Kickoff meetings with our clients are crucial for helping us get to know each other. They get to meet the team that will be working on their new website, app, or strategy. We get an in-depth view of their business, their website objectives, and perhaps most importantly, how they want their brand to be portrayed.
We always like to ask clients to put a face on their brand, a personality. We ask them things like:
- If your brand were writing a profile for a dating website, what would he/she say about themselves?
- What kind of car do they drive?
- What's their favourite outfit?
- Where do they like to go for dinner?
- What do they do on the weekend?
Putting a face on your brand - not your customers or your target market, but your actual brand - is an interesting exercise. So often, clients will say that their brand is cool, casual, friendly, and approachable. And then we look at their current website, advertising materials, and collateral they've been using, and often discover that it's none of those things.
When we sit with a new client to discuss what they want their website to look like, the two adjectives we hear most often are "clean and simple".
This isn't a shocker. I don't think too many clients are on the hunt for "messy and cluttered".
But interestingly, during the design process, what starts off as "clean and simple" can quickly veer into cluttered territory - and it can be hard to pull a site back from the precipice of disaster once that line has been crossed.
Clean and simple does not mean easy. In fact, a truly clean design can be the hardest kind to maintain. It's like buying white furniture. That white couch looks gorgeous in the showroom, doesn't it? Bring it home to your kids and your dog and your coffee-drinking self, and before you know it, it's unrecognizable.
So, you're getting ready to build a website. You have a ton of information to share but you really want it to be clean and simple. How do you do both? A good web design and development studio will be able to suggest some solutions for you, but here are a couple of…
I still remember back in design school, one of the very first lessons we learned during a cut paper project was that professional designers are anal-retentive perfectionists. When we mounted work, it had to be perfect. Our mat board couldn't have any tears, our printouts were cut with a metal ruler and exacto blade, our sheets centred perfectly on the board (measured two or three times). No knicks, scratches or glue bubbles were permissible on the project.
This lesson was beaten into us (not literally, most of the time) for a reason: We had to give a shit about our work. If we were that obsessive about just mounting a printout to hand in to our instructors, we should be even more attentive with work that the world would see. The kerning of letters had to be adjusted just so. The spelling had to be accurate. Things that were supposed to align had to align precisely.
If you were to lurch behind a good designer and watch him or her work, you'd probably see him moving objects on the screen pixel by pixel with the arrow key, fine-tuning the typography, or sliding the opacity…
On Monday, Coca-Cola rolled out its new website design, which aims to be more of an online magazine than a brand mouthpiece. Called "The Coca-Cola Journey", the new site is named for a magazine that was published for the company's employees during the 80s and 90s. It features articles, interviews, opinion pieces, videos, and blogs about a variety of topics: sports, history, health, environment.
Sure, it's impossible not to notice that this is indeed a Coca-Cola website, with frequent references to the brand and a subjective favourable slant, but material is presented in a way that's interesting, engaging, relevant and consumer-facing.
Coca-Cola is just the latest corporation to shift their web presence to be more about sharing a story than flat-out hawking a brand. In a New York Times interview, Ashley Brown, director for digital communications and social media with Coca-Cola, explains that his team now operates similarly to an editorial team at a magazine.
While there's definitely a Coke-friendly "point of view" to the content, they're striving to be a credible source, open to things such as accepting opinion columns that don't necessarily jibe with the views of the company. Coca-Cola's…
I used to think process was an ugly word. Who wants to be neck deep in charts and documentation, wasting time when we could be actually doing the design or dev work? And it’s that kind of thinking that got us screwed over on jobs our first couple of years in business.
Well this year, I think we finally got it right. Sure, there’s always room for improvement, but there are several ways in which we nailed down, perhaps our most efficient, effective process of building websites and applications, and one that actually enhances the fun for us, while also ensuring clients get what they want in the end.
Take a look at this process chart I made a few months ago:
This process shows a more refined way that we go about a project that fits into one of two camps; Either a website built in ExpressionEngine or an application built within the CodeIgniter framework.
Putting the visuals first: UX first
We’ve recently adopted a UX-first approach to most projects. The bigger and more complex the application, the more important this approach is.
So you've often heard clients say: "There's too much on the page, people might not know to scroll. Did I mention, I HATE scrolling on websites?"
Yes, this was the reality of the web a few years ago. But is this direction really relevant now?
I say, no.
First of all, the only time scrolling ever sucked was when you had to physically maneuver your mouse over to the right side of your browser window, click and drag it down. But wheel's on mice have been standard for about 10 years ago, and on Mac laptops, you have to merely use two fingers to scroll instead of clicking and dragging anything.
And of course, touch screens have changed everything. One finger to swipe up or down the page is all it takes.
But mobile devices are the primary reason that having a lot of content on a page is not really a big deal. In fact, I'd argue that it makes for a worse user-experience to limit content to above the (imaginary) fold.
The primary reason is bandwidth. What makes more…
Yesterday I attended Podcamp Halifax, which is a great annual, free event full of presentations about the web and social media. It's a great place to connect with people face-to-face that you know from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and learn new things that can help you with your business.
Much kudo's to the folks who put it on including Craig Moore from Spider Video. To those who came, it was great meeting you and I hope to you next year (or sooner)
I was privileged to put on a presentation based on Aarron Walter's book, Designing For Emotion. It attracted a good sized crowd and seemed to resonate with the people in attendance. Here were some mentions on Twitter:
HarmonicDev Harmonic Internet
GREAT talks yesterday by @brightwhite @kyleracki @SpiderVideo and keynote speaker @julien #podcamphfx and big kudos to the event organizers!
Just recently, a big change came along in web design; Arguably the biggest revolution since modern web standards in the early 2000's.
Responsive Design has been invented. It's a term used in new age architecture to describe buildings that behave 'responsively'. That is, they adapt or respond to conditions such as the amount of people in a given room, for instance. They will automatically change heat, air and even room size (yes, the walls expand and contract!) to accommodate more or less people.
And just like Responsive Design in architecture, when it comes to the web, responsive design allows websites to no longer behave like static online brochures that scroll, but rather they adapt by expanding and contracting, resizing themselves to appropriately fit a variety of screen sizes. So for example, a website might have five columns when viewed on a 52" wide screen, but when viewed on a laptop it may scale down to three columns, two on an iPad and down to one column when viewed on a smart phone.
The best way to illustrate this is…
Over the spring and summer we’ve been busy working on a new Headspace site, which we’re pleased to unveil today. One of the biggest changes is that our new site utilizes responsive design – it’s accessible from smartphones, tablets, computers, wherever users happen to be. We also placed more emphasis on showcasing our work, our team, our process and our tools of choice.
The old saying when it comes to agency and studio websites is “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” – typically, paying client work comes first (and it should!) Our new site has been a work in progress for some time, and everyone on the team has played a role in getting it ready for launch, from design and programming to copywriting and testing. The site was built in ExpressionEngine 2.0. It also makes use of HTML5 elements, CSS3 (that's where most of those fancy shadows, transitions, rounded corners and gradients are coming from) and JQuery for sliders and modal dialogue windows.
Some of the design elements will look familiar from the old headspacedesign.ca, but we’ve implemented a fresh take on our branding and it figures prominently on the…
Over the years, we at Headspace have developed a pretty tight process for creating websites. However, I find in some cases, clients have a very fuzzy idea of what they want out of their website in the beginning. Even after our in-depth planning stage, clients will make fundamental change requests to their website very late in the game, and often at a time it will impact the budget and timeline of a project.
So how do we avoid this? First of all, let’s examine our planning process (which is probably more-or-less similar to many web design company’s processes):
After a proposal is accepted and our client is ready to move ahead with us, we schedule a kick-off meeting. The goal of this meeting is to:
- acquaint the client to the project manager and lead designer
- review the needs of the project and what came out of the RFP/Proposal process
- discuss really specific details that will help form the website strategy.
After this meeting, we internally compile each others’ notes from the meeting (as soon after the meeting as we can, actually). We then deliver 3 important pieces of documentation to our…