10 Powerful Ways To Improve Your Website

Are you able to build credibility with your site visitors in under 50 milliseconds?
Because that’s what it takes!

Quote - 46% of people say

Creating a positive experience on your site is important because when we disrupt visitors from
getting what they’ve come for, they quickly move on to something else and forget about you.

Here are 10 powerful ways for you to improve your website’s user experience.

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Thanks To My Business Partner, Mac!

Happy Birthday Mac!
I want to thank you for helping me earn a living.
As a designer for over 35 years I have had an array of working Macs and icompanions.
We began in 1989 with a Mac IICX and from there over the years have had a Quadra 700, PowerBook, PowerMac 8500, PowerMac G3, Power Mac G4 Quicksilver, PowerBook Titanium, LaserWriter printer, a variety of mice and keyboards, displays of 17”, 20”, 27”, 30” cinema, iPod Shuffle, iPod Classic, iPad, iPhone 4s and an iMac Aluminum 27”.
You have allowed me to be productive and willingly handled all that I have been able to throw at you!

Apple iOS 7 Icon Design Falls Flat

SVP of Design, Jony Ive (also now Apple’s head of Human Interaction) sought Apple’s marketing and communications department for the redesign of iOS 7’s core icons.

Why not use the expert app design teams, you ask? The people who are trained and expert in developing the visual user interface? According to “Ive wanted “new blood” and fresh eyes to give iOS 7 a radical redesign.”

What happened to Apple, the innovator? The one who others follow?
The rebel? Did this die with Steve Jobs? Does anyone else see the irony in Apple following Microsoft’s interface design?

Positives I see. The new icons are:
– brighter, more colorful.
– more simplistic – but some are just the opposite!
– more consistent in color palette.

Negatives I see. The new icons are:
– flat as opposed to dimensional.
– designed with a round circle crammed inside a rounded rectangle when designating stores. Surely there is a better way to differentiate these?
– inconsistent in tonality and gradients.
– inconsistent and needlessly detailed while others are simplistic.

Marginally Improved:
Passbook, Photos, FaceTime, Safari, Music, Notes, Maps

Not improved:
Newsstand (which employee’s child designed that?).
Game Center contradicts the entire trend with a 3D look dropped onto a flat surface.


Bring back the old:

It is said iOS 7’s design is a “work in progress”.  Its release is scheduled for this fall which gives them more than enough time to improve on the design. These weren’t ready for prime time but they needed a WOW for WWDC. Is this another example of a company generating hype around a new release, gaining buzz (positive or negative) to help boost their presence in the media?

Isn’t this just a little embarrassing, coming from Apple? Steve Jobs would have sent everyone back to the drawing board!

Celebrate Steve Jobs and his contributions

Life is easier, more fun and all around better because of his vision and drive.

Can you believe it? Steve Jobs has 313 patents under his name covering everything from packaging to user interfaces.

I remember the first Mac I purchased – a Mac IICX in 1989. It was nested in packaging that walked you through the experience of becoming a Mac owner, starting with a box that read, “Open me first”. An incredible user experience from opening the box to starting up and running the MAC OS for the first time. With its rainbow colored Apple logo, it embraced me and has held my heart (and livelihood) ever since. Today, when you purchase a Mac, there are barely any instructions at all. The assumption is that you’ll be able to tear open the box and immediately start playing, which is absolutely the case.

Once features and speed in computers was commoditized so it was no longer important how fast a computer was, the issue of usability and integration came to the forefront as a differentiator. And people finally understood what it’s like to work on a Mac.

As a testament to Apple product intuitiveness and positive user experience, visit the the Apple store and watch 3-year-olds (and 60-year olds) play on iPads. Good human interface and intuitiveness, that’s what we are talking about.

It is absolutely incredible how the iPad and iPhone interact with the Mac desktop. A testament to Jobs visionary talent of being able to look at a product from the eyes of a user.

Apple designers say that their designs have to be presented with a mock-up of how that design might evolve in the second or third generation.

David Pogue so poignantly writes: “Even when Microsoft or Google or Hewlett-Packard tried to mimic Apple’s every move, run its designs through the corporate copying machine, they never succeeded. And that’s because they never had such a single, razor-focused, deeply opinionated, micromanaging, uncompromising, charismatic, persuasive, mind-blowingly visionary leader.”

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for all the wonderful life-enriching experiences you and Apple have opened for all of us – a testament to your legend.

Steve Jobs quotes can be found everywhere right now. But in this moment, this one resonates the most with me.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs, Stanford University commencement address, 1995.

What Happens Above The Fold?

Designers make specific considerations for effective visual communication. It is not only an art, but a science.

What is the ‘above the fold’ concept?

The most eye-catching story or image in a newspaper lies on the most visible part of the paper when it is folded in half and set on a newstand. The obvious goal… to pull in readers quickly and get them to buy. Today, we also call this the ‘virtual fold’.

Where is the ‘virtual fold’?

This depends on:

how a user is browsing the web;

the physical size of the users screen;

the resolution the users screen is set to;

what device the user is viewing on.

There are numerous ways to calculate the fold line. As many as the myriad of online viewing scenarios but, essentially, web design ‘above the fold’ lies where the user begins to scroll.

What lies ‘above the fold’?

Whether you are using web or print communications, virtually, the same principles apply.

The hierarchical list of what you want to communicate for your visitor begins with:


WHO are you?

Positioning Statement

WHAT is your content/subject matter?


HOW do I move around and what information can I find?

And now comes the all important…


Communications is about engaging customers.

How do we engage visitors so they scroll down and move about your website?

As in any design, it is important to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer. What are they looking for? Beyond the most important elements listed above, you can begin by making a hierarchical list of what your customer finds most important in relation to your business. List the reasons they are coming to your website. Define the questions new customers ask. Taking into consideration your specific intents will help you with your thought process, but be sure to think like your customer!

The principles of space usage, typography, and other elements of effective hierarchical communication are essential to both print and web design, but the methods of achieving these principles involve different skill sets and considerations for your viewer.

The “F” Pattern And The “Z” Pattern.

When visually communicating, it is known that we create directional flow with visual elements, all with the intention of getting a message across.

Using the “F” pattern

One of Jakob Nielsen’s 2006 eyetracking visualization studies show users read in an “F” pattern on the Web.  Below is a piece we ran in a 2006  Synergist enews.

Using the “Z” pattern

In print, the conventional “Z” pattern of reading (in western cultures) has always been used for the strategic placement of important information. Starting in the upper left corner, working across to the right and then back to the left again, going top to bottom. We placed a “Z” over the ad below so you can see how that works.

The contrast of the “F” and the “Z” and their mediums is something to ponder.

Whether we lead the readers eye with an “F” or a “Z” in mind, the goal of visual communications is to invite readers into the page and have them leave with your message.

Eye-tracking Studies Support Visual Communications

As in everything we do when visually communicating, we focus on meeting the users needs.

Eye tracking studies for the web reveal valuable information on how visitors take in a website. Studies path a users visual direction on a web page with software that uses heat mapping.

Shown here, heatmaps from user eyetracking studies. From Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, 4/17/06

The areas where users looked the most are colored red; the yellow areas indicate fewer views, followed by the least-viewed blue areas. Gray areas didn’t attract any fixations.

It is very interesting when you look at this and follow how a visitor scans the page. This gives us valuable research on how to build a user-friendly website.

Other variables such as the type of website and its visitors do make a significant difference — the same rules do not apply to all.

What are visitors coming for? Is it for information or to purchase a product or service they need? Is it business- or consumer-based? Is it a niche audience?

Reading an article referencing the most recent eye-tracking study by Jakob Nielsen brings up some interesting results on images that we can all learn from.

The study shows people photos are good to include, but only if they are of real people. Viewers skip over generic photos if they are not directly relevant to why they are coming to the site. Poor design and cluttered content is a factor that is clearly to be considered vital in making this case. Jakob Nielsen refers to this as “visual bloat”. I love it!

So, if photos are being added to a website without much thought to their relevancy, they are of no value. If an image is not relevant, how can it make the emotional connection to the user?

The example he uses is, on the Amazon website, people “mostly” ignored generic images of televisions because they didn’t offer real information. But on the Pottery Barn website, people engaged with the product photos for extended periods of time. Yes. When we are purchasing a product online we have set criteria that helps us make the purchasing decision and the biggest is, we need to SEE if it fits our needs.

There are also people who need to actually touch the item they are purchasing so they may never actually buy a television online.

If a website is selling products, it is most important to have a photoshoot with a professional photographer so the products can be best showcased for their selling advantage. It is important that users are able to see alternate views and enlarged images.

Tip: Jakob Nielsen says when users click to view a larger version of an item, the one that appears should be at least twice as big, preferably more.

Eye tracking studies are just another way for us to support and improve our efforts of visually communicating effectively.

More on Eyetracking

Great blog, 3 Hot Marketing Tips from Heat Map Analysis

Once again … the age-old tried and true rules of advertising prove valid.

Issue#1: People scan but do not read.
Solution #1: Use short sentences, bullet points and bold text.

Issue #2: Images get a lot of attention.
Solution #2: Use images effectively.
(With a goal in mind. What do we want people do next?)

Issue #3: People rarely scroll.
Solution #3: Put important content above the fold. (In websites they are referring to the virtual fold.)

In any marketing effort, we need to help move our audience through a piece visually with a goal in mind.

Heatmapping is still pretty interesting and for those who want to learn more…this site will provide the service of eyetracking for your website.

Eye Tracking III

We did an enewsletter on the first Eye tracking study done for websites a few years ago… some may recall.

Eye tracking studies have revealed valuable information about how people read and interact with websites.

Read more on Eyetrack III, the recently published summary of eye tracking results for news sites.

See a visual map of home page priority zones… and a very good summary of the study.

Interestingly enough….
As we know, these age old tricks hold true for print as well.
Graphics can be useful for conveying information that is difficult to communicate in pure text.

Short paragraphs encourage reading.

Your headline must grab attention in less than 1 second. Get to the point fast!

People notice ads placed close to popular content.

Not much new here!
Human behavior in the visual world, that’s all.

Google 4 Doodle Competition



Until May 18th you have the opportunity of voting for the best google doodle in each of four grade groups. 

Locally (region 3) for us, we have Grace Para, of Landenberg, PA, as a candidate in the K-3 group. Her doodle is so well developed for someone so young. Be sure to go see these wonderful doodles. 

Kudos to Google for sharing and helping to create design stardom for little people–our up and coming graphic designers! 

Winners will be announced on May 20th with their logos appearing on Google home page May 21st. 

Vote here