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Web design or Graphic design? What’s the difference?

When you think about web design what do you think of? Perhaps functionality comes to mind. You want something that works. You want a site that will give your views the right information to drive them to become a consumer. With web design the way a website functions and the information shown is so important.

What is Design?

Design is creating a new and unique solution to a problem. Creating logos, branding, websites, wireframes, and all other components needed to give a company, and idea, or a person a visual presence that people can see and connect with. Something that a consumer looks at and knows the brand in question.

With that being said every issue one may come across has to be handle in a very different way. The same rules don’t apply to every element of design and knowing what to do and when is a very important key to successful design. When designing a brand identity, you want to be something that very closely capture the business. The feel of the business, who they are, what they stand for, and in the end something that is going to resonate with customers. You want it all to be visual, you want someone to be able to look what you have designed and understand why you did what you did. With web design its as visual as it is informational. You need to tie in the pre existing brand identity with all the information someone may need while on a website.

You know a design is good when the problem you set out to solve has been solved. You were handed an issue and were trusted to fix it and you know you have done your job when you leave with happy customers and can see that your work has helped create a solution to their problem. The result you aim to achieve may be purely functional, measurable with hard data, or just for experience, which is hard to measure with numbers but you’ll know.

What is Graphic Design?

Well, by dictionary definition, Graphic Design is the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books. This makes the job of a graphic designer seem simple and very easy for someone to complete on their own and see results. That’s not always the case. Graphic Design is a very complex field. There are so many parts to making design work, and when wanting big results branches purely off of your design it is best to let someone in the field do your work for you. They are going to better understand what all needs to go into your design for you to see the best results for your specific issue.

Graphic design includes logos, websites, tattoos, sketches for fashion, industrial design, typefaces, hand lettering, print, animated characters, advertisements, cd covers, flyers, movie credits, newspaper headlines, beverage labels, and so much more. This is just a small part of what can be designed graphically. What they have in common is output that will be consumed through visual media.

What is Web Design?

Web design creating a solution to an issue one has based around web presence. This may mean building something to draw in more customers or simply building the first website because there is no web presence. It also includes graphic design, but it goes further than the purely visual. It stretches to incorporate every aspect of a web experience.

For example, knowing how to lay out the pages in a way that is easy to navigate. Knowing how to place content on each page to draw in customers and keep them on each page long enough to read what’s important. Knowing how to incorporate photos into your site to break up the content and make is more visually stunning.

In the end all of these things are crucial to success. Having a good branding to visually represent your company. Having a great online presence to allow people to see who you are before making contact. Graphic design and Web design go hand in hand. You have to be able to present good graphic design skills to be able to create a visually pleasing website that is going to draw in an audience and increase business. Without graphic design web design just wouldn’t be the same.

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The Cobblers kids got some new shoes!

As the saying goes “The Cobblers kids don’t have shoes”. For anyone that doesn’t get the reference it means that when you are good at doing something for other people it is difficult to do the same thing for yourself.

Since we have spent the past few weeks putting the finishing touches on our new website, it felt appropriate to talk about the trials and tribulations that we went through.

While you would think that it would be a no-brainer building a new site for ourselves, it seems that it is easier to focus on client websites than it is our own. Dedicating the time was probably one of the most challenging aspects of this project. Our client projects also seem like more fun or interesting, sort of like when your parents come over to visit and your mom starts doing stuff around the house. It’s more interesting to straighten up a different home than your own.

Another situation that continued to pop up was how close we are with the services and messaging for the site. It is easy to drone on for hours and hours about a specific area of expertise that you have. The challenge there was to make sure that we were creating information and messaging that our customers would like to read about. That meant taking ourselves out of the designer, developer, marketeer mindset and putting on our customer caps!

We organize and manage each of our clients projects a specific way and while it makes perfect sense to do the same with Atomic, it was easier said than done. We have scheduled meetings with our clients where we discuss the project and gather feedback. This was difficult because while we are here, we tend to focus exclusively on our clients (and funny memes). Buckling down and setting a schedule for ourselves became tedious so it evolved into a structure but more casual gathering around a team member and reviewing the status and issues remaining.

Since hindsight is 20/20, Here are my suggestions for any businesses considering a new website.

  • Define your goals upfront. How will you know it will work if you don’t define measurable goals.
  • Clean house. Similar to packing your house when you move, do an audit of your existing site and decide what stays and what needs to go!
  • Don’t over complicate the content. Make sure that you have content that speaks in the tone of your brand and have a conversation with your customers.
  • Stay focused. There will always be issues that pop up but finding a way to enjoy the work and stay on task is critical.
  • Communicate often. If you have others that are involved in the project, make sure you include them and bounce ideas of them.
  • Work with a digital marketing agency like us. With our experience you’ll have a dedicated team to guide you through the process.
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Website redesign: Read if you dare

As Atomic’s business developer, I’m often the first guy clients talk about revamping their websites. You might think we start by brainstorming cool design ideas and interactive features. Our conversations are actually a lot more straightforward than that, though—but that doesn’t mean they’re not important.

Creating a new website is a little reading like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Remember those? You start with a mission. And every few pages, you make a choice that decides where the story takes you next. Before you know it, you’re fighting off mutant spider ants, space vampires, and killer slime. Make one wrong move and you’re in for a sure death. But play your cards right and you’ll live to tell an unbelievable tale (unless you get turned into a grasshopper, that is).

While CYOA missteps end with you getting eaten alive by sand dragons or abandoned in outer space, bad calls in web design can lead your site’s visitors to pretty bleak fates, too: unsure where to look for information, and lost in an abyss of subpages and links.

I’ll go ahead and spoil that story’s ending: After one failed mission, they probably won’t return.

Okay, maybe designing a new website isn’t quite a real-life version of Prisoner of the Ant People. But the choices you make at the beginning of the redesign process really do affect your end product—and whether user experience efforts fail or succeed. So I try to go over a few key questions with clients before we get rolling. Think of me as the narrator of your web design adventure. The choices you make are up to you.

These questions will help decide your site’s fate:

• What do you want your new site to do? Sell a product? Inform users about services?

Have people fill out a contact form? Decide your site’s main goals from the get-go, and you’ll be off to a good start.

• Who are your users? A review of your current site’s analytics will help you make some important decisions about your redesign. Are most of your users browsing on mobile devices? If so, build a responsive site. What terms are people using to find your business? Use those keywords in your copy. Understanding your audience’s needs will help you give them the best experience possible.

• How will you market your site? If nobody knows your site’s out there, it doesn’t matter how much great, user-friendly content you’ve got. You might as well await the lethal sting of a giant scorpion. Do you want to issue a digital press release or make use of other SEM strategies? How will you continue to promote your site once it’s live? We’ll plan your site with your chosen techniques in mind.

• Who will maintain your site internally? Launching your site doesn’t mean the mission’s over—far from it. Designate someone who can upload blog content, news releases, and updated company information regularly. Otherwise, you risk misinformation and broken-link black holes. Content management systems like WordPress are easy even if you don’t know code, but may require a little training at first.

A good user experience means more clicks, leads, and business for our clients. That’s why we ask customers these questions before getting started on a big project—and again during research and planning phases. The answers clients give help guide the layout, design, and information architecture of every website we create.

And when you consider that the alternatives include getting turned into bacon or becoming collateral damage in an interplanetary war, we think that’s a pretty important job.

If this doesn’t make you want to dust of your old CYOA books, I don’t know what will. (All plot references are real, by the way.) And if you want to avoid endings like these, talk to Atomic. We’ll help you guarantee mission success.

 

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UI Design 101

Usability is a highly sophisticated field. And it’s constantly changing. To navigate that complexity, I keep six core principles of UI design in mind. They help me stay focused on what’s important.

You can apply these guidelines to any UI project you’ve got. Whether you’re designing web applications or washing machines, the principles stay the same.

Here they are.

Consider the people actually using your product. When I’m working on an interface, I imagine not just the general demographic I’m designing for, but the specific people. Instead of imagining “seniors,” for example, I imagine my dad or mom. How would they interact with the screen? What would frustrate them? Or make them smile?

Copywriters tell me that they work the same way. They imagine in great detail the person for whom they’re writing — even inventing details about their clothes, family, and hobbies. It helps them see their target audience clearly, and they write with more focus because of it.

Make it simple. It’s easy to get caught up in the coolness of your design. Or to shove elements in that users “might need.” Every so often, step back and remove every element that you possibly can from your interface. Be ruthless – don’t think anything is too clever or important to strip away.

Then, take a hard look at what’s left. Did you really need those extra elements? Or is the UI cleaner—and more user-friendly—without them?

Draw attention to what’s important. This guideline sounds basic—but it means everything. Think carefully about the number one action you want your users to perform. Then make that action the most prominent.

For Chipotle, that means putting “Create New Order” right at the top of the screen. For Dragon Dictation, it means placing a single red “record” button smack dab in the center of the interface—with nothing else around it.

Create barriers. On the opposite side, think about what actions you don’t want users to take—and put some barriers around them. For example, Amazon doesn’t mind if you read the “About” information on their web app. But it’s safely buried under a generic “More” navigation button.

Why? Because that information’s just not that important. It’s not central to the app’s core function: helping users quickly find and buy merchandise.

Get feedback. As a matter of fact, get lots of feedback. Share the UI with family, friends, focus groups. People who are familiar with web apps, and people who know nothing about them. Industry experts and kids just out of college. The more information you get on how real people interact with your UI, the more you can perfect it.

Just remember: collect all the data you want, but ultimately, you have to decide what’s the best design.

Consider someone performing a task a hundred thousand times. Think about the people who will use your application frequently. What are they going to get sick of? What’s going to slow them down?

For example, I hate the fact that you have to tap “Play” then “Submit” every turn on Words With Friends. That’s two taps for every single action a user performs! Multiply that by five games, two turns a day, for weeks on end. That’s hundreds of extra clicks.

Yeah, it’s just a game. But it still gets annoying. And you don’t want annoyed users for your web app.

Usability is a hugely sophisticated field, lots to learn, changing … never hurts to remember the basics.

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Process=Product

These days, it seems like we’re bombarded with products whose sole purpose is to move life faster.

Take coffee, for example.

I’m too young to remember, but I bet that when drip coffee makers came onto the market, people were blown away by the ease of use. No more boiling water on the stove! Then came a certain retailer who brought good coffee to the eyes and tongues of the masses, in a convenient to-go cup. Next came their instant coffee, supposed to be “just as good” as what you’d get at their coffee shop.

At this point, how much more time can we save?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for efficiency but personally, I see something being lost in our rush for results. I think we’re losing our connection with the process of creation. We’re forgetting the tangible sensation and satisfaction of making something. Instead, we just consume.

This is why I draw.

When I pick up my pencil, I start by drawing basic shapes. Then I flesh these shapes out into whatever they’re supposed to be: a face, an arm, a car, or a building. Then I go back and thicken some lines, scribble here to indicate shading and light, and think about how to highlight what’s important. After this, it’s time to really polish things up, do some fine shading and fix lines. And this doesn’t mean I’m done. I may get out another piece of paper, slap it on top of my drawing, go to my lightbox, and redo the whole thing.

Something happens when I slow down and immerse myself in this process. Psycologists call it being in a “flow state.” I just know that it’s when I’m most creative, and I find that happy mistakes often occur — like when I wind up drawing something other than what I intended, but it looks great anyway.

Going through such a time-consuming process when I’m drawing may seem tedious, but I believe that it’s an essential part of the creative process. It helps me connect with what I’m creating, care about it, and feel like I’m part of it.

Designing a website isn’t much different.

I start by drawing squares and circles on a page, carefully deciding where text, images, and buttons should go, according to the client’s needs. I may end up doing this three or four times until I find what’s right for the job. Then it’s onto choosing fonts, colors, and images, all the while keeping in mind the site’s audience and purpose.

I constantly hear people say that they’re “passionate about their work.” I don’t think this can really be understood until you yourself are passionate about something. As designers, we need passion. We need to feel connected to our work.

That’s accomplished by giving the process of creation the time it needs. Only then can we create something that we’re proud of — and something that our clients will be proud of too.