The online space has a weird way of repeating itself. Unlike print, the online space hasn't got hundreds of years of history to look back on. Instead it has a few decades, each with its own little leaps of technology that push the boundaries of what's possible. With each new leap we often find ourselves repeating the past, mistakes and all.
Early websites were designed for a standard monitor size of 640px by 480px. This was the total screen space- we still had to subtract the size for the top toolbar and footer, leading to an even smaller viewable space. Over time monitors have become larger and with it we've seen an increase in usuable screen space.
Generally we design websites for the initial content to fit within a standardized view port of 960px x 600px (-ish). This vertical height represents the 'fold'. The 'fold' is an old term taken from newspapers, referring to the point where the paper was folded in half. Content above the fold is instantly viewable so would be used for the more important information.
Designers initially avoided putting content below the fold as the user often avoided scrolling. The alternative was to make separate pages, so an article may have been broken up into 4 short pages all appearing above the fold. Over time users learned to love scrolling (you probably don't even notice the sound your mouse wheel makes anymore). This change resulted in webpages becoming longer without the worry about content not being seen below the infamous fold.
So what do all of this have in common with today's topic?
"With each new leap we often find ourselves repeating the past, mistakes and all."
- James, this very same article.
In the mobile space we've often been limited to much smaller screen sizes. We've had to design pages with tiny dimensions, within a tightly confined space. You end up with lots of little pages with very little content. With the rise of smartphones we now have the chance to design in spaces not too dissimilar to regular websites. Mobile websites are once again trimming down pages and spreading content too thinly. Often it is due to constraints in technology (cost of mobile data, etc), but in my opinion sites should give users the option between a mobile and a regular version. This way it gives the user the power to choose between the full or diluted experience based on their situation.
Smartphones have also given rise to the application marketplace. These apps can range from the light hearted 'band name generator' to more complex apps designed to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle. Apps allow developers to create more complex interactions and animations than mobile websites often can permit. This unfortunately has lead to some developers abusing this system once again.
A few online magazine apps appeared on the release of the Apple iPad that meant that users could subscribe to and download online magazines full of great interactive material, videos and images. This led to extremely large, clumsy apps that looked great. But it also meant these apps have inherited all the problems of old flash websites- large downloads before users can see content, flashy interfaces which make it difficult for users to navigate and have made it hard for developers to update and maintain.
New technologies allow us to push the boundaries of what is possible, often allowing us to refine past ideas. Just remember some old ideas are better left in the past.
Go the AB's
19 Aug 2011 - Kelly Milligan
App design is pretty new ground for us at Frontend, but damn we're loving it! Here's a few tips and useful resources we've picked up so far.
Application design is huge right now. Whether you're designing for the relatively mature iPhone market, slightly greener Android market, or adolescent tablet market theres a lot of fun to be had!
Our experience at Frontend with apps has been an exciting and challenging one. Web is our bread and butter, but those web things we're so good at don't necessarily translate to a good user experience on-device. The first place to start is here: the iPhone Human Interface Guidelines. There is a lot of usability material in here that comes in so handy at all stages of app design. When you are squeezing so much into such a small area, usability and user interaction define the line between a frustrating user experience and a brilliant one. These User Experience guidelines are especially valuable.
The iPhone's retina display displays a whopping 640 x 960 pixels. Thats wider than this blog column, but on a 3.5" screen. This really opens up a new level of detail for designers. every pixel difference you make may seem small, but combined they form such a sharp and polished interface you just can't get on a computer screen (yet...). Consider a texture that is usually too fine to be seen on a phone screen, this is a perfect example of there you can really push these tiny details to your hearts desire.
Tip 1 - Use Adobe Photoshop! We are big fans of Adobe Creative Suite here at Frontend. Illustrator is an invaluable tool, but when you want to form a pixel perfect, easily dissectible group of graphics without vector output being required - photoshop comes out on top.
- Apply all your styling through the styles panels, you will change things over and over again to get it exactly how you want it. Even colour objects using the 'color overlay' style. It will save you tons of time!
- Keep your layer structure organized! If you don't already, make the effort.
- Set up a nice boiler plate which you can iterate to add new views to your application design
- Save a selection of 640x960 pixels at the perfect place for screenshots (read below)!
Tip 2 - Use the excellent resources available to you - There are excellent resources available for designing on the iPhone. A prime example is the Teehan + Lax interface sheet. This contains a bunch of vector based standard iPhone elements for you to use during mock-up phases! This file provides you with actual size elements you can drop into your own file and rapidly prototype with. Just keep in mind that its only for Mock up purposes.
Tip 3 - Test your designs on the iPhone as plain images. It's so simple to see how your interface will look at its actual size and colour. Simply load up your 640x960 selection (mentioned earlier..) and copy a merged version of your design. Email this to yourself and opening it with your iphone. hit 'Save image' to save it. Go into your iPhone's photos section, open up the screenshot, tap on the screen to dismiss the top and bottom bars. Voila! perfect representation.
Be open to the challenge that app design brings. It brings with it bucket loads of strategy, thinking and innovation which can often be put on the backburner in web. We're looking forward to more!
That's all the tips we have time for this week folks, please tune in for a later post on app design. Any questions, comment below or flick us a message on the contact page
12 Aug 2011 - Dan Clausen
One of our team recently gave a talk on the use of grids in web design
During the course of this talk, the term 'golden section' inevitably came up and how it played an integral part in calculating the grid. Like most of us, I know a little about this 'golden section' but decided to try and find out a little bit more...
Firstly, it seems that the purpose of this 'golden ratio' is to give a sort of harmony and beauty to what ever art form it is applied to. It's application can be found in art, sculpture, photography, design and even music. It is said to naturally appear in nature (although this has been disputed) and has recently been found to exist even on a molecular basis!
It is said to have been “discovered” by the greeks back in 500BC and can be found in their architecture and sculptures. Along the way, it has also been utilised by the Egyptians and Aztecs in their pyramids, and Renaissance artists and composers such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Mozart. It has also recently been made famous in movies and programmes such as “The Da Vinci code” and “Num3ers”.
So what exactly is this golden section (also known as 'phi') and why all the fuss? Basically, 'phi' can be described in a mathematical formulae where 'a line that is divided into unequal segments will always (when calculated) equal the sum of the length' or '1.6180339887...' for short. This formula can then be applied proportionally to 2D & 3D objects and space. Of course for those of you keen to investigate the intricacies of this formulae, there is a wealth of information out there on the internet...
For those of us more interested in it's practical applications, it seems that you can apply this formulae to practically any artistic endeavour you are working on and we sometimes intuitively do it without even realising. It does however appear that when you consciously apply the golden section, you will achieve a more harmonious outcome which will evoke a more emotive and aesthetically pleasing reaction in your audience... Strangely enough, it doesn't appear that we know exactly why it causes this emotive reaction, just that it does.
So before you start your next artistic endeavour (whatever that may be) it might be a good idea to think about your old friend 'phi' and what it can add to your project. :-)
[With thanks & acknowledgment to Tony Xia and of course the interweb!]
Browser wars, first there were none, then one, now many.
Can't we all just play together nicely like our mums told us to?
The web has a long history of browsers competing for market share. Many of
us will remember the old Netscape vs IE browser war. Early web pages
were often designed to look correctly in one or the other, rarely
The solution to solving webpages looking different across browsers
was to implement industry standards for how browsers should
display/render HTML and CSS. Unfortunately many of these standards were
not finalized by the time IE6 was released in 2001. Leading to some of today's biggest
cross browser headaches.
Lack of competition during IE6's life-cycle allowed it to dominate the market share of browsers. This started to change in 2004 with the release of Mozilla's browser Firefox. This heralded the next round of the
browser wars (which is ongoing). This new competitor in the browser market
prompted Microsoft to update their browser, releasing IE7, IE8, and most
Mozilla and Microsoft aren't the only players in the modern browser
market. The modern web landscape is viewed by a multitude of browsers
such as the previously mentioned Firefox and IE, but also includes
browsers such as Chrome, Safari, and Opera.
The web is constantly evolving and currently the industry is
finalizing the next set of standards for HTML5, and CSS3. All major
browsers are going through and implementing these standards, with
vendors preferring to prioritize between getting more of the standards
implemented, rather than waiting till the standards are completely finalized
before adding them to their browsers.
What does this mean for the future web developers and web users?
With stronger adherence to standards it means web developers will spend less
time working on getting webpages to look and work correctly across
multiple browsers, and focus more on pushing the boundaries of what's
possible with the web.
Ultimately it means getting the best experience from the web
regardless of what browser you're using. No longer will some users
miss out on content and functionality from website simply because
they use one browser over another.
So who will win the browser wars? Besides rendering the pages correctly, browsers will still complete for speed and extra functionality that adds to the user experience
In the end, if all browsers render webpages exactly the same as each other, isn't that a win for all of us?
If you want to learn more or want to have a chat about something in this blog, drop a comment or contact us
through the website and we can have a good ole chit-chat (fish and chips not guaranteed, though likely).
The fantastic illustration at the top is from,Galit Weisberg you can see more of Galit's artwork at: http://shoze.blogspot.com
29 Jul 2011 - Corinne Gibson
This weeks catch-up topic was about film title design, a much loved topic which made me reminisce a wee bit about my uni days.
Film titles designs were kicking off again in the 90s in a big way. You'd almost go to a movie just to see the amazing title designs that were produced by the likes of Kyle Cooper. Se7en, of course, being a talking point for weeks for most in my class. People in Type in Motion 1 would try and replicate the effects (with varying levels of success - this was around the same time when I decided type in motion was too much of a laborious process for me to indulge in).
Gattaca is one of the first titles that clearly stuck in my head, particularly after watching the movie a second time and realising what the elements were. The title is cleverly based on the initial letters of the four DNA nitrogenous bases (adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine) and during the credits the letters G, A, T, and C are all highlighted.
I love looking back at pre-computer generated sequences - to me they have a lot more mystery and awe. Soylent Green is a classic one. Sequence editor Chuck Braverman, known for his flash frame kinestasis montage/films, opens director Richard Fleischer's film adaptation of Soylent Green with images of the building up and crumbling of society. Fantastic scene setting for the movie, which has had a significant cultural impact, and many parodies and mockeries stemmed from it.
TV series title designs
Lately, TV series opening sequence design has really been hitting the mark. Just take a look at this years Emmy nominations for "Outstanding Main Title Design" - it's great to see Imaginary Forces (founded by Kyle Cooper) is represented twice in this category, with Boardwalk Empire and Rubicon.
Game of Thrones, my personal favourite opening sequence, is also on the list. GoT is actually the first sequence i've heard non-designers talk about recently – if you don't know about GoT, seriously, get into it.... "Winter is coming."
I've been a bit lazy, just posting a few screen caps instead of videos... mainly because I have to get this post up by 5pm, or buy the crew lunch on Monday. One day i'll go back through and hook up the videos.
However, if you want more, make sure you visit the art of the title site, where you'll find the complete compendium and leading web resource of film and television title design from around the world. They honor the artists who design excellent title sequences, discuss and display their work with a desire to foster more of it.
On a slight tangent...
Threadless put out one of my favourite tees ever a few years back - Spoilt by Olly Moss. Still available on their site.