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Have you ever visited a website, looked around for a bit, and then headed straight to the footer to find the information you were looking for?

You’re not the only one.

Footers are unique pieces of screen real estate that offer a number of benefits. They house important information (like contact details and copyright statements) and navigation options that make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.

In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of website footers and how you can use them to help your website’s visitors easily find what they’re looking for. We’ll also walk through some of the best practices you should keep in mind when designing mega-footers—the footer equivalent of the mega-menu.

Why Footers Are Important

We’re inclined to put a lot of effort into designing everything that’s above the fold thinking that it’ll be seen by everyone who lands on the website. So much so that we forget that footers are also highly visible.

In fact, a study that looked at 25 million websites found that visitors scrolled down thousands of pixels all the time. And many of the visitors were found to have started scrolling before the page had fully loaded.

What we can take from this is that your website’s footer is just as important as its header. It’s highly visible and getting its design right could benefit you in a number of different ways. It’s all about deciding what you want to include in the limited space the footer has to offer with the purpose of facilitating your site’s visitors while making sure your goals are met.

Depending on what type of website you’re creating and what your goals are, you might consider including any of the following elements in your site’s footer:

  • Sitemap;
  • Copyright statement;
  • A link to the Terms of Use page;
  • Privacy policy statement;
  • Contact information;
  • A map or address;
  • Social icons;
  • Social media widgets;
  • Email signup;
  • A search bar;
  • Your mission statement;
  • Tags and categories;
  • Awards and certifications;
  • Association memberships;
  • Testimonials;
  • Latest articles;
  • Upcoming events;
  • An explainer video;
  • Audio;
  • Call to action.

There are so many important elements you can add to your website’s footer and each one serves a unique purpose. If you wanted to get your visitors to stay on your website longer and check out your blog, you might add a Popular Posts widget to your site’s footer. And if your goal was to increase conversions, you could include a call to action and email signup form in it.

The problem is that traditionally footers are small, with a bare minimum of content (probably copyright and social media icons). Like giant site mega-menus, that offer users more navigation options, the solution to the footer conundrum is mega-footers.

4 Best Practices for Designing Big Website Footers

The possibilities are seemingly endless when you decide to go with a mega-footer on your website. You can add branding elements to reinforce your brand in your visitors’ minds. You can add navigation links to all of your important pages which visitors might miss otherwise. You can even add a contact form in your footer!

With this in mind, let’s step through some best practices for designing mega-footers that don’t just look good but are also incredibly functional.

1. Include Branding Elements

Your site’s footer is often an overlooked opportunity to reinforce your brand image in the visitor’s mind. You can use this space to communicate brand value.

Using images, graphics, icons, or logos in your footer is a great way to remind visitors what website they’re on and give them something to remember it by. Alternatively, you can use colors, patterns, or icons that you have already used in your website’s design to achieve the same result.

Miki Mottes’ mega-footer is a work of art. It uses graphics and animation incorporating a lot of visual elements. You will notice that it also uses a different version of its site’s logo in the footer to reinforce their brand. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder for visitors that Miki Mottes is an illustrator, animator, and designer.

Hustle Panda is the perfect example of how you can keep things simple by using the same color palette and playing around with different logo sizes. The repeated use of their panda mascot reminds visitors about their brand message.

2. Gather Leads

Building an email list can be pretty difficult especially when you’re just starting out. From a design perspective, a lot of it has to do with how well your signup form fits in with the rest of the website’s design. Your website’s mega-footer is the perfect place to gather leads for your business. It gives you one last chance of getting your call to action across and then serving up a signup form.

Zoyo Yogurt displays a large signup form that blends in with the rest of the footer’s design. It gives visitors an opportunity to take in everything they have to offer and then signup to receive emails about events and special offers.

3. Add Social Media Buttons

Studies indicate that nearly 75% of marketing websites include social media icons in their site’s footer instead of the header. Why? As website owners, our goal is to keep visitors on our website instead of heading over to a social media page. Because once they land on a social media platform, it’s pretty difficult to get them to come back.

For this reason, it’s better to place your social media buttons in your site’s footer instead of its header. This way, you can rest assured that your site’s visitors will have (at least) reached the bottom of your homepage before heading over to Facebook or Twitter.

Capsicum Mediaworks neatly embeds its social media buttons into its site’s design. They blend in with the color palette and immediately captivate your attention. It’s an excellent example of mega-footers getting branding and social media icons right.

Holiday Harold takes a minimal approach in its footer with simple links to its social media pages placed directly above the graphics.

4. Create Navigation Hierarchies

One of the best things you can do with mega-footers is including links to your site’s most popular content.

For starters, you can organize links to your site’s most popular pages or categories into columns. Bonus points for categorizing them under appropriate headings and titles.

Keep in mind that sometimes your visitors find themselves at the bottom of your page because they weren’t able to find what they were looking for up until that point. So, before they bounce off, you have one last chance to give them a few more options. And your footer makes this possible.

TrueCar’s footer is organized into four columns – each column with a category title. This makes it easy to quickly scan for what you’re looking for. You will also notice that the headings of each column are more prominent which makes them easily noticeable.

GitHub does the same thing by organizing their most important pages into columns. And by giving each column an appropriate title, they make it easy for visitors to find the page they were looking for.

Conclusion

Even though the footer is located at the very bottom of the page, it’s one of the most visible elements of your website.

We listed out some of the different elements you can include in your site’s footer and shared some best practices to give you a good starting point. It’s a good idea to identify your goals and objectives and then add the right elements to your big website footer that help you achieve those goals.

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Data visualization has quickly become a standard for disseminating information on the web. It’s used across a range of industries, from business intelligence to journalism, to help us understand and communicate the insights within data.

Our brains are primed to process information that’s presented visually, making it much easier for us to understand data visualized in charts and graphs than data listed in tables and spreadsheets. A great data visualization should leverage these strengths of the human visual system to display data so that it can be readily absorbed and understood. It should take into account what we know about visual processing to enhance and ease the viewers’ experience of the data.

With so many tools and frameworks now available for building these graphics, it’s time to go back to basics. What makes data visualizations effective? What guiding principles should we follow when designing with data?

The following best practices will help you design rich, insightful data experiences.

1. Design for a Specific Audience

Visualization is used to reveal patterns, provide context, and describe relationships within data. While a designer holds no influence over the patterns and relationships within a given set of data, she can choose how much data to display, and what context to provide, based on the needs of the audience. After all, just like with any other product, a visualization is meaningless if its viewer can’t use it.

Visualizations for novices should be structured, unambiguous, and engaging. They should spell out directly, in words, what viewers should take away from the data.

Visualizations for expert audiences, on the other hand, can show a more granular view of the data to allow for reader-driven exploration and discovery. Detail and data-density should trump simplicity and clarity.

2. Use (but Don’t Rely on) Interactivity to Facilitate Exploration

Here’s a sobering number: only 10-15% of visitors to interactive visualizations on the New York Times website actually click buttons. The New York Times graphics team produces some of the best work in the business, and hardly anyone interacts with them!

The New York Times graphics team produces some of the best work in the business, and hardly anyone interacts with them!

What this suggests about interactive visualization design is that we cannot rely on interaction for building understanding. Key data must not be hidden behind interactive elements, and instead should be available without interaction.

What interaction is great for, however, is allowing for the integration of additional data (that might otherwise be excluded), to allow interested viewers to explore a dataset more deeply. Nathan Yau of Flowing Data has cornered the market on this style of interactive visualization, as seen in his graphics on causes of death and life expectancy.

Alternatively, interaction can be used as a hook; an attention grabber that gets your audience personally invested in the project before they can navigate far, far away. Check out this playful piece on handwriting and culture from Quartz. The piece kicks off by asking readers to simply draw a circle, before going on to outline an analysis of cultural shape-drawing that features some simple, but effective, visualizations.

Similarly, The Pudding recently released a interactive visualization to teach readers about the birthday paradox. While most non-statisticians probably find the birthday paradox, a standard problem in probability theory, quite dry and unintuitive, this visualization makes it seem downright fascinating. The way the creator incorporates the interactions of recent users makes the whole experience quite relatable.

Both of these interactive examples work because they allow the viewer to participate in the data, without requiring interaction for understanding.

3. Use Visual Salience to Focus Attention and Guide the Experience

Visual salience, the characteristic that makes a visual element stand out against its surroundings, is a powerful tool in data visualization. It can be used to guide the user’s attention to the most important information in a visualization, to help prevent information overload. By using visual salience to highlight some details and suppress others, we can make our designs clearer and more easily understood.

A few visual variables—color and size, primarily—are our keys to creating and controlling visual salience.

Color schemes are key to great data visualizations because color, as we all know, is particularly good at breaking camouflage. We can use warm, highly saturated colors to highlight key data points, and apply cool, desaturated colors to push less important information into the background.

Size is also pretty self-explanatory. Large elements demand more attention than small elements, so scale up elements that you’d like viewers to read first, and scale down text and elements that are less pertinent.

4. Use Position and Length to Encode Quantitative Information and Use Color to Encode Categorical Information

Cleveland and McGill’s well-known work on information visualization investigated the effectiveness of visual encodings (i.e. the mapping of data dimensions to visual properties). In their findings, they ranked different types of visual encoding according to how accurately we perceive them, giving us this (simplified) list:

  1. Position along a common scale
  2. Length
  3. Angle
  4. Area
  5. Color

What this suggests for data visualization design is that our first choice for displaying quantitative information should be to encode data by position (as seen in the classic scatterplot and bar chart). As opposed to angle-based encodings (like pie charts) or area-based encodings (like bubble charts), position-based encodings help viewers make more accurate comparisons in less time.

That isn’t to say, however, that all visualizations must be bar charts or scatter plots. It’s just a good idea to keep these fundamentals in mind when exploring new and exciting ways of visualizing data.

What I really want to emphasize here is that color should not be used to encode quantitative information, and instead may be used to encode categorical information. That is, we can use color to show that different bits of data belong to different categories.

5. Make Structural Elements Like Tick Marks and Axes Clear but Inconspicuous

Whether or not you support Edward Tufte’s extreme approach to minimalism in design, do yourself a favor and strip the visual clutter from your charts. Make your data shine by creating visual contrast between data elements and non-data elements, like Nadieh Bremer has done in her award winning visualization on birth times in America.

Remove any structural elements (like backgrounds, lines, and borders) that don’t work to clarify the data. Attenuate essential structural elements (like axes, grids, and tick marks) that would otherwise compete with your data for attention. Style grids in light grey at a maximum weight of 0.5 pt, and style axes in black or grey with a maximum weight of 1 pt.

6. Directly Label Data Points

Every visual element that encodes some data needs to be labelled, so that the viewer understands what it represents. Simple, right?

Wrong. Far too many designers rely on legends to tell readers which symbols or colors represent which data series in their charts. Legends, while easy on the designer, are hard on the reader. They force readers to scan back and forth between the legend and the data, putting unnecessary strain on readers’ working memories.

A better alternative is to label data series directly on the chart. It’s often more of a challenge, but hey, you’re the designer. Your job is to do the work so the reader doesn’t have to. In the example below, Nathan Yau has done the work to avoid using a legend, creating an interactive small multiples display with lots of direct labeling.

7. Use Messaging and Visual Hierarchy to Create a Narrative Flow

The best visualizations tell compelling stories. These stories emerge from the trends, correlations, or outliers in the data, and are reinforced by the elements that surround the data. These stories turn raw data into useful information.

At face value it might seem like data visualization is all about the numbers, but a great data story cannot be told without words. Messaging, with a clear visual hierarchy, can be used to lead the reader, step by step, through the data.

The title of a visualization, for example, should kick off the narrative by explicitly stating the single key insight the reader should take away from the visualization. Tiny annotations scattered amongst the data can provide support to that narrative by drawing attention to outliers or trends.

What I’m trying to say here is: give the viewer a hand and tell them exactly what to look for in the data!

8. Overlay Contextual Information Directly onto the Chart

As I just mentioned, we can use annotations in a visualization to help create a narrative flow. Sometimes we can add graphical elements to make those annotations even more meaningful—to connect that information to our data more directly.

Take this graphic from Susie Lu, for example. The “Summer Blockbusters” and “Oscar Season” overlays give meaning to peaks and valleys that might otherwise seem random. They help the viewer understand the significance of the data in a way that’s more direct than captions or annotations alone.

9. Design for the Mobile Experience

Static visualizations, typically published in bitmap image formats like JPG and PNG pose an obvious challenge for mobile viewers. The beauty of many data visualizations lies in their visual details—in tiny data points and subtle encodings—and many of these details are lost on small screens in static formats.

Case in point: Accurat studio’s beautifully complex work on Nobel prizes, which looks fabulous full-size in print and on a high-resolution retina display, is next to illegible on a mobile device.

To design for the mobile experience, either build responsive visualizations with a JavaScript visualization library like D3.js or Highcharts, or create multiple variations of the same static visualization for print, desktop, and mobile.

10. Balance Complexity with Clarity to Foster Understanding

All of the best practices I’ve touched on today boil down to one thing: finding the right balance between complexity and clarity that aligns with the needs of your audience.

It’s always tempting to make a beautifully detailed, subtle, exploratory visualization, but that’s rarely the most appropriate approach. Be considerate when designing your graphics—allow the knowledge and goals of the audience to dictate which and how much data should be included, and curate the data to tell the story you want to tell.

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They say that an image is worth a thousand words, and web designers certainly seem to have taken it to heart: the trend for image-rich, stylised page design means that there is now often little room for writing on a web page.

Looking at recent trends in web design, we see full-screen photos, minimalist split-screens and enticing overlays. It’s all very visual, and not one of the examples contains many words on the featured pages.

These trends are great for designers, who can let their creativity flow without being burdened by the need to include dull tracts of text. On the other hand, although these sites can undoubtedly be beautiful, the trend is dividing experts: many feel that by carrying little text, sites are losing the key function of being informative about a product or service. There is also the issue of Google ranking: the images might speak volumes to a human audience, but bots still need text to know what a site is about and rank it accordingly.

Certainly, the rise of mobile-friendly sites in the eyes of both users and Google means words are becoming less important than functionality and load time in ranking terms. However, a site still needs to tell bots and potential customers alike a little about the organisation behind it.

Is a Minimalist Website for You?

Minimalist websites can be a little like designer clothes: they look great on models, but when you try and squeeze your own body into them, you might find you lack the space to really express yourself.

For web designers, this can leave something of a dilemma when it comes to dealing with clients, who inevitably like the look of the sleek designs on offer but usually have different ideas about what they want to say about their product. Often, they end up with a slick homepage, and make up for that with wordy ‘about’ and ‘services’ sections that explain in detail what they do.

This is a reasonable compromise, but it’s the equivalent of wearing an Armani tie with a ‘regular cut’ shirt and comfy slacks: you’re not going to win any style awards.

The fact is, organizations which sell a specific, technical service need to be able to tell people about it. They might have to settle for the tie, or not go down the designer route at all. But website designs that place a premium on the visual are suitable for a surprising variety of clients, if the words you do have space for are made to count. Obvious examples include:

  • Businesses selling physical items which can be photographed. If it’s something that’s being sold on its looks—such as clothes or furniture, for example—then it really makes sense to let the images do the talking. Just look at this elegant site selling watches.
  • Organisations which have a simple idea, goal or product. If it can be summarized in few words, it’s arguably better to do so in a short but high impact way, rather than filling a site with waffle.
  • Organisations whose service is too complicated, abstract of tailored to describe within the confines of a website. This is a surprisingly large category in the modern marketplace: think law firms, PR agencies or accountancy firms, or even better, an avant garde restaurant.
Use Bespoke Images

Images only speak when they’re good. Not only that, when you’re relying on them to tell a story, they must be relevant. Therefore, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a set of stock images that is truly suitable for a great visual website that is also functional.

The first category of businesses highlighted above is unlikely to have a problem supplying images of its products. Indeed, retailers will often take the lead when it comes to setting out their wares with suitable style and a unifying theme.

Others may need convincing of the need to hire a photographer. You will need to convince them that this is a suitable investment in creating a powerful online brand image. You will also need to find a photographer that understands that, and brief them thoroughly on the ideas and concepts you are hoping to portray.

Craft Stunning Sentences

A retail site might be able to get away with nothing but simple text, but if you’re creating a site that needs to get a message across, you’ll need a few short sentences floating effortlessly on the pages to guide the visitor through the site. Just as an image can be worth a thousand words, so can a short sentence.

Ideally, you should concentrate on a single, powerful concept. This will essentially be your clients selling point. If they are a law firm, the concept they project could be ‘we are experts’. For accountants, it could be the more direct: ‘we can save you money’.

You can get away with focusing on different concepts for each section of the site, but beware of straying too far from what is known as ‘the power of one’: that single idea, in sharp focus, which is more compelling to people than a complicated set of rules, concepts or services.

In this in-depth article about how the power of one was used to ignite the Arab Spring in Egypt, the common thread of the “most contagious” messages are identified as: simplicity, unexpectedness, specificity, credibility, emotion and personal narratives.

Ideally, your sentences will appeal to customers on an emotional level carefully pitched to consider the raw psychological need the company is selling to. When you think about it, almost everyone is selling reassurance, happiness or hope. Surprise people by offering them that as confidently as you can.

Words Should Add to the Images

You also need to think about what aspect of a brand, story or ethos you want to tell in images, and what side will be better with a few powerful words. Sometimes, both will target the same need, desire or emotional selling point. But arguably, that is an unnecessary repetition, and the words should add a new aspect to the imagery.

Charities in particular are already good at striking this balance, with third sector websites finding ways to push the public’s emotional buttons with a combination of high quality imagery, words and design.

For example, this Charity: Water site is both slick and informative. It would have been easy for the charity to have gone down the avenue of telling compelling human stories in depth, but it decided to do that purely through the images. The smiling children and the parched landscape behind are informative and evocative. The words concentrate on the very simple premise of the charity, and lead directly to a button for donations: “100% of your money brings clean water to people in need. You can transform lives for families around the world. Every single penny will help bring clean water to communities in need.”

In 31 words and a number, they’re selling happiness, or if you’re a cynic, redemption. It’s short, powerful, and leaves room for great web design.

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It’s no real secret that the size of web pages is increasing. We’re adding more and more assets, slowing down sites, and ruining user experience.

But even though we’ve identified the problem, we still won’t take responsibility. Instead, we lean on coders to streamline their output—we ask then to drop useful libraries like jQuery, just because it saves us 80kb. Meanwhile, we’re designing layouts with 1mb images.

If we’re serious about making our sites fast (and we should be), if we’re serious about improving UX (and we should be), if we’re serious about boosting SEO (and we should be), then we need to do something about the real culprit: images.

Images are by far the biggest bloat on sites. And due to the type of images they suit, JPGs are the biggest bloat on the web.

Today we’re going to introduce 14 of the best JPG compression tools, and publish the results of our tests to find the best.

If you just want to know which of these services performs best, scroll to the bottom.

14 Top JPG Compression Tools

We’re comparing these tools for their ability to compress JPGs, because JPGs feature the most complex data, and so are most likely to contribute to site bloat. Some of these tools will also compress other file formats, like PNG.

1. Compress JPEG

Limitation: Maximum 20 files at a time
Cost: Free

Compress Jpeg is a pretty standard service that’s making its money out of advertising. There’s very little feedback as you compress images, it gives you a percentage, and when complete tells you how much it saved as a percentage, but progress isn’t obvious which can be difficult if you’re compressing a lot of images.

2. Compress Photos

Limitation: Maximum 50Mb per image
Cost: Free

Compress.photos is another free site that supports itself with advertising. You have to be careful not to get hijacked by a dark-pattern advert. Click “Add Files” then “Start Upload”. A good range of progress bars gives you the original size of the image you’re compressing and the change in filesize.

Compressor

Limitation: Maximum 10mb per image
Cost: Free

Compressor offers more options—it can handle JPG, PNG, GIF, and SVG, and features lossless or lossy compression. Compressor has a 10mb max file size limit, so it failed to compress two of our test files. The UI is nice to use, but it’s one file at a time, which makes it very slow to use for batches of files. Looking very closely at one of our files there’s a small amount of noise generated that isn’t evident in images optimized by the other tools.

GiftOfSpeed

Limitation: One file at a time
Cost: Free

GiftOfSpeed offers numerous tools for compressing your website, but for comparison purposes we’re only interested in the JPG compression tool. Again, this is a manual tool, meaning you’ve got to manually compress each individual image one at a time. It offers a nice option of changing the level of compression, but unless you’re experienced it’s a case of trial and error to find the best setting.

iLoveImg

Limitation: None
Cost: Free

iLoveIMG is another free tool that’s offering more options than just image compression. You can resize, crop, or rotate images. You can also turn different formats into JPG, or convert JPGs into PNGs or GIFs. iLoveImg feels like a tool for amateurs that want to make changes to snaps from their phone.

ImageRecycle

Limitation: None
Cost: From $10 per 10,000 images

ImageRecycle is a paid tool, so we expected it to be better than the free options. (We tested using the free trial.) It was a little buggy when we tried the multiple file upload—it may be better to upload one file at a time—but you can download them together as a batch. ImageRecycle wouldn’t allow us to compress the final file as the tests exceeded their trial quota, considering how many of these tools are free, that’s unfortunate.

ImageResize.org

Limitation: Up to 20 images
Cost: Free

ImageResize.org is a free tool that’s ideal for people who want to edit images but don’t have an app like Photoshop. You can drag and drop images onto ImageResize.org’s UI, or supply an online URL for the image you want to compress.

ImageSmaller

Limitation: Max 50mb per image, one at a time
Cost: Free

ImageSmaller is a simple script that allows you to compress JPG or PNG images. There is a maximum file upload of 50mb, and you can only upload one image at a time. ImageSmaller also supports itself with advertising, and you have to be careful not to click on a dark pattern advert when using the UI.

JPEGMini

Limitation: Maximum 128mb per image
Cost: Free (with premium options)

JPEGMini is geared towards an Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop plugin. There’s a free online version that enables whole album uploads, which is what we tested. You have to wait for a while, and there’s no visual feedback on progress, and we found the UI confusing. One surprisingly useful feature is that JPEGMini emails you when your files are ready, so you can go do something else while it works.

Kraken

Limitation: None
Cost: from $9

Kraken is one of the most professional feeling tools in this list. The free version has plenty of options, and the pro version of Kraken has even more. Every pro version of Kraken comes with 100mb of trial data, (which is what we used to test). The UI was easy to use, and well designed. It feels like a premium service.

Optimizilla

Limitation: 20 images at a time
Cost: Free

Optimizilla is a really simple site. Just drag your photos onto the drop area, and then watch them upload. Click the download all button at the end to download a zip. Of the free options on this list, Optimizilla feels like the best user experience.

Shortpixel

Limitation: Maximum 50 images at a time
Cost: From free

Shortpixel is geared towards its WordPress plugin that automatically compresses any images that you upload to your media library. There is a 10mb image restriction unless you create an account, once you do the restriction is lifted. The free account has a 100 image quota, and premium options are available. Unexpectedly, in our test, the image with the smallest image dimensions resulted in a larger file size than the next size up!

TinyJPG

Limitation: Maximum 5mb per image, maximum 20 images at a time
Cost: Free

Who doesn’t love a Panda? TinyJPG has a companion TinyPNG site, which is nice to know. There is also the Go Pro option, for just $25 per year, that will upgrade you to a 25mb limit, plus you’ll get hugs from George the Panda.

toolur

Limitation: Maximum 25 images, maximum 30mb per file
Cost: Free

Toolbar is an interesting tool, because despite being free, it has a lot of options. You can specify 7 different compression methods, alter image quality, change the compression type, or resize the images. When testing, we left everything at the default but it’s good to know that you have some flexibility. Unfortunately they decided to include some weak blackhat SEO on their page.

The Results

To test out these services we used three free stock images that you can download here, here, and here. At 100% scale the images are all 2480px by 1860px.

We exported them as JPGs from Adobe Photoshop and used the export feature to create five different versions of each image: 33% scale, 50% scale, 100% scale, 200% scale, and 300% scale. This simulates saving different file sizes for responsive web designs.

When exported straight out of Photoshop, the size of the images are:

  • Valley – 33% (317kb), 50% (718kb), 100% (2.5mb), 200% (6.2mb), 300% (10.8mb)
  • Bike – 33% (412kb), 50% (905kb), 100% (2.9mb), 200% (6.9mb), 300% (12.1mb)
  • Beach – 33% (257kb), 50% (538kb), 100% (1.6mb), 200% (4.1mb), 300% (7.3mb)
Size Tests

The first test is how small the outputted files are. It’s important to remember that large images have lots of room for compression, but small images have less. So we’ve compared the images as percentages.

It’s also important to know that some tools allow you to be more or less aggressive with your compression. For these tests we used the default settings.

Speed Tests

The second test is how long it takes the various services to compress the whole set of 15 images. This probably doesn’t matter if you’re squashing down one image, but it matters a lot if you’re compressing dozens, or even a whole website’s worth.

When we ran the tests, they were run consecutively, and nothing other than background processes were running at the same time. (The conditions for each test were as identical as possible, but there may have been some minor network variations.)

Conclusions

The first thing that leaps out at us, is that the JPG compression in Photoshop is terrible. Every single one of the services we tested improved what Photoshop spat out. So if there’s one thing we can learn from this testing, it’s to always compress your images.

Some of the tests were failed (marked in red in the results). With one exception (when the trial account ran out of capacity) this was because some images don’t support very large files. So if you’re compressing small images only, you might find those services useful. Having said that, the results weren’t affected because none of the services that failed were category leaders in any case.

There was no real difference between paid services and free tools. Many of the free options out-performed the paid options.

Compress JPG and Optimizilla produced near-identical files, at identical sizes, and completed the task within fours seconds of each other. So these two different services appear to be the same service skinned with different frontends.

Best General Compression

The very best compression came from Shortpixel, which was consistently the best service in our tests for everything except our smallest images. Strangely, the size of the 33% image was actually larger than the 50% image—so strange that we tested this several times to be sure. Shortpixel struggles when it comes to smaller images, but where Shortpixel really struggles is speed, it took 2 minutes 35 seconds to complete the task, and only looks acceptable on the graph because Compress Photos performed so slowly and distorted the results.

Best Small File Compression

The best small JPG compression came from ImageResize, which produced the smallest 33% file for each of the images. What’s more, ImageResize was close behind ShortPixel for the other image sizes. ImageResize ran through the files in 30 seconds, just 9 seconds slower than the fastest.

Fastest Compression

The speed test is a tie between Kraken, and TinyJPG. Both services ran through all of the files in just 21 seconds. However, TinyJPG failed to compress six of our largest files. So the award for the fastest service goes to Kraken.

Recommendations

If you’re looking for the most aggressive compression, Shortpixel is our recommendation. If you need to compress smaller images then switch to ImageResize. And if you’re compressing lots of images, you value a premium experience, and you’re prepared to pay for the privilege, then use Kraken.

It helps to have access to a variety of services, because they all excel in one way or another. And it’s always worth running your own tests.

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The quality of critique sessions is a clear indicator of how well the creative process is being managed. When a design critique goes well, it can create more ideas on how to solve the problem at hand or help designers pick between a multitude of great solutions. But when a design critique goes wrong, it becomes a huge source of frustration for designers; designers who have been burned by insulting or unfocused critiques stop going to the sessions.

If you want to run design critique sessions in your organization, you should do it right.

What is a Design Critique?

Critique sessions are a meeting during which designers share their unfinished work with colleagues. The purpose of a critique is to make the design better. While critique session might sound like a brainstorm session, there’s a massive difference between two. The primary goal of a brainstorming session is to come up with new ideas, while the primary goal of a critique meeting is to evaluate the existing design approach and identify future changes.

What’s Required to Conduct a Session?

A design critique involves a small group of people (usually three to five) to discuss a design. The ideal design critique session is an informal meeting where each participant forgets about job titles or hierarchy, and instead, focuses on making the design better.

What is Considered to be a Good Outcome?

Properly conducted design critique sessions bring two major benefits:

  • Useful feedback which helps improve the design;
  • Motivation for designers to improve the design—designers should feel positive and excited after the session, even when they know that they’ll have a lot more work to do.
Things to do Before the Session Establish a Clear Criteria of Design Evaluation

By establishing a clear criteria, you set a bar. While each criteria is a subjective measure by nature, having a well-defined criteria helps define a level of the quality of work. When designers come to the session, they will know that they’re going to be evaluated against clear criteria. And this knowledge will help them more easily anticipate the critique, and prepare for it.

Assign Roles to Session Participant’s

Each design critique session requires three roles:

  • Presenter – the designer(s) who created the work;
  • Facilitator – a person who controls discussion flow and enables the presenter to have a successful critique;
  • Critiquers – other designers, developers, product managers, or stakeholders that provide feedback on the design.
The Presenter’s Role 1. Provide Context

One of the worst things presenters can do during the session is to assume that the people critiquing her work will know as much as a presenter about the design. Creating a context around your work should be the first thing you do. By setting context, you make it easier for critiques to understand the design.

To set the context a presenter might need to:

  • Identify the end user—describe user personas and demonstrate the way a persona interacts with a product, sell critiques on the way the average user would look, and how the product would integrate into their daily routine;
  • Share user journeys—when you present your work, don’t just show a few screens of a product that are supposed to represent some operations, share a whole user journey instead. Designers have a powerful tool in their toolkit that helps achieve this goal—storyboards, a storyboard can tie a user persona together with a design.
2. Share Your Goals for the Critique Session

Before going to the meeting, the presenter should have a definite answer to the question “What I want to learn from this session?” It’s important to share your goals with session participants. By letting people know what you want from them you create a sharp focus—critiques will provide the right type of feedback (based on your goal). Without goals, everyone will share their general ideas, and the meeting will be more of a brainstorm session than a critique session.

3. Use Dynamic Design for your Presentation

The quality of feedback you’ll receive is directly relevant to the level of fidelity and interactivity of the work you present. When presenters offer up something static, it narrows the field of possible feedback—people will have a hard time imagining everything you’re showing them. But the more your work represents the final product, the higher quality the feedback you’ll receive. When a critique has the opportunity to interact with a design, they’ll give more specific recommendations on how to improve it. A chance to play with a hi-fi prototype will put your team directly in the shoes of your user, and this gives you more relevant feedback.

4. Ask Specific Questions to Collect Specific Feedback

General questions such as “Do you think this design is good?” won’t bring valuable insights. Be specific. Define 3-5 specific questions you want to be answered, and ask them during the session. Ask those questions even if you’re pretty sure what team will tell you. By asking questions, you can spark new discussion and eventually find valuable insights.

5. Take Notes While Receiving Feedback

It’s essential to write down the most important opinions as well as your own thoughts.

The Facilitator’s Role 1. The Facilitator and the Presenter Shouldn’t be the Same Person

Combining the roles of presenter and facilitator might be tempting. But it’s better to avoid this temptation. If a person who created the design is leading the meeting and controlling the discussion, there is a high probability that she will use this power for evil—the presenter can become the victim of their own ego. Ego can make the presenter focus on feedback that makes their ideas shine, and exclude everything else. Of course, not all designers will have such problems, but it’s always better to prevent something from happening in a first place rather solving problems afterward.

2. Clearly Define the Rules

Without a basic set of rules, discussions can go in any direction and become counter-productive. It’s essential to:

  • Describe roles – make it clear for everyone in the room what’s expected from them, defining the critics’ role is crucial, set the right tone for critique, preferably by example;
  • Describe the criteria for design evaluation – while the criteria should be established before the session, it’s vital to remind participators about the criteria.
3. Promote Equal Participation

Critique sessions are a collaborative activity, that’s why it should be based on dialogue not monologues. Facilitator should support the idea of conversation by asking people to speak up.

4. Keep an Eye on Time

By reminding people of how much time they have to discuss something, the facilitator motivates them to work more efficiently.

5. Block Irrelevant Discussions

It’s essential to block all feedback that doesn’t help presenters reach their goals. Try to steer the conversation back to the goals the presenter set in the beginning.

The Critiquers’ Role 1. Empathize with the Presenter

It sounds pretty obvious, but all too often people give criticism without taking the time to put themselves in a presenter’s shoes. No matter how well a presenter sets the context and presents their work, a critique has unlimited opportunity to make the conversation uncomfortable.

Here are a few things that should be taken into account:

  • Be positive – nobody likes toxic people, never say you hate a design;
  • Identify presenters needs – when you’re giving feedback, you need to know what the presenter wants to reach, get a sense of what the objective is;
  • Listen before speaking – if you take a moment to listen and understand before voicing an opinion, there’s a better chance that your feedback will be valuable;
  • Offer direction, not prescription – don’t tell the designer how to fix the design, keep in mind that it’s up to the presenter to come up with a solution, you just help steer them in the right direction.
2. Be Specific When Giving Your Opinion

The feedback that sounds like “I don’t like this design” without any additional details doesn’t bring too much value. Be concrete. Say exactly what you don’t like and why. If you describe better solutions, provide visual examples of what you mean.

The same rule applies when you say something like “This won’t work in the real world.” If you’re going say something like this, be sure to back up your opinion with facts. Facts might be anything from UX best practices, studies, researches, etc.

3. Don’t Bring Personal Taste into it

The words you choose in critiques do matter. Opinions that sounds like “I don’t like this dark UI” are nothing more than a criticism based on personal preference. Often such feedback is considered as too subjective and skipped during discussions.

It’s okay to have a personal opinion, or express your own preferences, but it’s wrong to insert it as an argument in a discussion. Each argument should be given in the context of user’s needs and wants. Thus, instead of saying “I don’t like this dark UI” it’s better say “I think our users won’t appreciate a dark UI.”

4. Ask Clarifying Questions

Misconceptions and misunderstandings are something that happen all the time during discussions. It’s possible to reveal potential miscommunications by asking clarifying questions. Ask “Why?” each time you don’t understand a design decision.

5. Provide More Feedback After the Session

Quite often critiques have thoughts and ideas beyond the scope of the feedback requested. Avoid giving such feedback during the meeting. Write it down and reach presenter with this feedback after the session.

Conclusion

When a design critique session is appropriately conducted, it can be a great combination of vision, strategy, and technology. That’s because people who take part in this activity will be happy to share their experience and knowledge. Such critique sessions feel like informal conversations between people with the same goal—they’re all trying to find the best solution to the problem.

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When designers and developers work on projects, they have a lot of questions: What do our users expect to see on this screen? How are users supposed to interact with our product? What should our onboarding feel like? These questions are commonly asked during product development.

Every team wants to reduce the risk of incorrect design decisions and as the complexity of products increases, the digital product design industry puts usability practitioners in high demand. Usability practitioners are people who help product teams make informed decisions. In most organizations, the primary role of usability experts is design validation—making sure that a product is usable.

But many usability practitioners (particularly those who are new to the field) complain that product teams don’t act on their research results. While this could be due to many different issues, most often it is due to poor usability reports; if product teams have trouble understanding findings, or don’t know what to do with the findings, they’ll simply ignore them.

That’s why it so important to make reports actionable. In this article, we’ll share eleven tips that help usability practitioners to reach this goal.

1. Know Key Business Objectives

Most companies have a clear understanding of what their business goals are. The reason companies invest money in usability analysis is that they believe that it will help them reach their goals.

It’s possible to put more weight into usability reports by creating a direct connection between solving usability issues and reaching business goals. Thus, usability experts should take enough time to figure out what the key business objectives are and make sure that the usability insights are aligned with them.

2. Be Specific When Presenting Findings

Imagine when someone opens a usability report and sees a sentence like: “The process of purchasing a product was hard,” without any additional details. With a high probability, they will consider such a finding as too vague. Vague findings don’t give product teams many insights. A lack of detail can, at best, leave teams wondering what the problem was. But at worse it can lead to an unfavorable outcome—when a product team misinterprets findings they can start solving a wrong problem.

That’s why all findings in a report need to be specific. It’s essential to write usability findings in a clear way that helps the team identify the cause of a problem and work toward a solution. Thus, instead of saying “The process of purchasing a product was hard,” provide a clear context for the issue. Say why the process was hard. Were too many steps involved? Were field labels in forms unclear? Make it clear in your report!

3. Never Blame Users

Describing findings in relation to users is a relatively common problem of many studies. “The user had to do this” or “Unfortunately, a user was unable to …” Although such statements sound innocent, they can cause significant damage to your reports. Such language switches the focus from a design and puts the blame on the user. It becomes a user problem, not a product problem. When team members and stakeholders read such findings, they might think “Well, this user wasn’t experienced. Maybe we should conduct another testing session with more experienced testers?” and can dismiss the issue.

One of the purposes of a research study is to generate empathy for the end user. Good UX practitioners always start usability testing session with words “We’re not testing you, we’re testing our product.” The same attitude should be used in usability reports.

4. Don’t Lose Sight of the Wood for the Trees

A famous Charles Eames quote: “The details are not the details. They make the design” is a bad joke for some usability professionals.

All too often they become too focused on the details, so they forget to notice huge issues. For example, when analyzing specific user flow, it’s easy to be focused on providing concrete recommendations on how to improve user experience (e.g. changing the size of the buttons, renaming labels, etc.), but forgetting to notice that the entire flow doesn’t match user expectations or doesn’t meet their needs. If users have trouble at every step, perhaps it’s the overall flow that’s to blame, rather than separate details along the way.

5. Add Redesign Recommendations to Usability Reports

The goal of user research and usability testing is not only in finding issues and defects; it’s also proposing solutions to those problems. Too frequently usability practitioners conduct usability testing, track all issues, but don’t provide recommendations on how to fix the problems. Recommendations play an essential role—they help determine next steps and make the results actionable.

Usability practitioners are the right people for writing recommendations because they have unique expertise in thinking about design solutions. They run lots of usability tests and have first-hand knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work for users.

Writing useful and usable recommendations is a skill that all usability professionals should master. Here are a few things that should be taken into account when writing recommendations:

  • Avoid vague proposals: Vague recommendations such as “Make the error message clearer” doesn’t say enough for people who’ll read reports. It’s essential to make recommendations constructive by providing sufficient details.
  • Avoid biased recommendations: Stay away from assumptions. Reference studies and best practices in your report.
  • Discuss your usability recommendations: Talk with designers, developers, sales and marketing teams to learn what works and what doesn’t work both from a business and technical point of view. The wisdom of the crowd can help you to come up with better solutions.
  • Write recommendations in the readers’ language: The readers of recommendations are not necessary usability specialists. Thus, avoid usability jargon such as “508 compliant” when providing recommendations.
  • Visualize your recommendations. A picture is worth a thousand words and this rule applies to recommendations. Visualizing recommendations doesn’t mean that usability specialists should create high-fidelity interactive prototypes. Creating a quick sketch to illustrate a point is totally acceptable.
6. Involve Teams and Stakeholders in Usability Testing

Work closely with the design and development team, rather than simply delivering a report and walking away from the project. Make team members and stakeholders contribute towards study designs.

Here are a couple of tips to take into account:

  • Ask designers, product managers, marketers about their expectations before conducting testing. By asking a simple question “After we conduct this research, what results would you expect?” you build interest to the upcoming test session.
  • Invite team members and stakeholders to watch usability testing sessions. Nothing beats watching how users interact with a product. Seeing how users struggle when working with a product will make stakeholders understand the value of session.
7. Keep Your Reports Short and Focused

Readers of usability reports are busy people, and it’s relatively easy to overwhelming them by putting too much information in a report. Long lists of recommendations are less likely to be read and acted upon. Remember that with each additional issue mentioned in a report, you decrease a chance that readers will reach the final page of your report. Thus, keep the report short and focused.

8. Rank Findings

No one team has infinite time to solve all possible issues which were found during usability testing. It’s vital to understand that every issue that was discovered through usability testing is not equally important. Usability practitioners should prioritize all findings and put a focus on the most important ones. Ranking findings as low, medium or high severity helps the team understand what critical issues the usability study exposed

But before assigning a priority, it’s essential to work with a product team and stakeholders to build a consensus around what is considered as a high priority usability issue vs. what is recognized as a low priority.

9. Make Your Reports Sound Human

Don’t just list your findings and recommendations; describe them in a format of a story—a story of interaction users with a product. Usability reports are the most impactful when they illustrate problems using video clips of test participants and when they contain participant quotes recorded during testing sessions.

10. Customize Your Report for Different Audiences

It’s worth creating a few versions of usability reports for different audiences. For example, when it comes to writing a report for developers, you can provide more technical details, but for stakeholders, you may only skim an executive summary of prioritized issues.

11. Actively Promote Your Findings

It’s not enough to conduct testing, send a report as an email attachment and believe that team members will read it and act upon it. Usability practitioners should actively market their findings—make sure every person who needs to know, is familiar with your report.

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Looking to boost your search rankings?

While nothing can help you reach an audience better than great content, there are simple habits that can help you boost search ranking and provide valuable information for users. And it doesn’t require a complete website overhaul or hiring an SEO expert.

Here are three hacks to help you boost your website ranking and help more users find your website content.

1. Use Video and Transcription

You might already know that video is a great way to engage with users on your website. From full-screen video headers to short clips to grab attention, moving images can provide information to users that still photos can’t. Video can be more than that as well. Use video for tutorials or how-to features to drive even more engagement.

Often in website design, we use the phrase “show, don’t tell” to describe the design process. The same can be true for whatever your website is about as well. Create a video that provides a valuable resource for users. It could be a video that shows them how to use a product (if you have an ecommerce website) or how to do or make something related to your content area.

Make sure to create a high quality video. It should provide complete information in a concise way – so that users will actually watch it.

Upload the video to your website and make sure to include appropriate metadata (it works much like uploading photos with alt information and appropriate naming). Make sure to include a thumbnail that’s visually appealing and shows something interesting. This “tiny picture” can entice users to watch the video. (Try to include a person in the image to give it a personal feel.)

Next, create a full transcript of the video and include it on the page with the video itself. (Think of the design like this: big video at the top of the page, header with the title of the video and then full text of the video.)

This works in two ways:

  • It makes the video accessible to more people because they can read the information (great if they are on your website without sound).
  • It allows search bots to actually scrape the full content of the video, thanks to the text transcription. (Bots can’t actually read what’s in the actual video, only the meta data associated with it.)

Make each page with video content unique. Don’t use the same video and transcription on multiple pages of the website. It should have its own page and location. TED (shown below) does a great job with this, making videos easily accessible – and easy to search and find – for all users.

2. Link to the “Right” Sources

Linking to sources inside and outside your website matters quite a bit. The idea is that your website should be a credible and authoritative source of original information.

How information is referenced and sourced means a lot to Google’s search algorithm, making it important to use links well.

But what are the right sources to link to? First consider authority and credibility.

link to sources that relate to your content from websites that already have good search credibility

For facts and information, link to sources that relate to your content from websites that already have good search credibility. Those include websites that you’ve probably heard of and that have been around a long time. (A link to something from The New York Times is more authoritative than one from a blog start-up.) Look for official sources to link to as well. Websites that end in .gov and .org generally come with more authority than .com. Use these types of sources where appropriate, but make sure that the link is a resource related to your content.

You want to link internally as well. If you have related content within your website, make sure to link to that as well. (Internal cross-linking can provide a boost to your website and individual pages with more people looking at them.)

Then, the trick is to mix up all the right links, with the right number of linked sources. Too many links will look like link stuffing to search bots and will actually hurt your ranking.

Pick a few key places to link. For a piece of content that’s 500 words, try to include three to five relevant links that are a mix of the types mentioned.

While it’s hard for you to control what sources link to you, this is an important factor as well. The same quality of sources that you link to are the quality of sources you want to be linked from. (Say that five times fast!) When you create quality content, much of this linking will come naturally. Don’t force it.

3. Tag Like a Pro

One of the first tips you’ll get when reading about SEO is to use meta tags. Most website designers know to do that. It’s how you use tagging that can make the website stand out in search.

Meta tags – those little snippets that describe content – are part of a website’s code and not on-page content per se. (Not sure how to include meta tags? Here’s what the HTML looks like.)

To tag like a pro, think about the major types of meta tags and how to use them effectively.

  • Title tag: It what appears in the browser bar. Search engines think this is the title of the page and often matches the actual title of the content or H1 attribute.
  • Meta description attribute: This is arguably the most important meta tag for actual users. It is the short description that appears in a search engine listing. Write these descriptions to fit in the space. Although the character count changes periodically, keeping it to about 300 characters is ideal. Try to write different descriptions for each page that describe the content on that page. (Look at the example below: Which description best helps you click for more information?)
  • Meta robots attribute: This tells search crawlers whether to index the page or not. This is the index/noindex and the follow/nofollow information.
Conclusion

Quality search starts with a quality website. You need to provide valuable information for users that’s yours. You can’t copy someone else or publish a mash-up of things and expect results. Find a topic or niche and own it. Then, make sure to diversify types of content and how you reference information.

The goal is to be a credible source of unique information. That’s what these three hacks should help you accomplish in ways you maybe haven’t considered. Create content that helps people in some way, and search results will likely follow.

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When you work for a user experience design company for as long as I have, you start to notice the cyclical nature of industry trends. Just like fashion or art, what goes out of style inevitably resurfaces a few years down the road, only to become adopted by the mainstream, and fade into obsoletion once again.

In the digital design world, there’s maybe no better example of this than the rise and fall (and rise) of the gradient. Considered a lynchpin of interface design in the nineties (how many geocities sites had a gradient WordArt header?), the trend likely dates back even farther. Consider this iconic logo:

‘Back To The Future’ is a fitting example for a design trend that has just recently resurfaced today, perhaps most notably in Instagram’s logo redesign in 2016 and Spotify’s dual tone playlist icon. Gradients have become increasingly popular in the user interface design world, and for good reason—they inject depth and texture to the interface. They serve unique, even conflicting roles: gradients realistically mimic the colors we see around us (rarely do we encounter single tones in the real world), but they can also be used to create color patterns we’ve never seen before.

When used improperly, gradients spell out a design disaster

The gradient is a powerful design technique, and with great power comes great responsibility. When used improperly, gradients spell out a design disaster. They can muddle a layout, distract the user, and ruin an interface’s entire aesthetic. In this article (with the help of my trusty team of UX designers), we reveal the secret to crafting a gradient that elevates your interface to the next echelon, rather than remind the user of 1997.

Start With a Strong Foundation

Whether it’s dual tone or multi-tone, every gradient is only as strong as its base colors. And just like all color-based design choices, we can refer to the color wheel for guidance when selecting the correct ones.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be an expert on color theory to make prudent selections for your gradient. The general rule of thumb is to choose colors that are close to each other, thus allowing them to blend more naturally. UX Planet includes a great diagram—look how seamless the transition from yellow to orange is compared to the green-purple.

Why are colors in proximity on the wheel so visually appealing? Perhaps it’s because those are the gradients that naturally occur so often. Which brings us to an excellent trade secret for UI designers: turning to nature as a source for inspiration.

Gradients In Nature

We constantly encounter gradients in our day-to-day lives: the sky, sunsets, bodies of water. No matter where we are in the world, the sky especially serves as excellent source material. Just take a look at the breathtaking natural tableaus designer Anna Grenn showcases, complete with their accompanying color makeups.

And while the sky may be the most common source material, there’s no end to examples. There’s probably a natural gradient around you right now. The color of the real life does not neatly fill inside the lines, but rather blends.

Taking it to the Next Level

So let’s say your existing brand’s colors aren’t exactly conducive to gradients. Or maybe your standard two-tone gradient simply isn’t cutting it. Never fear: injecting additional hues to the gradient is a great way to enhance its visual interest and distinguish your UI even more.

As you’d imagine, additional colors are going to flow best when they fall in between the start and end color on the color wheel. Revisiting the same diagram from UX Planet:

Just be warned: the more colors you add, the more complex your gradient, and the more difficult a design balancing-act you’ll have to perform. You could aim high and shoot for a multi-layered gradient like Instagram’s logo, but go overboard and you could end up with something closer to this deliberately ugly MTV web design.

Light Source & Shape

Even after nailing down the perfect color combination, there’s still the matter of actually implementing it into the design. First, some of the basics:

Gradients should align with their containers, contouring to the layout and directing where the user’s eyeballs should be pointed. For x-sided polygons (squares, triangles, rectangles, pentagons, etc.) this usually means a linear gradient; rounder areas call for a radial direction.

Some UI designers like to assign an imaginary ‘light source’ for the page they’re working on, the same way an artist painting a landscape might. This helps them decide how to orient the gradient—the lighter side should obviously be closer to the source, the darker side farther away. Assigning a light source can also help inform other graphic elements of the page, and act as a focal point too.

When all of these individual elements are chosen properly, they coalesce into a gorgeous, eye-popping gradient. And that, in turn, serves as a huge boon to the interface as a whole.

Where Do Gradients Go From Here?

Including a gradient in your UI is an excellent, easy way to modernize your platform. By following the tips discussed here, you can ensure you’re wielding this powerful design tool properly. To recap:

  • Select the appropriate base tones using a combination of your brand and the color wheel
  • When in doubt, turn to the natural world for inspiration
  • Kick things up by adding more hues, but be careful not to overdo it
  • Choose the correct shape and placement within your interface. Remember: our eyes follow the gradient!

Like all UI design trends, gradients will fall out of fashion—toppled by the next big thing. But for now, they’re a pillar of cutting-edge UI design.

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Your team is all spread out— your designers are working from Lisbon, your content team is in New York, and your project manager is in Argentina. How do you create a system that makes it simple to organize and plan large web projects? There is a trick to getting designers and copywriters to work together smoothly, and it’s called communication. But even simple communication will fail if you don’t have the correct processes in place.

1. Set Up a Project Management Foundation

Before you begin collaborating, you’ll want to make sure you have an actual system set up.
“I want to move forward, but I’m not sure what’s approved.” How often have you said that to your team? Some teams have a lot of fire in them. They like to dive right into the problem to find the solution, but that could cause a lot of problems later on. Most design problems aren’t actually design problems, they’re management problems.

Most design problems aren’t actually design problems, they’re management problems
What happens if you have the best designers in the world, but you fail to explain the client’s problem properly? What if the designs they send keep getting rejected? And what happens when the designers and writers understand the project differently? The key is to develop a solution that actually works for everyone so project managers can properly understand and explain the issue, and designers and writers can develop solutions that work for those problems.
According to Sara, a Project Manager at Entermotion: The key to smooth design/writer collaboration is in the communication process; It’s important to be able to properly speak the same “language” so that all sides of it (design, writers, project managers) know exactly what’s needed and what’s being said; I think a lot of the mistakes in the process come down to a misunderstanding of the smaller details; Those smaller details can derail a big portion of the project even if they seem minuscule at first; Having everyone on the same page from the beginning and not starting out with “I think they want it like this…” (which leaves people assuming) or with too many open holes in the details can be detrimental to the whole process.
This is the most important step to take when planning a website. You need a careful project manager to help ensure the success of a project by exploring what the creatives can handle, how project success will be measured, making sure the creatives can dream big while sticking with a nightmare-size budget, and a detailed plan for how the designers and creatives can make it happen. Each project manager will have her own tools, but there are a few trusted apps that we know can get you on track:

  • Develop a design structure to help you meet your goals
  • Align your team’s goals with Basecamp or Asana and assign due dates, track projects, upload media content, and set calendar goals together.
  • Visualize your team’s progress with Trello or Notion
  • Keep up with your team on Slack or RocketChat

Once project managers have the right tools, they have to figure out the best way to implement changes.

2. Understand Project Scope Before Getting Started

Project managers should help determine all of the key project elements (and those tiny details that could derail a project):

  • Project Goals
  • Deliverables
  • Project Functions
  • Desired Features
  • Desired Deadline
  • Agreed-Upon Budget

Once the scope has been determined, project managers should figure out what they are not handling:

  • Is the client hosting their own website?
  • Is the client using a third-party company to get a logo developed?
  • Does the client have a deep connection with a marketing firm that will help them?

To do all that properly, project managers should have a checklist of information ready:

  • Who is the main decision maker for the company?
  • Does the client fully understand the scope of the project?
  • Does the project manager fully understand the scope of the project?

To make sure everyone is on the same page, project managers should share back a project chart (or detailed list of steps) so the client can confirm that the information is correct.
Once that’s settled, project managers can take it to the team!

3. Kick off Content First

Collaborating for better design is about making sure the design and content team has a unified vision of what’s happening. Agencies and small teams handle this differently, but each leads to the same goal: getting the designers and writers on the same page to create something beautiful and avoid any pitfalls.
Here’s how to lead a great kickoff chat:

  • Present project and deliverables needed
  • Give people time to come up with ideas
  • Set clear expectations and goals
  • Research before presenting
  • Develop a singular vision
  • Outline responsibilities for next steps

When you leave a kickoff chat, the entire team should feel empowered and ready to tackle the project clearly toward that singular vision you developed. Some companies have unique ways of handling the kickoff:
Amazon, for example, has a team member present a press release for the unfinished product. Like all press releases, it includes information about the problem, solution, and how to get started. Then, when the team goes back to designing and writing, they make sure that the product their building matches what was described in the press release.
But not every team can work like Amazon, so what happens if you’re working with a remote team? Jeff Gothelf has some ideas to keep your team’s process strong. He suggests that timing is a great way to keep remote teams excited. If everyone kicks off a project together at the beginning of it, teams will be able to understand and respond to each other’s learning and working styles.
A good project kickoff should be one where all team members uncover ideas together:

  • Understand a project’s end goals
  • Define and understand audience needs
  • Determine main aesthetics and aesthetic goals
  • Define information architecture
  • Develop content ideas

In a remote team, it’s super important that all key members of each project work together at the beginning to determine goals and eliminate potential hang ups.

4. Wireframe and Determine Content

Set up a way to wireframe, prototype, and develop content as the design elements shift if you don’t have one already. As you move on from the kickoff chat, it’s important to have flexible tools that shift with the content.

Wireframe.cc

Wireframe.cc – starts at $16/month. This is a clean app that shows you the elements you need only when you need them. A context-sensitive tool bar and a limited color palette make it simple to create sketch-like wireframes in a pinch.

FluidUI

FluidUI is a prototyping tool to help you communicate information architecture to clients and receive realtime feedback on prototypes. This goes a little beyond simple wireframing because you can hop on an in-app video call to discuss each project as it’s happening.

Mockflow

Mockflow is a collaborative UI tool to help remote teams wireframe. It’s free for one project and goes up to $160/month for enterprises. Teams can brainstorm UI ideas on the go, export designs, and work with a library of wireframe templates.

when you use the right tools, your wireframe or prototype can shift with the design elements
Wireframing can be a collaborative part of the design process. Elements of the design might shift, but when you use the right tools, your wireframe or prototype can shift with the design elements.
When you’re working on a remote team, it’s important that all members feel empowered to get feedback and collaborate properly. With the wireframe tools above, team members can get client feedback, uncover new solutions, and connect with their team.
Designers and copywriters can use wireframes to get specific feedback on projects. During a back-and-forth session, team members can ask for specific feedback:

  • How do you feel about animating the first half of this?
  • What if we turned this text into an infographic?
  • How will we be designing this?
  • Do you have ideas for hover text here?
  • Does the client want a video masthead here?

Opening up the ability to chat about an ongoing project will allow designers and writers to work collectively (and separately) toward one goal.

5. Work with a Content Management Platform That Supports Your Needs

Copywriters need a way to access older versions of copy and designers need a clean way to see what content was approved and what goes where. If your team works with smart content management platforms, they’ll be able to do everything they need in one place.

  • Google Docs or Zoho Docs allow teams to share assets, so remote companies can all see the same progress
  • Brainstorm in Dropbox Paper or Evernote to outline goals, responsibilities, and project needs.
  • Create a hierarchy in Jumpchart or Airstory so clients can see what content will be planned, where it will go, and what information they need to develop.

Whether you’re working with 1 designer and 1 copywriter or 16 designers and a full staff of copywriters, you’re going to need a way to do all this:

  • Control versions so each team member can work on the most updated version
  • Track changes so you can see who changed what, when
  • Follow client feedback, if any
  • Allow designers and copywriters to collaborate effectively, and work with tools that morph as the content or information shifts
6. Collaborate with Your Bosses and Clients for Full Approval

Before you submit the deliverables to your clients or bosses, decide how you’re going to present it.

  • Create a framework so your clients and boss understand the way in which your deliverables will support the clients’ main goals
  • Create an index of topics you’ll cover during the meeting
  • Discuss what stage your work is in and how it will be incorporated when it goes live
  • Commit to an action plan

Once you know how you’re going to present it, designers and copywriters should collaborate to make sure everything is in place:

  • Meta copy has been developed
  • Content is properly placed
  • Background information is prepared
  • All content is created and has been proofread

You never want to share information that is poorly presented, but you also don’t want to wait months until everything is “perfect.” Let’s face it: perfection is a beautiful idea but one that rarely helps businesses. Sometimes, it’s best to make sure everything is as right as it can be before you send it off. If you present the information properly, prepare the correct details, and share it in a beautiful package (backed up by case studies, evidence, or stats), your boss or client will have nothing left to do except approve it.

Takeaway

Collaboration is about asking the right questions, coming to the table with an open mind, and ensuring that you have processes in place to execute a clear plan. Once you have a clear action plan, designers and copywriters will be able to collaborate for powerful projects that please the project managers as much as the clients.

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A website is a place where a business can educate its audience about its brand. What it does. Why it does it. What they’ll get out of being there. That, in and of itself, is a lot of information.

When designing a website for your clients, the last thing you want is to overdo it. The web is not a place for excess and its users typically don’t have the patience to sift through pages and pages stuffed full of information just to get to the relevant bits.

That’s why minimalism will endure as a design trend. It allows web designers to convey a lot about a brand and its message, without having to spell it all out on the page. It gives brands a cleaner, more buttoned-up look while also clearing a path to conversion for visitors.

But just because you design with simplicity and minimalism in mind, doesn’t mean you can’t share additional messages with visitors. You just have to find less cumbersome and intrusive ways to do so.

Years ago, the pop-up was introduced as a means to do this. It kept related and relevant information within the website without having to intrude on the well-designed page. However, Google has since cracked down on the usage of pop-ups that it deems disruptive to the user experience, which has some designers and developers confused about what they’re supposed to do now.

So, what does it mean? Is the pop-up no longer a viable way to promote special offers, share value-add content, subscribe new followers, or recover nearly-lost sales? In this article, I’m going to cover the current state of website pop-ups and give you some best practices to adhere to when using them.

The Current State of Website Pop-ups

First, let’s talk about what pop-ups look like today, how they’re used, and why you would even want to include them in your web design plan.

Types of Pop-ups

A modal is the most common type users encounter on the web.

It can literally pop open on a web page, slide into the page, or just be there right from the point of entry. While these usually can be found in the dead-center of the page, some websites now place them closer to the bottom of the page or even stick them in the corner.

An interstitial or overlay pop-up is one that covers the entire screen, usually upon entering a website.

A notification bar is one that can permanently stick to the top or bottom of a website.

5 Very Good Reasons to Use Pop-ups

You might think that with the backlash from Google on mobile pop-ups (I’m getting to that soon…) that it would be best to stay away from pop-ups altogether. However, I’ll give you 5 very good reasons why most of the websites you design should include them:

1. They’re Attention-Grabbing

No one has patience to read anymore, which is why delivering attention-grabbing micro-messages in pop-ups are so great.

2. They Draw the Eyes to What’s Most Important

Pop-ups deliver extra value to online visitors—and they know it. So, when a pop-up appears, they’re going to immediately be drawn to that offer or value-added opportunity.

3. They’re Versatile

Pop-ups no longer move visitors out of the browser window or clog up their desktop with ads they weren’t aware of. You now have so many different types to work with and they can be triggered at different points of the website experience:

  • Upon entry
  • After a certain point of scrolling
  • Triggered by an action
  • Right before exiting
4. They Keep the Site Clean

As I mentioned before, minimalism is important for making a website aesthetically pleasing. But if you have a special message you really want to get in front of visitors and don’t want to take up precious and limited real estate to do it, you can use pop-ups to deliver it.

5. They Increase Conversions

Sumo studied its users’ pop-ups and the conversion rates associated with them. What they found was that pop-ups have the potential to convert at a rate of about 3%, on average. Pop-ups that are designed really well, however, have the potential to convert 9% of visitors that encounter them.

You can also use them to increase engagement on the site. Ask them to fill out a survey, share something on social media, or to watch a video on a landing page.

But What’s the Deal with Mobile Pop-ups?

Okay, so Google doesn’t hate mobile pop-ups. It just wants web developers to be smarter about how they use them since pop-ups can be disruptive for users, in general, though definitely more so on smaller mobile screens.

As a result, Google has begun issuing penalties to mobile websites that use these three kinds of pop-ups:

In summary, stay away from:

  • Pop-ups on the first page of a mobile user’s visit
  • Pop-ups that hide the majority of the web page behind it
  • Interstitials

Got it? Now, let’s talk about what you should do when using website pop-ups.

18 Best Practices for Using Website Pop-ups
  1. Never use pop-ups for the sole purpose of having a trendy design element in place. If you waste visitors’ time with a meaningless disruption, you’ll lose their trust.
  2. Design the pop-up to look just as good as the rest of your website.
  3. Make sure they’re responsive.
  4. Keep copy short and to the point.
  5. Don’t use the passive aggressive Yes/No calls-to-action unless it’s your brand’s personality to be that way. If you’re including two CTAs, do it in a way that positively encourages them to take action on the primary one.
  6. If you’re going to collect contact information, ask only for one thing: their email address.
  7. Make sure the content of the pop-up is relevant to the page it appears on.
  8. If you can, avoid showing pop-ups on the first page. Give visitors a chance to acclimate first. For the record, though, this is one of the entry pop-up types Google does allow for (since privacy is so important):
  9. Follow Google’s rules for mobile: no interstitials, no oversized modals, and no pop-ups on the first page.
  10. Don’t feel like desktop and mobile pop-ups need to be identical. Design pop-ups for each device type.
  11. Always include an easy way to get out of the pop-up: either click outside of it or place an “X” button in the top-right.
  12. Time your pop-ups to appear at just the right moment of the on-site experience (like right before visitors are about to exit).
  13. Set frequency rules, so visitors don’t keep seeing pop-ups on every page or on every visit.
  14. Place pop-ups in the right location.
  15. If you want to intrude (and think visitors will be okay with it), put them in the center of the screen.
  16. If you want to share a special offer, use a sticky bar.
  17. If you want to give them something to think about as they move around the site, put the pop-up off to the side.
  18. Use audience segmentation and targeting to create customized pop-up messages.
Wrapping Up

If you have something really valuable to share with visitors or know you have a way to positively lure them back to your site, give website pop-ups a shot. And don’t be afraid to A/B test them the way you do other elements on your site. There’s so much here to play with, including design, copy, placement, CTA, triggers, and more.

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