Posts on Web Design

Know a Good Freelance Designer?

Posted: August 13, 2014

My search for a suitable freelance web designer to assist with a couple of upcoming projects has thus far come up empty. To help things along, I thought I'd put out an appeal here on the blog and see if any recommendations come in.

The most important requirement is quality of work. I'm looking for someone with a clean, contemporary design aesthetic. To clarify, a style of design that has ample white space, attention to typography and avoids skeuomorphic elements. Something not quite minimalist, but tending in that direction.

Familiarity with mobile-first responsive design is strongly preferred. Also, no agencies or overseas folks. I think the logistics of an overseas collaboration would be too much of a hassle, as sitting in on client meetings will likely be required. Canadians are great as time zone and cultural context aren't an issue.

A Few Website Usability Tips Backed by Research

Posted: June 2, 2014

If you make websites for a living, then you're well aware how tough it is to keep up with everything that goes into creating a top-notch site. Something that often gets overlooked is usability testing. It's one of those things that many clients can't afford - or perhaps don't see the value of - and so instead of testing things, we rely on common patterns and trends to help us along.

Below are a few resources that discuss common web design patterns that may be hurting your site more than they are helping. I have to admit, a couple of these surprised me. Hopefully you'll find them useful as well.

How to Evaluate the Performance of Responsive Websites

Posted: May 4, 2014

A lot of the time, when someone talks about making a website responsive, they mean that the layout will change depending on what device is being used to view the site. But there is more to responsive design than that. Perhaps an even more critical factor is the performance of the site, particularly on mobile.

At its heart, responsive design is about opitimizing the user experience across a wide range of devices. This can be a hard job, no doubt about it. But we've been making things harder than they need to be.

A major culprit has been the choices that are made with recent design trends - large images, lots of JavaScript libraries and even the continued use of carousels. This has led to swelling page sizes, with the current median page size of a top 500 website now coming in at over 1.5 MB - 33% larger than the year before!

What follows are some tips on evaluating responsive websites across different devices. We'll see how to use several tools and techniques - using a real website as an example - that can provide hard data on how your site is going to perform on mobile devices and help identify problem areas.

Thoughts on Building Responsive Websites

Posted: April 27, 2014

What follows are a few observations and suggestions that are distilled from my experience of having worked on dozens of web projects involving responsive web design (RWD).

First of all, I'd like to say to those of you not yet using responsive design in your work, the time has come. It's not a bandwagon, it's not a fad. In 2014, web design = responsive web design. More or less, anyway - the separate mobile site can sometimes be great for those with large budgets, but for the vast majority of sites, it's RWD or bust.

Responsive Design and Performance in Drupal 7

Posted: April 8, 2013

Website performance has been on my mind a lot lately, especially with regard to responsive web design. It's quite important, but it also requires a shift in thinking that is still underway for many involved with web projects, particularly clients.

How quickly your page loads has a big impact on everything from your site's search rankings to the abandonment rate for shopping carts.  But as I mentioned in a previous post, there are tensions between commonly desired features and mobile performance. I'll give you an example we run into here at Friendly Machine all the time.

Thoughts on Responsive Design

Posted: November 11, 2012

Earlier this week, Karen McGrane published an article on A List Apart about optimizing content for mobile devices and it got me thinking. Responsive web design offers huge advantages over traditional design, but it also presents some unique challenges for not only designers, but for content producers and site owners as well.

Before I talk about two of the challenges that have been on my mind, I'd like to highlight a few statistics from Ms. McGrane's post:

Responsive Embedded Video

Posted: July 22, 2012

Recently I've been working on the redesign of the Friendly Machine site using the responsive base theme Omega. While importing my content into the new site, I came upon an issue that I thought I'd discuss - how to deal with embedded video in responsive design.

Navigation Patterns in Responsive Design

Posted: July 8, 2012

I've written recently about how the Drupal community has embraced responsive theme development and discussed how to use some of the great responsive base themes like Omega.

But today I'd like to talk about a more general design problem that inevitably pops up when working with a responsive theme - what to do with the navigation when the site is viewed on mobile devices.

Web Content Strategy Techniques

Posted: August 28, 2011

Web content strategy is an important tool for designers and developers to have in their kit, particularly if they work in an environment where there isn't someone on staff dedicated to it. If you own or manage a website, it's an essential discipline to understand. It can help inform critical design choices and business decisions that will impact how useful our websites are to users.

Web Content Strategy Basics

Posted: August 14, 2011

Over the past few years there has been an increasing focus on quality content among web professionals and from this has emerged a new discipline, web content strategy.

In her book, Content Strategy for the Web, Kristina Halvorson argues for web content strategy as a, "legitimate, necessary practice in the web consulting, design and development industries."