Apr 08

Tips for Choosing a Typeface

Let’s pull it all together with some pragmatic ways to get your typeface choice made. You might want to try these tips, which many designers use to their advantage in one way or another. Be the beneficiary of their wisdom and experience.

1. Plan Your Hierarchy

First, make sure you have a good grasp of the content and typographic hierarchy your design job will dictate. You may realize, after a thorough analysis, you need five fonts (not typefaces) to cover your various heading, sub-headings and call-outs. Can your typeface provide enough variation with bolds, italics and small caps? Or do you need two typefaces to create more distinction in the hierarchy? Three? Use a mind-mapping tool or make a traditional outline to see as much as you can before you start choosing typefaces. Consider this example of a bad and a good hierarchy using the same text. Notice the role white space plays in the hierarchy, too. Use as many levels as you need as long as there is distinction and clear purpose in your choices.

Plan-your-hierarchy in How to Choose a Typeface Continue reading

Apr 06

Designing an Accessible Site Without Losing Your Mind

One of the biggest mistakes I see from web designers is making accessibility more complicated than it actually is. Most designers think of creating accessible content as something that will take weeks of exaggerated tagging, designing tab-browsing and hot keys for every minute function of a site, and writing over-descriptive metadata, so most people just give up and don’t even bother. However, by using some simple techniques and following some basic guidelines, you can make your website accessible to a wide audience of users without spending too much time and energy.

I define web accessibility as:

“Making web content available to a wide audience regardless of physical abilities, web clients, and personal preferences.”

To simplify our tasks as accessible web designers, there a few specific categories that can be helpful as we evaluate some of the different types of users:

  • Visually Impaired: Those with low or no vision. These users may use screenreading software or may use the browser’s functionality to increase text size and contrast.
  • Hearing Impaired: Those with low or no hearing. These users will need to be able to see a textual representation of any audio that is part of the site.
  • Physically Impaired: Those who lack the physical dexterity to use a mouse or a traditional keyboard. These users may use a variety of interface devices, many of which parallel the functionality of the traditional [TAB] key. Continue reading
Apr 02

Eight ways to avoid common website mistakes

Everyone has a website these days, but not every website is equal. As the online environment becomes ever more crowded, you don’t just need to have a website, you need to have an outstanding website. In pursuit of the perfect page, here are some of the top web design mistakes to avoid.

1. Make the purpose of the website clear immediately

The internet is a very fast-paced environment in which millions of companies are competing for the attention of your potential customers. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your web design is to prepare a site which does not clearly outline the nature of your business and the services that are available online. This information needs to be obvious and should appear on the first page of the website that browsers are likely to encounter. If you make your website too difficult to understand your potential customers will move on within seconds.

2. Use colour in moderation

Another common mistake that can be made in web design, particularly by the inexperienced, is the use of loud and conflicting colour schemes. Certainly contemporary web design does allow for the use of a myriad of colours and background patterns, but that doesn’t mean you need to use seven different themes on each page. Pick two or three colours that evoke the mood of your business and are not so harsh that your customers will need to wear sunglasses to browse through the site! Use colour in moderation. Continue reading

Mar 31

Branding vs. Keyword Rich Domain Names – Which Does Google Prefer?

When it comes to picking a domain name most webmasters are in a dilemma of whether to choose a keyword rich domain name that will get better rankings on Google or a branded domain name that is more likely to get more visitors to the site and be easier to remember.

In recent times Google has been putting more emphasis on brand names over keyword rich domains which has led to the widespread presence of various branded online business at top positions on the search result pages even if they did not meet all the SEO guidelines. Though Google has always denied such favoritism, their criteria to assess the relevancy of any site are constantly changing to keep away spammers, gamers, and black-hated sites and Google is now adopting more novel signals to help them improve their page ranking system.

A recent video by Google’s Matt Cutts explains the situation further. Matt emphasizes that Google is ready to experiment mixing up the old and new signals in their algorithm and see its impact on the evaluation of a website.

Google has been looking at using more robust signals like link authority, page rank, and keyword-rich domains over the traditional signals like on-page optimization, link anchor text, domain names, meta-tags and meta-description. However, we can’t forget about parameters like branding, social networking, reviews, and personalization – they seem to be getting more attention from Google in analyzing the credibility of a site. Continue reading

Mar 29

10 Web Design Elements that You Shouldn’t Overlook

When it comes to designing and building websites, it never seems to happen fast enough.

Given this fast pace, many small details that are eventually required to build the website are often left out of the design process. While these details might be minor, they are what take a website from nice to truly awesome.

These details are often easy to miss because they don’t drive the overall look and feel of the website. The problem is that as your development team works through the design, it will be forced to design and create these elements for you anyway.

You could adjust the production cycle so that the developers have time to return these assets to you, but why not just get it all done up front so that the process is that much cleaner?

Even worse, the development team might decide to forge ahead and just create the assets as they go.

While many developers have a keen eye for design, the creative who is charged with designing the website should ultimately be the one who plans for these elements. Planning ahead for the subtlest nuances can have a profound impact on the quality of the final product.

Every element covered in this article stems from a question that a developer would ask the designer if an element were missing from the design.

Let’s dig into the 10 key elements to keep in mind as you polish your website.

1. Links

While styling the various states of a link is indeed rather basic, you might be surprised by just how often all of the extra details are overlooked. Include the following states for all links on the page: Continue reading

Mar 25

9 Questions To Ask After A Site Links To You

Inbound links increase the value of your website in the eyes of Google and the other search engines. And, they help more people find your website and all you have to offer. Each inbound link is like your website just got another vote of confidence.

So, once the link has been set up, your job is done. Or is it?

Getting links to point to your site is one of the most challenging parts of search engine optimization, but link building doesn’t end once a link has been set up.

In fact, getting that link should only be the first step in a long-term link building strategy.

Let’s talk about this for a minute. Someone received your link request, and went to the trouble of responding. Or, they heard about you, researched you, and maybe even purchased something from you, and then decided to link to you . However it started, he thought it was a good idea to create a link to your site and took the time to make it happen.

Do you just congratulate yourself and move on?

No! The person who helped you deserves a little bit more of your time and attention.

Not only should you send them a thank you for the link, you should treat this like the opportunity it really is. By establishing a relationship with them, you could not only boost your search engine rankings, you could be opening the door to rich collaboration and business opportunities.

Consider these nine important questions for sites that already link to you. Continue reading

Mar 24

Internet Explorer 9 Reaches 2.3 Million Downloads In 24 Hours

Microsoft announced today their latest version of Internet Explorer reached 2.3 million downloads in 24 hours. Will IE9 be the catalyst to allow Microsoft to gain some ground back in market share?

The past few years, IE has steadily lost ground to the likes of Mozilla’s Firefox and Google Chrome. In 2007, IE controlled 80% of the market. The latest reports have them sitting at 57%.

Simplistic interfaces, faster load times, better security, have all been reasons behind IE losing ground. It appears Microsoft has remedied many of these problems, and reviews have pointed out these improvements.

PCMagazine gave IE9 a 4/5 rating, saying this of the browser, “Microsoft’s new browser is faster, trimmer, more compliant with HTML5—a major improvement over its predecessor. It also brings some unique capabilities like tab-pinning and hardware acceleration, but only Windows 7 and Vista users need apply.

Unfortunately I’m unable to provide my own thoughts as I’m on a Mac computer at this time. If you have a Windows computer and use XP, you’ll be left out in the cold as well. Continue reading

Mar 23

Firefox Add-ons & Chrome Extensions for Web Developers

Although its often true that web developers hate browsers because of compatibility issues, most developers are just in love with their browser’s add-ons and extensions. They provide a quick and easy way to troubleshoot, debug and analyze web pages. Here’s our collection of top web development related Firefox add-ons and Google Chrome extensions.

Firefox Add-Ons

Firebug

Firebug is one of the most widely used add-on that puts a wealth of development tools at your fingertips while you browse. You can edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page.  You can also further extend Firebug and add new features by using Firebug extensions. Continue reading

Mar 22

Has SEO Peaked?

Richard J. Tofel at Nieman Lab posted an interesting article, saying that, “someday, the sun will set on SEO,” and that “the business of news will be better for it.”

Will the sun set on SEO? 

To sum up a lengthy post (at least my interpretation of it), the point Tofel makes is that publishers are abusing search to get views (nothing new there), and the news industry is suffering for it, but with Google taking stronger action, SEO tactics might fall by the wayside.

He does make some interesting points. For example, “The Huffington Post/AOL deal may mark something of a watershed in this progression,” he writes. “Much of the $300-million-plus in value HuffPo has built has been in playing very smartly by the SEO rules of the first decade of this century. But if it is true that most entrepreneurs sell out near the top, and it is, then perhaps we have just been sent a signal by one of its masters that the dark arts of SEO have peaked and that the century’s second decade will see them fade, perhaps into near nothingness by the third decade. In other words, it seems increasingly likely that, when the history of this era is written, SEO will turn out to have been a transitional phenomenon.”

He also refers to Google’s recent crackdown (Panda update) on low quality content as a “small step in an inevitable direction, with the direction being the sunset of SEO.” Continue reading

Mar 18

45 Incredibly Useful Web Design Checklists and Questionnaires

Designing websites can be a long and complicated process. Dealing with clients, designing prototypes, coding, programming, and testing – there’s a lot to keep track of and a lot to make sure gets done. That’s where checklists can make your life a whole lot easier. With lists of points covering multiple areas from content to usability to accessibility to standards, you’re a lot less likely to overlook important parts of a site.

Below are 45 checklists to make your design process easier and more organized. Consider using these checklists as a jumping off point for creating your own customized list, based on your own needs.

1. Client-Focused Checklists and Questionnaires

These questionnaires and checklists are focused on making your relationships with your clients better. Use these to gather information from your clients or prospects at the beginning of each project so that everyone is on the same page.

How to Extract the Facts with a Web Design Client Questionnaire
This questionnaire from Freelance Switch is meant to send out to prospective clients to get a good idea of what they’re looking for from a website. It can save you valuable time and allow you to create more accurate proposals.

Ext in 45 Incredibly Useful Web Design Checklists and Questionnaires Continue reading