Monthly Archives: September 2016

Know MOre About User Experience

DEFINITION User Experience Design (UXD or UED or XD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product.
So what exactly leads us to a successful user experience? And why is it so important for your website? Let’s explore the critical components.
1. VISUAL DESIGN
The visuals not only represent your brand, or the look and feel of your online space, they are extremely important when it comes to determining the user experience of your website. Beyond visuals, such as colours, visuals and logos, there’s a deeper element which involves effective visual communication. Your graphic treatment must help you drive business, and must of course, encourage ease of use, and clicking in all the right places. A User Experience Designer has the edge on a Graphic Designer in this department. Although they may be somewhat similar, there are some definitive differences in skill-set. Engaging with a User Experience Designer will give you the confidence that your designer really understands the needs of your users, your business and also the technology that is being used for your site (or app).

2. INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE
The layout of your content is key to a smooth user experience. Create a flow for which you would ideally like your visitors to take, by mapping out a journey for them. Links, find-ability and usability of your site all come into play here. Don’t confuse people or take them to random places, maintain consistency throughout your site map and focus on the features and information which are important to your user.

3. CONTENT STRATEGY & STRUCTURE
Not the same as architecture, structure focuses on the all important clarity of your messaging. Make sure your content is clear from the get go i.e. what you do, what you are offering, and how people can access your service, or purchase your product. Adapt to your market with the right tone, and research, research, research! Be mindful of what works for you when you visit a site. You will notice the difference between a site with structure, to one that fights with its own messaging. Read our post about writing good content for your website.

4. SEARCH-ABILITY & FUNCTIONALITY
It’s not exactly shocking, but impatient users do exist, and if you don’t have what they are looking for easily either on your homepage or in your navigation, make sure you have an easy to find search option. This means you need to do the background work to ensure that all of your items are infact searchable, but it will be worth it to engage those quick clickers! Functionality is key – if your site isn’t functioning optimally, you’re likely to lose clients and sales.

5. CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAPPING & INTERACTION
Mapping your customer’s journey – this process really allows you to explore the design interactivity, as opposed to a graphic specialist who will be looking at the look and feel. Interactivity should be assessed for usability of the design, and will allow you to pin point any road blocks or issues that a user may face on your site – like the nasty ones that may steer them away. This also helps you design your website for optimum conversion. By implementing smooth transitions and a clearly directed flow from page to page, design blueprints (created by your UX designer) will help you understand exactly how your users are using your website – and how to improve the experience further.

Want to know more about Customer Journey Mapping? Smashing magazine do a great job of summarising it here.

WHAT ABOUT SEO & UX?
Remember our recent blog on SEO? We touched on “chasing the algorithm” pitfalls and writing for your clients and not Google. This stands strong when it comes to the UX, as we know Google measures your site quality. Another hot tip, is that Google can understand page layout, and may penalise you for pages with very light content. Most recently, Google has been looking into user engagement data, and on page content analysis.

Bottom line: Don’t sacrifice your UX to satisfy Google’s algorithm as it’s constantly evolving, and smarter than you think.

Best WordPress Web Design

WordPress has truly grown to be a powerful software program suited to practically any website application – from brochure style websites to portfolio sites, ecommerce websites, news sites and professional business websites. WordPress is not just for small business and bloggers anymore – here are the industry heavy weights that use WordPress as the force behind their websites:

News websites – CNN, New York Observer, Times, Forbes
Fortune 500 companies – UPS, eBay, Sony
Technology – Samsung, TED Talks, Mashable, Tech Crunch
Entertainment – Katy Perry, Jay Z, Justin Bieber, People Magazine
Fashion – InStyle, Style Watch, Modelina
Shortie Designs has been designing and developing with WordPress since we opened our doors in 2009, and we are continually impressed with the power and flexibility of the WordPress platform. Every website is able to be customised to our client’s requirements and each design is beautifully unique so that no two websites are the same. As design professionals, we like to keep an eye out on what others are producing on WordPress. Below are our top picks of WordPress website designs that are inspiring us right now.

ECOMMERCE WORDPRESS WEBSITE
Ca c’est Gang is a eCommerce website for a French street wear fashion brand. The minimalist design really allows the products to be the heroes in the design (which makes great sense when you are selling products online!). The website design is very intuitive, and it is easy to navigate, even if you don’t speak French. It also has one of the best looking cart and checkout pages we have seen, which gives your visitors a great user experience and helps convert visitors to customers.

WORDPRESS WEB DESIGN FOR A PROFESSIONAL WEBSITE
This website for a US building company is big, bold and interactive. Although it is a professional website, the design is far from boring. In fact, we find this website very engaging. The full width design makes great use of space, and the interactive elements beckon us to click through deeper into the website. The hover over effects on the Proje

Best Tips for Improving Your Web Design

Want to ensure that visitors will exit your website almost immediately after landing there? Be sure to make it difficult for them to find what it is they are looking for. Want to get people to stay on your website longer and click on or buy stuff? Follow these 13 Web design tips.

Web design
1. Have a polished, professional logo–and link it to your home page. “Your logo is an important part of your brand, so make sure it’s located prominently on your site,” says Tiffany Monhollon, senior content marketing manager at online marketer ReachLocal. “Use a high-resolution image and feature it in the upper left corner of each of your pages,” she advises. “Also, it’s a good rule of thumb to link your logo back to your home page so that visitors can easily navigate to it.”

2.Use intuitive navigation. “Primary navigation options are typically deployed in a horizontal [menu] bar along the top of the site,” says Brian Gatti, a partner with Inspire Business Concepts, a digital marketing company. Provide “secondary navigation options underneath the primary navigation bar, or in the [left-hand] margin of the site, known as the sidebar.”

Why is intuitive navigation so important? “Confusing navigation layouts will result in people quitting a page rather than trying to figure it out,” Gatti says. So instead of putting links to less important pages–that detract from your call to action or primary information–at the top of your home or landing pages, put “less important links or pieces of information at the bottom of a page in the footer.”

3. Get rid of clutter. “It’s very easy these days to be visually overloaded with images, to the point where our brains stop processing information when confronted with too many options,” explains Paolo Vidali, senior digital marketing strategist, DragonSearch, a digital marketing agency.

To keep visitors on your site, “make sure pages do not have competing calls to action or visual clutter [e.g., lots of graphics, photographs or animated gifs] that would draw the visitor’s eyes away from the most important part of the page.” To further keep clutter down on landing pages, “consider limiting the links and options in the header and footer to narrow the focus even further,” he says.
Another tip to streamlining pages: “Keep paragraphs short,” says Ian Lurie, CEO of internet marketing company Portent, Inc. “On most Web sites, a single paragraph should be no more than five to six lines.”

4. Give visitors breathing room. “Create enough space between your paragraphs and images so the viewer has space to breathe and is more able to absorb all of the features your site and business have to offer,” says Hannah Spencer, graphic designer, Coalition Technologies, a Web design and online marketing agency.

“Controlling white space through layout will keep users focused on the content and control user flow,” adds Paul Novoa, founder and CEO at Novoa Media. “With a lot of visual competition taking place on the Web and on mobile, less is more. Controlling white space will improve user experience, increasing returns from the website.”

5. Use color strategically. Using “a mostly neutral color palette can help your site project an elegant, clean and modern appearance,” says Mark Hoben, the head of Web design at Egencia, the business travel division of the Expedia group, who is also a believer in using color wisely. “Employing small dashes of color–for headlines or key graphics–helps guide visitors to your most important content,” he explains.

It is also important to use a color palette that complements your logo and is consistent with your other marketing materials.

6. Invest in good, professional photography. “Website visitors can sniff out generic photos in a second–and they’ll be left with a generic impression of your company,” warns Zane Schwarzlose, community relations director, Fahrenheit Marketing. “Your company isn’t generic. So show your visitors that by investing in professional photography.”

“We strongly recommend that our clients invest in professional photography or purchase professional stock photos,” says Gatti. Good photographs “draw the eye, providing an emotional connection to the written content.” Poor quality photographs or photographs that have nothing to do with your message, on the other hand, are worse than having no photographs.

Bonus photography tip: “If you want to draw attention to a particular piece of content or a signup button, include a photo of a person looking at the content,” suggests Elie Khoury, cofounder and CEO of Woopra, which provides real-time customer and visitor analytics. “We are immediately drawn to faces of other humans–and when we see that face looking’ at something, our eyes are instinctively drawn there as well.”

7. Choose fonts that are easy to read across devices and browsers. When choosing fonts, keep in mind that people will be looking at your website not just on a laptop but on mobile devices. “Some large-scaled fonts may read well on [a computer monitor], but not scale or render well on mobile, losing the desired look and feel,” explains Novoa. So he advises using a universal font.

“Pick a typeface that can be easily read and size it no less than 11pt,” says Ethan Giffin, CEO, Groove Commerce. “If you’re using Web fonts, try to use no more than two font families in order to ensure fast load times,” he says.

8. Design every page as a landing page. “Most websites have a design that assumes a user enters through the home page and navigates into the site,” says Michael Freeman, senior manager, Search & Analytics, ShoreTel, Inc., which provides hosted VoIP, cloud PBX service and business phone systems. “The reality, though, is that the majority of visits for most sites begin on a page that is not the home page,” he says. Therefore, you need to design the site in such a way that whatever page a visitor lands on, key information is there.

9. Respect the fold. When asked for their top design tips, almost all the Web designers CIO.com queried immediately said: Put your call to action in the upper portion of your website, along with your phone number and/or email address (if you want customers to call or email you). Regarding home page images, “I recommend going against full-width sliders and encourage sliders or set images that cover two-thirds of the width allowing for a contact form to be above the fold,” says Aaron Watters, director, Leadhub, a website design and SEO company.

10. Use responsive design–that automatically adapts to how the site is being viewed. “Rather than developing a site for each device, a responsive site is designed to adapt to the browser size,” making for a better user experience, says Jayme Pretzloff, online marketing director, Wixon Jewelers. And a better user experience typically translates into more time spent on your site and higher conversion rates.

11. Forget Flash. “Thanks in part to the ongoing dispute between Adobe and Apple, the days of Flash as an Internet standard are slowly coming to a close, so why stay on the bandwagon when there are other options that are much more Web and user friendly?” asks Darrell Benatar, CEO of UserTesting.com. Instead, use HTML5, he says. “HTML5 is gaining more support on the Web, with search-engine friendly text and the ability to function on many of the popular mobile operating systems without requiring a plug-in. The same can’t be said for Flash.”

12. Don’t forget about buttons “The ‘Submit’ or ‘Send’ button at the bottom of a Web form can be the ugliest part of a website,” says Watters. So he encourages designers to make form submission buttons “so appealing visitors can’t help themselves. They just have to click it.” In addition, “when a visitor hovers over your submit button, it should change color, gradient, opacity or font treatment,” he says.

13. Test your design. “Whether you are trying different placements for a call to action or even testing different shades of a color, website optimization can make a big impact to your bottom line,” states Lindsey Marshall, production director, Red Clay Interactive, an Atlanta-based interactive marketing agency. “A user experience manager at Bing once remarked that Microsoft generated an additional $80 million in annual revenue just by testing and implementing a specific shade of blue!”

“Every design decision is just a hypothesis,” adds Mike Johnson, director of User Experience at The Nerdery, an interactive production company. “User testing, A/B testing and simple analytics can help you continuously improve your designs [by providing] feedback from real people.”