordered checklist of things that you always do to refer to when working with clients. Having a process checklist like this hanging on your wall can give you direction and keep you on track when managing multiple or complex projects. Better yet, one idea might be to even share your process with your client- that way you can point them to specific steps that you are on in your work for them. A client will appreciate knowing exactly what is going on with the project, and they will be less likely to badger you with requests for status updates.
4. Get “preemptive” feedback
Before you asked your middle school crush out on a date, you probably ran your game plan by your friends and had them look for flaws (“Dude, you should definitely not take her to Burger King and then Schindler’s List!”). Similarly, there are few things that can be more helpful than having other people look over your design work and critique it before you submit it to a client. However, getting good, actionable feedback isn’t always easy and it can be a very humbling process. Here are two tips for those who want to get preemptive input from others:
Get feedback from the right people
Not all criticism is created equal. Some of it is really valuable, some is average, and the rest could get you fired if you implemented it. Therefore, you need to choose your feedback sources carefully. However, this doesn’t mean that you should only solicit help from other designers or professionals in your field. It is essential to get an outsider’s perspective that comes from someone in your client’s target market, or at least other designers that understand the population that you are trying to cater to.
Put your ego aside
Getting your work critiqued by others can be a painful process, especially if you put lots of time and energy into your projects and you take pride in what you do. However, if you really want good feedback then be prepared to have your design ideas called into question. Don’t be defensive or view critiques as ad hominem attacks on you or your philosophy as a designer (unless of course they actually are – see #4 in this article for help on distinguishing between the two). Try to remember that your work isn’t ultimately about you- it is a service for someone else and their needs as a client. Once you do this you are lessening the emotional burden on yourself, thus making it easier to hear and implement suggestions from others regarding your work.
5. Be timely
You wouldn’t show up 30 minutes late for a first date, and regular tardiness can be a constant source of aggravation for some significant others. It’s not too different with your design work; be on time, and nerves are much less likely to be frayed.
Being timely sounds simple (and it is), but it is essential that designers understand that nothing peeves a client like turning projects in late or missing set deadlines. The key to being on time has a lot to do with staying focused on your work, doing what you say you will do, and not stretching yourself too thin (see tip #1). But perhaps the best strategy for working with your client in a timely manner is to stay in constant communication with them. This may mean giving a regularly scheduled update on the project’s progress, or it may just require the occasional email or phone call to let them informally know how things are going. Choosing how to do this is up to you, but the main reason for doing so is to keep your client aware of any issues or problems that you run into that would prevent you from handing in a project on time. Most clients will have no problem pushing back a due date because of unforeseen circumstances as long as they are kept in the loop with what is going on and they are made known of the problems when they happen. Explaining an unexpected issue two weeks (or even two days) from the due date is much easier than two hours before the project was due.
Hopefully this article has given you some help in successfully improving and maintaining your relationships with clients (with a few free dating pointers along the way, free of charge!). This list isn’t exhaustive- there are many different strategies to build rapport with your clients- but just starting with these 5 basic practices will strengthen the relationships you currently have and build a solid foundation for starting new ones.
Building your personal brand to reach new customers takes time and dedication. Here is how to get started.
In today’s cluttered marketplace, you will have to be known for something if you want your ideal customer to choose you. And that means becoming an authority.You may already be an influencer and not even know it—in which case, the steps I’m going to describe here will catapult you into stardom (maybe not, but they will help). And if you’re not an influencer, but would like to be, you’ll find this roadmap a helpful start on your strategic plan toward dominating your target market.
1. Focus on a specific topic area
You must find a targeted, focused niche in which to specialize. You will not limit your audience, instead you will attract an interested audience. Start by brainstorming. Then do some keyword analysis—use Google Keywordsand check out SEO Book to start. You can also go into your own accounts and target the most profitable and fun ones.
2. 10,000 hours of working in your area
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that you need 10,000 hours to get good at anything. This is another way to look at where you may have influence. What subject or work has engrossed you over the last decade to the point that you’ve invested 10,000 hours in becoming better? The answer may surprise you because it may not be in your existing business.
3. Own the keywords in your area of expertise
You will need to have done the Google Keyword exercise above to do this step. Pick a handful of keywords that you will own. When people type in this combination of words, your goal is to be at the top of the list. This doesn’t just apply to Google searches—this applies to mind-share.
You must blog if you want to be an authority. You don’t have to blog daily, but you must provide valuable content that is congruent with your keywords and your area of expertise. Blogging is a full page advertisement for who you are and what you promise. Use it well.
5. Write guest articles for high-traffic blogs
If your blog content is good, then your guest posts should be better. Target popular high-traffic blogs in your area of interest and send the editor a killer article. Make sure that it will bring traffic to them as well as yourself. Educate their audience, inform them, make it easy for them to take action and learn something. The editor will appreciate the content and you will both appreciate the traffic.
6. Write a book or e-book
Self-publishing is not a bad word and publishing e-books and Kindle books can be down-right profitable. Just read about John Locke, the Kindle Singles sensation (he’s an entrepreneur who writes short novels). He’s figured out how to become a best selling e-book author as well as an influencer and motivator of self-published authors.
7. Schedule speaking engagements
Hit the speaker circuit. This will be an investment in time, money and energy, but the payoff may be worth it depending on your presentation skills and your subject matter. Don’t think that your niche is too small, rather focus on the value that you bring to the audience.
8. Create and run seminars and/or webinars
Running a seminar or a webinar involves your putting in some serious marketing and promoting energy. The upside is that you can charge for seminars and webinars, so they are a way to promote as well as sell. In addition to this, you can record them more readily and use them over and over. Check out Stealth Seminar (I can’t believe I’m sharing this) it will allow you to record a seminar and run it over and over as if it’s live.
9. Send press releases
Social media is a great public relations tool, but don’t forget about press releases. They are still powerful. Remember, that when you’ve targeted a specific industry, you’ve narrowed your distribution list and also increased your chances of visibility. Post them on your blog, use PRWeb or other release distribution service. One last hint about releases: Write them as a ready-to-print article so that the people who pick them up don’t have to do too much editing.
10. Do a radio or Internet-radio show
BlogTalk Radio is a great resource. You can set up an Internet radio show in less than 30 minutes. Your content will be syndicated and distributed (based on those keywords again), and is immediately available. Do a show that features other experts in your area. This creates a win-win promotional opportunity for both parties.
11. Help others succeed
This is more of a general tip that goes with every strategy that you take on. For each action you take look for ways to partner and co-brand with other experts. When you cross promote with other experts, you get the benefit of being referred to their list and they get referred to your list.
12. Do research in your area and own the data
Another strategy that many experts forget about is doing research or surveys with their audience. With so many free survey tools available it’s a huge waste of opportunity not to start gathering data about your industry and audience. You can use any number of free online survey tools, but also consider learning about mobile research panels. This way you will be able to run shorter surveys and have a conversation with your respondents.
13. Create information products based on your expertise
Don’t let any bit of your knowledge go to waste, turn it into articles. Then combine the articles into a book. Take the book and rework it to become a seminar or webinar. Focus on one area and do a speech on that. If you’re currently consulting, start a diary or blog post a review of your day. Convert the advice you gave into something educational for a broader audience.
14. Participate in influencer projects
Last year Fast Company did an experiment called “The Influencer Project.” Regardless of whether you feel that it was a valid measure of who an influencer is, it is evidence of a trend that includes creating communities of trusted experts. If you see events or projects like this, nominate yourself and your clients. Work to promote their progress in the project. Each of these projects creates a living database or list of people that others have felt are influential enough to describe in a nomination form. Take a look at the SMBInfluencer Awards as an example. People nominated individuals, companies and media organizations they felt influenced small business. This is a living list and a promotional opportunity.
Becoming an authority, expert or influencer is all within your control. Focus on where you spend the most time, money, effort and skill and share it consistently and persistently. And remember, to decide on whether you’re in it to make money or be famous, because the two don’t always go together. Focus on your business goals and then use these tips to build your influence to achieve them.
As the owner of a freelance design business or design agency, you’re always working with a variety of clients. Some clients are amazing – they give you a succinct, accurate brief, they allow plenty of creative freedom, they’re open to new ideas, they are prompt with their feedback and they sing your praises to their colleagues. But what about the other type of client – the difficult client.
Every designer has their share of difficult clients, each with their own unique personality and quirks. Here are five of the most common difficult design clients, and how you can deal with them.
Difficult Client 1: Haggling Harriet
She is brash and opinionated, and she will spend more time arguing over price than over setting out the creative brief. A Haggling Harriet will wring every last ounce of value from her budget and will want to understand exactly where every dollar is being spent.
How to Deal with Haggling Harriet: A robust project management system that tracks time will stop Harriet from questioning every single hour spent on a project. Having a clear set of pricing structures and options will help Harriet understand what she’s paying for, and negotiating back at her (“If we cut $100 off the price, you’ll need to upload your content to the site yourself) will ensure you’re not out-of-pocket thanks to her scrimping.
Difficult Client 2: Low-Tech Louis
A Low-Tech Louis will call instead of emailing, insist everything be faxed to him, and will want in-person meetings for aspects of a project that are usually resolved via your project management system. If you ask him about the Cloud, he points out the window. All your productive, time-saving systems will grind to a halt as Low-Tech Louis refuses to learn how to send an email or sign off work online.
How to Deal with Low-Tech Louis: Louis needs his hand held throughout the design process – and you may have to explain concepts a few times to ensure he understands. If you have a team of designers, give Louis’ job to the most patient of them – because they will need every ounce of that patience. It can help to explain technological aspects in writing so Louis can refer to them at his leisure.
The best way to deal with Low-Tech Louis is to give him the best advice about technology, and utilize his knowledge about his business to make the project as big a success as possible. Don’t push a new system on him that you’re not sure he’ll be comfortable with (such as a website that requires a lot of updating). Allow him to dictate his comfort level.
Difficult Client 3: Second-Opinion Sam
Second-Opinion Sam might be a single cog in the machine of a giant corporation, or a small businessman sharing responsibilities with a spouse, business partner or particularly astute cat. Either way, he has to get a second, or third, or tenth opinion from his office on absolutely every decision. This makes Sam painfully slow to work with and often returning with conflicting ideas he expects you to resolve.
How to Deal with Second-Opinion Sam: Unfortunately, there is really not that much you can do about Sam – his existence is a fact of life when working with companies. It can help to present Sam with a couple of alternative options at each stage of the project upfront – this way he can present all options to his team at once. Charge accordingly.
Difficult Client 4: Need-it-Now Nancy
Nancy is a repeat client, which is wonderful, but every job Nancy brings to you needed to be done last week. Nancy believes all her jobs are “high priority” and doesn’t know or care that you have other clients.
How to Deal with Need-it-Now Nancy: You need to carefully manage how much of Need-it-Now Nancy’s work you take on at any one time, and you should only have one Nancy on the books at any one time – any more is a recipe for high stress.
You need to get Nancy to understand that repeated urgent requests are unacceptable – do this in a gentle, joking tone, but be firm when you say that you are making an exception for her, and that you won’t be able to again. Often, Need-it-Now Nancy’s have so much urgent work because they are disorganized and they don’t realize how their habits affect your business – so it’s up to you to make her understand!
Difficult Client 5: Indecisive Ian
Indecisive Ian doesn’t know what he wants. But what he wants isn’t what you’ve created. He can’t tell you what it is, but he’ll know it when he sees it. A simple job can be stalled by several rounds of intensive edits while you and your team take wild stabs in the dark at trying to perfect Ian’s impossible vision.
How to Deal with Indecisive Ian: You cannot design what the client wants if the client doesn’t know what he wants. Indecisive Ian will be one of your most difficult and frustrating clients – and he may become frustrated himself if he doesn’t see the “perfect design” he imagines.
Be very clear from the beginning exactly what revisions cost, and make sure this is outlined in the contract. Taking the time to produce a detailed creative brief will also help you narrow down the parameters of the project, and it will be less likely to spiral out of control.
Difficult Client 6: Copycat Candice
Candice has come to you with a problem: She’s seen one of her competitors websites in your portfolio, and it look so awesome she’s decided she needs a her website done, too. The problem is, she wants you to basically copy what you’ve done for that previous client!
How to Deal with Copycat Candice: You need to clear up any issues of copying – whether from one of your previous clients or another business, right up front. Say something like, “we try to look at each clients needs on an individual basis. What worked for that company won’t necessarily work for you. And if we just copy what we did for them, not only is it not fair to them, but it also has legal implications and it paints you as a copycat – your customers will notice, and it will reflect poorly on your company.”
Explain to Candice that you can incorporate some of the ideas and concepts into her project, but out-and-out copying isn’t going to work. Focus on getting her excited about her distinct brand and what her company can offer.
Difficult Client 7: Lets-try-it-my-way Larry
Larry can be a difficult client to spot. Upon first encounter, he appears to be the perfect client – enthusiastic, interested in learning about the process and willing to try your more creative ideas. But the first clue comes when he starts telling you about his skill as a designer/photographer/artist, and before you know it he’s pushing copies of his own concept sketches into your arms.
How to Deal with Lets-Try-It-My-Way-Larry: I get it – you don’t want to be the one to burst his bubble. Larry is a good client, but he’s not a creative professional, and his ideas wouldn’t be the way you’d approach the project. So what to do?
The best way to approach Larry is to use his ideas as a jumping-off point for the creative team. Take concepts – rather than actual designs – and use them as the framework for the project. Explain to Larry that he has specific ideas in mind, so you’re going to follow that direction, however he’s welcome to sit back and let you do your job.
Difficult Client 8: Paranoid Phillip
Paranoid Philip is dangling an exciting, top-secret project for a major brand right in front of your nose, but his non-disclosure agreement is the length of a historical novel and he is demonstrating a distinctly antagonistic attitude toward your staff. He seems convinced you’re going to rip him off, and nothing you say will convince him to otherwise.
How to Deal with Paranoid Philip: A paranoid client will present you with a significant amount of legal documentation drawn up to protect their interests. This usually means 101 ways to get out of paying you for your work. You must hire your own lawyer to go through the documents to make sure you’re covering your own back.
Don’t take on a paranoid client for a small job, as the legal fees and hassles involved will eat away what little profit you’d have made. For a large job or a high profile client, make sure your contract is explicit, with lawyers fees added to your total.
Difficult Client 9: The Too-Cool-For-You Yolanda
Yolanda works in an industry everyone dreams of getting into – music, or film, or space-exploration. She has a job for you, but she knows that if you don’t take it, she’ll easily find another designer or agency who will. Too-Cool-for-You Yolanda acts like she’s doing you a favor by giving you a job, and she usually expects special treatment for her trouble, such as a discounted rate.
How to Deal with Too-Cool-for-You Yolanda: Remember that the reason you take on Yolanda is to get that sweet job for your portfolio. The best thing you can do is be honest with yourself about how much you want that job, and whether it’s worth the extra work/lost income. If you’re just starting out, Yolanda can give you a real door into the industry, but if you’re a seasoned designer, Too-Cool-for-You Yolanda could be more trouble than she’s worth.
Difficult Client 10: Disappearing David
David was super-enthusiastic about your design project in the beginning, and he approved initial roughs very quickly. But now, you need his approval on the first proofs, as well as a deposit, and he’s not following up with you and not answering his emails.
How to Deal with Disappearing David: It could be that David has a lot on his plate right now. It could be that he has family issues keeping him away from work. It could be that he’s having email issues. It could be that he’s simply disorganized. Or it could be that he’s deliberately trying to stiff you for your fee.
The only way to find out is to contact David. If you can’t get hold of him via email after a week of trying, then give him or his business a call. Let him know that you’re halting work on the project until you hear back from him. And don’t give it another thought till you do!
Difficult design clients come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. But it is how you deal with them that define you as a business owner. Have you had a difficult design client recently? How did you deal with their situation?
If you have realized it, then we are moving closer towards the end of the present year and ahead of us lies the future which is totally unpredictable expect for few things. Over the past few years, the general popular look of the internet has indeed changed quite a bit for developers and designers. So let’s have a look at the Web Design Trends in 2015.
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words; hence you would definitely see that in the upcoming year. Large images would be seen on the homepage of the websites. However, to properly pull it off, the image should stop at the break, in terms of resolutions and pixels, of the screen. Once the user begins to navigate, they should not continue to see the image, but instead see the content below it. There are many people who feel different when they are on Windows 8 and 8.1 rather than the older versions. “Flat design” is the upcoming feature which is used for creating the modern user interface. A good example of this can be seen in the tablet screen on any windows 8 machine. These designs are accompanied and bought to life through eye- catching colors that attract a user to the site. Best of all, these are very quick in regards to loading time.
About Responsive Design
The year 2015 will finally see the shift where more individuals browsing on mobiles rather than on traditional computers. If you cannot easily browse a website on your device, you are not going to come back to it. It is necessary that the developers think like a website user or customer at times. This is why responsive design is so important. It allows a particular website to detect the screen size it is being pulled up on, and automatically adjust to best fit that screen size. This ensures that you are getting the best user experience possible, regardless of what screen size or device they are viewing your site on. Responsive Design: Getting It Right [Infographic]
The Background of the Web-Pages
There would also be videos, not mean promotional ones but HTML5 videos, which would run in the background of the web-pages. There are many methods by which videos can be embedded in HTML pages and a number of brands have already included this element in their web design. As there are several types of websites coming up with innovative design methods, you would definitely prefer a website which is composed of properly adjusted images with proper contents. It is essential that the website you are visiting should not have design elements arranged in an unconventional way.
As a user, you would love to browse through websites which are not only user friendly but would also give you the accurate information rather than taking you through confusion and other unnecessary. Every internet user, not only you, would love to be able to browse through such sites. All we can do is to wait till the Web Design Trends in 2015 expectations are brought into the real world.
Liza Enebeis breaks down the 11 main designer tribes: take the quiz and find out which one you belong to…
We all know how to recognise our people – you take a walk and you can sniff out a designer from a mile away.
But within that world there are a multitude of design tribes. Do you know which one you belong to? Are you hanging out with the wrong designer crowd? Do you think you are a ‘Critical’ designer but in reality you are just a ‘Brand Expert’?
I discuss this in issue 231 of Computer Arts – which you’ll find in the shops on Thursday – but why not take this cheeky test to determine which tribe you belong to? Simply jot down the letter that corresponds to each answer and click-to-reveal at the bottom…
01. How do you prefer to travel to work?
You ride your fixie (K)
You are driven (D)
You roll over to your desk (C)
Walk 10 minutes, metro 35 minutes and then either bus or walk for another 10 minutes depending on the weather (H)
02. How many hours do you work?
It’s not work (G)
Until midnight is standard (E)
You follow your body rhythm (H)
03. How are you inspired?
By your children (I)
You read the news (G)
You look out for the newest trends on Tumblr (A)
It comes from within (H)
The beauty of nature (C)
04. Who is your design hero?
Paul Rand (A)
Daniel van der Velde (H)
Wim Crouwel (F)
05. What is your ideal project?
Wedding card (J)
Redesign the Bible (E)
Streamline the Nike Swoosh (F)
You are happy with anything that pays (I)
06. Your favorite colour?
07. How do you choose the typeface for the project you are working on?
That’s not your job (B)
Google fonts are great (J)
You only pick fonts from independent type foundries that have really cool specimen books (E)
You are a Massimo Vignelli disciple so your choices are limited to five typefaces (A)
You just design them yourself (K)
08. How do you do presentations?
You hate talking, your images should speak for themselves (A)
You stand, clasp your hands and make a sweeping rhetoric statement, pause, and then show one image (D)
A couple of Epson printouts will do (J)
On an iPhone (I)
You read out all 25 slides, eventually you get to the work (H)
Sweating, stuttering, blushing, and shaking (F)
With as much cleavage as possible (B)
You just send the link (C)
09. You just won a pitch…
This is never possible – you don’t believe in pitching, it’s bad for design (G)
You tweet about it several times a day (K)
You run around the studio hugging all your colleagues as if you won the World Cup (B)
You call your mom (D)
10. You just lost a pitch…
This is never possible – you don’t believe in pitching, it’s bad for design (H)
You are convinced that you lost unfairly, and that the whole job was crap in the first place (A)
You pretend it never happened (F)
You call your mom (C)
11. The client is not happy with your results in the latest presentation…
You take him out for dinner (D)
You make the changes while he sits next to you (I)
You make sure he knows how disappointing he is as a client (K)
You break down in tears (F)
You are proud because what hurts you will make you stronger (G)
12. Does money make the world go round?
Money is the root of all evil (G)
It’s all about value (I)
Who designed the euro bills? (A)
It’s not money, it’s Bitcoin (C)
13. You are invited to be a keynote speaker at a conference…
You forward your request to your secretary (B)
You say yes within seconds (H)
You ask a colleague to join you on stage (E)
You start worrying about what you will wear then what you will say (J)
14. How do you register your work?
You photograph each individual piece on a grey background and retouch the life out of it (A)
An iPhone snapshot will do (I)
It never went to print so cinema 3d is perfect (F)
You never show work, you just mention the client (B)
15. What is your favorite drink?
Old Fashioned (A)
Rooibos Tea (G)
Skinny Latte Macchiato (B)
Water – sparkling not still (F)
Wine in a box (I)
Russian River Blind Pig IPA (C)
Double Espresso (D)
16. Do you read?
You read much more now that you are on Twitter and Facebook (A)
Derrida is your favorite (H)
The great thing about e-readers is that you can read junk and no one knows (D)
It’s the way you relax (J)
You don’t read you only look at pictures (K)
Just audiobooks (E)
17. What art do you have at home?
The Wim Crouwel catalogues from the Stedelijk Museum dating between 1963-1985 framed individually, above your Eames lounge chair (F)
A complete printout of the Star Wars Universe (C)
Robert Capa’s last photograph (G)
A Van Gogh in the kitchen (J)
SNES on your night stand (C)
18. Where did you take your first serious date?
The Heineken Experience House (B)
Your parents’ (J)
Hooters – they have the greatest chicken wings (I)
The Einstürzende Neubauten concert (C)
In the elevator (D)
19. What kind of tattoos do you have?
None – your body is a sacred temple (A)
Your favorite quote in Helvetica (E)
Most people mistake you for a sailor (G)
You recently joined the Japanese Yakuza (K)
20. How often do you have sex?
It depends on the intern (K)
You make love to your graphic design (A)
Every Sunday at 14:00 (F)
Whenever possible (B)
21. What’s your favorite cuisine?
Super food (G)
The 5:2 diet (J)
Check below to reveal what type of designer you are!
Who you are…
The Designer’s Designer
“As long as it looks great on my website who cares if the project is not real.”
What we think of you…
I guess you have to fake it till you make it…
Who you are…
The Brand Expert
“I am here to build bigger and better brands, design is just a small part of it.”
What we think of you…
Let’s be honest, you are just a designer who changed his title so that you could get better paid.
Who you are…
The Online Geek Designer
“I am not alone I am part of a bigger network.”
What we think of you…
We are secretly hoping you will invent the next big thing on the social network, so that we are no longer embarrassed to tell everyone we know you.
Who you are…
The Strategic Designer
“Just one word can say more then a thousand images.”
What we think of you…
It was your childhood dream to become a designer, but your parents convinced you there was no way you could make a living with that, so you ended up being a strategist instead.
Who you are…
The Type Freak Designer
“For my birthday I went all out and bought the entire collection from my favorite Swiss foundry.”
What we think of you…
If you are still single, we suggest you only hang out at a type conference to meet your match.
Who you are…
The Grid Designer
“I have reached perfection and it physically hurts just looking at the world around me.”
What we think of you…
To be honest nobody sees it but if it helps you line up your facial creams on your dressing table at home, that’s fine with us – just don’t do it at our place.
Who you are…
The Socially Engaged Designer
“We have the power to make a change, its no longer in the hands of these political puppets.”
What we think of you…
You give design a good name. But it doesn’t mean you should not have any hygiene standards.
Who you are…
The Critical Designer
“Stereotyping is a form of pseudo-narcissistic self doubt in the greater spectrum of design.”
What we think of you…
We know you are speaking in English, but we seriously don’t understand a single word. Did you care?
Who you are…
The ‘I am just doing this for the money’ Designer
“In the end someone has to pay the bills.”
What we think of you…
You are looked down upon by the rest us. The truth is, we too have those jobs, but we just never mention them.
Who you are…
The ‘You are not really a designer’ Designer
‘I was good with ppt, and you know one thing led to the other’
What we think of you…
We always need people like you around, you make the rest of us look really talented.
Who you are…
The Trend Generator Designer
“I am the Trend Setter and you are all my followers.”
What we think of you…
You are part of the elite – one day you are designing a limited edition flag, next day a pop-up shop, the day after an animation for your favourite fashion designer. Everyone wants to be you.
Like the phrase ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, effective web design is judged by the users of the website and not the website owners. There are many factors that affect the usability of a website, and it is not just about form (how good it looks), but also function (how easy is it to use).
Websites that are not well designed tend to perform poorly and have sub-optimal Google Analytics metrics (e.g. high bounce rates, low time on site, low pages per visit and low conversions). So what makes good web design? Below we explore the top 10 web design principles that will make your website aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, engaging, and effective.
Good web design always caters to the needs of the user. Are your web visitors looking for information, entertainment, some type of interaction, or to transact with your business? Each page of your website needs to have a clear purpose, and to fulfill a specific need for your website users in the most effective way possible.
People on the web tend to want information quickly, so it is important to communicate clearly, and make your information easy to read and digest. Some effective tactics to include in your web design include: organising information using headlines and sub headlines, using bullet points instead of long windy sentences, and cutting the waffle.
In general, Sans Serif fonts such as Arial and Verdana are easier to read online (Sans Serif fonts are contemporary looking fonts without decorative finishes). The ideal font size for reading easily online is 16px and stick to a maximum of 3 typefaces in a maximum of 3 point sizes to keep your design streamlined.
A well thought out colour palette can go a long way to enhance the user experience. Complementary colours create balance and harmony. Using contrasting colours for the text and background will make reading easier on the eye. Vibrant colours create emotion and should be used sparingly (e.g. for buttons and call to actions). Last but not least, white space/ negative space is very effective at giving your website a modern and uncluttered look.
A picture can speak a thousand words, and choosing the right images for your website can help with brand positioning and connecting with your target audience. If you don’t have high quality professional photos on hand, consider purchasing stock photos to lift the look of your website. Also consider using infographics, videos and graphics as these can be much more effective at communicating than even the most well written piece of text.
Navigation is about how easy it is for people to take action and move around your website. Some tactics for effective navigation include a logical page hierarchy, using bread crumbs, designing clickable buttons, and following the ‘three click rule’ which means users will be able to find the information they are looking for within three clicks.
7. Grid based layouts
Placing content randomly on your web page can end up with a haphazard appearance that is messy. Grid based layouts arrange content into sections, columns and boxes that line up and feel balanced, which leads to a better looking website design.
8. “F” Pattern design
Eye tracking studies have identified that people scan computer screens in an “F” pattern. Most of what people see is in the top and left of the screen and the right side of the screen is rarely seen. Rather than trying to force the viewer’s visual flow, effectively designed websites will work with a reader’s natural behaviour and display information in order of importance (left to right, and top to bottom).
9. Load time
10: Mobile friendly
It is now commonplace to access websites from multiple devices with multiple screen sizes, so it is important to consider if your website is mobile friendly. If your website is not mobile friendly, you can either rebuild it in a responsive layout (this means your website will adjust to different screen widths) or you can build a dedicated mobile site (a separate website optimised specifically for mobile users).
It is easy to create a beautiful and functional website, simply by keeping these design elements in mind. Have you got a website design that needs reviewing or optimising? Or perhaps, you are planning a website and you are looking to get the design right from the ground up. Either way, these principles of effective web design can help your website be more engaging, useful, and memorable for visitors.
So if you’re thinking of designing a new website, consider these principles. You can get more ideas by clicking on the link below:
Victor Lombardi explains what experience designers can learn from past failures.
This is an edited excerpt from Chapter 1 of Why We Fail, published by Rosenfeld Media. Use the discount code creativebloqto buy the book at a 20 per cent discounthere
“Ultimately, we are deluding ourselves if we think that the products that we design are the ‘things’ that we sell, rather than the individual, social and cultural experience that they engender, and the value and impact that they have. Design that ignores this is not worthy of the name.”
– Bill Buxton, computer scientist, designer, and a pioneer of the human–computer interaction field
Why I failed
The year was 2000 and I was employed at a prestigious digital design agency working with a financial information company to create a new website that would revolutionize the research process for institutional investors, the people who manage investments for large companies and municipalities
“Make it like a Bloomberg Terminal,” is how the client summed it up. My team of designers and programmers winced at his suggestion because we considered the Bloomberg Terminal a powerful but ugly and difficult-to-learn interface design from the dark ages of text-based computers (Figure 1.1). We instead pushed him in the direction of beautiful charts and graphs, software agents that personalized information, and conventional web navigation that would be familiar to his clients.
Our client hadn’t actually done any research with his customers to understand if they would like his ideas. And neither had we. He was leaning on his expertise in managing similar products and we were leaning on our experience having designed similar products, but neither of us had validated these particular ideas with these particular customers. At the time, the methods we had for validating our ideas were not compellingly useful, and perhaps my team and the client implicitly understood this. We made minimal effort to conduct research with the client’s customers, and he denied us access to them.
With each stage of the project the design and technology accumulated more flaws. When the client decided the team was wrong for the job, another team at my agency replaced us. After more missteps the client’s upper management replaced their team. Eventually the whole project was canceled; the client’s company decided to use off-the-shelf software instead, which was never a success with its customers. In the end the project was a failure, all too common in the early days of the web.
The blame game
Ouch. I was a young designer and had never experienced a big failure at work. I felt terrible. No one at our agency wanted to focus on the failures and take time to discuss them, so the team never understood why we failed. Without a good explanation and without something tangible I could do to improve, I sometimes felt depressed and I lost confidence in my skills. Sometimes I became defensive and blamed the ‘dumb client’.
But I saw that things around me were even worse: clients were firing agencies after as little as a month or clients were suing agencies. Some of the mistakes agencies were making were to be expected. The Internet represented a new world of design and technology that changed on a daily basis. Everyone was learning and experimenting; there were no experts.
Since the time of that first early failure, I’ve contributed to or directly managed over 40 internet and software projects, some as a designer and some as a product manager. There have been other failures, and even when I understand why I failed it still takes an emotional toll. In spite of my own failures, you’ll see as you read this book that I’m often a harsh critic of my peers’ work. I don’t criticize because I think leading a design project from start to finish is easy. It’s not. It’s hard work. I criticize the outcomes I see because it’s hard work and because failure is still too common. I want all of us to get it right more often, with less of the emotional toll of failure. I hope by reading this book and applying the lessons learned, avoiding failure will be easier for you and those you work with.
I failed mostly because I didn’t have the right methods to discover which of our ideas would give customers an experience they wanted. Since then, those methods have improved significantly.
Why this stuff is really important
I see the trend of our work going beyond the ubiquitous convenience it is today and becoming a vital part of the infrastructure supporting life in the 21st century. Currently most of our work complements or enhances life; people don’t rely on it as essential yet. An updated status on Facebook, an e-mail to a friend, accessing information on websites… if all this were turned off tomorrow people would feel inconvenienced, but they could find work-arounds for all of it.
But that’s changing rapidly. I now make appointments with my doctor online, and the doctor transmits my prescription for medicine directly to my pharmacist online (Figure 1.2). I pay the doctor, the pharmacist, and the health insurance online. As people become accustomed to this way of working – and as service providers become accustomed to the efficiency, accuracy, and cost savings – the old ways will gradually be discontinued. Increasingly, we will rely on digital products and services for everyday matters of life and death.
We are each the product of our experience. The things we do, the places we go, the people we meet, and the things we use all influence who we are. Over time, as we interact with more and more technology to live our lives, we will spend more of our time looking at screens, and the quality of the design of this technology will have ever greater influence on the quality of our lives.
Why we learn from failure
Instead of studying failures, can’t we just study successes and then repeat whatever led to those successes? Yes, this is a good tactic in very simple situations, such as learning how to tie your shoes. There’s not much to be gained by looking at how many ways it’s possible to tie your shoes incorrectly. If you fail, nothing terrible happens.
Any industry that’s important, complex, and dynamic takes the time to examine failures. Aviation, medicine, and manufacturing are three fields that have taught us an enormous number of lessons by studying failures.
Here’s a good example. During World War II a mathematician in the United States named Abraham Wald worked on the problem of deciding where to add additional armor to B-29 bomber planes to keep them from getting shot down. Looking at planes that had successfully returned from flying missions, he determined statistically where the bullets had hit the planes and plotted the locations, as represented schematically in Figure 1.3.
The initial reaction to this data might be, “We need to add additional armor to the dark areas because that’s where the bullets are hitting the planes.” Wald’s insight was that the planes with bullet holes in the dark areas returned successfully, so perhaps the planes that did not return were shot down because they had bullet holes in the light areas. His recommendation was to add armor to the light areas instead.
As a statistician, Wald would naturally want to make a decision based on a random sample of all planes, but he didn’t have access to the planes that were shot down. He understood the limitation of his sample and adjusted for it. He successfully dodged survivorship bias, the mistake of learning only from the survivors of some process.
Survivorship bias happens all the time. Witness the marketing hype in our industry that, devoid of research, hails every new method and technology as the fix for people’s business or personal needs. It seems easier to research and analyze companies and products that currently exist instead of searching for information on companies and products that have perished. Doing so can lead us to believe that the survivors have some special quality that helps them survive, when it’s possible they were just lucky (Figure 1.4).
The lesson here is very simple: to increase your chances of success and lower your chances of failure, you need to carefully examine cases of both success and failure.
Why experience failure is different
So we know why studying failure is important, but do we really need another book on failed products? Yes we do, because previous books were about design rather than experience.
To help illustrate the difference, I’ll group the many design-related failures into three broad categories:
Engineering failure: The product physically fails to function as designed.
Design failure: The product physically works, but is so badly designed people can’t use it.
Experience failure: The product physically works and people can use it, but using it is an undesirable experience.
For engineering failure, we have great studies of how and why things fail in physical ways, most notably Henry Petroski’s studies of buildings, bridges, and pyramids, as in his book Success through Failure: The Paradox of Design. But studying a bridge that failed is worlds apart from studying a failed website. When people use bridges, they don’t directly interact with them the same way they interact with digital products. For example, a sleeping passenger in a car can pass over a bridge without even knowing it, whereas people actively and directly interact with digital products (Figure 1.5). I’ve never heard of a bridge that was torn down and replaced because people didn’t like it much. But in this age of plentiful digital products, people have enough options to be selective about what they use.
In the second case, design failure, the product physically works but its design makes it too hard to use. We used to call this ‘human error’ but the more common term in the fields of ergonomics and human factors is now ‘design-induced error’, which moves the blame from the people using the product to the people who designed it. Whenever you’re using any kind of computer and feel confused about how to use it correctly, you’re experiencing design-induced error. Many of us are old enough to remember trying in vain to set the digital clock on our VCRs. This is a classic example of a design-induced problem (Figure 1.6).
Having a product break and feeling confused by a design are definitely things people still experience, but interactive digital products are more sophisticated now. They do more than just perform simple functions like recording a TV show at a particular time. They connect us socially, they allow us to shop and conduct business from home, and they smooth a million transactions from navigating a car to finding a book at the library. Mere usability is a low bar for these products to clear; they now aim much higher, engaging our higher-level functions and sometimes even engaging us emotionally.
While the concept of design-induced error is a useful subset of failure I’ll look at in this book, experience failure comprises much more.
In this book I will talk about design – the appearance and behavior of a product – separately from the experience – people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions while using the product. I illustrate this distinction explicitly in Chapter 8 of my book with the case of Nokia’s Symbian S60 mobile phone operating system. The Symbian-based phones had a long list of features and high-performance specifications that sounded great on paper, but the iPhone and Android phones offered a more pleasing experience, despite having far fewer features. With the first iPhone you couldn’t even spell-check your e-mail or customize your ringtone, and yet it sold very well. Consumer electronics have now reached a performance threshold where more features and performance offer diminishing returns unless the design helps people have a good experience.
One observer has called this “the death of the spec”, meaning
the list of specifications is no longer as important as the experience. This phrase was coined as a result of ‘Antennagate’, the controversy over the signal reception of Apple’s iPhone 4 in July 2010. Consumer Reports magazine evaluated the phone and found that holding it a certain way would significantly reduce the signal strength, a potentially fatal flaw for a mobile phone. The magazine, usually content to simply publish ratings and move on, went further and issued several news updates, even calling on Apple to fix the problem (Figure 1.7).
You might assume with all the publicity about a fundamental flaw in the iPhone 4 that sales would plummet. For the fiscal quarter ending September 25, 2010, Apple sold 14.1 million iPhones, which was 91 per cent more iPhones than the same quarter from the previous year. Apparently people who wanted the iPhone 4 decided to buy it against the advice of independent product experts. This massive contrast between the publicity of the defect and the record sales numbers served to highlight the death of the spec of interactive digital products.
Marco Arment, a software developer and technology writer, offered this explanation for the situation: “For [Consumer Reports’] ratings to be useful to my purchase, their priorities and criteria need to approximately match mine. This is easy for most of the products they review: […] an air conditioner that uses less energy for the same cooling is better than a less efficient model. You can assign numbers and scores to factors like these.
“Smartphones have too many subjective criteria, and even the measurable stats don’t always yield a definite answer on what’s better. If you want a huge screen, you’ll get a huge phone, so is a larger screen size a good thing or not? Fast 4G network access kills battery life, so is 4G a good feature for you? These all depend on your priorities.
“A product as complex and multifaceted as a modern smartphone is beyond Consumer Reports’ ability to rate in a way that’s useful to most buyers.”
Subjective is the word that stands out for me here. While the qualities of a design can be objectively described on a list of specifications, the qualities of people’s experience – their thoughts and feelings about a complex, multifaceted product – are subjective.
And that’s one thing about designing digital products these days that is different and, I think, trickier. We just don’t know if they work or not until we evaluate the subjective experience of the people using them. Sure, we can check if the products function correctly and ask independent experts to review them. But the products we’re now making are experiential products, and only the people experiencing them know if they are ultimately successful or not (Figure 1.8).
Why design equals experience
To fully understand the failures cited in my book, I describe both the product design and the outcome of that design – the experience. Ultimately it is in the experience that these products fail, but by presenting both the design and the experience I hope to illuminate the difference and help you completely appreciate the lessons learned.
Even though I’ve been working in the ‘experience design’ industry for years, this design/experience dichotomy hasn’t been easy for me to arrive at. Because we so often use the word ‘experience’ to describe the design, it takes some conceptual backflips to think about a person’s experience apart from the product.
To help you see the difference between design and experience here are two automotive examples. I like taking examples from the automotive world because most people are familiar with cars. Figure 1.9 is a video describing the design of a new concept car. The reporter discusses the styling, the price, and the business issues at the automaker, but not the experience of what it’s like to drive the vehicle. This is only a concept vehicle and the reporter didn’t have access to a working prototype.
Contrast that with the video of an off-road rally car driver taking a passenger for a short ride (Figure 1.10). We don’t know where they are, who they are, or how fast they’re going. We don’t know anything about the design of the car other than the little we can see in the blurry video. But we know the woman in the passenger seat is ecstatic, smiling throughout the entire four-minute ride, laughing and uttering curses as she’s bumped and tossed around. That’s experience.
Here’s a parallel example relevant to software. Figure 1.11 is a video I made highlighting an interesting design aspect of Microsoft Office 2007. It’s all about design and not at all about experience.
Next is a video compilation of disabled people interacting with Drupal websites (Figure 1.12). We can’t tell much about the design of the websites from the video, but we get to see people’s reactions as they use the sites and later reflect on the experience.
This focus on experience isn’t new, but only recently has it started to become more widespread as a concept. The seminal work on experience as an economic force is The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine II and James H Gilmore, first published in 1999. They observed that “companies stage an experience whenever they engage customers, connecting with them in a personal, memorable way.” They argue that experiences are an economic force just like commodities, goods, and services, which can be intentionally produced, consumed, and measured.
One reason for isolating experiences is that they are profitable. For example, Pine and Gilmore show how the profit margin for coffee increases along a value chain. The raw beans to make a cup of coffee (a commodity) cost 1 or 2 cents, but when a manufacturer roasts, grinds, and packages the coffee for sale (a good) the price to a consumer increases to as much as 25 cents. A brewed cup of coffee at a quick service restaurant (a service) can increase the value to between 50 cents and a dollar. Starbucks deliberately aims for a highly engaging experience – by preparing special beverages and serving them in an environment enhanced with interior design, music, and Internet access – and receives $2 to $5 for a cup of coffee.
Compared with commodities, goods, and services, the consumer price index shows that people are paying increasingly more for experiences. Experiences also show a faster rate of growth when contributing to both employment and gross domestic product (GDP).
As competition in various industries increases, companies sometimes try to move up this value chain, turning their commodities, goods, and services into experiences and seeking higher profit margins. For example,
“Glimcher Realty Trust, which owns and manages shopping malls, is experimenting with making them Internet-proof. The company concedes that if shoppers can buy something online, they will. So it is trying to fill one of its malls, in Scottsdale, Ariz., with businesses that do more than sell stuff.
“There are still clothing-only retailers at the mall, Scottsdale Quarter, but more than half of the stores offer dining or some other experience that cannot be easily replicated on the Web. That has glimcher executives taking some unconventional approaches to finding suitable tenants—like testing out laser salons, getting hairstyling lessons, and watching movies in a theater that serves food.
“‘It’s retail Darwinism,’ Mr. Glimcher said.”
Nathan Shedroff’s book Experience Design is the seminal introduction to the design of digital, experiential products. First published in 2001, the touchstone work ranges broadly from interaction design to designing for the senses. Here’s how Shedroff describes the state of the field:
“The design of experiences isn’t any newer than the recognition of experiences. As an approach, though, experience Design is still in its infancy. Simultaneously having no history (since it has, still, only recently been defined), and the longest history (since it is the culmination of many, ancient disciplines), experience Design has become newly recognized and named. However, it is really the combination of many previous disciplines; but never before have these disciplines been so interrelated, nor have the possibilities for integrating them into whole solutions been so great.”
Both The Experience Economy and Experience Design argue that a product or service is designed, sold, and used differently than an experience.
One reason we can turn our attention to our audience’s experience is that we’re less challenged to design technology to satisfy basic functions. Before, we had to work hard to design interfaces that could compensate for performance shortcomings, whereas now we sometimes have more computing speed, communications bandwidth, and storage than we generally require. The experiential threshold is crossed when technology reaches a point of sophistication where product design can engage people’s emotions.
A recent example is the portable music player. In the 1980s portable cassette players like the Walkman let people take their music with them, but the devices themselves didn’t engage their emotions (Figure 1.13).
In the 2000s digital music players transformed that experience by storing people’s entire music collection in their pockets and adding interactive screens, especially touchscreens (Figure 1.14). Suddenly the range of interactions increased dramatically. Sliding a finger on a screen allows an infinite number of input possibilities, and the devices can use graphics and sound to communicate back to the user, becoming so much more than just music players.
This concept of the experiential threshold is gradually permeating the technology media. For example when Microsoft released its Windows Surface tablets in June 2012, Darren Murph at Engadget wrote:
“Microsoft’s playing coy when it comes to both CPU speed and available memory. Not unlike Apple and its iPad, actually. We’re guessing that the company will try to push the user experience instead of focusing on pure specifications, and it’s frankly about time the industry started moving in that direction. Pure hardware attributes only get you so far, and judging by the amount of integration time that went into this project, Microsoft would be doing itself a huge disservice to launch anything even close to not smooth-as-butter.”
Because people relate to experiential products differently, each product fails differently. It might fail because we feel overwhelmed (Google Wave) or underwhelmed (Microsoft Zune). We might feel cheated (Classmates.com) or annoyed (Plaxo). We might feel frustrated (OpenID) or maddened (BMW iDrive). We might become enlightened to a need we didn’t know we had, and then realize that another, different product would actually satisfy this need better (Pownce, Wesabe).
Why you should keep reading
What all the stories in my book have in common is that the products somehow failed to offer their audience a good experience. As a result the product either failed in the marketplace (e.g. Symbian) or the company was forced to change the product to offer a better experience in order to survive in the marketplace (e.g. Plaxo). The stories are sometimes sad, sometimes surprising, and sometimes enraging. But each one taught me something valuable about how to do my work, and I hope they will do the same for you.
I limited the case studies in this book to digital products, in particular software and consumer electronics. All the products examined here tried to innovate in one way or another before failing. There are certainly examples of failed products that attempted to copy others or simply to make incremental improvements over what came previously, but those cases aren’t as interesting or instructive. I also excluded products that failed merely because the creators were incompetent or the lessons are outdated or irrelevant.
My key message in this book is this: experience design is an incredibly young field and we have much to learn about how people experience our products. However, there has been work over the past decades to address the challenges faced in this book, and the lessons others have learned can help us avoid failure.
Words: Victor Lombardi
This is an edited excerpt from Chapter 1 of Why We Fail, published by Rosenfeld Media.
So you’re attracting lots of visitors to your website. But if you’re a freelancer or running a creative business, you need those visitors to become clients and customers. Otherwise your site is like a bucket with a hole – draining away your time and money.
1. Work out what they really want.
Finding out what your customers want is the beginning and end of your marketing efforts. Get this right, and you can make mistakes with the rest of this list and still make sales. Get it wrong, and you will struggle no matter how well you execute the rest.If you’re a service provider working closely with clients, this is relatively easy – since clients will tell you about their problems, challenges, loves, and hates. They’ll let you know when you’re giving them what they want – and vice versa! So pay attention to what they tell you and use it to improve your service – and develop new offerings.
If you’re selling products or artworks without so much interaction with your customers, it’s a little harder but still doable. Take every opportunity to meet with your customers and talk to them – in ‘real life’ as well as via social media.
Working out what your customers want is an ongoing process that involves trial and error. Here are two questions that can help you get the answers faster:
Which products/services/artworks are my customers most enthusiastic about?
What do they buy from your competitors that you could do better, or with an original twist?
2. Show them you mean business.
When a new visitor lands on your website, what’s their first impression? Does it look professional or amateurish? Up-to-date or neglected? Popular or obscure? No prizes for guessing which qualities are more attractive to buyers.
And do you make it obvious this is a business website, where you want them to buy from you or hire you? They aren’t mind readers, you know!
Don’t say: ”Hi, I’m Rachel, welcome to my photography site, I hope you enjoy the pictures!”
Do say: ”Hi, I’m Rachel Reynolds, a photographer based in Boston. Welcome to my site – you can browse and buy my pictures in the gallery.”
3. Make your offer crystal clear.
What do you want people to DO when they come to your site? ‘Buy my stuff’ or ‘hire me’ should be at the top of your list. Next up is to subscribe to your blog or newsletter, sign up for a free trial, or do something else that moves them closer to buying.Make a prioritized list of these actions. For each desired action, you need to make an offer (invitation, call to action).
Particularly if you are selling a complex product or service, you need to make it clear exactly what you can do for your customers, and how it will benefit them. The more specific you are, the more believable your claims, the more of an expert you will appear.
Don’t say: ”I’m available for portrait commissions.”
Do say: ”I paint Vinyl Art, portraits of musicians and entertainers on vinyl records made by the subject. Instead of Elvis on velvet, think Elvis on an Elvis record.” – http://vinylart.info/who.htm
At this point there’s no substitute for professional standard copywriting. If you’re a confident writer, teaching yourself copywriting skills could be one of the best investments you make. If you can’t write for toffee, or hate the thought of penning a sales page, you should seriously consider hiring a copywriter.
4. Show them how to buy.
If you’re selling an artwork or product, explain how big it is, how much it weighs, how much it costs to ship, where you ship to, delivery times, your refunds policy, and what payment methods you offer.
If you’re selling a service, give some idea how long it will take, what you will do, how you will do it, and what they will need to do. Yes, this will vary from project to project, but without some kind of roadmap, potential clients may be shy of contacting you – they imagine it will take months and eat up their schedule, whereas the reality may be very different.
Again, this is all obvious to you, but not to them. The more you tell them, the easier it looks and the more of them will buy.
5. To price or not to price?
If you’re selling to private individuals, it’s generally a good idea to display your prices. This is particularly true in the case of creative products and services – depending on the signature, a painting could cost $100, $100 million, or anything in between – and no one likes to risk looking dumb or poor by asking. Publishing your prices will reassure those who can afford it and filter out those who can’t (without embarrassing them).
If you’re selling services to small-to-medium-sized businesses, where the price can vary but you still want to reassure the right people that you aren’t out of their league, you may want to consider offering packages at different price points, or indicating a range of pricing for typical projects.
If you’re selling high-end services to corporates, luxury goods to the wealthy, or fine art to collectors, then it may well pay not to publish your prices. If they have to ask, they can’t afford it, right?
6. Use testimonials.
You may think testimonials look cheesy, but they wouldn’t be so common if they didn’t work. So why not make life easier for yourself – and your customers – by using something that works?
Ask your best customers for testimonials – you may be surprised how eager they are to help out. Get them to be as specific as possible about the benefits they received from doing business with you. Photos, URLs, and even videos will make the testimonials more credible and reassuring.
7. Promote a free subscription.
The brutal truth is that hardly anyone will buy the first time they land on your site. This is particularly true of sophisticated creative products or services – these purchases are usually not made on the spur of the moment.
So as well as making your sales offers abundantly clear, offer a free subscription – to your blog, your newsletter, your podcast, or some other form of communication channel that gives you permission to stay in touch with them over time. Once they get to know, like, and trust you via the free samples and advice you send them, they’ll be more likely to pick you when they’re ready to buy.
It’s no secret that email is still the most powerful online sales channel for most small businesses. So building a mailing list of people who have actively opted in to receive your free content and sales messages should be one of your top priorities.
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Take a look at these top online resources where you’ll find tons of advice and inspiration on the subject of colour.
Colour is an integral element of design. And the web is full of endless resources and tutorials covering it. But, sometimes too much choice can be confusing. So we’ve picked this selection of the best resources that will really help you to get to grips with the subject.
The Mudcube Colour Sphere is a handy little colour resource for designers in that it not only provides the hex numbers for each colour; it also helps you to build up a colour scheme from one chosen shade. If you’re unsure what colour scheme you should be going for, Mudcube provides a selection of themes from a drop-down menu.
Color by HailPixel is a handy little web app if you’re a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to getting the colour just right. Hover your mouse anywhere across the screen to nail down your chosen colour, scroll to set your saturation, and the site will give you that all-important hex code for your projects.
This web designer’s tool ‘Check my Colours‘ is designed to check foreground and background colour combinations of all DOM elements, to determine if they provide sufficient contrast when viewed by someone having colour deficits. All the tests are based on the algorithms suggested by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It was created by web designer Giovanni Scala.
Although Color Hunter may not look like much at first glance, it’s actually a really useful colour tool if you can’t find a particular colour. Find an image that you like the look of and then enter it into Color Hunter; the tool will then create a colour palette from your chosen image. It’s a great way to create your own colour theme.
Colrd works in a social sort of way – you can share your colour inspirations with the rest of the world using images, schemes, palettes and individual colours. It’s a fantastic way to share the colour love and you may even find that you discover your favourite new colour scheme.
COLOURlovers is a creative community where artists from all around the world create and share colours, palettes and patterns. The site is well organised, featuring helpful community, tools, and channel sections. This is a great place to connect and discuss the latest trends and explore colour articles with other creatives.
If you’re confused about any aspect of colour theory, then you’re more than likely to find an answer over at Color Matters. Founded by colour professor Jill Morton, the site features literally everything you might want to know about the subject. The home page has seven separate tabs, each of which have numerous sub headings for easy navigation.
Adobe Kuler is a system which allows users to try out, create and save various colour schemes. No matter what you’re working on, with Kuler you can experiment quickly with different colour variations and browse through thousands of themes from the Kuler community. It’s relatively simple to use and has a theme section, where you can view the most popular and most recent palettes created.
Color Scheme Designer is a simple but effective site, which allows you to create colour schemes, randomise palettes when you’re clean out of ideas, check for different kinds of colour blindness and export in various different formats. The colour wheel is very manageable and the site’s simple, design makes it extremely easy to navigate.
Pic2color is a brilliant tool that enables you to create colour palettes from images and URLs. Simply upload either to the site and it will extract the colour information quickly, before showcasing each shade in a grid format. You can then click on each individual colour to access it’s unique HTML code.
For more on colour and other design elements, click on the link below: