Category Archives: User Interface

14 Web Site Graders To Test Your Redesigned Site

When you redesign or enhance your site, you make a lot of changes.  You change the content, the design, the front end technology, the back end stack, the user flows, the information architecture, everything.  It is tough to know what you have done right, and what needs help, particularly as it compares to other sites.  These sites can help show you what you have done right, what needs help, and how you compare to other sites.  I use them… and so should you.

  • https://website.grader.com/ – the gold standard of online web site graders. Shows performance, SEO, mobile capability, and security.
  • https://www.semrush.com/ – this site gathers a LOT of marketing information about your site… Monitor this information before and after your cutover.
  • https://validator.w3.org/ – Are you W3C Compliant?  Are you writing valid HTML?  Using this throughout your development will ensure your site is as readable and indexable as possible.
  • http://www.webpagetest.org – How long does the first view of my page take?  How about the second view?  This grader shows you both… just like the Developer Tools in Google Chrome.
  • https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ – another technical site grader that can give you guidance where to increase performance.  Be careful trying to get 100/100, though… not everything NEEDS to be done.
  • http://nibbler.silktide.com/en_US – Evaluates your site down in four areas – Accessibility, Experience, Marketing, and Technology.  Still useful to get another view of your site.
  • https://www.woorank.com/ – “Run a review to see how your site can improve across 70+ metrics” – Marketing, SEO, Mobile, Usability, Technology, Crawl Errors, Backlinks, Social, Local, SERP Checker, Visitors.
  • http://www.similarweb.com/ – Another great site for a large, corporate web site.  But not a lot of information about performance.  Good to monitor usage and marketing metrics.
  • https://moz.com/researchtools/ose – Moz is known for its SEO tools, and this is an easy dashboard of information to monitor before and after your redesign.  The free version is useful, but the Pro version is even better.  Not a lot of tech help here, though.
  • http://www.alexa.com/ – 7 days for free, the paid version is the only one really useful.  Lots of marketing information is available, though.
  • http://builtwith.com/ – Very technical.  Shows you the infrastructure and software choices made by the development team.  You will be surprised.  Helpful for technology and information security teams.
  • http://www.google.com/analytics  – Free analytics tool.  Tells you who uses your site, how much, where they are from, what browsers, what time of day… a plethora of information.  Including Page Speed.
  • https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools – Free tool that shows you what index errors Google has encountered, things to make your site more indexable, and what your pages look like to the Google Search Crawlers.  Use this.
  • http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster – Everything that Search Console is for Google, this site is for Bing.

So did I miss any tools that you use?  Are any of these ones you have struck off your list?  How do you measure results of your site before and after?  Leave a comment and let me know!

EDIT: Two more sites were recommended to me that help redesign projects, so I am adding them here:

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2 New jQuery Plugins

I have just finished creating two new jQuery plugins.  I found them very useful for my own site, and thought I would share them with everyone else.  One is called FlickrTools, the other is SocialCards.

FlickrTools

FlickrTools is a simple jQuery plugin that queries the Flickr API, and gathers all the images that match a certain tag.  At some point, this can be expanded to query other properties in the API, but this is the simplest way to start.  I use my flickr images as part of my home page hero, and as a rotating carousel of images.  One of the nice things about this plugin is that the data retrieved from the query is reusable between both features on the site.  The hero is custom jQuery, whole the carousel uses Slick.

SocialCards

SocialCards is a jQuery plugin that queries all of your social media outlets and gathers all of your recent content into cards and displays them on your own site.  Currently it queries blog posts, Etsy, Flickr, Foursquare, GoodReads, Pinterest, and Tumblr.  Soon to be developed are Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.  It uses a masonry style based on the one I found on w3bits, that is configurable using CSS, included in the sample.  The plugin integrates with the Google API for easy RSS reading, and with Yahoo YQL API for other more complex data.

Please feel free to give these a try.  These are the 1.0 release, so they may not fit your needs exactly.  Reach out to me at [email protected] with any comments, suggestions, or constructive criticism.

One Site Design when Serving Two Masters

I have recently come across this situation during a site redesign project.  There are two primary objectives for the web site property, each with their own distinct and unique persona.  What do you do in this situation?  I recommend you embrace the bipolar nature of the site, and use a split screen design.

A split screen design, as it suggests, splits the home page in half, each side embracing one of the personas.  You can design each side to look very different – color schemes, styles, fonts, etc.  Shared elements such as header, footer, navigation, hero images, etc. bridge the gap between the different sides of the site.  The hero can rotate between different calls to action, focusing on the personas and themes.  And, shared pages such as the home page can be a continuous scroll to allow the large volume of content.

Instead of fighting the nature of the beast to blend the personas, embrace  the content divide, emphasize it, and stay focused on your users.

Here are some examples of Split Screen Design I have come across in my research:

Upgrades to My Web Site – Eating My Own Dog Food

It has been a couple years since I have made any big changes to my web site, so I thought it was time.  I have taken my own advice in my post 2014 Web Design Trends, and added some changes to my own site.  I have flattened the design, added a hero image area, focused on Mobile First design, trimmed some text, and focused on a card based design.

Flat Design

I have made some minor changes to focus on a flatter, simpler design.  I have removed shadows and rounded corners throughout.  This makes the site look lighter, simpler, and cleaner.  I like the look. You can see more at 25 Delightful Flat Design 2.0 Websites for Inspiration.

Fixed header and navigation

I have anchored the header and navigation at the top of the page, so that it is visible even if you scroll away from the top of the page.  This is a very popular technique, particularly if the header and navigation is kept slim.  You can see more examples of fixed header and navigation areas at 22 Examples of Fixed Position Navigation in Web Design.

Hero Area

I have added a hero area on the home page, which showcases my own photos stored on flickr.  This adds a lot more interest and personalization to my site.  Some additional examples of this design can be seen at 30 Web Designs that Fully Embrace the Hero Image.

Mobile First

The amount of traffic coming from mobile devices increases with each passing day.  Building mobile specific web sites or applications separate from your desktop web site is not sustainable.  My site is now accessible on phones, tablets, desktops, and extra large screens.

Less Text

I have trimmed the extra, unneeded filler text from each of the different areas of my web site.  this kept the site focused on the original content, and on my photography too.

Card Based Design

This is a very popular design lately.  I have gathered and organized my most recent social media content from pinterest, tumblr, twitter, and my blog, and displayed it on my home page.  Each post, tweet, and pin is shown as a separate card.  I like that it is always updating and follows my pixelated design theme.  You can see more examples of card based designs at 15 delicious examples of card-based web design.

2014 Web Design Trends

It may be a bit late, but I did a little bit of research on the web design trends of 2014.  It is important to stay on top of these trends – not only to develop a cool site for you or your company, but to provide a simple interface for your users that follows conventions they understand.

Here are the articles I read ( in no particular order, just the first ones to show up in a Google search) :

Based on what I read, there are 11 basic themes across all the articles:

  1. Flat Design, simple or monochromatic color schemes (black and white plus one color)
  2. Typography – large type, expressive fonts
  3. Hero Areas vs Sliders, big images, image backgrounds, video backgrounds
  4. Mobile First, responsive design, simplified design, CSS instead of images
  5. Scrolling sites, parallax scrolling
  6. Less text, richer content, more graphs, videos, interaction, infographics
  7. Short, burst content (a la twitter)
  8. Micro UX – heightened attention to tiny details
  9. Cards, Tiles
  10. Minimalist navigation, fixed navigation, drop the sidebar
  11. Social media integration, 3rd party services, SAAS, open source

I have practiced most of these trends myself in the last 2 years – flat design, image backgrounds, mobile first and responsive deign, more graphs, micro UX, minimalist navigation.  The others I have seen in my travels through the internet.   It is good to know that even through all the years, I still haven’t lost it.

Mobile-izing an Existing Site

There has been a lot of talk amongst my clients lately on how to make our existing sites more mobile device compatible. We have done some brainstorming, and have come up with some ideas on how to do this.

Build a separate site

The simplest thing to do would be to do build a separate site for mobile users. Some simple user agent switching based on the user’s browser can take mobile phone users to the separate site. The new site can then be tailored for smaller screens, be less graphics intensive, and develop alternative solutions for Flash components.

Full Redesign of the existing site

Another possibility would be to build one site that has enough logic to manage multiple resolutions. This could be through multiple master pages, separate sets of images, JavaScript to display different image sizes, different CSS files, and a fluid CSS based layout without tables. This can be cumbersome and time-consuming, but may be a good approach long term. This will accommodate both large monitors on desktops, smaller resolutions on netbooks, and tiny resolutions on mobile phones.

Hybrid approach

One approach we are considering is a hybrid approach, combining the strengths of the first two approaches. If we have two domains with user agent switching, we can optimize each of the sites – one for mobile users and one for full browser users. Each site could have its own master page or template with its own separate set of images. We can reduce the work by tagging the reusable content with specific div or span labels, and reuse them on the mobile site.

Build a Mobile App instead

Building a separate mobile application for each of the major phone platforms would allow the development team to tailor the user experience to the individual phone. Delivery to the phones and advertising the mobile application may make the user base smaller. We would also need to develop across at least 4 different platforms – Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile, and Palm. There are multiple versions of the platform to manage, as well. The phones that use a custom platform would then miss out on the entire mobile experience.

Invest in a tool or 3rd party

There are lots of third party tools that can be used to help migrate or transform your site into a more mobile friendly experience. Some of the companies who develop and support these tools either have fully managed solutions or have a consulting services group that can be hired to help you through this process. There are also a lot of companies who say that they specialize in mobile-izing sites that you can contract with, and I am sure they are not cheap.

Do Nothing

The further technology advances, the more this option becomes really viable. The iPhone’s browser has multi-touch pinch-to-size technology, allowing you to zoom in and out of the HTML page. The Android is releasing this as well very soon, but in the interim has a zoom feature. Even the old Windows Mobile 6.0 phone I used to use had a custom browser with zoom technology for the pages it rendered. the more improvements in technology, the less developers will need to customize based on resolution.

What are your thoughts?

What are you or your team doing to break into the mobile arena? Do you prefer one of these solutions over another? Do you have another idea or approach you would use? What tools or 3rd parties are you using to mobile-ize your site? Leave your thoughts, ideas, or experiences here and share with others!

Some Research on User Interface Standards

The Task

I have been asked to put together a working group to put together user interface standards. Initial discussions are that we will need to come up with different standards for different environments, like portal sites, websites, custom applications, mobile applications and off the shelf applications. So… I have done some research on the areas of user interface standards, usability, and user experience.

Some Definitions

Wikipedia was a big help. Here is what I found there.

  • User Interface – also known as Human Computer Interface, user interface is the aggregate of means by which people interact with the system. The user interface provides means of input ( allowing the users to manipulate a system) and output (allowing the system to indicate the effects of the users’ manipulation)
  • Usability – the ease with which people can employ a particular tool or other human-made object in order to achieve a particular goal
  • User Experience – a term used to describe the overarching experience a person has as a result of their interactions with a particular product or service
  • Human Interface –

Existing Standards

I know this is material that has been covered by other companies. Here is what I have found available that other groups have compiled.

Other Standards

These are some other user interface standards that I have heard mentioned in other articles onbline, but could not find any links directly to them.

  • DIN 66234 part 8 standard – 1988
  • The Data Company’s standard
  • Motif™ style guide [OSF 1990] 167
  • OPEN LOOK™ [Sun Microsystems 1990] 404
  • Smith and Mosier [1986] guidelines 485

Conferences

These seem like two promising conferences about user web usability.

Organizations

Here are two organizations I found that focus on Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and usability. I hav just joined the UPA, and plan on re-joining the ACM.

Books

Amazon is a cornucopia of information on user interface standards, usability, and user experience. I have most of these books, and plan on getting the others soon.

Link Roll

Lots of good sites out there about usability and user experience.

If there are any sources that you use that I have not included, please leave a comment and let me know what it is.