Highlights from An Event Apart Seattle

One of the things I love about being a web designer is that there is always more to learn, be it from other web specialists or your clients. Last week at An Event Apart Seattle Tzaddi and I had the chance to learn from some true experts. The speakers were not only masters in their fields, but engaging and generous with their knowledge.

Here are some highlights:

  • Watching Eric Meyer write CSS (you know you’re a geek when…)
  • Jeffrey Zeldman’s talk on “Writing the User Interface” confirmed my experience: the words in a web design matter much more than you might think and can really make a difference in how visitors use your site. So long as it invites clicking, it matters more what a button says than what it looks like.
  • Peaking into other designer’s processes, from beautiful sketchbooks to user research.
  • I enjoyed Jeff Veen’s succinct message which shows the benefits of doing your design research up front vs. the cost of changing your mind partway through the build. He also discussed why web design is so much more complex now than it was in the early days of the web, when everyone using the web were of the same type (geeks).
  • Shawn Henry shared insights for ensuring your site is accessible to varying abilities; from folks who read the web with braille or speech readers to limited vision users — who magnify screens to an amazing degree, but want the same site that was designed for regularly sighted users. Bottom line: there is no substitute for engaging disabled users in the design process if you want to build truly accessible sites. Her book on accessibility is free online.
  • Andy Budd shared how a delightful user experience is worth more than the sum of it’s parts in the loyalty that can create.

11 Great colour legends

Ever wonder why stop signs are red, black is associated with death, blue is a colour for boys, while pink is for girls? Darius at Colorlovers wrote a great article explaining where these colour associations came from. A fascinating read for anyone interested in the meaning of colour.

Enhance your website with video footage

We recently launched a new website for an innovative new development project on the Fraser River in Coquitlam. The Village at Fraser Mills will be a mixed-use community that integrates industrial and employment uses with residential, commercial, and recreational opportunities. The purpose of the website is to inform the community on the progress of the development as well as educate. One way this is achieved is by displaying a link to an interesting video which talks about the history of the Village.

Adding video is a great way to enhance your website and is simple enough to do. Professional organizer, Linda Chu, has appeared several times on TV and using her VCR, recorded the videos on tape, we converted them to Quicktime and posted them on her site. The process couldn’t be more simple.

More and more, we’re seeing video that has been integrated in flash. I recently discovered the RouxBe website which does this superbly. RouxBe is the ideal resource for people looking to expand their culinary repertoire and improve their skills in the kitchen. They offer online instructional cooking videos that walk you step by step through each delicious recipe. Their videos are some of the best I’ve seen on the web.

And more importantly, my husband has been doing much more cooking these days!

Asking too many questions may make your users suspicious

I don’t know about you, but I hate filling out forms. I’m ok with filling out my email address and name to subscibe to a newsletter or a sign-up form to join your site, but if I’m just trying to ask a question or find out your opening hours, I don’t want to use a form. I’m guessing that most people are like me and are suspicious of companies who ask for too much information.

A client of mine is in the franchise business. They’ve put systems in place and have a great business model. Interested parties can buy-in to their program and become a franchisee. When setting up their website they wanted a contact form and a franchisee application form as well as a newsletter sign-up. These were the required fields for their newsletter sign-up:

  • name
  • company
  • address
  • city
  • province
  • telephone
  • fax
  • level of income
  • when they anticipated becoming a franchisee

All that just to get a newsletter? Will they not send me their newsletter if my income is too low? What the…?

When setting up your forms on your site, it’s important to keep in mind that most people don’t like filling in forms. I haven’t checked with this client, but I’m guessing that very few people have signed up for their newsletter.

Colour Inspiration for your next Website

When planning your website or brand, colour is very important. Should you go for a safe conservative colour, bold, flashy, neutral…? Colour is very important and can influence peoples’ perception of your company. Once you have a colour in mind you may want to view a few websites that use the colour you have chosen and see what they’ve done.

The folks at Tutorial bog, have been compiling such lists for a while. Here are some colour choices that may help you decide if your colour will work:

Setting Type on the Web to a Baseline Grid

Working with graphic designers is difficult sometimes because of the web’s limitations. Our friends in the print world must be confused when watching us explain why certain layouts are impossible to achieve on the web. In fact its easier to embed a video on the web thatn it is to set up type consistently. At least it was until now.

Wilson Miner at A list apart provides us with a great article which brings us one step closer by offering up a way to work with typographic baselines on the web.

The Principles of Beautiful Web Design

I recently purchased a copy of Jason Beaird’s book “The Principles of Beautiful Web Design“. I must admit that I was skeptical when I purchased it. Unfortunately I’m one of those people who are influenced greatly by design. and thus tend to judge my books by their cover. Having just finished reading “Transcending CSS” which was exceptional, beautifully laid out and with a great looking cover, I didn’t think that a book which such a boring looking one would be very interesting. And the sentence “You don’t need to go to art school to design great looking web sites!” on the back also didn’t make me feel at ease. I know quite a few graphic designers whose face turns purple just hearing that kind of statement.

Thus I had very low expectations for this book and yet I would recommend it to anyone. The book is extremely informative, full of great images and resources and Jason does deliver what he promises. A simple, easy-to-follow guide illustrated with plenty of full-colour examples. This book is ideal for people who are just starting to get into web design, programmers who routinely build “somewhat dull” looking web applications or people like me who have been designing for years. I didn’t go to art school and so don’t know the fundamentals of design. I learned everything from the seat of my pants. I sure wish I had read this book years ago.