CSS tips and tricks, Part 2

Everyone seemed to like the last article I wrote about CSS…forever ago, so I thought I’d tackle some more CSS tips and tricks – give the people what they want, right? These are some more “basic tips,” but things that I use every day and thought others might find useful. I know I said I’d write more about web analytics as they relate to design but I decided this would be faster as I’m getting close to the deadline… [Read more…]

Launching Your Redesign Is Just The Start

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So you’ve spent hundreds of hours tweaking your redesign, making every pixel look perfect. You’ve showed it to a few friends, you’ve tested it in all the major browsers, and you’re ready to push it live on your site.

Cool.

You’re not even close to done, though.

Once your redesign launches you need to figure out how well it works. Don’t listen to all those people in the comments telling you how much you kick ass and how great it looks. They don’t know what they’re talking about. You need data.

Getting the data

heatmap.gifHead on over to CrazyEgg and get a heatmap setup so that you can figure out where people are clicking. Once you know where they’re clicking you can realign your site to put the key action items where people seem to be looking the most. You’ll also know whether or not that AdSense block is in the right place, whether anyone is seeing your “Keep reading” links, and all sorts of other useful information that will help you realign the layout that you thought was perfect.

Along with CrazyEgg I would suggest signing up for Google Analytics. You can track where visitors go on your website and get an idea of how long people spend on your site. If people are spending an average of 5 seconds on your website, you did something wrong. Go back, rework the site, and figure out how to capture their attention. Make fonts bigger, make links a different color – do something and see if it works. If it doesn’t try again.

A design is never done

Your design might look great but you can always tweak it and try to get just a little bit more out of it. Once you’ve gotten everything you can out of a design, it’s time to redesign…again. Your design is there to solve a problem, if it’s not solving problems then it’s not a useful design.

Designing on the web is not about making things as pretty as you can. It’s about making things work for users. It’s nice to make things look great and work for users, but the primary goal is making the user experience as smooth as possible.

Redesigning without using web analytics, heatmaps, and whatever other tools are at your disposal is useless. Your goal shouldn’t be to just make your site look nicer – make it WORK. Make it USEFUL. Make sure your design decisions aren’t based on “this looks cool.”

Not everyone browses the web like you do

As a designer one of the most important things to realize is that not everyone is browsing the web the way you do. Some people like search boxes, others like navigation bars, others like clicking through links in posts.

This is why looking at heatmaps and web analytics is so important. If you base your design on what YOU do then you’re not giving average users much of a chance to navigate your site. I personally think big footers are great, but do users really scroll all the way down to look at them? Maybe. Maybe not. You need to run an analysis on your site if you have a big footer to see if people are actually clicking the links.

So what am I writing about next week? I’ll take you through the design decisions on my recent redesign of OkDork.com and explain what the CrazyEgg heatmap tells me.

Ben Bleikampis a freelance designer and student from Columbus, OH. He enjoys Chipotle burritos and hates waking up early.

Simplify your font selection

I’m working hard on a CSS Tips and Tricks, Part 2 article but until then I’ll complain a little bit about a design mistake I see popping up.

Please…pretty please: stop using so many different fonts in the body of your website. As a general rule you should use exactly 2 fonts. If you’re really good at what you do and think you can use a 3rd font judiciously do so at your own risk. [Read more…]

Dan Rather on David Letterman, 9/17/01

This is one of the most vivid memories for me in the days and weeks following September 11th. Dan Rather was on David Letterman on September 17th, 2001 and he broke down in tears talking about the firemen and police officers helping at ground zero and then later when reciting a verse of America the Beautiful. [Read more…]

Yeah. Crazy.

My memory of September 11th, 2001 is very vivid – I’m sure most Americans feel the same way. We can recall the names of people we were near, even if we haven’t seen them in years. We know what time we heard about the terrorist attacks. [Read more…]

Ads should match your blog

When I visit a site that has matched the advertisements to their design I appreciate that the owner took the time to think about that detail. I am not tricked into clicking the advertisements. I don’t feel like anyone is trying to be sly. I just like that the ads aren’t taking away from the rest of the site. [Read more…]

Details make good design great

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Why do some people get recognized as great designers? They’re doing the same gradients, the same tabs, the same outer glows, and designing the same layouts as everyone else. The thing great designers do is focus on the details. They take a basic element, such as a comment box, and make it unique, they make it fit into their design.
[Read more…]