articles tagged with: web
It's that time of year again where I give up everything I consider to be fun food: crisps, chocolate, sweets and more.
So when I push down the red velvet seat to watch Deadpool on the big screen, without stifling my laughter with popcorn, the experience feels somewhat incomplete. Equally a rendition of Happy Birthday has a much flatter tone when I know I won't be getting cake at the end of it. The moral of the story here isn't 'don't be greedy' (wise words though!) I am pointing out the fact that I didn't involve everything I needed to, to make the experience a success. I denied myself of what I felt was the ultimate experience.
If we as web professionals were to try to achieve web accessibility with either design or development, our users would suffer the same disappointment, well, worse in fact. These aspects are complementary. We need to consider both design and development in order for accessibility to succeed. The only way it will is if you make sure you’ve got accessibility taken care of as part of your process.
We follow a design and development cycle and hopefully we can integrate accessibility into several different phases: content planning, wireframing, visual design, development and so on. Your process may differ but what should remain the same is your goal to prevent accessibility issues in the first place rather than trying to fix them at a later stage.
Many concentrate mainly on just one aspect, either design or development. For accessibility to really work though, the two must go hand in hand. A flawed design coded perfectly is just as useless as a brilliant design coded poorly.
Accessibility is the responsibility of the developers and the designers. If you can find a team that work closely together and understand each other, the way we here at focus do, then that's the best start you could possibly have.
Yes, a lot of accessibility is totally development. People seem to believe that accessibility is something that is created programmatically, mostly in the domain of the web developer. They're close. There is indeed a lot that needs to be done programmatically to ensure that what you create is accessible to people with disabilities. But you can’t rely on programmatic accessibility alone. Yes it's what we need to provide for most screen reader users. But what about those with low-vision? They rely on the visual aspects of a design to be able to make sense of it and perceive the interface as intended. And there are cognitive difficulties to take in to consideration as well as language barriers. These need the visual aspects of a design to speak to them in a voice that they can connect with. There is a lot more to it than just programmatic accessibility.
And that’s where I come in, as the designer. Accessibility is super important in the design phase of a project. We can usually predict which areas will be a problem just by looking at wireframes (the 'skeleton' of the design layout). We look at the layouts, how design elements will harmonise together, hierarchy of information and all sorts like that. This provides us with insight into what is likely going to be a challenge for people with disabilities.
Accessibility issues should be pointed out and addressed as early as possible in the design process. The longer you wait, the more costly it will be to change or fix later.
Created on Friday February 26 2016 12:54 PM
For some it's driving fast cars, for others it's a risky bungee jump, for me I get plenty of excitement from discovering handy tools like this accessible colour palette generator! colorsafe.co
Stay with me, I'll get a life right after I tell you why this is worth shouting about...
Colour is super important in web design. It's not only used to make the website visually appealing but also to increase it's usability and accessibility.
What we must remember is not to assign too much meaning to colour in web design as this is of no use to users who cannot view the colour as you intend them to. That’s why when designing a website you should ensure that the information conveyed with colour is also provided through another means.
We must also ensure there is sufficient color contrast for all content. The goal is to make sure that all visual designs meet the minimum color-contrast ratio for normal and large text on a background. There is a lot to consider but this colour palette generator does much of the thinking for you. It is based on WCAG Guidelines of text and background contrast ratios.
You simply set up the canvas and text by entering a background color and the styling of your text. Then accessible text colours are generated with WCAG Guidelines recommended contrast ratios. Ready for you to simply pick your favourite!
Created on Tuesday October 20 2015 10:48 AM
Trawl the web for long enough and you'll begin to notice patterns occurring, it becomes clear what is growing popular in the world of web design. Here are 10 design trends that I spotted and have a sneaky feeling we'll be seeing much more of in the coming year…
1. Flat design - OK, so this has been popular for much of 2013 but it's still going strong! Flat design removes all unnecessary elements so the content is the main focus - providing the best user experience. Initially, flat design developed as a solution to simplify Web layouts so that they were optimised across different devices but it's not just popular for practical reasons anymore. I can't get enough of this simple, clean style.
2. Grid-Style Layouts - Page elements are scattered to look like a grid. One familiar example of this would be the Facebook timeline. The grid-style provides a solid visual and structural balance. This sophisticated layout structure gives more flexibility and improves the visual experience of visitors as they can follow the consistency of the page much more easily.
3. Endless scrolling - The good thing is, browsing on our mobiles has gotten us used to it. Scrolling through a website is faster and easier than having to click through links upon links to get where we need to be. It's not content-cluttered either as new design techniques means all information is organised and formatted in such a way that it’s easy to digest. The layout often changes as you scroll, creating sections resulting in the user forgetting they're looking at one long page.
4. Simple Colour Schemes - I have a feeling there will be a lot more websites using only one or two colours. A new trend seems to be to use one bright and clean background colour, such as red, orange or teal, and to include images or black or white text over it. This creates a seriously minimalist and user-friendly effect.
5. Video - Instead of the usual written piece about what the company do, businesses are beginning to opt for short videos. This is most likely due to the fact that videos are easy to produce and share on your site as well as on social media. They also appeal to the short attention span many of us have adopted these days, we want everything now! Videos are an effective way of communicating with an audience and having an impact.
6. Fun with fonts - Designers are once again enjoying 'playing' with typography. Fonts seem to be getting bigger (and in my humble opinion, better!) and siting amongst a variety of others. Also, responsive typography should become a bigger part of responsive web design.
7. Mobile-First Design - Here, a higher priority is placed on the mobile experience which then becomes the foundation of the entire layout. The idea is to first mock-up how the website should look as a responsive layout on smaller screens. To make this work 'fancy' design considered unnecessary excess is removed and we are left with the bare essentials.
8. Mega-Navigation Menus - These menus that expand to hold large blocks of content and links, and can often contain product images seem to be particularly popular with e-commerce or news websites. If done well, this type of navigation can be extremely effective, they allow the user fast access to information located deep within the site.
9. Expanding search bars - Building semi-hidden or expanding search bars into your layout is definitely growing in popularity. When the user clicks a magnifying glass icon or clicks into the bar itself, the search bar expands wider allowing for more text input. This can be seen in a lot of responsive layouts.
10. Parallax Scrolling - That nifty technique that lets background images move slower than foreground images to make visuals appear more dynamic certainly makes for an interesting browsing experience. Handle with care though as too much of it can have quite the opposite effect!
As a designer here at Focus I am super excited about applying some of these trends to our work. Throughout the year I'll be looking out for emerging trends so that I can see you back here in 2015 with a whole new list!
Created on Thursday January 16 2014 11:04 AM
More and more Company web sites are using ME. By that I mean they talk about themselves. A lot. "We have a great range of pipe cleaners". "Our business has been running for 250 years and we are brilliant". "Look at our interesting news all about us".
It's boring. And self-orientated. Even when including keywords and SEO-focused copy, the content itself still needs to be interesting and effective for the reader. Customer-focussed, if you like.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
We are WidgetWeb! We have a huge range of products including waterproof widgets. We offer good prices and are a well-established business of 30 years. Browse our site now!
Got a leaky sink? Need to fix it fast, and at a low price? You'll find a full range of waterproof widgets here. In a hurry? No problem. You'll love our super-speedy order process.
Why has your web visitor come to your site? They have a leaky sink and need to find some waterproof widgets - quickly - and for a good price. They’ve not come to hear about how long you've been running for and a load of flowery 'me me me'.
See how Apple are putting this in place - lots more 'you' than 'we' in this iPad piece.
The copy on your site needs to address your visitor and their needs, quickly and effectively. Keep them focussed and you'll have a better chance of them making a purchase, or making contact, or downloading your latest offers... Talk to your customers, not at them.
And finally... For every instance of we, try to say 'you', at least twice.
If you'd like to chat about your web copy with one of the team here at Focus, drop us a line here.
Created on Thursday May 10 2012 09:46 AM
I like most people have read the countless amounts of predictions for 2012, most, if not all, mention how mobile is going to make a large impact on the future of online. I wrote a blog article last year saying that sites should consider mobile to complement desktop development. This year companies will see that they need to evolve their web presence to incorporate mobile or be missed by a large number of visitors. Visitors will spend less time, visit fewer pages and bounce more from sites they cannot view through mobile devices.
Smartphone and iPhone use in the UK is growing at a huge rate almost on a daily basis – I saw a figure this week that over 6m iOS devices were registered on Christmas Day, imagine the figure for Android devices!
People are also coming round to the idea of tablets; many were sceptical if there was a marketplace for such a device. I was one of these…until I got my iPad. I hardly use my laptop now.
Another big change, maybe not to web development, but to the way people interact with online is going to be smart TV’s. They’ve been around for a while, but this year it’s going to enter the mainstream. With the Olympics, Euro 2012 and the Diamond Jubilee retailers are going to be slashing prices and pushing us all to buy that new 50” TV. There have been some interesting developments this week from the CES conference...talk of a Google TV, Apple TV set and an Angry Birds app! I have a TiVo box from Virgin and I can now watch YouTube videos, catch up on missed programs or radio shows through the iPlayer, I could even view photos on Facebook or post updates to Twitter – all through my TV.
Online is being integrated into our lives on a daily basis and 2012 will bring with it many changes – some of which could be game changers whether we are users, web developers or designers……interesting times ahead for us all!
Created on Wednesday January 11 2012 10:37 AM
We often get asked what language we use to build our sites, and as first point of contact with the client, I chirpily rattle off the reply: 'Ruby on Rails!' It sounds nice, comes with gems and I'm pretty proud of myself (as a non-tecchie) for even knowing that much!
But what does it mean? Why do we use Ruby over any other more widely used programming language? I realised I wasn't entirely sure, so set myself the task of finding out.
Rails is the framework that grew out of the development of the popular project management tool Basecamp
Open source, it enables people to use it and deploy 'commits' to it (contribute to its growth) and is increasing in popularity all the time. Some sites you may have used that are built in Ruby on Rails (apart from ours!) are:
So why do we use it? One reason, really: It's so much less complicated than some other programming languages.
Ruby on Rails is designed to use less code than other programming methods, meaning less repetition, quicker development times and less margin for error.
Its two main principles, Convention over Configuration and Don't Repeat Yourself, mean that it's more intuitive for programmers and enables them to programe more quickly and with A LOT less code. In short, we think it's better than anything else out there.
Drop us a line if you would like to know more!
Created on Tuesday May 24 2011 02:32 PM
I know, I know, I know. Not a very original theme for a blog article. Here at Focus Towers it feels like everyone's going unreasonably nuts for the forthcoming nuptials.
Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to bits about the extra bank holiday, but that's about as far as it goes.
2 billion people across the globe will tune in in some way to watch the ceremony, it's reckoned, making it possibly the biggest media event in history.
Googling anything to do with weddings that day? Good luck! You're not likely to get anything useful. Top search terms are reckoned to be 'royal wedding stream online' and variations around that theme.
What's really striking though is that this is the first truly digital event of its kind. Charles and Di in '83 may have attracted some attention, but this time, it'll be more a case of trying to escape it!
Of the 2 billion (!) people estimated to be watching across the globe, an estimated 400 MILLION will stream the content online. 400 million. That's about six times the population of the UK, kids.
The royal family may have managed to turn down B Sky B's request to film the event in 3D (I kid you not), but they can't stop the hoards all trying to get their little bit of the magic digitally. Will the internet fall over? Who knows? Good luck servers across the globe!
I won't be watching online. I won't be watching on TV. I'll be on a beach on the south coast somewhere hopefully. But the thing is, I'll have my iPhone with me for sure. And Twitter. And Facebook. And the Royal Wedding digitally, in the palm of my hand. Looks like I might be getting involved, after all...
Created on Wednesday April 06 2011 02:52 PM
Google announced on Monday that their increasingly popular browser Chrome will be dropping native support for the H.264 video format.
As the latest versions of browsers are being released there is increasing support for native video playback, ie. users will no longer need proprietary plugins such as Flash or Silverlight to watch video on the web. This means each browser has to support certain video formats themselves. The battle at the moment is between the proprietary H.264 (heavily supported by Apple and now Microsoft) and open-source WebM / Ogg Theroa formats (supported by Mozilla and now Google).
From the Chromium blog:
Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.
At focus we think open-source is great, in fact we build our web sites on open-source technologies every day. However, we think this move by Google (who's motto is "Don't be evil" by the way) is bad for a number of reasons.
H.264 is an established format. Millions of mobile devices support hardware acceleration of H.264 video and there are millions of videos already on the web encoded in the format (including every video on the Google owned Youtube).
Users are still stuck using Flash. Any Chrome user trying to view an H.264 video will have to use Flash as a 'middleman', slowing the process of moving away from Flash to HTML5 / native browser support for video.
This isn't about
enabling open innovation at all. This is about competiton with Apple in the mobile market and trying to make life as difficult as possible for them. Which is fine in itself, but not when it's being diguised as
There are licensing question marks around the WebM format. Promoted as completely open-source, there are reports that the WebM format may have licensing issues of it's own.
In the end I think despite both H.264 & Flash being proprietary technologies, H.264 is the better more transparent one for the user. The licensing cost is paid by the Browser vendors (let's face it, Google, Apple, Microsoft can afford it) not the developer or end user.
Created on Thursday January 13 2011 11:45 AM
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