Sep 19, 2014

Designing Beyond the Vertical

Designer

We’ve all heard it before: good design is hard. Good web design not only has to look amazing, but it also has to be functional, often without the knowledge of what platform or resolution your design is even going to be used on. Responsive web design – a simple concept at its core – gave web designers and developers the opportunity to account for the unknown. We perfected the use of media queries, installed respond.js to account for the IE holdouts and core concepts were adopted.

The basic structure of responsive design is usually a 3-2-1 pattern. Main content and sidebars are eventually reduced to one long vertical column of information on our phones. And while this is responsive web design, it’s disheartening to think that’s all we can do to make our sites work well on all devices. So I want to challenge us all to design beyond the vertical; to think about the other aspects that go into making a well-designed responsive site.

Mar 20, 2014

Is your mobile site doomed?

Communicator Manager Resource Center

How will you know how effective your new responsive site is? You’ve spent hours sweating over bootstrap files and workflow mockups, but all your work could be for naught if you haven’t planned for the post-mobile world as Jeff Eaton, Senior Digital Strategist at Lullabot, presented at last year’s Drupal Conference in Portland, Oregon, “Building for a Post-Mobile World.

Mobile is not a new trend. Review the stats Texas A&M GoMobile team provided. 75% of Texas A&M students connect to the Internet via cell phone. Outside our campus, Eaton states that 47% of adults use their phone for Internet browsing, while 15% use their phone as the primary or sole source for Internet browsing.

If your site is not accessible on a mobile device, there is a good chance you are missing out on valuable user traffic which could mean declining admission rates, research funding or donor support. But, just creating a mobile site is slapping a band-aid on a larger problem: your site’s content.

“People don’t want different content or less content [on mobile sites]. They imagine that their devices are different windows on the same content, and we don’t get to choose how people view our stuff.” – Karen McGrane, A List Apart

Not that mobile design isn’t important — it is. Creating a site that is easy to navigate and read is paramount to maintaining your user base. However, if you have a site with no content, then you have no site at all.

Eaton suggests that instead of focusing on the end published version, we should look at our content as pieces with purpose. A page is not a single element but a group of elements with various levels of importance to your end users.

Knowing what content your to present on your site and what your users are searching for is the first step in creating a site that will survive the mobile apocalypse.

Watch his entire presentation or check out these other great presentations from the conference:

Mar 3, 2014

Content Comprehension

Communicator Designer Resource Center

I recently read an article comparing the comprehension scores of the same content read on a desktop and on an iPhone. Not surprisingly, the comprehension scores from readers using an iPhone were 48% of those using a desktop. The article, written by Jakob Nielsen and can be found here, goes on to explain why readers would have a more difficult time understanding content on a mobile device versus a desktop device. The author also gives some good tips on how to improve comprehension of your content on mobile devices.

In conclusion he states, “complicated content should be rewritten to be shorter, with secondary information deferred to subsidiary pages.” While we often get wrapped up in visual design, I think understandability of content can be just as important.

Jul 10, 2013

Mobile-first redesign of Security.tamu.edu

Communicator Designer Developer Manager Resource Center

Texas A&M Information Technology recently redesigned Security.tamu.edu thinking mobile first. Our team worked to streamline and reorganize the content to improve readability. The site is divided into articles on big topics like identity theft or protecting confidential information. Each article has an introduction paragraph and sections with clear headings to make the content easy to scan. On mobile devices, the body content is converted into an accordion, which keeps scrolling to a minimum and allows readers to select the topics most relevant to them.

Apr 24, 2013

If it doesn’t work on mobile, it doesn’t work.

Designer Manager

A developer on the NPR apps team posted a great article about building a fast, stable news webpage on a tight budget. While the article itself is really interesting and worth a read for it’s own sake, one part in particular jumped out at me:

If it doesn’t work on mobile, it doesn’t work. Most of our work averages 10 to 20 percent mobile traffic. But for our elections app, 50 percent of users visited our Big Board on their phone. (And it wasn’t even responsive!) Moral of the stats: A good mobile experience is absolutely necessary.

From the NPR News Apps blog.