August 2013

Continuing with my recap of An Event Apart DC, here are some sound-bytes and thoughts from Day 2.

From Jeremy Keith’s “The Long Web”

Keep it simple.  Make a link a link, and then save Javascript for more involved elements.

The internet DOES forget.  Geocities used to be the third most visited site – and all those sites have been disbanded.  You have to work to keep websites alive.

From Eric Meyer’s “Strong Layout Systems”

The web has always inherently valued ubiquity over consistency.

Unlearn what you have learned about the limitations of web design.  It will become an essential job skill to see beyond assumptions.  The limitations that used to exist are quickly disappearing.

Flexbox will likely be used in the next 6 months. Gridded layout in the next 2 years.

From Jenn Lukas’s “Hot Links!”

“Color fades are like the smooth jazz of hovers.” –Jenn Lukas

You can make a transition smoother using a fade in CSS.  Simple attention to detail like this make a website more refined.

Some great examples of hovers –,,

From Ethan Marcotte’s “The Map is Not the Territory

The heart of responsive design is a fluid grid, flexible images and media queries.

Responsive design can make it difficult to design a fast website – but not impossible.  Challenge yourself to make a site beautiful and accessible.

Design for reach – you want to be accessible to as many people as possible.

Responsive design can actually increase conversion rates.

Don’t define web design by other media – it has been around long enough for us to know what works within the scope of its own media.

Kristina Halvorson’s “Content/Communication”

Many times business objectives come to us from the top and we don’t know what they have to do with us or why we are doing them.  The most important thing you can do is ask WHY?  It sets you up for success and helps you do your job better.

Activity does not equal productivity.

Your strategy statement should be simple and clear and become a rally cry for your team.

“Different approaches work or fail because of people…not because they are universally good or bad.” – Pawel Brodzinski

Speak to the listener in their terms.

The Happiness Advantage says that the “greatest predictor of a team’s achievement was how the members felt about one another.”

In conclusion

I hope that my blog posts about the event open your mind to the possibilities of web design, the same way the conference did for me.  Web is a constantly evolving media, and the best thing you can do is keep learning.  I found the spirit of sharing in the room to be extremely positive – can’t wait to see what the future brings!

I had the privilege of attending “An Event Apart” this week, and I want to give some brief thoughts and sound-bytes from the event.  I’ll split Day 1 and Day 2 into two blog posts to make it a quicker read.

Overall, I found the conference to be really inspiring.  It opened my eyes and my mind to the future of design and web design – and more than that, it made me examine how I think and how I work.  I can’t wait to put some of it into practice.

From Jeffrey Zeldman’s “The Ten Commandments of Modern Web Design”

Thou shalt entertain.  Just because it is a requirement, doesn’t mean it has to be boring.  Zeldman used the example of creative 404 pages – make people laugh, even though they are frustrated.

“I move things around until they look right.” – Milton Glaser

Location in design DOES matter.  Zeldman used a well-designed tweet and like button at the bottom of the posts and nothing happened.  He moved them to the top and made them less designed, and tweets and likes exploded. In this case, location of the buttons trumped fancy design.

Redesign means rethinking the strategy – it should not be putting a new skin on an old site.  If your site is not working, a new look won’t save it. You need to rethink the user experience.

From Samantha Warren’s “Faster Design Decisions with Style Tiles”

“Every time someone asks a designer to just ‘make it pretty’ a baby kitten dies.” –Samantha Warren reminding us that design means “create according to plan” and not “make it look nice.”

It is important to listen to the client and make them part of the process.  Then they will have a vested interest in the outcome.

Define what success is from the get-go with measurable criteria, so that taste is not a deciding factor. Get your clients to stop using the word “like.”

The key to a successful style tile process is questions like “If your product was a cookie, what kind would it be and why?”

A designer is like a therapist and counselor in one – interpreting the client and the common theme in their answers to produce a design that meets their needs.

Style tiles –

From Jason Santa Maria’s “The Nimble Process: Think Before You Design”

Design is no longer an end point before coding.  Design, code, ship, and design again.  Don’t be afraid of shipping before the project is completely done.

Good design happens around good constraints.

Sketchbooks aren’t about being a good artist, they are about being a good thinker.  Sketch your ideas and uncover the good ones by getting the bad ones out of the way.

From Luke Wroblewski’s “It’s a Write/Read (Mobile) Web

The top sites on the web require people to contribute content – facebook, twitter, etc.

People are starting to use apps for more than social media – for shopping, accomplishing, and prepping.

When designing for mobile you must think about one handed use and ergonomics.  Many people use their phone with only their thumb.

Challenge yourself to see how far into a mobile site you can allow the user to get before the keyboard pops up.

Less input fields means a higher customer conversion rate.  It is a big risk to simplify but it provides the best user experience.

From Jake Grigsy’s “The Immobile Web”

Designing for TV means taking into consideration that the user is 10ft from the screen.

The New York Times once said that the internet was overhyped and that mobile web would fail.  So it would be dangerous to dismiss TV as a legitimate browsing technology at this stage in the game.

“We cannot predict future behavior from current technology that sucks.”

Build with a touch screen in mind and it will work on a desktop – the reverse is not true.

As a designer, when someone comes to me asking for a QR code, I have to admit, I inwardly cringe.  There is just something about trying to fit a big black and white square on an otherwise well-balanced ad that just doesn’t seem right.  However, I’m not here to preach on whether or not they are aesthetically pleasing. From a marketing standpoint, they do seem to have their advantages – and they don’t appear to be going away. So what I do want to talk about is how to use them well so you don’t see your design on here.

Be dynamic

Many QR codes take you directly to the company website.  While this may have the potential to drive traffic, most of the time, your site is already on the ad or sign.  Try using QR codes in a more exciting way – to allow people to sign up for your newsletter or to allow people to enter into a giveaway.  You could even use it as a teaser – ask a question and use the QR to give the answer.  You want it to be interactive, as a way to engage the customer with your product or service.  A QR code is only as good as the concept behind it.  Some great examples can be found here.

Position yourself well

Make sure that your QR code is in a position in which it has the potential to be used.  Using a QR code on a billboard might be hard to snap from a distance while driving. I have also seen QR codes at ground level – most consumers aren’t going to lay on the floor to snap the photo. Flyers and advertisements would be better places to use QR codes – as well as anything about eye-level that the consumer can safely get close to.

Keep them current

Though QR codes are the trend now, the codes themselves, as well as the websites they link to, may be ephemeral.  Keep in mind the shelf life of the project that you are using the code in.  It may not be best to use them in a book that you expect to sell for a long period of time, however they may be very appropriate in a direct mailer that you are using for a certain season.

I hope the tips above will help you use QR codes to your advantage.  Good luck!