The landing page goes straight for the kill. They know what the user wants, so provide it straight immediately. Combined with great design and visuals this site is a perfect example of a great sales funnel.
Due to conversations about processes, this week I have included several articles on UX process, and how to write User Stories. These articles go hand in hand with slowing down the design process! As well as these goodies, there is a great website example, an article on web performance ethics, and more in this weeks design and development inspiration rundown!
Website to sell office furniture. Sleek, minimum. To the point.
It seems like rushing around in an effort to finish off projects is part of being a designer. The faster it get done, the faster we (hopefully) get paid for our efforts. What about slowing down? Maybe we could get more money?
Poor performance can, and does, lead to exclusion. This point is extremely well documented by now, but warrants repeating. Sites that use an excess of resources, whether on the network or on the device, don’t just cause slow experiences, but can leave entire groups of people out
Use best-of-breed solutions tailored to specific use-cases like e-commerce or blogging; it provides a modern framework for rapid iteration and it generates lightning fast websites out of the box. Enter the content mesh!
Story Mapping, Visual Way of Building Product Backlog
Story mapping is a top-down approach of requirement gathering and is represented as a tree. Story mapping starts from an overarching vision. A vision is achieved via goals. Goals are reached by completing activities. And to complete an activity, users needs to perform tasks. And these tasks can be transformed into user stories for software development.
In essence, the Content Mesh allows you to (from Sams article):
select best-of-breed solutions tailored to specific use-cases like e-commerce or blogging; it provides a modern framework for rapid iteration and it generates lightning fast websites out of the box.
That, is an exciting sentence.
There are have been multiple times across different projects where I have wanted to use a piece from this platform, and a piece from that service, but have been tied to a pre-set CMS with no flexibility. It looks like we have a solution!
Why hasn’t Content Mesh been possible before?
Honestly. It has been.
REST APIs have been around for years, and web developers have been able to integrated third-party services into websites. Google Analytics is a perfect example of a script that can be dropped into a site and managed elsewhere. I don’t believe it is a case of “it wasn’t possible”, but rather it hadn’t been widely considered. The reason it is getting traction now is because of the following points.
Dedicated web services for specific use-cases
Fully fledged CMS services still exist, they are continually being improved and built upon. However, micro-services are built to do one thing, and do it right. This means that the right tools can always be used for the job, as opposed to hacking a pre-existing functionality to do it for you (you have to love WordPress development…).
Consider a Ecommerce business for instance. Products need to be managed, payments need to be taken, as well as a blog, CRM, user data storage, and analytics.
One size fits all
In the past I would have directed a client to a monolithic approach, such as Magneto. It handles everything (which is great at first) but development and change is restricted by the software. This become a problem when rolling out continual changes that eventually go against the built in functionality.
Now it is a different story. Each need has a service!
These can all be called via the respective APIs and shown on the central site.
Each one of these services does a certain job, and it does it well. They have comprehensive documentation, and a boat load of code already written to drop into a site. It is highly likely that the individual managing the products for example, is not going to be the same person writing the blogs. By separating these areas means less distraction, and a cleaner, streamlined approach to the management of the website.
There are several benefits to this micro-service approach:
If one service fails, the rest can still function – this allows fault isolation
Stronger security – each service has its own credentials
Easy integration and deployment – NPM, Netlify, etc
Not locked-in to a specific stack – can try other services
The website can easily be scaled – if a service isn’t working to its fullest, remove and replace
Easier understanding – each tool explains what it does, and only what it does
An evolution of workflow and techniques
The older monolithic services are generally built on top of older technologies and have a slower development process. Need to add functionality? Then it looks like you are writing a large PHP function that goes against the softwares original design. Need to maintain a local environment? Well it’s going to take time pulling in changes from team members.
This has been addressed by more modern technologies, take React and Vue for example. These JS frameworks enable fast spin up times, super easy to start a new project (think create-react-app), and an incredibly large community pushing improvements all the time. The open-source aspect of JS is great, with problems being solved, packaged, and stored on NPM.
These technologies partnered with the agile methodology (or similar, touchy subject) means that ideas can be brought to life in the blink of an eye (internet speed dependant). The web development community has got on board with this “packaged” concept and are really running with it. More and more businesses are understanding the idea of rolling out an MVP and building on it. Introducing Sprints and weekly roll outs to the workflow. This type of mindset requires a more flexible, more scaleable set of tools. The speed of production depends on it.
Because of this, micro-services are able to fall into place easily, meaning the arrival of the content mesh. By being treated as another package on NPM, it is as easy as running a short command in a console and including into the code base. Most of the fiddly stuff is handled by Webpack. Everything is very close to being plug and play.
So what next?
Obviously each project has its own set of requirements and restrictions but I would argue that the content mesh strategy can be applied to almost all cases. Once a basic framework has been created that works for you and your team, services can be introduced easily. You can replace that “one size doesn’t quite fit” solution and use whatever works best. Currently it seems only GatsbyJS comes with out-of-the-box integration, but it won’t be long before others join the race. The concept of a content mesh means the best solutions can all be used. This is definitely the right direction.
Are you able to be the villain? What about if the product you are making has potential to harm? Also, on a more positive note. Here are some great examples of design systems, the state of UX in 2019, and more! Enjoy!
Designer Resources, Examples and Inspiration
Stop Showing Design Options and Commit
Normally create 20 different versions and let the client pick? But you are the expert, no?
They’re not going to be fun conversations. It’s not going to be easy convincing others that these aren’t paranoid delusions best tucked out of sight in the darkest, dustiest corner of the backlog. Realistically, talking about it may even harm your career.
This week is more UI focused, due to a project that I am working on. I have still managed to include some brilliant development inspiration articles, and a few thought pieces at the bottom of the rundown. Have a good week!
Designer Resources, Examples and Inspiration
Adobe XD Wireframe Kits
A collection of Adobe XD wireframes to get you off the ground in your next web project!
It’s time we start addressing accessibility before aesthetics in our design processes to create meaningful products for our diversified societies and cultures. Before diving into the Why, How and What of it, let’s revisit the definitions of these terms to set the context.
Strategies For Headless Projects With Structured Content Management Systems
Using a Structured Content Management System (SCMS) can be a great way to free your content from a paradigm that begins to feel its age. In this article, Knut Melvær suggests some overarching strategies, with some concrete real-world examples on how to think about working with structured content.
Drop-Down Usability: When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Use Them
Deciding when to use a drop-down — or when to use another interface type, such as a radio button interface or open text field — for a specific input can be tricky. This article talks through the when and wheres.
This week is a little more focused on UI design and development. And god damn they are pretty. Its all about those micro-interactions. On top of this, there are articles on Just In Time Design (it rhymes right!) and User Empowerment. Plus so much more! Enjoy this weeks design and development inspiration rundown!
A digital agency that has been building websites and apps since 2009. Considering they have been doing it this long, I would have hoped the site would load slightly faster. However, it looks really good on desktop!
Continuously delivering small iterations based on the team’s needs can transform the product development process. This approach shifts the focus away from highly-produced, out-of-date, difficult-to-maintain design, opening up the process to tighter collaboration and a higher standard of quality.
In our industry surveys help with understanding the end user. The issue is how companies go about getting the information. Sometimes a survey on a website that interupts the user experience just isn’t the best way!
A massive selection this week. 2 great website examples to help inspire your portfolio designs. Some great JS frameworks and testing tools. A few articles to help designers design the good stuff, and even more articles to keep you busy. Enjoy this website design and developer inspiration rundown.
A Leeds based digital creative website. Tom has built a simple, easy to read, and quick to load portfolio that does a great job.
Flow charts, like any deliverable in the design process, is an excuse to talk to your team. As much as we like complaining about meetings and formal deliverables, the truth is that design work would come to a dead stop without (a) conversations and (b) pictures.
A continuous UI testing tool that combines the accuracy of manual testing with the efficiency of automation. 21% of software budget is on bugs, and the cost of bug repair in production is 5-10x. This tool helps save time and money.
The magical disappearing UI framework. I still need to have a proper look into this but it seems really interesting. Using vanilla JS, but the same functionality as major JS frameworks. Teeny tiny in size.
Up until recently I have been predominantly a WordPress based developer. I have dabbled in other things, a little bit of React here and there but nothing crazy. Recently however, I have felt a bit nonplussed with it all. Everything seems to take a little bit too long to spin up, and although I have built Gulp scripts to help speed me along, they hasn’t help as much as I would like them to. Then Gutenberg became a thing. Not that I don’t think WordPress needs to stay with the times, I just don’t think it will make my life any easier.
Enter Grav. I was looking for a simple, easy to spin up static site generator that has a backend simple enough for idiots clients. It is PHP based (so I can put it on a clients hosting without having to explain Node), and speedy as anything. It seems to cover all those bases.
This was a dream. I already have WAMP and Composer installed on my machine so I had to run 3 commands to get Grav installed and ready to go.
This last one did give me a little bit of trouble. I got the error message:
‘bin’ is not recognised as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.
Turns out this is due to the PHP directory not being found by Windows. To get past this all I needed to do was show my computer where PHP was located using this command:
C:\wamp\bin\php\php7.0.10\php bin/grav install
At this point everything went well. I already had Wamp switched on, so pointed my browser to that folder in my Localhost.
Installing Admin Panel
The Grav “Learn” section has a really good rundown of all the configuring and option settings that can be set. It walks through the folder structure, what is used for what, and the general layout.
At this point I was not bothered about this. I just want to install an admin panel and smash out a theme (if you are bothered, here is the link: https://learn.getgrav.org/).
It turns out installing the admin plugin is just as easy as installing Grav itself. Firstly you have to make sure that your version of Grav is the latest version.
Then, once you are sure you are on the latest version, add that plugin
bin/gpm install admin
For the two above command, remember that is you had an issue with PHP when installing Grav, you will do again. So reference PHP directly.
I found that my console sat thinking for a while, before anything happened. But something did happen, so sit tight. The admin plugin also requires three other plugins. Login, Forms and Email. These set as though dependencies so will install them for you.
Once this has been completed, I found that when I pointed my browser back to the Grav folder on my Localhost the page had changed. Now there is a admin screen asking me to set up a user. Once this is done you are directed to the admin area.
First thoughts: God damn I like this. It has very obviously been built with ease in mind.
All the options and settings that the “Learn” section went through are all included down the side of the admin section. This made me happy, as I want it as simple and as easy to explain to clients as possible. On a quick click through it seems much like any other CMS, but simplified. There is obvious room for adaption is a project requires it, but for a simple brochure site or blog this setup is perfect.
As Grav is saved down into static files, there is no need for a database. This means that the way the site is backed up, is by downloading the static files. This option is set front and center on the dashboard, alongside a simple user statistic chart.
I like to automate everything I possibly can, and the idea of manually downloading a site backup every week does not appeal to me. Turns out this is not a problem. The Grav CLI allows you to hook into the inner workings of the site, so a cron job could be set to do this for you. Happy days.
The text editor works in the same way the pages do when editing manually. They use Markup. This is a barrier to entry for a lot of people who are not so technically minded. Turns out someone has already got a solution for this.
Once again, installation is a breeze (yes, I like Grav). There are two ways you can manage this.
Log into your admin panel,navigate to plugins. Search the plugin. Click add.
Or, if you are like me and want to run everything quickly when rolling out a new project. Run this command.
bin/gpm install tinymce-editor
I am going to spend a bit of time looking into developing a proper, fully fledged theme. But as a general overview to rolling out a site on a localhost, it is a definite winner! As there is no database it means the whole site can be dropped on a hosting service via FTP/SFTP and you are laughing.
This is the 50th Creative and Development Inspiration rundown. That is almost a year of finding best practise articles, and not updating my site to have SSL (I only sorted it yesterday, what a ballache). In any case, this week has been a great one for web articles. From best UX practices, to setting website goals, to infinite scroll, and back to web accessibility. This weeks design development rundown is an eclectic mix.
Kicking this week off with the website inspiration. A website for sourdough pizza. Simple, easy to understand, with subtle (and not so subtle CSS animations). Someones websites don’t need to be astounding to do a great job.
UX Design Practices: How to Make Web Interface Scannable
Scannability is one of the most essential factors of website usability. We have so much content at our fingertips, more than as can consume. Due to this websites need to be designed in a way to get the information easily and quickly, so we can go back to Twitter.
User Experience: How to Improve Your Website UX with Humor and Cuteness
Building a website is all about your users. You need to be aware of your audience and you build your brand identity around them. There are thousands of ways to approach and enhance your website user experience. One of the strategies we are often presented with is using humor and cuteness added to your website style.
Today’s content can consist of VR, animation, data visualisations, and video games. As well as the more standard HTML tags. This means a broken experience for those who rely on assertive technologies. How can this be changed moving into 2019?
Big reveal research does not work. As in, one person going away and doing all the work, ending in a presentation does not allow the team to immerse in the user information. The team must be there from the start.