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…
If you are a web designer or work with web designers, you know that content is a real challenge when it comes to producing a quality website. Mainly because content is of critical importance, after all, that is why users are there in the first place. However, many web teams ignore content until the very end of a web project. Why?
In my experience with print design, I often had finished, client-approved copy before I was even briefed on the design. When it came time for layout, everything I was using for content was real, and I would get annoyed if any last minute copy changes came in after I spent hours kerning and massaging my lovely blocks of text.
With the web however, most of us have gotten used to the lack of finality with our designs. A website is never truly finished, unlike print, where the piece, sooner or later get’s printed—and then it’s done and I’m on to a new project. I think because of this inherent flexibility in the medium of the web, it has caused website owners to neglect copy, because they know it can always be done and added later, usually in a content…
So recently, a rather bold individual walked into our offices and proclaimed how 99designs has made our jobs obsolete, and now any company can get top-quality designs at bargain basement pricing. How true is his claim?
For those who don’t know, 99designs works this way:
- You the client have a project. You upload your brief and your budget to 99designs (your budget may not even be enough to rent a motel room for a night)
- Thousands of designers can compete, uploading designs for you to review
- You choose from a bunch of entries, maybe even hundreds, possibly thousands, and provide feedback
- You pick whichever one you like best, and pay the designer
Sounds great doesn’t it? Finally, a way to avoid shelling out thousands of dollars to a designer or firm, and a way to get exactly what you want.
Why it’s bad for designers
For ethical and sustainability reasons, spec work is bad for the design industry. Designers do not sell products, they sell their time creating products. In other words, the service of designing. This is similar to how lawyers do not sell successfully won cases, they sell their time preparing and consulting with their client…
Many business owners think of graphic design as just eye-candy. They’ll use terms like, ‘I need you (the designer) to pretty it up.’ Or, ‘I’ve got the basic layout done, I just need you to make it look good.’
Of course we know that true graphic design is about communication, and to be a good designer, you need to be a good problem solver. Even more true with the web, design is about looking great, for sure, but also being usable, accessible, converting users, etc. But sometimes we forget about how good web design can influence search engines.
You may say that I’m mad. That google bots can’t possibly crawl my web page and tell whether or not it looks good. Indeed, some of the ugliest websites can rank #1 for a particular topic. In fact, my latest search on Google for good web design brought up this page as #1 in the organic results. Hardly eye-candy. (Funny enough, the author is Robin Williams)
However, I’m going to show you a prime example of how good design can affect search engine results. There is a web marketing agency in the US called Viget Labs who does…
For years, web designers have not gotten the respect of print or interior designers in the greater design community. Need proof? Take a look at any design annual or magazine such as Communication Arts, AIGA, or any of the design competitions or award shows. Web is always it’s own category, and simple, well-designed sites are rarely considered for web awards, with most judges favoring big-budget Flash sites featuring embedded video and gimmicky games.
With this stigma attached to web design, many designers coming out of school are turned off by designing for the web, thinking of it as a limiting platform for design. After all, with print you aren’t limited by available fonts, screen resolutions or bandwidth. The world is your oyster with print, at least in their minds, while web is the unfortunate necessity you have no choice but to design for. But I thought I’d outline reasons why designing for the web can be more fun than designing a print piece. Some might say that some of these reasons are actually more in print’s favor, but I disagree, as you’ll see:
1. People use the web
Sure, people use print too, such as in the case of newspapers,…
For those of us who design and build websites, we know that there are ones that go smoothly, and ones that don’t. But even more important than how it goes while we’re working on it is what happens after the site goes live. This is where in some cases, the team designing the website need to know how to follow through.
There is a reason many of us fall short when it comes to following through; Let’s face it, when we get a new project in the door, we’re excited. Oh, the possibilities—especially when it’s a new client, or a new type of project from an existing client. We as designers are often anxious to begin sinking our teeth into a new problem, and coming up with a design, possibly utilizing a new style, trend or technique that we want to add to our portfolio.
But then what happens; After numerous client revisions, CMS development, IE6 bugs, and waiting for content to trickle in, boredom sets in as well. Perhaps another client project has come in that has replaced the passion we once had for the website that is now 85% done (but is just waiting on copy or client…
The always excellent Smashing Magazine put out a post a while back, with web trends for 2009. I felt personally that these were merely trends that have already been established in 2008.
Apparently Smashing Magazine can read my mind, because this week they put out an article on “More Web Trends for 2009”, and I feel this list definitely hits the mark on design styles that I’ve seen a little bit of last year (some I’ve even used myself), but trends we can expect to see more and more of this year. Worth a read.
Most small to medium business have heard the term ‘branding’ thrown around before. Some think it’s a meaningless buzzword, others know that having a healthy brand is vital to the success of a company. But somewhere in the life of a business, it is essential to take a step back and re-brand, at least from a visual standpoint. But when does such a drastic decision need to be made?
When not to re-brand
Some small businesses when starting out, get a quick-and-dirty logo designed from a friend or relative. Eventually, they realize the short-sightedness of that decision when they receive negative feedback, or when they see that the identity doesn’t truly represent who they are.
Other times, a business will go through the right steps and contract a reputable, qualified freelancer or agency to brand their new company, looking at not just a logo, but the entire visual strategy that represents the goals, reputation and audience of the company. Some clients will then roll out this new brand, and then get antsy because they are not seeing instant results. This is not the time to re-brand.
Brands take time to become established. Did McDonald’s or Nike enjoy instant recognition…
Usability, part of the long drawn out series,12 things you need to know before commissioning a website.
- Know your audience
- Content Management Systems
- Hosting and Domain
- Web standards
- Search Engine Optimization
- Browser Testing
- Open Source or Proprietary?
- Flash or HTML?
In many cases, if you’re commissioning a website, it is not because you don’t have one, it’s because your current one isn’t working. Problem is, many don’t know specifically why they’re current website isn’t working. Perhaps it is just plain ugly or has outdated information. But what if you actually paid for a good website only a year ago, and it just isn’t helping your bottom line? That’s where usability testing just might come in handy.
Why the heck would I want my site just usable?
The term ‘usable’ generally doesn’t have great connotations, as if we’re content with merely being usable (eg: “How do you like that new Mercedes?” “It’s usable”). However…