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Posts Tagged ‘Web Design’

SXSW 2011 – App, Schmapp – Pointers for Moving from Web to App


Aaron Forth, from mint.com, shared his experience taking his financial planner web application and building a successful app that people actually use. Mint.com has seen huge user adoption for their app for iPhone, Android (and soon to be iPad). According to Forth, right now 67% are using the iPhone app, and 33% are on Android – but this is growing. Total app downloads have grown 200% in just the last couple of months. One interesting point is that 20% of mint.com users actually only use the app and don’t even go to the site. Something, he argues, isn’t a bad thing.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

– Pick platforms carefully. You want to consider device adoption, how apps are available to the consumers, what support you can get when building apps for different platforms, and look for low fragmentation. Yes, one of your potential consumers may be surfing on Blackberry, but you’re going to open up a whole other can of worms for UI, development, QA, support, etc. that just may not be worth it.

– Make your app a companion for your website, not replacement. Think long and hard about what features the App is best suited for. How do people use those devices? Make “on the go” utility – don’t try to cram everything in the phone that the phone isn’t really meant for. Think quick overviews, easy on-the-go decisions and actions, and notifications that require the user to go back to your website to complete more complicated tasks.

– When approaching your app development, think what can you reuse from the existing site? (Answer should probably be, not much.) Then, think about what you’ll need to rethink.

  • Leverage things like branding, data (financial data from financial institutions in this case) and user profile information.
  • Things you need to rethink will most likely be:
  • UI & visual design (gesturing, one button controls)
  • Mobile security features – (mint.com allows you to go to the website and disconnect the mobile app connection in case you lose your phone, and thus important personal financial information.)
  • Skills/development resources you’ll need to code
  • Service layer & architecture (different APIs than using on the web – bursts data, instead of stream)
  • Authentification (encrypted cookie where it times how long you want it to remember your login before you have to login again, ~ 2 weeks – allows for some security, yet ease of use for consumer)
  • QA build & release

Bottom line is this: When thinking about an app, think about use cases and design from there. Gimmicky apps may not stand the test of time and copying your entire site functionality probably won’t suit the device. Consumers are simply looking for something that will make their lives easier. It’s your app’s job to deliver.

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Adobe Creative Suite 4 – Updated design tools

September 24, 2008 Leave a comment

Word has spread that Adobe released the latest version of its flagship design software, the Creative Suite today. CS4 brings a slew of new features and enhancements to ubiquitous applications like Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver. For many agencies, DigitalDay included, these are the applications we use for building creative work.

Designers will be clamoring to get their hands on a copy, and we’ll see a ton of new work highlighting the latest gadgets and features. There’s nothing wrong with staying current with software, but it’s easy to get caught up in the hype with any software release.

For those on the client side of agency work, examine what your marketing goals and brand standards are, and see if any of the new features or functionality really benefit you. Sure you can now have your logo in 3d, or with a cool animation…but does it really help your brand? Some of the best work has been done with outdated tools or simple shapes and techniques.

For designers, keep in mind the basics of good design, and don’t jump on bandwagons. There might be fancy new filters and fun brushes, but just dropping these in to every design will give you an almost instantly outdated and clichéd look. Keep in mind the goals of your brands and your projects, and be mindful that good design is not based on effects or trendy features. Be confident in your skills and your designs, and let thoughtful beautiful design do its job for you and the client.

Google Chrome browser – a boost to web designers and developers

September 4, 2008 3 comments

Google recently released their Chrome browser, to mixed reviews. In short, Chrome is an open source browser promising performance improvements, new features, and better integration with Google services like Gmail and Docs. There are many more details and reviews available, but regardless of how it performs or how people like it, it’s great news to those of us creating websites everyday.

What’s exciting to me as a web designer and (occasional) developer is that it gives users everywhere another viable, free, and well publicized alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer, especially version 6 (IE 6).

Quite a few users still use IE 6, and most of them are probably content with it. For any company creating websites or web marketing however, IE6 is a monster that brings with it wasted time and resources, multiple versions of code, and severe limitations from both a technical and creative standpoint.

IE6 is an old, outdated browser. IE6 was released in 2001, and many of its shortcomings stem directly from the fact that it is simply outdated when compared to modern browsers like IE7, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple’s Safari. There are too many problems to list here, but security concerns, lack of PNG 24 alpha support, CSS layout inconsistencies and web standards compatibility issues are all sources of endless headaches for designers and developers here at DigitalDay and beyond. Additionally, there are interesting new techniques and creative approaches being discovered every day in the world of web design, but many of them are limited to newer browsers.

Some companies have officially just decided to stop supporting IE6 entirely, while others continue to plea their case to clients, etc. What ultimately matters though, is whether or not users can access the information and brands we work with. We don’t design for the brands, we design for the users. Unfortunately right now, approximately 25% of all users we measure are still using IE6. So, we have to keep them in mind with everything we do.

The exciting thing about Google Chrome is that it is a modern browser supporting web standards, with none of the headaches IE6 brings to the table. It is such a media darling that more than a few IE6 users who had never heard of Mozilla might give it a try. Every user who takes a step forward and downloads a modern browser will see what they’ve been missing, and the creativity and efficiency of web design and development across the board will grow.

Getting Typecast – A Basic Typographical System

August 26, 2008 Leave a comment

One of the most fundamental elements of any company’s style guidelines, a good basic system of fonts and usage will help you build brand equity, leave a lasting impression, and appear consitent and professional regardless of industry. From print ads to dynamic websites, type is everywhere and it’s important. To that end, we’ve established a simple, but versatile type system we can use for all DigitalDay materials.

Our logo font is (a slightly tweaked) Futura, and that works well for headlines and pieces where it can be a title or section title. It does not lend itself to readability in large blocks of copy though, which brings us to our secondary font choice.


Avenir is a mix between a truly gothic/modernist style like Futura, and a more contemporary sans serif. It is easier to read in multiple sections of copy (like this one), so we use it to accompany Futura in print oriented pieces.

For the web (which is all we do), we obviously need to use different fonts for browsers and compatibility.

Our main web font is Lucida Grande / Lucida Sans. It is clear and clean, and we use it for copy and web-safe headlines. It’s a little more unique than Arial or Verdana, but is widely compatible when correctly specified.

Our accent font, used much more sparingly, is Georgia. Arguably the most attractive web safe font, its serifs and ornate style are a great contrast to the simple shapes of Lucida.

When used together (and per guidelines, a separate post), these fonts give off the sort of impression we’re looking for. Fun, but professional and fresh but still clear and easy to understand. Whether your intent is simple and minimalistic or ornate and lavish, set some basic typeface guidelines early on, and all of your designs and marketing pieces will benefit.

Designing for the Mobile Web

August 12, 2008 1 comment

If you can remember the last time we talked about it, you’ll remember that the Web is moving to, well, people’s pockets. As more and more smart phones become capable of accessing the web, new design issues arise. How do you design a site for a screen with a screen resolution smaller than the eight-year-old 800×600 standard? The answer is very delicately.

It starts with your audience. Who are you trying to reach? Understanding who they are and what they’re looking for is the first step you need to take. As this guy weighs in, there are three types of mobile web user: the casual surfer, the repeat visitor, and the “urgent, now!” visitor.

1.    The casual surfer is looking for nothing in particular. Perhaps he’s playing with his iPhone waiting in the drive-through line, or she’s browsing on her Blackberry before her flight takes off. The point is that no one is that it’s an informal and short site visit—the information should be organized clearly and effectively or the visitor will leave.

2.    The repeat visitor is seeking new content. Regular updates will keep this type of user more interested and involved in checking your mobile site.

3.    The third kind of visitor is looking for information and they want it ASAP. If your information isn’t properly organized, they’ll simply find a better way to find what they’re looking for. It is critical you’re your site is easier to navigate than the sites of your competitors.

Once you’ve planned your site, it’s time for design. It’s best to keep it simple—the mobile Best Buy web site, for example, has just two search fields: one to help find a product and one to find the closest store. When designing for the online web, less is most certainly more.

Ultimately, your design is for your audience and not your portfolio. It is important to remember that in mobile web design form follows function. If your potential customers can’t easily navigate your site they’ll leave to find a site that will work for them.

In House Design – Color Palettes

August 4, 2008 Leave a comment

After establishing our logo, we needed to take a look at an overall color palette we could use.

A company’s color palette is one of the more interesting pieces of the identity. It can be a little abstract (using colors to symbolize aspects of the company), but is still very tangible (its usage can be seen and identified right away).

Your palette typically consists of one or two main colors, and several tertiary, or accent colors. The goal is to create a versatile, but unique set of colors that will serve you in a variety of usage situations, while always retaining that special brand feel.

Approaching a color palette in house means you have to consider input from all angles, but it’s important there’s a single, firm voice that makes the final decisions. While there are objective meaning and connotation to certain colors, this piece of the identity is fairly subjective, so opinions will be varied.

Here’s what DigitalDay is using as our color palette, it’s a nod to marketing pieces we’ve had in the past, but has a fresh, clean look, and enough variety that it should serve us well for some time to come.

Choosing colors for their meaning is a huge subject, but it’s important that you consider what image you want your brand to project, and what each color says about you. If you’re in a field where strength and stability are important, you’re probably going for a richer, more traditional set of colors than a spunky new startup. Warm, rich earth tones might work great for your organic food business, but those same colors used with a medical consulting firm will give a dirty or messy look that doesn’t fit the market at all.

Consider your audience’s culture as well, in certain cultures specific colors or combinations can have a negative or even offensive connotation, so it should be treated sparingly if you work with these audiences.

Lastly, consider the overall context of your brand and its business. You might like red for the attention and emotion it conveys, but if you operate a funeral home, red can also symbolize blood or wounds, and could be very off putting for your customers, given the situation which brings them to you.

As you can see, an effective way to present palettes (inside the company and beyond) is with some sample usage and options. It’s difficult to visualize how the colors will work when just looking at boxes. An effective color palette will guide your marketing communications, ensure consistency, and help align everything you do with your brand.

With a little twist on some social networking we’re sharing our colors with you, here’s our palette on ColourLovers and Adobe Kuler. Enjoy!

DD hams it up with Smithfield Foods site launch


Working with our TAAN partner, Charleston | Orwig, a Milwaukee-based advertising and issues management agency, DigitalDay launched the new and improved Smithfield Foods Investor Relations website yesterday. Leveraging best-in-class technologies and 3rd-party stockholder services, DigitalDay helped this Fortune 100 company drastically improve its online brand.

Here’s a News Release from Smithfield Foods announcing the new site:

Smithfield Foods Launches New Web Site Providing Greatly Expanded Online Offerings

SMITHFIELD, Va., May 21, 2008 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX News Network/ — Starting today, visitors to Smithfield Foods, Inc.’s (NYSE: SFD) corporate Web site, www.smithfieldfoods.com , will find a new look, more useful and engaging information, and an easy-to-navigate format.

“Our new and enhanced Web site responds to the needs of our customers, consumers, investors, media and other interested parties who want easy-to-find information about our company,” said Dennis H. Treacy, vice president environmental and corporate affairs of Smithfield Foods.

New graphics and a simpler navigation system position the company’s new Web site as an industry leader in making it easier to learn about the Smithfield Foods family of companies and all the latest news.

“Whether visitors are looking for investor information, our latest corporate social responsibility initiatives, our newest product offerings or recipes, we think they will be pleased with what they find,” Mr. Treacy said.

The goal of the Web site makeover was to develop an engaging and informative site, reflecting the company’s position as a trusted and respected food industry leader that excels at bringing delicious and nutritious pork, beef, turkey and specialty food products to millions of its neighbors every day.

“We believe we’ve accomplished those goals, and we look forward to visitors to the site learn more about how our employees are working hard to make Smithfield Foods a truly great food company,” Mr. Treacy added.

To receive future press releases from the new Smithfield Foods Web site, please sign up at http://investors.smithfieldfoods.com/alerts.cfm

Smithfield Foods is a $14 billion global food company with operations in 13 countries through wholly owned subsidiaries and joint ventures. Headquartered in Smithfield, Va., the company produces more than 50 brands of pork, beef and turkey products and more than 200 gourmet foods. Employing more than 57,000 people across the globe, Smithfield Foods is the world’s largest producer and processor of pork and a leader in turkey processing, cattle feeding and beef processing.