design

“What Font Should I Use?”


For many beginners, the task of picking fonts is a mystifying process. There seem to be endless choices — from normal, conventional-looking fonts to novelty candy cane fonts and bunny fonts — with no way of understanding the options, only never-ending lists of categories and recommendations. Selecting the right typeface is a mixture of firm rules and loose intuition, and takes years of experience to develop a feeling for. Here are five guidelines for picking and using fonts that I’ve developed in the course of using and teaching typography. Many of my beginning students go about picking a font as though they were searching for new music to listen to: they assess the personality of each face and look for something unique and distinctive that expresses their particular aesthetic taste, perspective and personal history. This approach is problematic, because it places too much importance on individuality.
Source: “What Font Should I Use?”: Five Principles for Choosing and Using Typefaces – Smashing Magazine

100 Ways to Design better Websites (well, only a dozen really)

I cut out an article in June 2001 about 100 ways to design better websites, and came across it recently. Although technology and the guidelines for building a better website (according to WC3)  have changed dramatically in the past ten years, due to smartphones, tablets and just advances in the tools we use, the basic ideas are pretty much the same. I’ll list a few of them here:

Layout:

  • The message: What are you trying to say? You really have to focus on what your message is, and getting to the point.
  • Define the Audience: Knowing the type of user will help you know how they will use the site.
  • Use great images: That saying “a picture says a thousand words” is still so true.

Graphics:

  • Balance: You want graphics, but not so many that it takes too long for the page to load.
  • Graphics look darker on a Mac than a PC. Make sure you adjust somewhere in the middle so it works on both platforms.

Information Design:

  • “Three clicks to information” rule was true then and it is still true now. If you make someone click numerous pages to get to what they wanted to see, you’ll lose them. I favour navigation where you can see and get to it with one click!
  • Calls to action on every page. If you want someone to buy something on a page, you need to promote it on the appropriate page.
  • Keep it short. People don’t read much on the internet, so if you want to say something, keep it as short as possible.

Navigation

  • Simple navigation names that are easily recognized.
  • Consistency in navigation. Keep it the same on every page.
  • Get your most technically challenged friend or colleague to navigate your site. You want to make it really easy, and not annoying.

Animation

  • Poorly created animation can destroy the look of a website. It slows download time, and sometimes is just not necessary.
  • Only use when animation is going to illustrate a point when words just won’t cut it. That means no dancing dogs running across the page, if dogs have nothing to do with your pages.

Sticky Content

  • This phrase sounds a bit icky, but it just means having content that keeps your visitors coming back. Either for your blog, for your reference material, or for other changing information.
  • Most important is keeping the content up to date! People won’t come back if the content never changes.
  • Create a mailing list of visitors (by asking them to join) so they will know when you have new content to share.
  • Create something on your site that they have to come back to use. Like a forum, for example.
  • Add a voting or polling system so people can vote on issues.

Music and sound effects

  • My first words on this subject is “Don’t!”  Most sites are not improved by sound and will upset people who come to your site at work (you can’t help where they look at it) when music is not part of the subject at all!.
  • You must make sure any music on your site is professional and licensed. You can get into a lot of trouble just putting someone’s compositions on your site without asking permission.
  • Make sure that if you do include music, you have an obvious and easy way to mute it.

Streaming media

  • Embedding a file from Youtube or other video site, is a great way to bring people to your site.
  • It’s good to have the best quality file you can manage.

 

What is Crowdsourcing

Crowd sourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a “crowd”), through an open call. The term “crowdsourcing” is a combination of “crowd” and “outsourcing,” first coined by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”.

Photography is a good example. The advent of the digital camera, easy to use photo editing software and of course the internet have seen a surge in the availability of stock photography at a reasonable price. So the quality of photographs created by individuals started to get on par with professionals and you have a larger pool of people to choose from when you are looking for photographs for yourself of your company.

Crowdsourcing can be for design work such as 99designs.com clients can ask for submissions for designs for anything from business cards to logo design. You state what kind of design you’d like, how much you will pay, and then interested designers will start submitting designs. You choose from the designs submitted and agree to pay what they have asked for (it may be more than you offered, but the perfect logo, so you are willing to pay the higher price).

A t-shirt company, threadless, asks for submissions on t-shirt designs and the most popular (voted on by the crowd) are offered for sale in their store. If your design is chosen you get money as well as money towards buying other t-shirts and further cash rewards should it be so popular that they re-print it!

Some crowdsourcing is for the benefit of better knowledge. Wikipedia was an early example of crowdsourcing. Linux or Open Office are also examples where the user is also a contributor to making a product or application better.

Galaxy Zoo is a citizen science project that lets members of the public classify a million galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Gooseberry Patch, has been using crowd-sourcing to create their community-style cookbooks since 1992.

Mechanical Turk web service allows humans to help the machines of today perform tasks they aren’t suited for. Such as choosing a favourite between three photos. You sign up for the work and get paid a fee for doing it.

Of course there are benefits and casualties to crowdsourcing.

Advantages:
1. Numerous ideas from numerous people. Gets more ideas which means that you are more likely to get the best idea
2. Cheap. It cuts costs as you are employing a person, just using them for a limited time. Plus the competition that results.
3. Fast. It takes less time to get a job done as it is more likely that the right person is available now.

Disadvantages

1. Quality could be questionable. Ideas and designs are submitted now just by professionals but amateurs as well. So while they may, for example, have created a great logo, they have no idea how to make it into the format you may need. And as you don’t have a relationship with the particular designer, you may not be able to find them in the future for any changes or issues.
2. It is unreliable. You may not get too many people interested and are getting ideas from a less talented pool of people.
3. Confidentiality. You are on the net for everyone to see what you are asking for, so with large corporations as an example, everyone will see you are thinking of changing your branding before you are ready to launch the idea.

Of course, for designers, photographers, crowdsourcing has been very difficult as not only do they have to compete with one another, but they have to compete with anyone who owns a computer.

Sources:

Wired.com
Crowdsourcing
Mechanical Turk
CMS Wire

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