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Juicy and Charismatic: The 11 Best Free Retro Fonts

Let’s be honest, Retro is the new black today. We are obsessed with everything old. Nostalgia is an official trend. It rules the roost here, there and pretty much...

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Categories: Web Design

A Guide to HTML5 Semantics for Better SEO

The concept of semantics originates from the field of linguistics. It literally means the “study of meaning”. So, semantics is the discipline of finding connections between different signifiers such...

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Categories: Web Design

6 Best Caching Plugins for Your WordPress Site

Caching is one of the most important techniques you can use to speed up your WordPress site. The best caching plugins make it possible to serve pages much faster...

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Categories: Web Design

How To Integrate Social Media Into Mobile Web Design

Smashing Magazine - Thu, 07/04/2019 - 04:00
How To Integrate Social Media Into Mobile Web Design How To Integrate Social Media Into Mobile Web Design Suzanne Scacca 2019-07-04T13:00:59+02:00 2019-07-06T05:35:43+00:00

There are a number of reasons why social media is a popular form of socialization and communication today. For starters, it gives us a chance to connect with exponentially more people than in-person communities allow for (which is fantastic for both consumer and business). It’s also encouraged a new style of communication where brevity and visual storytelling rules.

So, why aren’t we using more social media-like features in mobile web design?

To be clear, I’m not referring to the kinds of social media elements we already see on websites, like:

  • Social logins
  • Social follow icons
  • Social share icons
  • Social feeds
  • YouTube embeds
  • Pinnable images.

I’m talking about drawing inspiration from the abbreviated way in which we talk to others there. After all, mobile websites, PWAs, and native apps give us very little space to tell a story and engage an audience with it. Adopting a social media-inspired design would be helpful in quickly getting our message across on mobile screens.

These elements, in particular, are worth exploring in your mobile design work.

1. Use a Notification Symbol to Direct Visitors to Action

You don’t have much space or time to waste on mobile, so why literally spell out what kind of action you want visitors to take? A lot of the symbols we use on social media can easily be repurposed for mobile websites.

One such symbol is a notification ticker, a lot like the ones we’re accustomed to seeing in the header or footer of social media apps when there’s a message or reminder we need to be made aware of. Like this blue one found in the bottom bar on Facebook:

Facebook uses a small blue dot to signify that a new notification awaits you. (Source: Facebook) (Large preview)

On occasion, the Red Bull website will put a similar-looking red ticker on its hamburger menu icon (this one is flashing though):

The Red Bull mobile website displays a flashing red ticker on the hamburger menu. (Source: Red Bull) (Large preview)

This flashing notification has nothing to do with alerting me to account activity (because I’m not logged into the website). However, it does certainly draw my eye to the navigation before anything else.

If you have something pertinent you want visitors to see in the navigation or header of the site, a notification icon is a good way to grab their attention fast. And it doesn’t have to be a colored dot the way Facebook or Red Bull have handled it. You could also use a number counter like the ones that appear when items sit in a shopping cart or emails in an inbox.

2. Boost Branding with Hashtags and Handles

The way we talk to one another on social media is quite unique. Not only do many people use acronyms to truncate how much they say in a tiny amount of space, but we’ve also adopted a quicker way of getting our messages in front of target users.

Take, for example, this message I’ve written on Twitter about a post Jad Joubran recently wrote about PWAs.

Example of a basic message shared on Twitter. (Source: Twitter) (Large preview)

Now, I could leave my message as is and hope that Jad runs across the mention or that people interested in learning how to build PWAs find it. But there’s just too much noise on social media, which is why the usage of the handle (@) and hashtag (#) symbols has become helpful in getting our messages in front of the right people:

Example of a Twitter message with hashtags and handles. (Source: Twitter) (Large preview)

Take a look at the message above and note the differences. First, I’ve included hashtags in this post for #pwa and #progressivewebapp. That way, if someone is interested in related topics, it’ll be easier to locate this post now.

In addition, I’ve tagged Jad. This way, he’ll see my shout-out. I’ve also tagged Smashing Magazine since that’s the magazine in which the article appeared. This is good for them since it’ll increase the visibility of the brand while helping people who encounter the post make a direct connection between #pwa and @smashingmag.

The hashtag and handle have become such an innate part of how we communicate online, that I’m surprised more brands don’t use them on their websites. And I’m not talking about listing social media handles on a page. I mean actually integrating branded hashtags or handles within their designs as eos does here:

eos includes a branded hashtag within an image. (Source: eos) (Large preview)

A couple of years back, I saw more hashtags and handles incorporated into web designs. Today, I don’t see it as much.

My guess is that designers have moved away from placing handles and hashtags into designs since visitors can’t readily copy or click and do anything with them. But there is value in placing branded handles and hashtags into your designs on mobile.

Think of it as a watermark for your brand images. Like the example above, people won’t just walk away thinking about how cool that chapstick “egg” looks. They’ll take note of the hashtag sitting perpendicular to it, too. And for those that are on their way to becoming loyal eos customers, that hashtag will stick with them.

3. Add Trust Marks into the Design

There are certain social media platforms that give brands and public figures the ability to verify their identity. That way, anyone who wants to follow them will know who the person on the other side of the profile actually is (instead of, say, a bot or someone pretending to be them).

Rather than slap a “Verified Profile” label on these profiles, platforms like Twitter and Instagram use a tiny symbol that lets people know it’s okay to trust that the user is who they say they are. And it comes in the form of a small blue checkmark next to their username.

Instagram uses a small blue checkmark to let people know it’s a real profile.. (Source: Instagram) (Large preview)

Trust marks are already used on the web to let visitors know when a site is safe enough to engage with and make a purchase through. However, they usually come in the form of big security provider logos like Norton Security that build consumer trust just before checkout.

Instead, you should find ways to leverage smaller trust marks to reinforce trust throughout the entire experience. Here’s how Sephora does this for its store:

Sephora uses the same trust mark stamps to call attention to more notable products. (Source: Sephora) (Large preview)

There are two trust marks present in the screenshot above.

The GlamGlow product has a red-and-white stamp on it that says “Allure Readers’ Choice Award Winner”. You already know how much people trust in the reviews and recommendations of other consumers, so you can imagine what this sort of symbol does to pique their interest and build trust in the product.

The Farmacy product has a green-and-white stamp on it that says “Clean at Sephora”. This is a label Sephora slaps onto any product that’s free of questionable ingredients. For customers that are extra conscious about where their products come from and what they’re made from, this symbol will quickly direct their attention to the kinds of products they’re looking for.

4. Lead with a Singular Memorable Image

When you scroll through your social media feed, you’re not likely to see post after post with galleries of images attached to them. Unless, that is, someone just went on vacation and they want to show off everything they did or saw.

Usually, most of the social media posts you encounter keep it simple: a text message with a complementary image attached to it. And if the image didn’t come courtesy of the link they’re promoting, then they’ll attach something equally as memorable and relevant.

Social media feeds are full of posts from the people we’re connected to, so it’s important to have one strong image that helps ours stand out among the crowd. A mobile website would benefit from that same approach.

In this case, I’m going to point you to this promotional element on the West Elm mobile website for the approaching July 4th holiday in the United States:

A sparkler GIF used to promote West Elm’s July 4th promotion. (Source: West Elm) (Large preview)

Since sparklers are a big part of how we celebrate Independence Day, this sparkler GIF is an incredibly effective, yet simplistic way to draw visitors’ attention to the relevant promotion.

Not only is the GIF memorable, but it’s very relevant to what online shoppers are looking for at the moment. Plus, it all fits within the space of a smartphone screen, which makes it a more convenient way to read about the promotion before clicking through to claim the 20% offer.

5. Make Your Brand Meme-like

When brands use social media, they have to think about more than just pairing a carefully crafted message with an engaging image. They also have to consider the consistency of their posts. In some cases, brands will use color to tie their posts together. Others will rely on the messaging itself to create a cohesive identity.

Then, there are brands that have turned their brands into memes. Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” or Terry Crews campaigns are some of the more successful and memorable examples of how to do this.

It’s not just brands like Old Spice or Dollar Shave Club whose humorous advertising become memes that can pull this off. Take a brand like Oreo, for example.

Oreo is a household name. And, yet, would anyone have considered sharing posts about Oreo cookies with others? Before 2013, I’m not so sure. After Oreo published its now-famous post during the Super Bowl blackout, though, things changed.

Oreo gave a boost to its already iconic image during the 2013 Super Bowl. (Source: Oreo) (Large preview)

This might not be a meme on the level of Old Spice. However, it most certainly is on a similar level of trendiness and shareability.

Oreo has continued to find ways to turn its iconic Oreo cookie image into a meme-like status symbol.

Oreo has turned its cookie into a meme of its own. (Source: Oreo) (Large preview)

You know how everyone and their mother has been sharing cookies notices on their websites, thanks to GDPR? Oreo utilizes its brand image to have a little fun with it.

As you can see here, the drop-down creatively uses the Oreo image while also playing on the word “cookie” itself. It’s a fantastic example of how to be creative, even in the smallest of spaces and for a limited amount of time. It certainly grabbed my attention enough to deem it worth sharing here.

6. Embrace the Selfie

I recognize that selfies don’t always have the most positive of connotations, but it’s really difficult to have a discussion about using social media-like elements in design without addressing them. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that mobile websites would benefit from including selfie-like portraits… when not used in a phony or obnoxious context.

I mean, that’s the main complaint about selfies, right? They’re staged and not at all realistic of a person’s actual life. Or they’re not staged because they’re taken at the worst possible time and in the least professional of contexts.

That said, selfies do stand out from super-glossy headshots and other staged company photos. And when you present them on a mobile interface, it gives a website (and the brand behind it) a more social-like presence. In other words, you’re inviting people to engage with you, not to just casually glance through copy and photos on their way to mindlessly converting. There’s something more to this experience when a selfie is present.

One example of this that I particularly love comes from Aleyda Solis, an SEO consultant and author.

Aleyda Solis uses selfies as promotional images on her website. (Source: Aleyda Solis) (Large preview)

Just looking at the above screenshot out of context, I feel like I’m scrolling through her personal feed on Instagram. And because I’m so accustomed to seeing interesting-looking photos on Instagram and then immediately seeking out the captions for more information on them, I’m compelled to do the same here. Talk about Pavlov’s dog, right?

For brands with a recognizable figure or team behind them, a selfie could be a great way to up your visitors’ engagement with a website. Just make sure it paints the person or people in a positive light.

7. Use Filters to Tell Individual Stories

Way, way back in the day, we used to take photos using film and pray that the images came out okay and would be acceptable enough to frame. Then, we got digital cameras that allowed us to see what our pictures looked like in real-time, though it often led to too many rounds of picture-taking to try to capture the perfect lighting or shot.

Nowadays, our smartphones and social media platforms make all of this so much simpler. We can take photos wherever we are, whenever we feel like it and many of the tools we need to clean up a shot and apply an attractive filter are already built into our apps.

Needless to say, filters are a big part of what makes sharing photos on social media so appealing to users.

Now, it’s not as though brands haven’t utilized filters before to spruce up their branding or photography. However, have you considered what using different filters in different contexts could do for your mobile website? They could effectively turn different pages or products into unique experiences or stories of their own.

Abel is an online perfume shop that sells a small collection of perfumes, with scents like pink iris, red santal and green cedar. Notice the trend? Each scent is described by a distinct color, as this example of golden neroli demonstrates:

An example of one of Abel’s product pages. (Source: Abel) (Large preview)

Although the perfume itself is clear in color, the design of this image gives the bottle a golden color to match its namesake. Now, here’s where it gets interesting:

Abel applies a color-specific filter to images on each product page. (Source: Abel) (Large preview)

This is one of the images lower on the product’s page. While I suspect the sunset captured in the photo is real, it’s obvious that a filter has been applied to lighten and warm the overall tone of the image.

The same is done with another image further down on the page:

Another filter-enhanced image on Abel’s product page. (Source: Abel) (Large preview)

Again, the emphasis is placed on making the image lighter and warmer in tone. And if you look at the snippet of text just above, you can see that Abel even compares the sensation of this perfume to “the warm warm blanket of the night falling over Lisbon”.

So, rather than get hung up on designing your mobile website with one singular color palette, consider the individual emotion and identity of each of its pages or elements. You may find that filters and colors help you tell a stronger and unique story for each than the words alone could.

The Benefits Of A Social Media-Inspired Mobile Design

As we attempt to unlock more ways to design for mobile without stifling creativity or overwhelming the user experience, I think it’s important to look to other kinds of media for inspiration.

It’s not like we haven’t already found ways to tell a visual story through design on smaller or more isolated screens. Just look at video game design. Social media is another type of media that’s successfully carved out a style of its own. And considering how addictive and engaging social media often is for consumers, it’s a good platform to turn to for design inspiration.

(ra, yk, il)
Categories: Web Design

Using Slots In Vue.js

Smashing Magazine - Wed, 07/03/2019 - 03:30
Using Slots In Vue.js Using Slots In Vue.js Joseph Zimmerman 2019-07-03T12:30:59+02:00 2019-07-03T20:06:04+00:00

With the recent release of Vue 2.6, the syntax for using slots has been made more succinct. This change to slots has gotten me re-interested in discovering the potential power of slots to provide reusability, new features, and clearer readability to our Vue-based projects. What are slots truly capable of?

If you’re new to Vue or haven’t seen the changes from version 2.6, read on. Probably the best resource for learning about slots is Vue’s own documentation, but I’ll try to give a rundown here.

What Are Slots?

Slots are a mechanism for Vue components that allows you to compose your components in a way other than the strict parent-child relationship. Slots give you an outlet to place content in new places or make components more generic. The best way to understand them is to see them in action. Let’s start with a simple example:

// frame.vue <template> <div class="frame"> <slot></slot> </div> </template>

This component has a wrapper div. Let’s pretend that div is there to create a stylistic frame around its content. This component is able to be used generically to wrap a frame around any content you want. Let’s see what it looks like to use it. The frame component here refers to the component we just made above.

// app.vue <template> <frame><img src="an-image.jpg"></frame> </template>

The content that is between the opening and closing frame tags will get inserted into the frame component where the slot is, replacing the slot tags. This is the most basic way of doing it. You can also specify default content to go into a slot simply by filling it in:

// frame.vue <template> <div class="frame"> <slot>This is the default content if nothing gets specified to go here</slot> </div> </template>

So now if we use it like this instead:

// app.vue <template> <frame /> </template>

The default text of “This is the default content if nothing gets specified to go here” will show up, but if we use it as we did before, the default text will be overridden by the img tag.

Multiple/Named Slots

You can add multiple slots to a component, but if you do, all but one of them is required to have a name. If there is one without a name, it is the default slot. Here’s how you create multiple slots:

// titled-frame.vue <template> <div class="frame"> <header><h2><slot name="header">Title</slot></h2></header> <slot>This is the default content if nothing gets specified to go here</slot> </div> </template>

We kept the same default slot, but this time we added a slot named header where you can enter a title. You use it like this:

// app.vue <template> <titled-frame> <template v-slot:header> <!-- The code below goes into the header slot --> My Image’s Title </template> <!-- The code below goes into the default slot --> <img src="an-image.jpg"> </titled-frame> </template>

Just like before, if we want to add content to the default slot, just put it directly inside the titled-frame component. To add content to a named slot, though, we needed to wrap the code in a template tag with a v-slot directive. You add a colon (:) after v-slot and then write the name of the slot you want the content to be passed to. Note that v-slot is new to Vue 2.6, so if you’re using an older version, you’ll need to read the docs about the deprecated slot syntax.

Scoped Slots

One more thing you’ll need to know is that slots can pass data/functions down to their children. To demonstrate this, we’ll need a completely different example component with slots, one that’s even more contrived than the previous one: let’s sorta copy the example from the docs by creating a component that supplies the data about the current user to its slots:

// current-user.vue <template> <span> <slot v-bind:user="user"> {{ user.lastName }} </slot> </span> </template> <script> export default { data () { return { user: ... } } } </script>

This component has a property called user with details about the user. By default, the component shows the user’s last name, but note that it is using v-bind to bind the user data to the slot. With that, we can use this component to provide the user data to its descendant:

// app.vue <template> <current-user> <template v-slot:default="slotProps">{{ slotProps.user.firstName }}</template> </current-user> </template>

To get access to the data passed to the slot, we specify the name of the scope variable with the value of the v-slot directive.

There are a few notes to take here:

  • We specified the name of default, though we don’t need to for the default slot. Instead we could just use v-slot="slotProps".
  • You don’t need to use slotProps as the name. You can call it whatever you want.
  • If you’re only using a default slot, you can skip that inner template tag and put the v-slot directive directly onto the current-user tag.
  • You can use object destructuring to create direct references to the scoped slot data rather than using a single variable name. In other words, you can use v-slot="{user}" instead of v-slot="slotProps" and then you can use user directly instead of slotProps.user.

Taking those notes into account, the above example can be rewritten like this:

// app.vue <template> <current-user v-slot="{user}"> {{ user.firstName }} </current-user> </template>

A couple more things to keep in mind:

  • You can bind more than one value with v-bind directives. So in the example, I could have done more than just user.
  • You can pass functions to scoped slots too. Many libraries use this to provide reusable functional components as you’ll see later.
  • v-slot has an alias of #. So instead of writing v-slot:header="data", you can write #header="data". You can also just specify #header instead of v-slot:header when you’re not using scoped slots. As for default slots, you’ll need to specify the name of default when you use the alias. In other words, you’ll need to write #default="data" instead of #="data".

There are a few more minor points you can learn about from the docs, but that should be enough to help you understand what we’re talking about in the rest of this article.

What Can You Do With Slots?

Slots weren’t built for a single purpose, or at least if they were, they’ve evolved way beyond that original intention to be a powerhouse tool for doing many different things.

Reusable Patterns

Components were always designed to be able to be reused, but some patterns aren’t practical to enforce with a single “normal” component because the number of props you’ll need in order to customize it can be excessive or you’d need to pass large sections of content and potentially other components through the props. Slots can be used to encompass the “outside” part of the pattern and allow other HTML and/or components to placed inside of them to customize the “inside” part, allowing the component with slots to define the pattern and the components injected into the slots to be unique.

For our first example, let’s start with something simple: a button. Imagine you and your team are using Bootstrap*. With Bootstrap, your buttons are often strapped with the base `btn` class and a class specifying the color, such as `btn-primary`. You can also add a size class, such as `btn-lg`.

* I neither encourage nor discourage you from doing this, I just needed something for my example and it’s pretty well known.

Let’s now assume, for simplicity’s sake that your app/site always uses btn-primary and btn-lg. You don’t want to always have to write all three classes on your buttons, or maybe you don’t trust a rookie to remember to do all three. In that case, you can create a component that automatically has all three of those classes, but how do you allow customization of the content? A prop isn’t practical because a button tag is allowed to have all kinds of HTML in it, so we should use a slot.

<!-- my-button.vue --> <template> <button class="btn btn-primary btn-lg"> <slot>Click Me!</slot> </button> </template>

Now we can use it everywhere with whatever content you want:

<!-- somewhere else, using my-button.vue --> <template> <my-button> <img src="/img/awesome-icon.jpg"> SMASH THIS BUTTON TO BECOME AWESOME FOR ONLY $500!!! </my-button> </template>

Of course, you can go with something much bigger than a button. Sticking with Bootstrap, let’s look at a modal, or least the HTML part; I won’t be going into functionality… yet.

<!-- my-modal.vue --> <template> <div class="modal" tabindex="-1" role="dialog"> <div class="modal-dialog" role="document"> <div class="modal-content"> <div class="modal-header"> <slot name="header"></slot> <button type="button" class="close" data-dismiss="modal" aria-label="Close"> <span aria-hidden="true">×</span> </button> </div> <div class="modal-body"> <slot name="body"></slot> </div> <div class="modal-footer"> <slot name="footer"></slot> </div> </div> </div> </div> </template>

Now, let’s use this:

<!-- somewhere else, using my-modal.vue --> <template> <my-modal> <template #header><!-- using the shorthand for `v-slot` --> <h5>Awesome Interruption!</h5> </template> <template #body> <p>We interrupt your use of our application to let you know that this application is awesome and you should continue using it every day for the rest of your life!</p> </template> <template #footer> <em>Now back to your regularly scheduled app usage</em> </template> </my-modal> </template>

The above type of use case for slots is obviously very useful, but it can do even more.

Reusing Functionality

Vue components aren’t all about the HTML and CSS. They’re built with JavaScript, so they’re also about functionality. Slots can be useful for creating functionality once and using it in multiple places. Let’s go back to our modal example and add a function that closes the modal:

<!-- my-modal.vue --> <template> <div class="modal" tabindex="-1" role="dialog"> <div class="modal-dialog" role="document"> <div class="modal-content"> <div class="modal-header"> <slot name="header"></slot> <button type="button" class="close" data-dismiss="modal" aria-label="Close"> <span aria-hidden="true">×</span> </button> </div> <div class="modal-body"> <slot name="body"></slot> </div> <div class="modal-footer"> <!-- using `v-bind` shorthand to pass the `closeModal` method to the component that will be in this slot --> <slot name="footer" :closeModal="closeModal"></slot> </div> </div> </div> </div> </template> <script> export default { //... methods: { closeModal () { // Do what needs to be done to close the modal... and maybe remove it from the DOM } } } </script>

Now when you use this component, you can add a button to the footer that can close the modal. Normally, in the case of a Bootstrap modal, you could just add data-dismiss="modal" to a button, but we want to hide Bootstrap specific things away from the components that will be slotting into this modal component. So we pass them a function they can call and they are none the wiser about Bootstrap’s involvement:

<!-- somewhere else, using my-modal.vue --> <template> <my-modal> <template #header><!-- using the shorthand for `v-slot` --> <h5>Awesome Interruption!</h5> </template> <template #body> <p>We interrupt your use of our application to let you know that this application is awesome and you should continue using it every day for the rest of your life!</p> </template> <!-- pull in `closeModal` and use it in a button’s click handler --> <template #footer="{closeModal}"> <button @click="closeModal"> Take me back to the app so I can be awesome </button> </template> </my-modal> </template> Renderless Components

And finally, you can take what you know about using slots to pass around reusable functionality and strip practically all of the HTML and just use the slots. That’s essentially what a renderless component is: a component that provides only functionality without any HTML.

Making components truly renderless can be a little tricky because you’ll need to write render functions rather than using a template in order to remove the need for a root element, but it may not always be necessary. Let’s take a look at a simple example that does let us use a template first, though:

<template> <transition name="fade" v-bind="$attrs" v-on="$listeners"> <slot></slot> </transition> </template> <style> .fade-enter-active, .fade-leave-active { transition: opacity 0.3s; } .fade-enter, .fade-leave-to { opacity: 0; } </style>

This is an odd example of a renderless component because it doesn’t even have any JavaScript in it. That’s mostly because we’re just creating a pre-configured reusable version of a built-in renderless function: transition.

Yup, Vue has built-in renderless components. This particular example is taken from an article on reusable transitions by Cristi Jora and shows a simple way to create a renderless component that can standardize the transitions used throughout your application. Cristi’s article goes into a lot more depth and shows some more advanced variations of reusable transitions, so I recommend checking it out.

For our other example, we’ll create a component that handles switching what is shown during the different states of a Promise: pending, successfully resolved, and failed. It’s a common pattern and while it doesn’t require a lot of code, it can muddy up a lot of your components if the logic isn’t pulled out for reusability.

<!-- promised.vue --> <template> <span> <slot name="rejected" v-if="error" :error="error"></slot> <slot name="resolved" v-else-if="resolved" :data="data"></slot> <slot name="pending" v-else></slot> </span> </template> <script> export default { props: { promise: Promise }, data: () => ({ resolved: false, data: null, error: null }), watch: { promise: { handler (promise) { this.resolved = false this.error = null if (!promise) { this.data = null return } promise.then(data => { this.data = data this.resolved = true }) .catch(err => { this.error = err this.resolved = true }) }, immediate: true } } } </script>

So what is going on here? First, note that we are receiving a prop called promise that is a Promise. In the watch section we watch for changes to the promise and when it changes (or immediately on component creation thanks to the immediate property) we clear the state, and call then and catch on the promise, updating the state when it either finishes successfully or fails.

Then, in the template, we show a different slot based on the state. Note that we failed to keep it truly renderless because we needed a root element in order to use a template. We’re passing data and error to the relevant slot scopes as well.

And here’s an example of it being used:

<template> <div> <promised :promise="somePromise"> <template #resolved="{ data }"> Resolved: {{ data }} </template> <template #rejected="{ error }"> Rejected: {{ error }} </template> <template #pending> Working on it... </template> </promised> </div> </template> ...

We pass in somePromise to the renderless component. While we’re waiting for it to finish, we’re displaying “Working on it…” thanks to the pending slot. If it succeeds we display “Resolved:” and the resolution value. If it fails we display “Rejected:” and the error that caused the rejection. Now we no longer need to track the state of the promise within this component because that part is pulled out into its own reusable component.

So, what can we do about that span wrapping around the slots in promised.vue? To remove it, we’ll need to remove the template portion and add a render function to our component:

render () { if (this.error) { return this.$scopedSlots['rejected']({error: this.error}) } if (this.resolved) { return this.$scopedSlots['resolved']({data: this.data}) } return this.$scopedSlots['pending']() }

There isn’t anything too tricky going on here. We’re just using some if blocks to find the state and then returning the correct scoped slot (via this.$scopedSlots['SLOTNAME'](...)) and passing the relevant data to the slot scope. When you’re not using a template, you can skip using the .vue file extension by pulling the JavaScript out of the script tag and just plunking it into a .js file. This should give you a very slight performance bump when compiling those Vue files.

This example is a stripped-down and slightly tweaked version of vue-promised, which I would recommend over using the above example because they cover over some potential pitfalls. There are plenty of other great examples of renderless components out there too. Baleada is an entire library full of renderless components that provide useful functionality like this. There’s also vue-virtual-scroller for controlling the rendering of list item based on what is visible on the screen or PortalVue for “teleporting” content to completely different parts of the DOM.

I’m Out

Vue’s slots take component-based development to a whole new level, and while I’ve demonstrated a lot of great ways slots can be used, there are countless more out there. What great idea can you think of? What ways do you think slots could get an upgrade? If you have any, make sure to bring your ideas to the Vue team. God bless and happy coding.

(dm, il)
Categories: Web Design

How Sitejet Helps Your Agency Design Websites Faster Than Ever

Smashing Magazine - Tue, 07/02/2019 - 03:00
How Sitejet Helps Your Agency Design Websites Faster Than Ever How Sitejet Helps Your Agency Design Websites Faster Than Ever Suzanne Scacca 2019-07-02T12:00:59+02:00 2019-07-02T13:05:55+00:00

(This is a sponsored article.) Spend enough time in a Facebook group for professional web developers and designers and the question will inevitably come up:

“I was approached by a small client with a small budget. Should I work with them?”

Those that have been around a long time will probably scream “No!” and tell you that you’re under no obligation to work with smaller clients. The reasoning being that it’s impossible to make a worthwhile profit on those kinds of projects and that many of the clients end up being difficult to work with.

But is the problem really with the quality of clients with small- and medium-sized businesses? In some cases, that may be so — though, honestly, that’s really only the case if you attract and agree to work with discount seekers (i.e. “How much can you give me for $X?”). In most cases, though, the underlying issue is that your process isn’t efficient enough to design high-quality websites for SMBs at a price point they can afford.

Which is why Sitejet as an all-in-one web design platform is so exciting.

In almost any economy, it’s companies with 10 employees or less that make up well over 80% of the total number of businesses. Although it may not have seemed like an attractive segment of businesses to target in the past, Sitejet makes it not only an option worth considering, but an attractive one at that.

Sitejet gives you a way to design beautiful, feature-rich and responsive websites for SMBs without killing your profits. In the following post, I’m going to show you how Sitejet makes that possible.

Why Sitejet Decided to Share Its Internal Software with the World

In 2013, a German web design agency called Websitebutler was formed.

This is the website for the Websitebutler design agency. (Source: Websitebutler) (Large preview)

Their business model is this:

  • Give small companies the chance to have a high-quality website even without an agency-sized budget.
  • Design professional-looking websites for SMBs.
  • Charge them a monthly subscription fee for the website, maintenance, website updates, domain, hosting and so on. Websitebutler would take care of the rest.

The thing is, their cheapest subscription plan starts at € 29.99.

The subscription plans and pricing for Websitebutler’s website-as-a-service. (Source: Websitebutler) (Large preview)

It soon became clear, however, that they couldn’t afford to charge SMBs so little.

While it was a website-as-a-service offering, they weren’t willing to cut corners. Websitebutler still took the time to understand what the client wanted in order to build the right solution.

Because that approach was so time- and resource-consuming, they either needed to:

  1. Reevaluate their pricing,
  2. Phase out smaller clients who couldn’t afford it,
  3. Find a more efficient way to work.
Sitejet Was Born

The Websitebutler team decided to go with option #3:

Find a more efficient way to work.

When I spoke to Hendrik Köhler, co-founder and the lead of Marketing & Product for Sitejet, he said:

“It took five years to create the perfect tool for ourselves.”

It also took building over 4,000 SMB websites in-house before they were happy with the refinements they’d made to their internal solution. That’s when they started thinking about sharing their high-performance content and project management system with other web designers and design agencies. And why wouldn’t they?

Sitejet enabled Websitebutler to decrease the time spent on web design projects by 70%.

As I’ll show you in just a few moments, Sitejet gives designers a way to effectively manage everything from one place while still being able to develop fast, beautiful and responsive websites.

Time-Savings For Your Web Design Workflow With Sitejet

Think about your design process: realistically, there probably isn’t much more you could shave off of it without compromising the quality of your work. If you were to pick up speed in your workflow it would have to be in client communication and project management, right?

That’s why Sitejet deserves to stand out from other site builder solutions. It’s not that they’re the first to create an easy-to-use visual editor. However, they are the first to successfully combine project management, communication, and web design into one tool.

A quick look into the Sitejet website and project management dashboard. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

One thing to note before I give you a look at how Sitejet saves you time is that I’m not going to focus too much on how to design with Sitejet. If you’ve worked with enough site builders, then you have a good idea of what you can do with Sitejet. So, what I’m going to focus on are the key differentiators that make this a powerhouse in terms of managing web design projects.

Before we get started looking into this platform, though, here is a highlight reel of how Sitejet revolutionizes your workflows:

Now, let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about this web design tool built by web designers for web designers.

1. Built-In Project Management

Sitejet is like other site builders in that it allows you to build and manage multiple websites from a single dashboard. However, nothing else about this dashboard is like the rest:

A close-up of the project management panel in Sitejet. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

If you’re currently managing multiple website projects simultaneously, my guess is that you’re using a project management platform like Asana, Trello or Basecamp for collecting files, communicating with clients and managing your task list.

But that creates an additional step for you, right? Plus, you have to account for the errant email or voicemail from clients that fail to use the project management system as it was intended.

There’s just too much logging in and out platforms and hunting around for all of the information and assets you need when you work with two systems for the same workflow.

With Sitejet, that’s no longer a problem as project management is automatically built in.

2. Faster Communications

You know how clients are, especially small business owners who don’t have a dedicated team member whose sole job it is to help you to create their website. They don’t have the patience for all these systems (especially when they’re complicated to use), which is why they end up emailing and calling even though you’ve pleaded with them to use the tools you’ve given them.

So, you end up throwing away a bunch of time dealing with these unexpected and disorganized communications.

In Sitejet, that’s not a problem. All communication takes place in the same system that everything else does. This is what the email system looks like from your end:

Sitejet makes email communications much easier to organize and execute. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

You can message team members privately, insert messages or information from your client or send them a new one. You can also create email templates to reuse as certain phases of each project are completed.

Sitejet reduces your workload even further by automatically assigning new emails to your customers to ensure they never miss an important communication. In addition, any files that are attached to emails are automatically uploaded to your file management center — just one less asset you have to worry about moving from Point A to Point B and then over to Point C.

From the client’s perspective, this is great, too. Here’s a message as seen from the client’s Gmail account:

Sitejet emails end up in the client’s own email account and not lost in the system. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

If a response is needed, the client can reply directly from their email provider and not have to worry about logging back into Sitejet if no other actions are needed there (like a simple “Yes”, “No”, “I approve this”). If action is needed, they’ll simply click on the link and do as you’ve requested.

Otherwise, all of the communication — emails, task assignments, and feedback — is handled within Sitejet.

3. Smart Project Status System

One of the features to pay close attention to in Sitejet is the first column in the dashboard:

Sitejet’s project status list for more effective project management. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

This isn’t some meaningless system that helps you know which stage each project is in either. It actually opens up new functionality in Sitejet for you and your clients.

The Customer Portal is an incredibly powerful tool for Sitejet users and their clients.

Unlike many page builder tools and content management systems which require your clients to work in the same exact interface as you do, Sitejet has created a simpler and more intuitive interface for clients. This way, you don’t have to spend your time spelling out what each area of the portal means or demonstrating what they need to do inside of it.

For example, this is what the Customer Portal looks like when a website is in the Preparation phase:

This is the Sitejet Preparation phase, as seen from the client. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

They’re asked to:

  • Set up their user account and data,
  • Upload files like photos, videos, documents and much more,
  • Provide info on their “Wishes” for the website.

After completing their portion of the “Preparation” phase, the system automatically notifies you. That way, you don’t have to chase down the client or try to gather all of those details from other platforms.

Managing phase completion from the Sitejet dashboard. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

With confirmation that they’ve completed their tasks, you can then get to work on subsequent phases. As you complete new ones, their dashboard will continue to transform.

For example, here is what they see when you enter the Feedback phase:

A new option appears for clients as you enter new phases in Sitejet. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

Notice how there’s now a prompt for feedback. When they click on either of those links, they’re taken into the website where they can leave notes on the website you’ve designed.

For many clients, project management tools are often overwhelming. With Sitejet, however, you control what they focus on to ensure that you get the right information without any issue. As a bonus, you’re able to stay abreast of any and all changes they make on their end, so you can more quickly get your websites through all project phases.

4. Remove The Client Bottleneck

When it comes to building websites, there are a number of ways in which your clients can become the bottleneck in your workflow. Like in the matter of content collection.

When you work with SMBs, it’s common to leave it to the clients to provide content for their sites. It’s then your responsibility to put it together and shape a great-looking design around it.

Despite knowing that they’re accountable for the content, many designers still have issues getting it from clients. But as we’ve seen already, Sitejet makes it easy to inform clients when certain actions are needed. It also makes the act of content collection one that won’t make you want to tear your hair out.

Remember the Preparation phase we saw earlier from the client’s perspective? This is what they find under File Management:

An example of files uploaded to the Sitejet file management tool. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

This is where they can upload any kind of data (e.g. image files, PDF documents, and more) they owe you for the project. They may be photographs to use on the site (as in the example above). Or partner or customer logos they want to showcase. Or even style guides or other PDFs that’ll guide you along as you design their website.

For those of you who convert your files from one format to another, Sitejet allows you to do that from within the platform, too. Let’s say you want to reduce the size of an image by going from PNG to JPG or you want to turn a PDF into a JPG. There’s no need to leave Sitejet to do this.

In traditional website workflows, you’d have your clients upload their content to the project management platform or to a file sharing system. You’d then download each of the files and re-upload them into your site builder. This removes the middle man.

Then, there’s the Wishes section of the Client Portal:

Sitejet lets your client define what they “wish” you’ll include on their website. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

This system retrieves all of the details you need from clients in order to build their websites:

  • What other websites are they a fan of and why?
  • Do they want a single-page or multi-page site?
  • Do they have a logo or need one created?
  • Do they have a color palette or shall you create it for them?
  • Is content for the website ready to be uploaded or is there an old website you can retrieve it from?
  • What is the business’s contact information to show on the website?
  • Are there any special legal notices they want to be included?

You can also fill in as much of it as you can before they ever get there. For instance, say you already know you’re going to create a multi-page website that includes an About page, a Menu page and a Contact page. You can add that information into the Construction and Content tabs for them.

It’s also worth mentioning that the client portal is a great sales tool as well. Because, not only can you create accounts for current clients, you can do so for prospective clients. They can upload files and data, and email you from within the platform, all while you’re still in the early stages of talking.

If you want to build trust with clients early on, a branded Client Portal that simplifies all of your exchanges would help immensely. Again, this would reduce the amount of time you have to spend hand holding clients or manually taking them through the process.

5. Control Client Activity On The Site

Let’s say you want to give your clients the option to edit their website while you’re working on it. This can be risky at any stage as clients are often easily overwhelmed by what they see when they have a brand new website. They also have a tendency to hurriedly make changes and then act surprised when something looks bad or “breaks”.

There’s a feature you can use called “Editable for customers” to cut down on the overwhelm many clients face when confronted with a site builder. This’ll also cut down on the time you have to spend repairing something they “didn’t mean to do”.

To activate it, step inside the Sitejet builder. Next, right-click on an element you want them to be able to edit. If you want them to be able to edit more than that, right-click anywhere on the page.

Sitejet’s “Editable for customer” setting lets you control how much of the site the client can alter. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

You’ll see three options:

  1. This element.
  2. All elements of the same type.
  3. All elements on the page.

If you only want the client to edit a particular section (say, if you’re into your final round of revisions and don’t want them to backtrack and try to edit something already finalized), this would really come in handy.

Or, if you don’t trust them to make edits to the site at all, you can opt to collect their feedback instead.

The second you change the Project Status to “Feedback”, your client will then see the Feedback option open up on their end along with a link to the site builder. Just be sure to send them an email to let them know they can step inside.

The first time the client steps into the editor, they’ll see this message. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

As they hover over different parts of the web page, the element will display a blue overlay.

Leaving feedback on websites with Sitejet is easy for clients. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

When they click on the element, a new note field will appear where they can leave their feedback. The note will show up on their feedback sidebar like this:

All feedback notes show up in the sidebar until the client is ready to submit. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

Once they’ve completed adding their notes, they can click the “Submit” button which will then push new to-dos (one for each note) over to your queue.

A list of sample to-dos inside the web designer’s dashboard of Sitejet. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

This way, you don’t have to copy down all of the feedback from an email, text message or phone call with the client and try to decipher where they meant for you to make a change. Their notes happen directly on the website and end up as alerts in your to-do box as well as inside the page editor tool where they reveal themselves within the context of the page.

Collaboration isn’t just easier with your clients either. Sitejet simplifies collaboration with team members as well as external service providers. You can assign them to-dos as well as define permissions and roles which restrict the type of actions they can or cannot take within the platform.

6. Faster Website Generation

With Sitejet, you have numerous options to build a website for your clients. However, if you really want to save time up front, you’ll want to use the platform’s templates, matching presets and website generator.


Sitejet has dozens of beautifully made templates for you to start with:

Sitejet has dozens of website templates. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

What’s nice about this — and something you don’t often find with site builders — is that the best templates aren’t hidden behind a paywall. You have access to all of their templates without any additional fees.

What’s more, because this platform was made to cater to the SMB client, you’re going to find templates built specifically for those niches. Restaurants. Bars. Salons. Real estate agents. And much more.

If you’re normally spending too much time trying to find the right starter design, having to customize the ones available or search hours for the right template on marketplaces, Sitejet is a way out of that time-consuming cycle. You can also create and save your own template if there’s a specific style of site you tend to use for your niche.

Matching Presets

There’s a related feature Sitejet includes that you should also know about. I wouldn’t call it a section template tool, though it kind of looks like one at first glance. Let me show you.

This is the Sitejet builder. You can edit universal website settings, add elements and drag-and-drop elements around as you like:

A look inside the Sitejet builder and editor interface. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

Now, let’s say that this great-looking template took care of most of the work for you. However, you’re not 100% satisfied with the layout of this section. What you could do is customize it using the builder’s system of elements and the edit container. Or…

You can use what’s called “Find Matching Presets”:

Sitejet’s Matching Presets feature is a huge time-saver. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

When you right-click on any section, you’re given a bunch of options for adding elements, editing them, as well as customizing the code. You will also find matching presets.

At the bottom of the screen, the Preset Wizard appears:

This is the Sitejet Preset Wizard when you want to redesign a section. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

When you select one of the Presets, this allows you to change the structure of the section without losing any of the content. For example:

Restructuring the layout and design of a section can happen in seconds. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

It’s an insanely quick way to edit your designs without having to make more than a couple of clicks.

Website Generator

If you really want to save yourself time building websites and you’ve left the content piece in your clients’ hands, have a look at the website generation tool.

To use this tool, you first need to add a new website. When you’re asked to choose a template in the next screen, you’ll click “Choose template later”. This way, all you’ve done is create an empty shell of a website.

Then, locate “More” options next to that website in your dashboard:

Use Sitejet’s website generator to speed up design. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

The “Generate website” tool will then pull all of the “Wishes” images, information and content from the Client Portal into the new website. You’ll see a quick preview of those details and can make last-minute changes before letting Sitejet auto-generate the new website for you:

You get a chance to review and edit the information and content provided by the client. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

When it’s done, you’ll have a brand new website filled with all of the content the client sent to you:

An example of an auto-generated website with Sitejet. (Source: Sitejet) (Large preview)

If you find that anything’s not in the right place or that there are some missing spots that need filling in, you can edit the website as you would one you built from scratch or from a template. At least this way you have a running head start.

Things I Didn’t Talk About

As I mentioned at the beginning of this roundup, I didn’t want to dig too deeply into all of the features of Sitejet since it would take too much time. That said, there are so many great features here that ensure that you can do everything you can with other website builder tools — and more.

For example:

  • Manage hosting and domains.
  • Automate backups.
  • Set up mail transfers.
  • Whitelabel the CMS with your branding.
  • Perform website checks.
  • Design using the page builder or with code.
  • Track time.
  • Manage users and permissions.
  • Review website statistics.

Clearly, it’s a robust all-in-one platform that takes into account every aspect of your workflow, simplifying as much as possible so you can work faster and more efficiently.

Wrapping Up

Let’s be real: when looking for new clients, you’re probably focused on the big dogs with the big budgets. Because those have traditionally been the only ones you could make a hefty profit on.

If you’ve ever felt bad about turning away small businesses, Sitejet makes it possible for you to start saying “yes” to them.

Not only is that great for the smaller players who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to get a high-performance website for their business, this is great for you because it means you can exponentially increase your client base. You can still take on big projects and then fill in the gaps with a bunch of smaller ones who’ll take significantly less time now thanks to Sitejet.

(ms, il)
Categories: Web Design

A note on unsupported rules in robots.txt

Google Webmaster Central Blog - Tue, 07/02/2019 - 00:00
Yesterday we announced that we're open-sourcing Google's production robots.txt parser. It was an exciting moment that paves the road for potential Search open sourcing projects in the future! Feedback is helpful, and we're eagerly collecting questions from developers and webmasters alike. One question stood out, which we'll address in this post:
Why isn't a code handler for other rules like crawl-delay included in the code?
The internet draft we published yesterday provides an extensible architecture for rules that are not part of the standard. This means that if a crawler wanted to support their own line like "unicorns: allowed", they could. To demonstrate how this would look in a parser, we included a very common line, sitemap, in our open-source robots.txt parser.
While open-sourcing our parser library, we analyzed the usage of robots.txt rules. In particular, we focused on rules unsupported by the internet draft, such as crawl-delay, nofollow, and noindex. Since these rules were never documented by Google, naturally, their usage in relation to Googlebot is very low. Digging further, we saw their usage was contradicted by other rules in all but 0.001% of all robots.txt files on the internet. These mistakes hurt websites' presence in Google's search results in ways we don’t think webmasters intended.
In the interest of maintaining a healthy ecosystem and preparing for potential future open source releases, we're retiring all code that handles unsupported and unpublished rules (such as noindex) on September 1, 2019. For those of you who relied on the noindex indexing directive in the robots.txt file, which controls crawling, there are a number of alternative options:
  • Noindex in robots meta tags: Supported both in the HTTP response headers and in HTML, the noindex directive is the most effective way to remove URLs from the index when crawling is allowed.
  • 404 and 410 HTTP status codes: Both status codes mean that the page does not exist, which will drop such URLs from Google's index once they're crawled and processed.
  • Password protection: Unless markup is used to indicate subscription or paywalled content, hiding a page behind a login will generally remove it from Google's index.
  • Disallow in robots.txt: Search engines can only index pages that they know about, so blocking the page from being crawled usually means its content won’t be indexed.  While the search engine may also index a URL based on links from other pages, without seeing the content itself, we aim to make such pages less visible in the future.
  • Search Console Remove URL tool: The tool is a quick and easy method to remove a URL temporarily from Google's search results.
For more guidance about how to remove information from Google's search results, visit our Help Center. If you have questions, you can find us on Twitter and in our Webmaster Community, both offline and online.

Posted by Gary
Categories: Web Design

7 Best CSS Optimization Tips for Better Page Load Times

In today’s web, page load time is one of the most important website metrics. Even milliseconds can have a huge impact on your bottom line and slow page loads...

The post 7 Best CSS Optimization Tips for Better Page Load Times appeared first on Onextrapixel.

Categories: Web Design

Google's robots.txt parser is now open source

Google Webmaster Central Blog - Mon, 07/01/2019 - 06:00
For 25 years, the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) was only a de-facto standard. This had frustrating implications sometimes. On one hand, for webmasters, it meant uncertainty in corner cases, like when their text editor included BOM characters in their robots.txt files. On the other hand, for crawler and tool developers, it also brought uncertainty; for example, how should they deal with robots.txt files that are hundreds of megabytes large?

Today, we announced that we're spearheading the effort to make the REP an internet standard. While this is an important step, it means extra work for developers who parse robots.txt files.
We're here to help: we open sourced the C++ library that our production systems use for parsing and matching rules in robots.txt files. This library has been around for 20 years and it contains pieces of code that were written in the 90's. Since then, the library evolved; we learned a lot about how webmasters write robots.txt files and corner cases that we had to cover for, and added what we learned over the years also to the internet draft when it made sense.
We also included a testing tool in the open source package to help you test a few rules. Once built, the usage is very straightforward:
robots_main <robots.txt content> <user_agent> <url>
If you want to check out the library, head over to our GitHub repository for the robots.txt parser. We'd love to see what you can build using it! If you built something using the library, drop us a comment on Twitter, and if you have comments or questions about the library, find us on GitHub.
Posted by Edu Pereda, Lode Vandevenne, and Gary, Search Open Sourcing team
Categories: Web Design

CSS Custom Properties In The Cascade

Smashing Magazine - Mon, 07/01/2019 - 03:30
CSS Custom Properties In The Cascade CSS Custom Properties In The Cascade Miriam Suzanne 2019-07-01T12:30:59+02:00 2019-07-01T12:46:47+00:00

Last month, I had a conversation on Twitter about the difference between “scoped” styles (generated in a build process) and “nested” styles native to CSS. I asked why, anecdotally, developers avoid the specificity of ID selectors, while embracing “scoped styles” generated by JavaScript? Keith Grant suggested that the difference lies in balancing the cascade* and inheritance, i.e. giving preference to proximity over specificity. Let’s take a look.

The Cascade

The CSS cascade is based on three factors:

  1. Importance defined by the !important flag, and style origin (user > author > browser)
  2. Specificity of the selectors used (inline > ID > class > element)
  3. Source Order of the code itself (latest takes precedence)

Proximity is not mentioned anywhere — the DOM-tree relationship between parts of a selector. The paragraphs below will both be red, even though #inner p describes a closer relationship than #outer p for the second paragraph:

See the Pen [Cascade: Specificity vs Proximity](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/OexweJ/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Cascade: Specificity vs Proximity by Miriam Suzanne. <section id="outer"> <p>This text is red</p> <div id="inner"> <p>This text is also red!</p> </div> </section> #inner p { color: green; } #outer p { color: red; }

Both selectors have the same specificity, they are both describing the same p element, and neither is flagged as !important — so the result is based on source-order alone.

BEM And Scoped Styles

Naming conventions like BEM (“Block__Element—Modifier”) are used to ensure that each paragraph is “scoped” to only one parent, avoiding the cascade entirely. Paragraph “elements” are given unique classes specific to their “block” context:

See the Pen [BEM Selectors & Proximity](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/qzPyeM/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen BEM Selectors & Proximity by Miriam Suzanne. <section class="outer"> <p class="outer__p">This text is red</p> <div class="inner"> <p class="inner__p">This text is green!</p> </div> </section> .inner__p { color: green; } .outer__p { color: red; }

These selectors still have the same relative importance, specificity, and source order — but the results are different. “Scoped” or “modular” CSS tools automate that process, re-writing our CSS for us, based on the HTML. In the code below, each paragraph is scoped to its direct parent:

See the Pen [Scoped Style Proximity](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/NZaLWN/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Scoped Style Proximity by Miriam Suzanne. <section outer-scope> <p outer-scope>This text is red</p> <div outer-scope inner-scope> <p inner-scope>This text is green!</p> </div> </section> p[inner-scope] { color: green } p[outer-scope] { color: red; } Inheritance

Proximity is not part of the cascade, but it is part of CSS. That’s where inheritance becomes important. If we drop the p from our selectors, each paragraph will inherit a color from its closest ancestor:

See the Pen [Inheritance: Specificity vs Proximity](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/mZBGyN/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Inheritance: Specificity vs Proximity by Miriam Suzanne. #inner { color: green; } #outer { color: red; }

Since #inner and #outer describe different elements, our div and section respectively, both color properties are applied without conflict. The nested p element has no color specified, so the results are determined by inheritance (the color of the direct parent) rather than cascade. Proximity takes precedence, and the #inner value overrides the #outer.

But there’s a problem: In order to use inheritance, we are styling everything inside our section and div. We want to target the paragraph color specifically.

(Re-)Introducing Custom Properties

Custom properties provide a new, browser-native solution; they inherit like any other property, but they don’t have to be used where they are defined. Using plain CSS, without any naming conventions or build tools, we can create a style that is both targeted and contextual, with proximity taking precedence over the cascade:

See the Pen [Custom Props: Specificity vs Proximity](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/gNGdaO/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Specificity vs Proximity by Miriam Suzanne. p { color: var(--paragraph); } #inner { --paragraph: green; } #outer { --paragraph: red; }

The custom --paragraph property inherits just like the color property, but now we have control over exactly how and where that value is applied. The --paragraph property acts similar to a parameter that can be passed into the p component, either through direct selection (specificity-rules) or context (proximity-rules).

I think this reveals a potential for custom properties that we often associate with functions, mixins, or components.

Custom “Functions” And Parameters

Functions, mixins, and components are all based on the same idea: reusable code, that can be run with various input parameters to get consistent-but-configurable results. The distinction is in what they do with the results. We’ll start with a striped-gradient variable, and then we can extend it into other forms:

html { --stripes: linear-gradient( to right, powderblue 20%, pink 20% 40%, white 40% 60%, pink 60% 80%, powderblue 80% ); }

That variable is defined on the root html element (could also use :root, but that adds unnecessary specificity), so our striped variable will be available everywhere in the document. We can apply it anywhere gradients are supported:

See the Pen [Custom Props: Variable](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/NZwrrm/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Variable by Miriam Suzanne. body { background-image: var(--stripes); } Adding Parameters

Functions are used like variables, but define parameters for changing the output. We can update our --stripes variable to be more function-like by defining some parameter-like variables inside it. I’ll start by replacing to right with var(--stripes-angle), to create an angle-changing parameter:

html { --stripes: linear-gradient( var(--stripes-angle), powderblue 20%, pink 20% 40%, white 40% 60%, pink 60% 80%, powderblue 80% ); }

There are other parameters we could create, depending on what purpose the function is meant to serve. Should we allow users to pick their own stripe colors? If so, does our function accept 5 different color parameters or only 3 that will go outside-in like we have now? Do we want to create parameters for color-stops as well? Every parameter we add provides more customization at the cost of simplicity and consistency.

There is no universal right answer to that balance — some functions need to be more flexible, and others need to be more opinionated. Abstractions exist to provide consistency and readability in your code, so take a step back and ask what your goals are. What really needs to be customizable, and where should consistency be enforced? In some cases, it might be more helpful to have two opinionated functions, rather than one fully-customizable function.

To use the function above, we need to pass in a value for the --stripes-angle parameter, and apply the output to a CSS output property, like background-image:

/* in addition to the code above… */ html { --stripes-angle: 75deg; background-image: var(--stripes); }

See the Pen [Custom Props: Function](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/BgwOjj/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Function by Miriam Suzanne. Inherited Versus Universal

I defined the --stripes function on the html element out of habit. Custom properties inherit, and I want my function available everywhere, so it makes some sense to put it on the root element. That works well for inheriting variables like --brand-color: blue, so we might also expect it to work for our “function” as well. But if we try to use this function again on a nested selector, it won’t work:

See the Pen [Custom Props: Function Inheritance Fail](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/RzjRrM/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Function Inheritance Fail by Miriam Suzanne. div { --stripes-angle: 90deg; background-image: var(--stripes); }

The new --stripes-angle is ignored entirely. It turns out we can’t rely on inheritance for functions that need to be re-calculated. That’s because each property value is computed once per element (in our case, the html root element), and then the computed value is inherited. By defining our function at the document root, we don’t make the entire function available to descendants — only the computed result of our function.

That makes sense if you frame it in terms of the cascading --stripes-angle parameter. Like any inherited CSS property, it is available to descendants but not ancestors. The value we set on a nested div is not available to a function we defined on the html root ancestor. In order to create a universally-available function that will re-calculate on any element, we have to define it on every element:

See the Pen [Custom Props: Universal Function](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/agLaNj/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Universal Function by Miriam Suzanne. * { --stripes: linear-gradient( var(--stripes-angle), powderblue 20%, pink 20% 40%, white 40% 60%, pink 60% 80%, powderblue 80% ); }

The universal selector makes our function available everywhere, but we can define it more narrowly if we want. The important thing is that it can only re-calculate where it is explicitly defined. Here are some alternatives:

/* make the function available to elements with a given selector */ .stripes { --stripes: /* etc… */; } /* make the function available to elements nested inside a given selector */ .stripes * { --stripes: /* etc… */; } /* make the function available to siblings following a given selector */ .stripes ~ * { --stripes: /* etc… */; }

See the Pen [Custom Props: Scoped Function](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/JQMvGM/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Scoped Function by Miriam Suzanne.

This can be extended with any selector logic that doesn’t rely on inheritance.

Free Parameters And Fallback Values

In our example above, var(--stripes-angle) has no value and no fallback. Unlike Sass or JS variables that must be defined or instantiated before they are called, CSS custom properties can be called without ever being defined. This creates a “free” variable, similar to a function parameter that can be inherited from the context.

We can eventually define the variable on html or :root (or any other ancestor) to set an inherited value, but first we need to consider the fallback if no value is defined. There are several options, depending on exactly what behavior we want

  1. For “required” parameters, we don’t want a fallback. As-is, the function will do nothing until --stripes-angle is defined.
  2. For “optional” parameters, we can provide a fallback value in the var() function. After the variable-name, we add a comma, followed by the default value:
var(--stripes-angle, 90deg)

Each var() function can only have one fallback — so any additional commas will be part of that value. That makes it possible to provide complex defaults with internal commas:

html { /* Computed: Hevetica, Ariel, sans-serif */ font-family: var(--sans-family, Hevetica, Ariel, sans-serif); /* Computed: 0 -1px 0 white, 0 1px 0 black */ test-shadow: var(--shadow, 0 -1px 0 white, 0 1px 0 black); }

We can also use nested variables to create our own cascade rules, giving different priorities to the different values:

var(--stripes-angle, var(--global-default-angle, 90deg))
  1. First, try our explicit parameter (--stripes-angle);
  2. Fallback to a global “user default” (--user-default-angle) if it’s available;
  3. Finally, fallback to our “factory default” (90deg).

See the Pen [Custom Props: Fallback Values](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/jjGvVm/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Fallback Values by Miriam Suzanne.

By setting fallback values in var() rather than defining the custom property explicitly, we ensure that there are no specificity or cascade restrictions on the parameter. All the *-angle parameters are “free” to be inherited from any context.

Browser Fallbacks Versus Variable Fallbacks

When we’re using variables, there are two fallback paths we need to keep in mind:

  1. What value should be used by browsers without variable support?
  2. What value should be used by browsers that support variables, when a particular variable is missing or invalid?
p { color: blue; color: var(--paragraph); }

While old browsers will ignore the variable declaration property, and fallback to blue — modern browsers will read both and use the latter. Our var(--paragraph) might not be defined, but it is valid and will override the previous property, so browsers with variable support will fallback to the inherited or initial value, as if using the unset keyword.

That may seem confusing at first, but there are good reasons for it. The first is technical: browser engines handle invalid or unknown syntax at “parse time” (which happens first), but variables are not resolved until “computed-value time” (which happens later).

  1. At parse time, declarations with invalid syntax are ignored completely — falling back on earlier declarations. This is the path that old browsers will follow. Modern browsers support the variable syntax, so the previous declaration is discarded instead.
  2. At computed-value time the variable is compiled as invalid, but it’s too late — the previous declaration was already discarded. According to the spec, invalid variable values are treated the same as unset:

See the Pen [Custom Props: Invalid/Unsupported vs Undefined](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/VJMGbJ/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Invalid/Unsupported vs Undefined by Miriam Suzanne. html { color: red; /* ignored as *invalid syntax* by all browsers */ /* - old browsers: red */ /* - new browsers: red */ color: not a valid color; color: var(not a valid variable name); /* ignored as *invalid syntax* by browsers without var support */ /* valid syntax, but invalid *values* in modern browsers */ /* - old browsers: red */ /* - new browsers: unset (black) */ --invalid-value: not a valid color value; color: var(--undefined-variable); color: var(--invalid-value); }

This is also good for us as authors, because it allows us to play with more complex fallbacks for the browsers that support variables, and provide simple fallbacks for older browsers. Even better, that allows us to use the null/undefined state to set required parameters. This becomes especially important if we want to turn a function into a mixin or component.

Custom Property “Mixins”

In Sass, the functions return raw values, while mixins generally return actual CSS output with property-value pairs. When we define a universal --stripes property, without applying it to any visual output, the result is function-like. We can make that behave more like a mixin, by defining the output universally as well:

* { --stripes: linear-gradient( var(--stripes-angle), powderblue 20%, pink 20% 40%, white 40% 60%, pink 60% 80%, powderblue 80% ); background-image: var(--stripes); }

As long as --stripes-angle remains invalid or undefined, the mixin fails to compile, and no background-image will be applied. If we set a valid angle on any element, the function will compute and give us a background:

div { --stripes-angle: 30deg; /* generates the background */ }

Unfortunately, that parameter-value will inherit, so the current definition creates a background on the div and all descendants. To fix that, we have to make sure the --stripes-angle value doesn’t inherit, by resting it to initial (or any invalid value) on every element. We can do that on the same universal selector:

See the Pen [Custom Props: Mixin](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/ZdXMJx/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Mixin by Miriam Suzanne. * { --stripes-angle: initial; --stripes: /* etc… */; background-image: var(--stripes); } Safe Inline Styles

In some cases, we need the parameter to be set dynamically from outside CSS — based on data from a back-end server or front-end framework. With custom properties, we can safely define variables in our HTML without worrying about the usual specificity issues:

See the Pen [Custom Props: Mixin + Inline Style](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/qzPMPv/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Mixin + Inline Style by Miriam Suzanne. <div style="--stripes-angle: 30deg">...</div>

Inline styles have a high specificity, and are very hard to override — but with custom properties, we we have another option: ignore it. If we set the div to background-image: none (for example) that inline variable will have no impact. To take it even farther, we can create an intermediate variable:

* { --stripes-angle: var(--stripes-angle-dynamic, initial); }

Now we have the option to define --stripes-angle-dynamic in the HTML, or ignore it, and set --stripes-angle directly in our stylesheet.

See the Pen [Custom Props: Mixin + Inline / Override](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/ZdXMao/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Mixin + Inline / Override by Miriam Suzanne. Preset Values

For more complex values, or common patterns we want to re-use, we can also provide a few preset variables to choose from:

* { --tilt-down: 6deg; --tilt-up: -6deg; }

And use those presets, rather than setting the value directly:

<div style="--stripes-angle: var(--tilt-down)">...</div>

See the Pen [Custom Props: Mixin + Presets](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/LKemZm/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Mixin + Presets by Miriam Suzanne.

This is great for creating charts and graphs based on dynamic data, or even laying out a day planner.

See the Pen [Bar chart in CSS grid + variables](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/wLrEyg/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Bar chart in CSS grid + variables by Miriam Suzanne. Contextual Components

We can also re-frame our “mixin” as a “component” by applying it to an explicit selector, and making the parameters optional. Rather than relying on the presence-or-absence of --stripes-angle to toggle our output, we can rely on the presence-or-absence of a component selector. That allows us to set fallback values safely:

See the Pen [Custom Props: Component](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/QXqVmM/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Component by Miriam Suzanne. [data-stripes] { --stripes: linear-gradient( var(--stripes-angle, to right), powderblue 20%, pink 20% 40%, white 40% 60%, pink 60% 80%, powderblue 80% ); background-image: var(--stripes); }

By putting the fallback inside the var() function, we can leave --stripes-angle undefined and “free” to inherit a value from outside the component. This is a great way to expose certain aspects of a component style to contextual input. Even “scoped” styles generated by a JS framework (or scoped inside the shadow-DOM, like SVG icons) can use this approach to expose specific parameters for outside influence.

Isolated Components

If we don’t want to expose the parameter for inheritance, we can define the variable with a default value:

[data-stripes] { --stripes-angle: to right; --stripes: linear-gradient( var(--stripes-angle, to right), powderblue 20%, pink 20% 40%, white 40% 60%, pink 60% 80%, powderblue 80% ); background-image: var(--stripes); }

These components would also work with a class, or any other valid selector, but I chose the data-attribute to create a namespace for any modifiers we want:

[data-stripes='vertical'] { --stripes-angle: to bottom; } [data-stripes='horizontal'] { --stripes-angle: to right; } [data-stripes='corners'] { --stripes-angle: to bottom right; }

See the Pen [Custom Props: Isolated Components](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/agLaGX/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Isolated Components by Miriam Suzanne. Selectors and Parameters

I often wish I could use data-attributes to set a variable — a feature supported by the CSS3 attr() specification, but not yet implemented in any browsers (see the resources tab for linked issues on each browser). That would allow us to more closely associate a selector with a particular parameter:

<div data-stripes="30deg">...</div> /* Part of the CSS3 spec, but not yet supported */ /* attr( , ) */ [data-stripes] { --stripes-angle: attr(data-stripes angle, to right); }

In the meantime, we can achieve something similar by using the style attribute:

See the Pen [Custom Props: Style Selectors](https://codepen.io/smashingmag/pen/PrJdBG/) by Miriam Suzanne.

See the Pen Custom Props: Style Selectors by Miriam Suzanne. <div style="--stripes-angle: 30deg">...</div> /* The `*=` atttribute selector will match a string anywhere in the attribute */ [style*='--stripes-angle'] { /* Only define the function where we want to call it */ --stripes: linear-gradient(…); }

This approach is most useful when we want to include other properties in addition to the parameter being set. For example, setting a grid area could also add padding and background:

[style*='--grid-area'] { background-color: white; grid-area: var(--grid-area, auto / 1 / auto / -1); padding: 1em; } Conclusion

When we start to put all these pieces together, it becomes clear that custom properties go far beyond the common variable use-cases we’re familiar with. We’re not only able to store values, and scope them to the cascade — but we can use them to manipulate the cascade in new ways, and create smarter components directly in CSS.

This calls for us to re-think many of the tools we’ve relied on in the past — from naming conventions like SMACSS and BEM, to “scoped” styles and CSS-in-JS. Many of those tools help work around specificity, or manage dynamic styles in another language — use-cases that we can now address directly with custom properties. Dynamic styles that we’ve often calculated in JS, can now be handled by passing raw data into the CSS.

At first, these changes may be seen as “added complexity” — since we’re not used to seeing logic inside CSS. And, as with all code, over-engineering can be a real danger. But I’d argue that in many cases, we can use this power not to add complexity, but to move complexity out of third-party tools and conventions, back into the core language of web design, and (more importantly) back into the browser. If our styles require calculation, that calculation ought to live inside our CSS.

All of these ideas can be taken much further. Custom properties are just starting to see wider adoption, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible. I’m excited to see where this goes, and what else people come up with. Have fun!

Further Reading (dm, il)
Categories: Web Design

Formalizing the Robots Exclusion Protocol Specification

Google Webmaster Central Blog - Mon, 07/01/2019 - 03:03
For 25 years, the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) has been one of the most basic and critical components of the web. It allows website owners to exclude automated clients, for example web crawlers, from accessing their sites - either partially or completely.
In 1994, Martijn Koster (a webmaster himself) created the initial standard after crawlers were overwhelming his site. With more input from other webmasters, the REP was born, and it was adopted by search engines to help website owners manage their server resources easier.
However, the REP was never turned into an official Internet standard, which means that developers have interpreted the protocol somewhat differently over the years. And since its inception, the REP hasn't been updated to cover today's corner cases. This is a challenging problem for website owners because the ambiguous de-facto standard made it difficult to write the rules correctly.
We wanted to help website owners and developers create amazing experiences on the internet instead of worrying about how to control crawlers. Together with the original author of the protocol, webmasters, and other search engines, we've documented how the REP is used on the modern web, and submitted it to the IETF.
The proposed REP draft reflects over 20 years of real world experience of relying on robots.txt rules, used both by Googlebot and other major crawlers, as well as about half a billion websites that rely on REP. These fine grained controls give the publisher the power to decide what they'd like to be crawled on their site and potentially shown to interested users. It doesn't change the rules created in 1994, but rather defines essentially all undefined scenarios for robots.txt parsing and matching, and extends it for the modern web. Notably:
  1. Any URI based transfer protocol can use robots.txt. For example, it's not limited to HTTP anymore and can be used for FTP or CoAP as well.
  2. Developers must parse at least the first 500 kibibytes of a robots.txt. Defining a maximum file size ensures that connections are not open for too long, alleviating unnecessary strain on servers.
  3. A new maximum caching time of 24 hours or cache directive value if available, gives website owners the flexibility to update their robots.txt whenever they want, and crawlers aren't overloading websites with robots.txt requests. For example, in the case of HTTP, Cache-Control headers could be used for determining caching time.
  4. The specification now provisions that when a previously accessible robots.txt file becomes inaccessible due to server failures, known disallowed pages are not crawled for a reasonably long period of time.
Additionally, we've updated the augmented Backus–Naur form in the internet draft to better define the syntax of robots.txt, which is critical for developers to parse the lines.
RFC stands for Request for Comments, and we mean it: we uploaded the draft to IETF to get feedback from developers who care about the basic building blocks of the internet. As we work to give web creators the controls they need to tell us how much information they want to make available to Googlebot, and by extension, eligible to appear in Search, we have to make sure we get this right.
If you'd like to drop us a comment, ask us questions, or just say hi, you can find us on Twitter and in our Webmaster Community, both offline and online.

Posted by Henner Zeller, Lizzi Harvey, and Gary
Categories: Web Design

The Joys Of July (2019 Wallpapers Edition)

Smashing Magazine - Sun, 06/30/2019 - 01:30
The Joys Of July (2019 Wallpapers Edition) The Joys Of July (2019 Wallpapers Edition) Cosima Mielke 2019-06-30T10:30:34+02:00 2019-07-01T12:46:47+00:00

A scoop of their favorite ice cream, a bike ride in the summer rain, or listening to the frog concert by the nearby lake — a lot of little things and precious moments have inspired the design community to create a wallpaper this July.

This monthly wallpapers challenge has been going on for more than nine years now, and each time anew, artists and designers from across the globe take it as an occasion to tickle their creativity and cater for beautiful, unique, and thought-provoking wallpaper designs. Wallpapers that are bound to get your ideas sparking, too.

The wallpapers in this collection all come in versions with and without a calendar for July 2019 and can be downloaded for free. A big thank-you to everyone who submitted their designs! At the end of this post, we also compiled some July favorites from past years’ editions that are just too good to be forgotten. Enjoy!

Please note that:

  • All images can be clicked on and lead to the preview of the wallpaper,
  • You can feature your work in our magazine, too. So if you have an idea for an August wallpaper design, please don’t hesitate to submit it. We’d love to see what you’ll come up with.

Further Reading on SmashingMag:

Hello, Strawberry Sundae!

“Is there anything more refreshing (and more delicious!) than a strawberry sundae on a hot summer day? Well, we don’t think so. And did you know that strawberry celebration is on its way in the U.S. Oh, yes! July 7th is the National Strawberry Sundae Day, and we predict that it’s going to be sweet and yummy. So, make your favorite dessert and start preparing yourself for the festive July days.” — Designed by PopArt Studio from Serbia.

Riding In The Drizzle

“Rain has come, showering the existence with new seeds of life… Everywhere life is blooming, as if they were asleep and the falling music of raindrops have awakened them… Feel the drops of rain… Feel this beautiful mystery of life… Listen to its music, melt into it…” — Designed by DMS Software from India.

We All Scream For Ice Cream

“There are two things that come to mind when I think about July: ice cream and the Fourth of July!” — Designed by Alyssa Merkel from the United States.

My July

Designed by Cátia Pereira from Portugal.

Alentejo Plain

“Based on the Alentejo region, south of Portugal, where there are large plains used for growing wheat. It thus represents the extensions of the fields of cultivation and their simplicity. Contrast of the plain with the few trees in the fields. Storks that at this time of year predominate in this region, being part of the Alentejo landscape and mentioned in the singing of Alentejo.” — Designed by José Guerra from Portugal.

Frogs In The Night

“July is coming and the nights are warmer. Frogs look at the moon while they talk about their day.” — Designed by Veronica Valenzuela from Spain.

July Rocks!

Designed by Joana Moreira from Portugal.

Plastic Bag Free Day

“The objective of this date is to draw attention to the production and over-consumption of plastic bags worldwide, presenting alternatives to solve this serious environmental problem. It is urgent to change the behavior of all human beings regarding the use of plastic bags. For the preservation of the environment, we should use the same plastic bag for shopping, recycling or use paper bags. In this wallpaper I drew a plastic bag with a turtle inside it, as if it was imprisoned by its own bag, as if the ocean was reduced to a plastic bag, emphasizing the seriousness of this environmental problem, which has tortured both turtles and many others marine species.” — Designed by Carolina Santos from Portugal.

Save The Tigers

“Global Tiger Day, often called International Tiger Day, is an annual celebration to raise awareness for tiger conservation, held annually on July 29. It was created in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit. The goal of the day is to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitats of tigers and to raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues.” — Designed by Athulya from Calicut.


“I was inspired by Hawaii type of scenarios with some reference to surf.” — Designed by Sónia Fernandes from Portugal.

Friendship Day

“The lower part of the image is represented in a more realistic and detailed form and represents the basis of the friendship, conveying a strong connection both in the simplicity and strength of the gestures, hands and medals that both children wear around their necks are symbols of this union. In terms of color I chose to use the ash scale, referring to the old photograph, implying the idea of a long duration of the relations of friendships and the memories we keep of our childhood friends, the illustration represented portrays a memory of mine, which makes it very personal. At the top of the wallpaper, the identity of the two characters appears pixelated, suggesting an idea of building deconstruction, through colored squares that come together and move away, as a symbol of connections and the sharing of emotions, which build and strengthen bonds of friendship.” — Designed by Carolina Santos from Portugal.

Yellow Lemon Tree

“Summer is here, enjoy it and cool and stay hydrated!” — Designed by Melissa Bogemans from Belgium.

Summer Energy

Designed by IQUADART from Belarus.

Heat Wave

Designed by Ricardo Gimenes from Sweden.

Season Of Wind

“Summer is the season of wind. I like to stand on top of the mountains, hearing the song of the wind flying through the meadow.” — Designed by Anh Nguyet Tran from Vietnam.

Oldies But Goodies

Let’s go an a journey back in time: Down in our wallpaper archives, we rediscovered some July classics that are just too good to gather dust. May we present… (Please note that these designs don’t come with a calendar.)

Fire Camp

“What’s better than a starry summer night with an (unexpected) friend around a fire camp with some marshmallows? Happy July!” — Designed by Etienne Mansard from the UK.

Heated Mountains

“Warm summer weather inspired the color palette.” — Designed by Marijana Pivac from Croatia.

Tutti Frutti

“July is National Ice Cream Month and who needs an invitation for a scoop or two, or three! Lacking the real thing, our Tutti Frutti wallpaper can satisfy until your next creamy indulgence.” — Designed by Karen Frolo from the United States.

Memories In July

“Words are few, thoughts are deep, memories of you we’ll always keep.” — Designed by Suman Sil from India.

Cactus Hug

Designed by Ilaria Bagnasco from Italy.

Keep Moving Forward

“Snails can be inspiring! If you keep heading towards your goal, even if it is just tiny steps, enjoy the journey and hopefully it will be worth the effort.” — Designed by Glynnis Owen from Australia.

Sand And Waves

“What do you do in summer? You go to the beach. Even if you can’t go — feel the waves and sand and sun through this funny wallpaper.” — Designed by Olga Lepaeva from Russia.

Island River

“Make sure you have a refreshing source of ideas, plans and hopes this July. Especially if you are to escape from urban life for a while.” — Designed by Igor Izhik from Canada.

Ice Cream vs. Hot Dog

“It’s both ‘National Ice Cream Month’ and ‘National Hot Dog Month’ over in the US, which got me thinking — which is better? With this as your wallpaper, you can ponder the question all month!” — Designed by James Mitchell from the UK.

Summer Heat

Designed by Xenia Latii from Berlin, Germany.

Peaceful Memories

“July is one of the most beautiful months of the year. Enjoy every day, every hour, which gives us this month!” — Designed by Nikolay Belikov from Russia.

Floral Thing

“The wallpaper which I created consists of my personal sketches of Polish herbs and flowers and custom typography. I wanted it to be light and simple with a hint of romantic feeling. I hope you’ll enjoy it!” — Designed by Beata Kurek from Poland.

An Intrusion Of Cockroaches

“Ever watched Joe’s Apartment when you were a kid? Well that movie left a soft spot in my heart for the little critters. Don’t get me wrong: I won’t invite them over for dinner, but I won’t grab my flip flop and bring the wrath upon them when I see one running in the house. So there you have it… three roaches… bringing the smack down on that pesky human… ZZZZZZZAP!!” — Designed by Wonderland Collective from South Africa.

Celebrate Freedom

“This wallpaper encourages you to appreciate and celebrate the country’s freedom as well as your own!” — Designed by Marina Zhukov from the USA.

Hot Air Balloon

Designed by Studcréa from France

Only One

Designed by Elise Vanoorbeek from Belgium

Cool Summer

“Even though it is not summer in my country, I made a summer theme. A cool approach to summer themes, tough, very fresh and ‘twilighty’.” — Designed by Marcos Sandrini from Brazil.

Birdie Nam Nam

“I have created a pattern that has a summer feeling. For me July and summer is bright color, joy and lots of different flowers and birds. So naturally I incorporated all these elements in a crazy pattern.” — Designed by Lina Karlsson, Idadesign Ab from Sweden.

Sun In July

”…enjoy the sun in July!” — Designed by Marco Palma from Italy/Germany.

Join In Next Month!

Please note that we respect and carefully consider the ideas and motivation behind each and every artist’s work. This is why we give all artists the full freedom to explore their creativity and express emotions and experience throughout their works. This is also why the themes of the wallpapers weren’t anyhow influenced by us but rather designed from scratch by the artists themselves.

Thank you to all designers for their participation. Join in next month!

Categories: Web Design

Better Search UX Through Microcopy

Smashing Magazine - Fri, 06/28/2019 - 03:30
Better Search UX Through Microcopy Better Search UX Through Microcopy Andrew Millen 2019-06-28T12:30:59+02:00 2019-07-01T12:46:47+00:00

It’s hard to overstate the importance of web search. Searching is as old as the Internet itself, and by some measures, even older. A well-designed search benefits both you and your users; it increases conversions, reduces bounce rates, and improves the user experience.

Search is especially important on large scale sites and e-commerce experiences, where the majority of revenue comes from search-driven sessions. Studies show that up to 50% of users go straight to the internal search bar of a website, and that 15% outright prefer using the search function to browsing the hierarchical menu. This means that for all the love and care that goes into determining the information architecture of a site, just as much has to go into designing the search experience.

Complicating the problem is the fact that users’ search skills are flimsy at best, and incompetent at worst. Getting good results from a search engine often requires multiple attempts and reformulations, which users rarely do. And as search technology improves over time, users are increasingly likely to accept the results of a search as the answer to their question, even if their query was flawed. Users who favor searches tend to move quickly, scanning the page for that familiar-looking rectangle, and bouncing quickly when they don’t find what they’re looking for.

Communicating with those users “at speed” is a tricky job that requires a specialized tool: microcopy. The name ‘microcopy’ belies its own importance. It may be small, but big successes often hinge on it. It’s a place where voice can shine through, where good impressions are made, and where utility and branding intersect. With that in mind, let’s dive into the many ways that microcopy and contextualization can vastly improve a search experience.

Placing And Labeling Your Search

In accordance with Jakob’s Law, your first instinct when designing a search bar should be to put a rectangular box in the upper right or upper left corner. You should add a label or A11y-friendly placeholder text, and include a submit button that says “Search.”

Hiding the search bar behind a link, forgoing placeholder text, or opting for magnifying glass icon CTA instead of plain text are all valid design decisions in the right context. Just make sure you’re not abstracting the function of the search bar unnecessarily because searching already has a higher interaction cost than browsing.

Every barrier, however inconsequential you may find it as a designer, risks negatively affecting the UX and your bottom line. If there’s a risk your users may confuse the magnifying glass icon for a “zoom” button, you should mitigate that.

Placeholder Text

Placeholder text is a great place to enhance the experience. It can be informational, it can be a place for brand expression, and it can nudge wavering users in the right direction. Anytime I see a search bar that just says “Search,” I see a missed opportunity.

So what’s a better approach? It varies from site to site. First, familiarize yourself with your business goals, your brand, and your users’ existing habits. Then, consider how you can be the most helpful.

Nudge The User

A suggestive approach can reduce the user’s anxiety. Clue your users into the fact that they can search in multiple ways, especially if they may not be familiar with your full range of products or services. ASOS suggests searching for inspiration in addition to products and brands:

(Image source: ASOS) (Large preview) Be Informative

Tell the user exactly what they’ll be getting when they hit submit. On Shutterstock, a site wholly devoted to the search of a massive photo archive, this placeholder text cleverly doubles as a tagline when paired with the logo:

(Image source: Shutterstock) (Large preview) Reinforce The Brand

Home Depot’s search bar doesn’t lead the user, but instead presents a helpful, personal tone which I’m sure is in line with their brand voice guidelines. This is probably the best approach considering the size of their product catalog:

(Image source: The Home Depot) (Large preview) Using Search Logs To Your Advantage

If you’re not sure the best way to optimize your placeholder text, a good place to start is your search log database. Learning how to break down these results can be incredibly valuable when formulating helpful content design. You’ll be able to see first-hand the vocabulary people use to search your site, and more importantly, the gaps between what you offer and what your users are looking for.

Suggested, Related, And Recent Searches

During the search process, your copy should offer as much help along the way as possible without being overbearing. That includes everything from an obvious “Cancel” or “Clear” button to logging each user’s recent searches for surfacing later. When choosing the right microcopy to accompany these features, add a dash of brown sauce.


Users who use the search bar are doing so because they’re looking for something specific, which makes autosuggestions a valuable (and increasingly expected) tool. Specificity, in this case, may be as focused as “Women’s gray shoe size 9M” or as open-ended as “Sandwich shops near me.”

Autosuggestions also reduce the risk of returning bad results, alleviate the mental effort on the user, and present an opportunity to surface your most popular products.

(Image source: Chewy) (Large preview)

Often these don’t require additional context or copy at all, but can just be listed below the search bar as the user types, as shown in the example above.

Related Searches

Showing related searches on the results page is another way to help guide users without getting in the way. A common pattern is providing a few clickable keywords related to the original query above the results. A little copy that states “Other users searched for” is a good way to incorporate social proof into the search experience.

Recent Searches

If your technology allows it, saving and resurfacing recent searches is another way to helpfully reduce the memory load on the user. Make sure you add context with copy, but it can be as straightforward as this:

(Image source: Macy’s) (Large preview) Handling Results

There are a two pieces of copy that I’d consider required when displaying search results:

  1. The query itself.
    If the search bar is highly visible, it can be displayed here. You can also create an H1 that states "Results for {{terms}}."
  2. The number of results.
    If the results are paginated, you might also include the number of pages.
(Image source: REI Co-op) (Large preview) No Results

Whether through their own error not, users will inevitably encounter a “no results” page at some point. Luckily, there are ways to handle this gracefully; in fact, with the right approach, this dead end can actually be a great opportunity for content discovery.

First of all, don’t expect your users to refine their search if they get no results — at least not without a UI that encourages it. Users are reluctant to reformulate their query and have trouble when trying to. They’re more likely to engage with whatever information they’re presented with and take it from there, or abandon the task entirely. (When was the last time you clicked through to the second page of Google search results?)

That said, it’s easy to see how a little copywriting and contextualization can improve the experience. Nielsen Norman Group has a comprehensive guide on how to handle No Results SERPs, with the gist being:

  • Make it obvious there are no results.
    It’s easy to get cute and accidentally bury the lede. It’s also tempting to intentionally hide the “no results” messaging to obfuscate the error entirely. Either way, don’t trick the user.
  • Offer paths forward.
    Suggest ways to refine the search query (such as checking your spelling), and also provide links to popular content or products that have the highest likelihood of connecting with the user.
  • Strike the right tone.
    Use your brand voice, but don’t run the risk of exacerbating the situation with humor that might be ill-received by a frustrated user.

Also, bear in mind that empty SERPs may arise because a user mistakenly submitted without entering any query at all. You should have a content plan for this scenario as well rather than returning all items in the database, for example.

Wrapping Up

Writing a good search experience comes down to thoughtfulness. As designers, we’ve probably used and created hundreds of different web search experiences, so we breeze through the process. But when we consider every small step of the process (every microinteraction and every edge case), the minor changes we make can have a major impact on the experience. Next time you find yourself reaching for a visual solution to a search problem, consider using your words instead.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: (dm, yk, il)
Categories: Web Design

Build A PWA With Webpack And Workbox

Smashing Magazine - Thu, 06/27/2019 - 04:00
Build A PWA With Webpack And Workbox Build A PWA With Webpack And Workbox Jad Joubran 2019-06-27T13:00:59+02:00 2019-07-01T12:46:47+00:00

A Progressive Web App (PWA) is a site that uses modern technology to deliver app-like experiences on the web. It’s an umbrella term for new technologies such as the ‘web app manifest’, ‘service worker’, and more. When joined together, these technologies allow you to deliver fast and engaging user experiences with your website.

This article is a step-by-step tutorial for adding a service worker to an existing one-page website. The service worker will allow you to make your website work offline while also notifying your users of updates to your site. Please note that this is based on a small project that is bundled with Webpack, so we’ll be using the Workbox Webpack plugin (Workbox v4).

Using a tool to generate your service worker is the recommended approach as it lets you manage your cache efficiently. We will be using Workbox — a set of libraries that make it easy to generate your service worker code — to generate our service worker in this tutorial.

Depending on your project, you can use Workbox in three different ways:

  1. A command-line interface is available which lets you integrate workbox into any application you have;
  2. A Node.js module is available which lets you integrate workbox into any Node build tool such as gulp or grunt;
  3. A webpack plugin is available which lets you easily integrate with a project that is built with Webpack.

Webpack is a module bundler. To simplify, you can think of it as a tool that manages your JavaScript dependencies. It allows you to import JavaScript code from libraries and bundles your JavaScript together into one or many files.

To get started, clone the following repository on your computer:

git clone git@github.com:jadjoubran/workbox-tutorial-v4.git cd workbox-tutorial-v4 npm install npm run dev

Next, navigate to http://localhost:8080/. You should be able to see the currency app we’ll be using throughout this tutorial:

‘Currencies’ is a PWA that lists conversion fees of currencies against the Euro (€) currency. (Large preview) Start With An App Shell

The application shell (or ‘app shell’) is a pattern inspired from Native Apps. It will help give your app a more native look. It simply provides the app with a layout and structure without any data — a transitional screen that is aimed to improve the loading experience of your web app.

Here are some examples of app shells from native apps:

Google Inbox App Shell: A few milliseconds before the emails load into the app shell. (Large preview) Twitter’s native app on Android: App shell showing navbar, tabs, and loader. (Large preview)

And here are examples of app shells from PWAs:

The app shell of Twitter’s PWA (Large preview) The app shell of Flipkart’s PWA (Large preview)

Users like the loading experience of app shells because they despise blank screens. A blank screen makes the user feel that the website is not loading. It makes them feel as if the website were stuck.

App shells attempt to paint the navigational structure of the app as soon as possible, such as the navbar, the tab bar as well as a loader signifying that the content you’ve requested is being loaded.

So How Do You Build An App Shell?

The app shell pattern prioritizes the loading of the HTML, CSS and JavaScript that will render first. This means that we need to give those resources full priority, hence you have to inline those assets. So to build an app shell, you simply have to inline the HTML, CSS and JavaScript that are responsible for the app shell. Of course, you should not inline everything but rather stay within a limit of around 30 to 40KB total.

You can see the inlined app shell in the index.html. You can inspect the source code by checking out the index.html file, and you can preview it in the browser by deleting the <main> element in dev tools:

The App Shell that we’re building in this article. (Large preview) Does It Work Offline?

Let’s simulate going offline! Open DevTools, navigate to the network tab and tick the ‘Offline’ checkbox. When you reload the page, you will see that we will get the browser’s offline page.

The request to the homepage failed so we obviously see this as a result. (Large preview)

That’s because the initial request to / (which will load the index.html file) will fail because the Internet is offline. The only way for us to recover from that request failure is by having a service worker.

Let’s visualize the request without a service worker:

Network request goes from the browser to the Internet and back. (Icons from flaticon.com) (Large preview)

A service worker is a programmable network proxy, which means it sits in between your web page and the Internet. This lets you control incoming and outgoing network requests.

Network request gets intercepted by the service worker. (Icons from flaticon.com) (Large preview)

This is beneficial because we can now re-route this failed request to the cache (assuming we have the content in the cache).

Network request gets redirected to the cache when it already exists in the cache. (Icons from flaticon.com) (Large preview)

A service worker is also a type of Web Worker, meaning that it runs separately from your main page and doesn’t have access to either the window or document object.

Precache The App Shell

In order to make our app work offline, we’re going to start by precaching the app shell.

So let’s start by installing the Webpack Workbox plugin:

npm install --save-dev workbox-webpack-plugin

Then we’re going to open our index.js file and register the service worker:

if ("serviceWorker" in navigator){ window.addEventListener("load", () => { navigator.serviceWorker.register("/sw.js"); }) }

Next, open the webpack.config.js file and let’s configure the Workbox webpack plugin:

//add at the top const WorkboxWebpackPlugin = require("workbox-webpack-plugin"); //add inside the plugins array: plugins: [ … , new WorkboxWebpackPlugin.InjectManifest({ swSrc: "./src/src-sw.js", swDest: "sw.js" }) ]

This will instruct Workbox to use our ./src/src-sw.js file as a base. The generated file will be called sw.js and will be in the dist folder.

Then create a ./src/src-sw.js file at the root level and write the following inside of it:


Note: The self.__precacheManifest variable will be imported from a file that will be dynamically generated by workbox.

Now you’re ready to build your code with npm run build and Workbox will generate two files inside the dist folder:

  • precache-manifest.66cf63077c7e4a70ba741ee9e6a8da29.js
  • sw.js

The sw.js imports workbox from CDN as well as the precache-manifest.[chunkhash].js.

//precache-manifest.[chunkhash].js file self.__precacheManifest = (self.__precacheManifest || []).concat([ "revision": "ba8f7488757693a5a5b1e712ac29cc28", "url": "index.html" }, "url": "main.49467c51ac5e0cb2b58e.js" ]);

The precache manifest lists the names of the files that were processed by webpack and that end up in your dist folder. We will use these files to precache them in the browser. This means that when your website loads the first time and registers the service worker, it will cache these assets so that they can be used the next time.

You can also notice that some entries have a ‘revision’ whereas others don’t. That’s because the revision can sometimes be inferred from the chunkhash from the file name. For example, let’s take a closer look at the file name main.49467c51ac5e0cb2b58e.js. It has a revision is in the filename, which is the chunkhash 49467c51ac5e0cb2b58e.

This allows Workbox to understand when your files change so that it only cleans up or updates the files that were changed, rather than dumping all the cache every time you publish a new version of your service worker.

The first time you load the page, the service worker will install. You can see that in DevTools. First, the sw.js file is requested which then requests all the other files. They are clearly marked with the gear icon.

Requests marked with the ⚙️ icon are requests initiated by the service worker. (Large preview)

So Workbox will initialize and it will precache all the files that are in the precache-manifest. It is important to double check that you don’t have any unnecessary files in the precache-manifest file such as .map files or files that are not part of the app shell.

In the network tab, we can see the requests coming from the service worker. And now if you try to go offline, the app shell is already precached so it works even if we’re offline!

API calls fail when we go offline. (Large preview) Cache Dynamic Routes

Did you notice that when we went offline, the app shell works but not our data? That’s because these API calls are not part of the precached app shell. When there’s no Internet connection, these requests will fail and the user won’t be able to see the currency information.

However, these requests cannot be precached because their value comes from an API. Moreover, when you start having multiple pages, you don’t want to cache all API request in one go. Instead, you want to cache them when the user visits that page.

We call these ‘dynamic data’. They often include API calls as well as images and other assets that are requested when a user does a certain action on your website (e.g. when they browse to a new page).

You can cache these using Workbox’s routing module. Here’s how:

//add in src/src-sw.js workbox.routing.registerRoute( /https:\/\/api\.exchangeratesapi\.io\/latest/, new workbox.strategies.NetworkFirst({ cacheName: "currencies", plugins: [ new workbox.expiration.Plugin({ maxAgeSeconds: 10 * 60 // 10 minutes }) }) );

This will set up dynamic caching for any request URL that matches the URL https://api.exchangeratesapi.io/latest.

The caching strategy that we used here is called NetworkFirst; there are two other ones that are often used:

  1. CacheFirst
  2. StaleWhileRevalidate

CacheFirst will look for it in the cache first. If it’s not found, then it will get it from the network. StaleWhileRevalidate will go to the network and the cache at the same time. Return the cache’s response to the page (while in the background) it will use the new network response to update the cache for the next time it’s used.

For our use case, we had to go with NetworkFirst because we’re dealing with currency rates that change very often. However, when the user goes offline, we can at least show them the rates as they were 10 minutes ago — that’s why we used the expiration plugin with the maxAgeSeconds set to 10 * 60 seconds.

Manage App Updates

Everytime a user loads your page, the browser will run the navigator.serviceWorker.register code even though the service worker is already installed and running. This allows the browser to detect if there’s a new version of the service worker. When the browser notices that the file has not changed, it just skips the registration call. Once that file changes, the browser understands that there’s a new version of the service worker, thus it installs the new service worker parallel to the currently running service worker.

However, it pauses at the installed/waiting phase because only one service worker can be activated at the same time.

A simplified life cycle of a service worker (Large preview)

Only when all the browser windows controlled by the previous service worker are installed, then it becomes safe for the new service worker to activate.

You can also manually control that by calling skipWaiting() (or self.skipWaiting() since self is the global execution context in the service worker). However, most of the time you should only do that after asking the user if they want to get the latest update.

Thankfully, workbox-window helps us achieve this. It’s a new window library introduced in Workbox v4 that aims at simplifying common tasks on the window’s side.

Let’s start by installing it with the following:

npm install workbox-window

Next, import Workbox at the top of the file index.js:

import { Workbox } from "workbox-window";

Then we’ll replace our registration code with the below:

if ("serviceWorker" in navigator) { window.addEventListener("load", () => { const wb = new Workbox("/sw.js"); wb.register(); }); }

We’ll then find the update button which has the ID app-update and listen for the workbox-waiting event:

//add before the wb.register() const updateButton = document.querySelector("#app-update"); // Fires when the registered service worker has installed but is waiting to activate. wb.addEventListener("waiting", event => { updateButton.classList.add("show"); updateButton.addEventListener("click", () => { // Set up a listener that will reload the page as soon as the previously waiting service worker has taken control. wb.addEventListener("controlling", event => { window.location.reload(); }); // Send a message telling the service worker to skip waiting. // This will trigger the `controlling` event handler above. wb.messageSW({ type: "SKIP_WAITING" }); }); });

This code will show the update button when there’s a new update (so when the service worker is in a waiting state) and will send a SKIP_WAITING message to the service worker.

We’ll need update the service worker file and handle the SKIP_WAITING event such that it calls the skipWaiting:

//add in src-sw.js addEventListener("message", event => { if (event.data && event.data.type === "SKIP_WAITING") { skipWaiting(); });

Now run npm run dev then reload the page. Go into your code and update the navbar title to “Navbar v2”. Reload the page again, and you should be able to see the update icon.

Wrapping Up

Our website now works offline and is able to tell the user about new updates. Please keep in mind though, that the most important factor when building a PWA is the user experience. Always focus on building experiences that are easy to use by your users. We, as developers, tend to get too excited about technology and often end up forgetting about our users.

If you’d like to take this a step further, you can add a web app manifest which will allow your users to add the site to their home screen. And if you’d like to know more about Workbox, you can find the official documentation on the Workbox website.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: (dm, yk, il)
Categories: Web Design

The Ultimate Guide to Flexbox Centering

Flexbox is a popular CSS layout module that helps you position HTML elements on the screen. There are multiple use cases when it can be a godsend; horizontal and...

The post The Ultimate Guide to Flexbox Centering appeared first on Onextrapixel.

Categories: Web Design

Best Affiliate WooCommerce Plugins Compared

Tuts+ Code - Web Development - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 10:20

WooCommerce and WordPress are powerful combination for online commerce. Together they run 37% of eCommerce business online. Leveraging these two is the perfect combination for selling physical products, digital goods, and services online. 

But having the most awesome WooCommerce storefront and the best products are just a tiny part of what you need for online business success. 

You may want also to consider an affiliate program to help spread the word and get your business in front of as many eyes as you can.

Also if you run a blog, you may want to monetize it through affiliate marketing. 

On CodeCanyon you can find affiliate marketing plugins for the WooCommerce store owners who wants start his or her own affiliate network and for the blogger who wants to earn some money as an affiliate marketer. 

Let's take a quick look at some of the best affiliate WooCommerce plugins and how they compare.

Understanding Affiliate Marketing

There are billions of products—physical or digital—that are sold every day. This makes affiliate marketing one of the most popular ways of earning money. Affiliate marketing is a very reliable way of generating more leads and sales. It is based on revenue sharing.

Here is how it works:

The Merchant

Let’s say you have a beautiful WooCommerce store with lots of beautiful products. In this case you are the merchant: you have a product and you’re a seller. You want to sell more products. That is the goal. 

The best way to get word out about the products you’re selling would be revenue sharing.

You get other people to promote your products and for every product that is sold you pay them a commission. 

The Affiliate Marketer

You have no product to sell. You have an active blog, social media account. You can become an affiliate marketer by promoting the products other people or businesses are selling. For every product sold you earn a commission. 

The Drop Shipper

You are a newbie. You set up WooCommerce store. You register with different affiliate networks. You populate your online store with products from different merchants represented by the affiliate network. You earn commissions when the products sell and the products are shipped directly from the merchants in the network. 

You get the picture, affiliate marketing is getting paid to promote and sell other people’s products. You earn a commission for every product sold through your website. 

As a merchant—producer and seller—who has a product to sell, you can create an affiliate program that affiliate marketers can join in order to promote and sell your products.  

As an affiliate marketer you can promote one product from a single merchant or many products from many merchants. You promote the products through paid ads, landing pages, blogs, social media or whatever means you have of getting the word out. 

 It’s highly recommended that you diversify your affiliate income sources.

Affiliate Networks 

There is another big wheel in the affiliate marketing business that happens to be very important: affiliate network

Affiliate networks are big players in the affiliate marketing game. There are thousands of affiliate networks. They act as intermediaries between merchants and affiliate marketers.  

Here is what happens. 

Because affiliate networks have a very extensive ground game developed over a very long time, merchants let affiliate networks handle everything to do with affiliate marketing. 

If an affiliate marketer is interested in marketing particular products by particular merchants they will have to go through the affiliate networks. 

In this case, affiliate networks are affiliate marketing platforms that 

  • bring together offers from different vendors under one roof 
  • develop directory with listings of products and offers affiliate marketers to choose from
  • take care of all the administrative details of running an affiliate network

Some networks give you tools like ads of their products to display on your blog, website, or social media. Some give pre-built landing pages of their products and all you have to do is market. Other networks give you tools to create your own ads and landing pages of their products. 

Examples of Affiliate Networks  

There are thousands of affiliate networks. 

There are affiliate networks that just specialize in digital products. Examples of affiliate networks in this category include MaxBounty, JVZoo, ClickBank, 2Checkout

Others affiliate networks specialize only in physical products. Examples of affiliates in this category include Target Affiliates, 

Then there are those that specialize in both physical and digital products. Examples include AWIN, Amazon, and Shopify. 

Other affiliate networks specialize specifically on internet marketing, financial products, health and fitness products, or link share, especially deep linking. The list goes on! 

Types of Affiliate Payouts Types

There are different payment types and models in affiliate marketing. Lots of it depends on the affiliate network and what payment model works best for them. 

If you are looking to create your own affiliate program, these models should give you some ideas on how to structure your payouts.

If you’re looking to be an affiliate marketer, the brief description of each payout type will give a clear picture of how you get paid. 

Commission-Based Payment 

A commission model for payment is the most popular. Some ways in which commission are determined: 

  • Cost per sale: you get paid when you produce a sale for the product or service you’re promoting.
  • Cost per click: you get paid when visitors click the ads displayed on the website, it doesn’t matter if a sale is generated or not. 
  • Cost per lead: you get paid when you send potential customers (leads) to other businesses. Specialized niches, like law firms, doctors offices, and tax accountants, use this model. 
  • Cost per action: you get paid for each action an individual takes, such as filling in their personal details, answering survey information, or applying for a credit card.
Other Affiliate Programs Payment Models 
  • Single-tiered program: The affiliate is paid based on a direct sale they make.
  • Two-tiered affiliate program: This affiliate model allows you to make commissions not only on your own sales but the sales from others—sub-affiliates—that you recruit into the program as an affiliate. This has two levels of affiliates. 
  • Multi-tiered affiliate program: Similar to the model above but with more than two levels of affiliates. In this program your affiliates recruit affiliates who recruit affiliates–the levels can go on and on.
  • Flat rate program: You get paid a flat rate for each lead, sale, action your promotion generates for the business. 
  • Performance-based program: You get paid based on measurable results. You put in the work—and lots of it—and if it results in sales you get paid. 
  • Revenue share program: You don’t get paid per lead or per sign up. Instead you get paid based on future spending by a lead you referred to the merchant you are promoting of the visitors who register with the merchant. If this future spending becomes regular you receive payments indefinitely. It's called lifetime value. A good example of this situation is online casino affiliate programs.
Why Does Your WooCommerce Store Need an Affiliate Program?
  • it’s the easiest and fastest way to drive traffic to your store
  • it’s the most reliable way of generating leads and sales
  • it’s the least costly way to advertise and promote your store

You can even get new customers to spread the word for you by making them your affiliates. 

What is an Affiliate Plugin? 

There is a lot that goes into building a custom affiliate program from scratch. Putting together all the moving parts is time-consuming and costs a lot of money. Developers who create affiliate plugins have put a lot of thought into what an affiliate program needs and have incorporated all that into a plugin.

An affiliate plugin is a piece of software specifically made to allow you to set up your own affiliate program. It comes out of the box ready to get started immediately. You just need to install it and customize it to suit your needs.  

What Does an Affiliate Plugin Do?
  • Provides you with a platform to manage your affiliate network by registering affiliate, setting up payout rates and payments methods and more. 
  • Allows tracking, using unique URL links, of clicks, referrals, and sales by your partners
How Do I Choose an Affiliate Plugin?

The following are things you should consider when looking for an affiliate plugin to suit your needs:

  • it should be easy to use and customizable templates, color swatches
  • integration with payment gateways like PayPal, and Stripe for easy payouts to affiliates 
  • integration with email marketing platforms like Constant Contact, MailChimp, and AWeber 
  • integration with social share for easy sharing on social media

Finally,  you need to make sure the hosting service you’re using can handle large databases. 

Affiliate WooCommerce Plugins for the Store Owner

If you’re a merchant or store owner and you want to run your own affiliate marketing program, these self-hosted affiliate WooCommerce solution plugins allow you register affiliate marketing partners and determine commission for your affiliates. 

1. Ultimate Affiliate Pro WordPress Plugin 

Let's start with the Ultimate Affiliate Pro WordPress Plugin.

It is easily one of the most robust affiliate WooCommerce plugins as it is integrated with WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, PayPal, and Stripe, and it includes a complete feature set to get your own affiliate program up and running.

You'll find all sorts of useful features such as:

  • performance bonuses and banner management
  • unlimited affiliates and special offers
  • rankings and commission levels
  • referrals and social shares
  • PayPal and Stripe Payouts
  • and much, much more

This is one of the best affiliate WooCommerce plugins you'll find on Envato Market.

If this all wasn't impressive enough, this also includes free login, register, and account page templates; and connects with the top email marketing platforms like MailChimp, Constant Contact, and many more.

Ultimate Affiliate Pro WordPress Plugin is the ultimate affiliate WordPress plugin.

2. SUMO Affiliates Pro - WordPress Affiliate Plugin 

SUMO Affiliates Pro is a comprehensive WordPress Affiliates Plugin that allows you to run an affiliate system on your existing WordPress Site. And you can fully integrate it into your WooCommerce store. 

You can award affiliate commissions for actions such as affiliate signup, form submission, and product purchases.

Some features of this plugin include: 

  • separate tables to capture the URLs that were accessed using an affiliate link
  • separate tables to capture the referral actions which got converted
  • approve the referrals automatically or approve the referrals after review
  • award lifetime commission to the affiliates for the purchases made by their referrals
  • allow affiliates to generate readable affiliate links (pretty affiliate links)
  • create unique landing pages for affiliates

Check out the live preview, try the demo demo, and see why this is one of the best affiliate plugins available on the market. 

User CeeM123  says:

Very quick and outstanding support and awesome plugin that provides all possibilities we were searching for.

3. SUMO Affiliates: WooCommerce Affiliate System

The SUMO Affiliates: WooCommerce Affiliate System is simple and straightforward.

Its approach is on point:

"...logged in users can apply and become Affiliates and promote the products in the site. Whenever a user purchases a product by using an Affiliate Link, the Affiliate associated with the link will earn commission for the purchase."

This solid solution works with WooCommerce supported themes and also includes:

  • CSV export for unpaid commissions
  • translation and WPML ready
  • affiliate cookie validator
  • affiliate link generator
  • highly customizable
  • affiliate applications
  • affiliate dashboard
  • and much more

If you're just looking for an affiliate WooCommerce plugin, look no further.

The SUMO Affiliates: WooCommerce Affiliate System hits all the right marks.

4. WooCommerce Multilevel Referral Plugin

Interested in building a strong referral chain?

The WooCommerce Multilevel Referral Plugin allows affiliates to earn credit points while their followers purchase your products from the existing online store.

Build your affiliate perks through sales.

Features you'll find here:

  • set custom credit and redemption limits
  • full admin reporting of registered users
  • global or product specific settings
  • shortcode support
  • and much more

This is a multilevel referral system for WooCommerce, something that's outside of the typical affiliate transactional system.

WooCommerce Multilevel Referral Plugin is unique in approach and may be exactly what you're looking for. 

Solutions for Affiliate Marketers

WooCommerce is also perfect for affiliates. With the help of these plugins, you can create a niche storefront that has the look, feel, and convenience of a WooCommerce shopping experience, while serving users products from Amazon and other affiliate networks. 

5. WooCommerce Amazon Affiliates WordPress Plugin

If you want to set up an affiliate site and import products directly from Amazon, then WooCommerce Amazon Plugin for WordPress is your best choice. It pulls all product information, specs, images and reviews together in one place. 

Your site will look and function like an eCommerce website, but at checkout, customers will be redirected to Amazon. 

Also, you can import and synchronize products without the need for PA API (Product Advertising) keys! The sync occurs automatically, every 15 minutes, and the recurrence is every 24 hours. 

Go to the live preview and see for yourself what this plugin can do! 

User Abundance_For_All says this about WooCommerce Amazon Plugin for WordPress

Great plugin easy to use! A must-use plugin if you are an Amazon affiliate! Highly recommended.6. Content Egg 

For an affiliate marketer diversifying is the best business model. This means curating affiliate products sourced from different affiliate networks. In short creating a website that promotes products from different merchants. 

This, sometimes, may not be as simple as you think. You may need to have separate plugins to import products and information from separate networks. 

Content Egg is unique because it is an affiliate and content curation plugin that brings together and supports many affiliate networks under one roof. Content Egg uses network APIs. 

Here is how it works: 

  1. Activate your modules by adding your API keys to access each network.
  2. Add offers by searching by keyword. Import offers to your page by special shortcodes.
  3. Start to earn: The plugin will add your affiliate ID to all links. You will get affiliate commission according to the rules of the given network.

This plugin works with all WooCommerce themes. You can easily import offers for WooCommerce products. And also import specifications to WooCommerce attributes. 

It’s easy for novices and professionals. It has has a clear interface and saves significant time and effort when creating affiliate websites.

It has everything you need to effectively manage and create affiliate monetization on your websites and quickly find content and products to monetize.

Other features of this great plugin include:

  • Up-to-date products: offers, deals, and prices will be updated automatically.
  • Price drop alerts: email alerts for price drops and price history.
  • Links cloaking: add redirect to your affiliate links.
  • Use Autoblog to fill your site with different content: text, video, pictures.
  • All pages will be search optimized because Content Egg functions like search engines and uses search keywords.

The proof is in the pudding. Go to the live preview and try it for yourself!

user ManjuPmf says:

Includes almost every affiliate network and works great. I highly recommend it.7. Affiliate Egg: Niche Affiliate Marketing Plugin 

Local shops usually have better prices, better partnerships and better commissions for local regions. I highly recommend Affiliate Egg if you want to create a successful affiliate website by taking advantage of the best conversion and commission offered by local popular shops. 

Why Local Affiliate Marketing?
  • you know your local merchants better than the online giants 
  • local SEO is easier and much more effective 
  • present better prices with less competitors
How Affiliate Egg Works 
  1. Create storefronts: Just copy links from the original online store and insert them into the plugin. You can also use category or search links for bulk imports
  2. Add shortcodes: Choose an output layout and insert the shortcode anywhere on your site.
  3. Start to earn: Set your partner's affiliate ID to make a simple affiliate link.

The Affiliate Egg plugin

  • can get products directly from webshops 
  • can be easily integrated into your WooCommerce site 
  • has price update functions 
  • automatically adds affiliate IDs to links 

User cmv925 says:

You run an affiliate site and need an easy solution to automate your inventory upload, this plugin is for you. Easily create storefronts in minutes.


These are some of the affiliate plugins that I recommend if you're looking to start your own affiliate program or you're an affiliate yourself. Check out more affiliate WooCommerce plugin on Code Canyon

Categories: Web Design

What Web Designers Can Do To Speed Up Mobile Websites

Smashing Magazine - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 05:00
What Web Designers Can Do To Speed Up Mobile Websites What Web Designers Can Do To Speed Up Mobile Websites Suzanne Scacca 2019-06-26T14:00:59+02:00 2019-07-01T12:46:47+00:00

I recently wrote a blog post for a web designer client about page speed and why it matters. What I didn’t know before writing it was that her agency was struggling to optimize their mobile websites for speed. As a result, she came back to me concerned with publishing a post on a strategy her agency had yet to adopt successfully.

She was torn though. She understood how important mobile page speeds were to the user experience and, by proxy, SEO. However, their focus has always been on making a great-looking and effective design. Something like page speed optimization was always left to the developers to worry about.

In the end, we decided to hold on publishing it until they could get their own website as well as their clients’ sites properly optimized. In the meantime, it got me thinking:

Is there anything designers can do when creating mobile websites to help developers optimize for speed?

Developers are already optimizing front end performance with:

  • Fast web hosting
  • CDNs
  • Clean coding practices
  • Caching
  • Minification
  • Image optimization
  • And more

So, is there anything left?

To me, this is a lot like how search optimization is handled. As a writer, I take care of the on-page optimizations while the developer I hand content over to does the technical SEO stuff. Web designers and developers can easily tackle the parts of speed optimization that are in each of their wheelhouses.

Understanding What “Slow” Means On The Mobile Web

There are a number of tools to help you analyze page speeds and implement various fixes to improve them. One tool that’s particularly helpful is called Lighthouse. The only thing is, it’s meant for web developers.

Instead, I suggest that web designers use another Google testing tool called Test My Site.

Test My Site is a mobile page speed testing tool from Think with Google. (Source: Test My Site) (Large preview)

This is strictly for those who want to get a quick evaluation of their mobile site speed. All you need to do is enter your domain name into the field and let the test run.

An example of your page speed test results from Test My Site. (Source: Test My Site) (Large preview)

What I like about this tool compared to other site speed tests is that it’s all spelled out for you in layman’s terms. In this case, my website is “slow”, even when served on 4G networks. Although we’ve been told for years that visitors are willing to wait three seconds for a web page to load, Google considers 2.9 seconds too long. (Which I wholeheartedly agree with.)

You can get an expanded report from Google that tells you how to speed up your mobile loading times, but the suggestions are no different than the updates you’d make on the development side. For example:

Think with Google suggests the typical page speed optimizations. (Source: Test My Site) (Large preview)

We already know this. However, if you (or your developer) haven’t yet implemented any of these fixes, this is a good checklist to work off of.

That said, I didn’t point you to this tool so you could keep doing the same optimizations over and over again, expecting the same result. What is it they always say about the definition of insanity?

Instead, I think you should use this as a quick gut check:

Is my mobile site fast enough in Google’s eyes? No? Then, it won’t be fast enough in your visitors’ eyes either.

And if you want to really drive that point home, scroll to the bottom of the Test My Site analysis page and run your numbers through the impact analysis calculator:

Test My Site’s revenue impact assessment. (Source: Test My Site) (Large preview)

If you aren’t completely convinced that you need to take your 3-second mobile speed down any further, look at the financial impact just .5 seconds would have on your monthly bottom line.

What Web Designers Can Do To Optimize Mobile Sites For Speed

Let the web developer handle all of the necessary speed optimizations like caching and file minification while you take on the following design tips and strategies:

1. Host Fonts From A CDN

There’s enough you have to worry about when it comes to designing fonts for the mobile experience that you probably don’t want to hear this… but custom web fonts suck when it comes to loading. In fact, there are two recent case studies that demonstrate why custom web fonts are detrimental to page loading speeds.

Thankfully, a CDN could end up being your saving grace.

The Downtime Monkey Example

The first comes from Downtime Monkey. In this case study, Downtime Monkey boasts a page speed improvement of 58% through a variety of optimizations — two of which pertained to how they served fonts to their site.

For their Font Awesome icons, they decided to host them from a CDN. However, Font Awesome’s own CDN proved unreliable, so they switched to the Bootstrap CDN. As a result, this saved them between 200 and 550 milliseconds per page load.

For their Google Font “Cabin”, they decided to host it from the Google CDN. What’s funny to note, however, is that when they ran a page speed test on the site afterwards, they received an optimization suggestion related to the font.

It seems that the link they put in the head of their site was slowing down the rendering of the page. So, they had to implement a workaround that would allow the font to load asynchronously without harming the display of the page as it loaded. They used Web Font Loader to fix the issue and ended up saving between 150 and 300 milliseconds per page load as a result.

Brian Jackson’s Test

Brian Jackson, the Chief Marketing Officer at Kinsta, wrote a post for KeyCDN that demonstrates the best way to serve custom web fonts on a website.

You can see in his example that he suggests a number of optimizations, like limiting which styles and character sets are available for use on the website. However, it’s his experimentation with CDN hosting that’s really interesting.

First, he isolated the most popular Google Fonts and tested how quickly they loaded through Google’s CDN:

Open Sans was the fast Google Font. (Source: KeyCDN) (Large preview)

Open Sans loaded the fastest.

But that shouldn’t automatically make Open Sans the best choice if you’re trying to speed up your website. After all, Opens Sans is a Google Font that has to be served from Google’s servers. When compared against Arial, a web-safe font that isn’t pulled from an external source, this is what happened:

A comparison of loading speeds between Arial and Open Sans. (Source: KeyCDN) (Large preview)

Arial beat Open Sans by almost 200 milliseconds.

Before we move on, I’ll just say that this is one way to solve the slow-loading font dilemma: rather than use externally hosted fonts, use your system ones. They might not be as exciting to design with, but they won’t force users to sit around and wait for your website to load, costing you visitors and customers in the process.

You might be thinking that downloading and hosting your Google font would make more sense then. That way, you don’t have to compromise on which fonts you use and it’ll shave time off of their normal loading speeds. Right?

Well, Brian was curious about that, too, so he did a test:

A comparison between Open Sans hosted locally vs. hosted on Google CDN. (Source: KeyCDN) (Large preview)

When served from a local server, Open Sans took 0.530 milliseconds to load. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s obviously not the right direction to go in.

So, what’s the conclusion? Well, you have a few options.

  1. You can use a web safe font and avoid the issues that come with using externally hosted fonts in the first place.
  2. You can use a Google font and make sure it’s hosted through Google’s CDN.
  3. You can download a Google font and upload it to your own CDN (if you can get it loading faster from there, that is).

Either way, hosting your fonts and icons from a location where they’ll load more quickly can help you optimize your website for performance.

2. Stop Using Cumbersome Design Elements

The following list is somewhat of a rehashing of topics that have been covered before, so I don’t want to waste your time trying to recreate the wheel here. However, I do think this strategy of removing unnecessary design elements (especially weightier ones) to optimize the mobile experience is one worth summarizing here:

Stop with On-Page Ads

When I wrote about elements you should ditch on mobile websites, I called out advertisements as one of the things you could easily toss out. I still stand by that conviction.

For starters, advertisements are served from a third party. Any time you have to call on another party’s servers, you’re further increasing your own loading times as you wait for them to deliver the content to your page.

Secondly, over 26% of the U.S. population alone uses ad-blocking technology on their devices, so they’re not likely to see your on-page ads anyway.

Statista data on the usage of ad-blocking technology in the U.S. (Source: Statista) (Large preview)

Instead, use monetization methods that move the advertising away from your website, increase your own on-site conversions and won’t drain your server’s resources:

  • Remarketing
    Let your tracking pixel follow visitors around the web and then serve your own ads on someone else’s site.
  • PPC
    There’s good money to be made if you can nail the pay-per-click advertising formula in Google.
  • Social media ads
    These are especially easy to run if your site is publishing new content on a regular basis and you have a compelling offer.
Stop With Pop-Ups

I know that Google says that mobile pop-ups are okay in certain instances. However, if you’re building a website with WordPress or another content management system and you’re using a plugin to create those pop-ups, that’s going to slow down your loading times. It might not be by much, but you’ll notice the difference.

ThemeIsle decided to do some analysis of how certain plugins affect WordPress website speeds. Here is what happened when they tested the effects each of these plugins had on the loading time:

Base loading time (in seconds) Loading time after install (in seconds) Change in % Security plugins 0.93 s 1.13 s 21.50% Backup plugins 0.93 s 0.94 s 1.07% Contact form plugins 0.93 s 0.96 s 3.22% SEO plugins 0.93 s 1.03 s 10.75% E-commerce plugins 0.93 s 1.22 s 31.10%

Granted, some plugins are coded to be more lightweight than others, but there will always be some sort of difference felt in your loading times. Based on this data, the difference could be as small as .01 and as much as .29 seconds.

If you know that pop-ups aren’t really kosher on the mobile web anyway, why push your luck? Instead, take that promotional offer, cookie notice or announcement and place it on your web pages.

Stop With Cumbersome Contact Channels

Don’t forget about your website’s contact channels. In particular, you have to be careful about designing mobile forms. Of course, part of that has to do with how long it actually takes a user to fill one out. However, there’s also what a lengthy or multi-page form does to your loading speeds that you should think about.

In general, your mobile forms should be lean — only include what’s absolutely necessary.

There is an alternate school of thought to consider as well.

You could ditch the contact form altogether, something I discussed when talking about the trend of replacing mobile forms with chatbots. There are websites that have removed their forms and left information like FAQs, email addresses and phone numbers for visitors to use if they need to get in touch. That would certainly lighten things up from a loading standpoint. I just don’t know if it would be ideal for the user experience.

3. Create A Single-Page Website

The above tips are going to be the simplest and quickest ones to implement, so you should definitely start there if a client or web developer comes to you with issues of too-slow websites. However, if page speed tests still show that a site takes more than 2.5 seconds to load, consider a different approach to redesigning a website for the purposes of speed optimization.

As Adam Heitzman said in an article for Search Engine Journal:

“Single page sites typically convert much easier to mobile and users find them simple to navigate.”

But does that mean that a single-page website will always load more quickly than a multi-page website? Of course not. However, most professional designers choose a single-page design over multi-page for very specific purposes. DevriX has a nice graphic that sums this up:

DevriX sums up the limitations of single-page websites. (Source: DevriX) (Large preview)

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you turn your website into a single-page application (SPA). If you want to speed up your client’s digital property with service workers, a PWA is a better solution. (More info on that in the next point.)

Instead, what I’m suggesting is that you convert a multi-page website into a single-page one if your client fulfills certain criteria:

  • Businesses with an extremely narrow and singular focus.
  • Websites that don’t require much content to get their point across.
  • A limited range of keywords you need to rank for.

That said, if you are designing a website that fits within those three criteria (or at least two out of three), you could realistically move your website to a more simplistic single-page design.

Because single-page websites force you to do more with less, the limited content and features naturally create a lightweight website. Even if you did push the limits slightly, you could still create a faster-loading website for mobile as Tempus does:

Test My Site reports that the Tempus website loads in 2.1 seconds. (Source: Test My Site) (Large preview)

What’s cool about this single-page website is that it doesn’t skimp on the extensive imagery needed to sell luxury homes. And, yet, its mobile site loads in 2.1 seconds.

On the other hand, not all single-page websites are built with speed in mind. Take developer Davide Marchet’s website:

Test My Site reports that Davide Marchet’s website loads in 5.4 seconds. (Source: Test My Site) (Large preview)

Because it’s overloaded with animations, it takes 5.4 seconds for the page to load on mobile. You can even see this from the screenshot presented by Think with Google. The image seen there is actually the message that appears while the first animation loads in the background.

So, I would suggest being careful if you’re hoping to use a single-page design to solve your website’s performance woes. The design needs to be simple, super focused and unencumbered by scripts and animation effects that undo the benefits of trimming your content down to one page.

4. Turn Your Mobile Site Into A PWA

According to Google, there are three characteristics that define every PWA:

  1. Reliable
  2. Fast
  3. Engaging

Speed is an inherent part of progressive web apps thanks to the service workers they’re built with. Because service workers exist outside of the web browser and are not contingent on the speed of the user’s network, they load cached content for visitors more quickly.

I would also say that because the design of a PWA more closely resembles that of a native mobile app (at least the shell of it), this forces the design itself to be more trimmed-back than a mobile website.

If you’re struggling to speed up your website after implementing all of the traditional performance optimizations you’re supposed to, now would be a good time to turn your mobile website into a PWA.

Let me show you why:

Imagine you are planning a trip to Chicago with a friend. You’re out at a bar or coffee shop discussing the trip, then realize you have no idea where to stay. So, you do a search for “downtown Chicago hotels” on one of your smartphones.

You’re not thinking about purchasing a room yet; you just want to research your options. So, you click on the website links for two of the top listings Google provides you.

This is the progressive web app for the Best Western River North Hotel:

The home page of the Best Western River North Hotel PWA. (Source: Best Western River North Hotel) (Large preview)

This is the website of the Palmer House Hilton, a nearby hotel in downtown Chicago:

The home page of the Palmer House Hilton website. (Source: Palmer House Hilton) (Large preview)

For starters, the PWA is a much better looking and easier to navigate on your smartphone, so it’s going to win major points there. There’s also the matter of speed:

Test My Site compares the two competing hotels’ loading speeds. (Source: Test My Site) (Large preview)

The River North Hotel loads in 2.4 seconds on mobile whereas its Hilton competitor loads in 4 seconds. (You can actually see in the Hilton screenshot that the site hadn’t completely loaded yet.) That’s a difference that visitors are sure to notice.

Even if we’re not doing a side-by-side comparison between the competing websites, the River North Hotel’s PWA blows its former mobile website out of the water.

Brewer Digital Marketing, the agency that developed the PWA for them, shared what happened after they made the switch over. The hotel saw a 300% increase in earnings and a 500% increase in nights booked with the PWA.

5. Convert Your Website Or Blog Into AMP

We have Google to thank for another speedy design trick for the mobile web. This one is called Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, for short.

Initially, AMP was released to help publishers strip down their blog or news pages for faster loading on mobile devices. However, AMP is a web component framework you can use to design whole websites or just specific parts of them (like blog posts). Once implemented, pages load almost instantaneously from search.

Why is AMP so fast to load? There are a number of reasons:

With AMP, you can only load asynchronous JavaScript and inline CSS on your website, which means that your code won’t block or delay page rendering.

Images are also another source of slower loading times. However, AMP solves that issue by automatically loading the page layout before the resources (e.g. images, ads, etc.) Think of it as a form of lazy loading.

There’s a lot more to it, but the basic idea is that it cuts out the elements that tend to drag websites down and forces designers to mostly depend on lightweight HTML to build their pages.

If you want to see an example of this in action, you can look at pretty much any leading digital magazine or news site. If you’re unfamiliar with AMP content, simply look for the lightning bolt icon that appears next to the web page name in Google search. Like this:

Pages with the recognizable lightning bolt symbol were created using Google AMP. (Source: Google AMP) (Large preview)

Gizmodo is a good example of AMP content:

This Gizmodo AMP page loaded almost instantly from search results. (Source: Gizmodo) (Large preview)

In fact, when Gizmodo made the transition to AMP back in 2016, it saw huge lifts in terms of performance. Its page speeds increased by 300% and it got 50% more page impressions as a result.

If you really want to get the most out of AMP speeds, Mobify suggests pairing AMP with your PWA. That way, you can load your web pages lightning-fast for visitors:

First Page Load With AMP Percent of Websites Load Time (seconds) 10% 0.3 20% 0.5 50% 1.1 60% 1.4 80% 2.2 90% 3.4 95% 5.2

Mobify reports on the loading times of AMP (Source: Mobify)

Then, sustain those fast-loading times with the PWA:

Subsequent Page Loads On PWA Percent of Websites Load Time (seconds) 10% 0.6 20% 0.8 50% 1.4 60% 1.8 80% 3.0 90% 4.5 95% 6.2

Mobify reports on the loading times of PWAs (Source: Mobify)</>

Just be careful with AMP and PWAs.

Look at the tables above and you’ll see that some sites have implemented these speedy design tactics and they still don’t beat Google’s 2.5-second benchmark for mobile loading. Just because there is a promise of faster-loading web pages with both, that doesn’t necessarily mean your website will automatically be lightning-fast.

Wrapping Up

As Google does more to reward mobile websites over desktop, this isn’t really a matter you can table for much longer. All versions of your website — but mobile especially — must be optimized for the user experience.

That means the design, the code, the content and everything else within and around it must be optimized. Once the developer has taken care of the traditional performance optimizations to speed up the website, it’s time for the designer to make some changes of their own. In some cases, simple changes like how fonts are served through the website will help. In other cases, more drastic matters may need to be considered, like redesigning your website as a PWA.

First, consider how slowly your client’s website is loading. Then, examine what’s causing the biggest issue on mobile. Trim the fat, bit by bit, and see what you can do as a designer to complement the developer’s technical speed optimizations.

(ra, il)
Categories: Web Design

The Case For Brand Systems: Aligning Teams Around A Common Story

Smashing Magazine - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 06:00
The Case For Brand Systems: Aligning Teams Around A Common Story The Case For Brand Systems: Aligning Teams Around A Common Story Laura Busche 2019-06-25T15:00:59+02:00 2019-07-01T12:46:47+00:00

There’s a disconnect. If you’ve been in business for enough time you’ve definitely felt it. Teams are pulling companies in different directions with internal processes and specialized frameworks for absolutely everything. They’re focused on building their “part” of the product, and doing it incredibly well. There’s just one problem: our internal divisions mean nothing to customers.

In customers’ eyes, it’s the same brand replying to their support tickets and explaining something in a modal; the same entity is behind the quality of the product they use and the ads that led them to that product in the first place. To them, there are no compartments, no org charts, no project managers. There is only one brand experience. At the end of the day, customers are not tasting individual ingredients, or grabbing a bite during each stage of preparation, they’re eating the entire meal. At once. In sit-downs that keep getting shorter.

Something is getting lost in the process. Somewhere between our obsession with specializing and our desire to excel at individual roles, we’ve lost perspective of the entire brand experience. We spend our days polishing individual touchpoints, but not enough time zooming out to understand how they come together to shape our customer’s journey. The time for shying away from the word “holistic” is up — it’s the only way customers will ever perceive you. And that is the ultimate inspiration behind Brand Systems, a tool we will explore throughout this article.

What Is A Brand System?

At its core, a Brand System is a shared library that helps define, preserve, and improve the customer’s experience with the brand.

Just like we can’t assume that the sum of quality ingredients will result in a great meal, our individual contributions won’t magically translate into a memorable brand experience for customers. Their brand experiences are blended, multifaceted, and owner-blind. It’s time for the product, design, engineering, marketing, support, and various other functions to establish a single source of truth about the brand that is accessible to, understood, and used by all. That source is a Brand System.

Why Is It Useful? The Benefits Of Building A Brand System

Your brand is the story that customers recall when they think about you. When you document that story, your team can align to live up to and protect those standards consistently. There are multiple benefits to building and maintaining a Brand System:

  • Cohesion
    It helps preserve a uniform presence for the brand.
  • Access
    It empowers teams to apply assets consistently. A common language facilitates collaboration across different functional areas.
  • Flexibility
    This system is in continuous iteration, providing an up-to-date source of truth for the team.
  • Speed
    When your building blocks are readily available, everything is easier to construct. Collaboration is also accelerated as individuals get a fundamental understanding of how others’ work contributes to the brand experience.
  • Ethos
    Documenting the brand’s ethos will motivate the team to preserve, protect, and extend it. That level of care is perceived and appreciated by users.

To accomplish the above most effectively, the Brand System must remain accessible, empowering, holistic, extensible, flexible, and iterative. Let’s take a closer look at each of these traits and some examples of how they can be put in practice.


Open to all team members, regardless of their level of technical expertise or direct involvement with each element. Systems that perpetuate divisions within organizations can be visually mesmerizing, but end up fragmenting the brand experience.

Help Scout provides a visual example of what the concepts of illustration scale and grid mean for those who may not be familiar with them. (Large preview) Empowering

Full of examples that encourage continuous application. Some aspects of the brand experience can be hard to grasp for those who don’t interact with them daily, but a Brand System should empower everyone to recognize what is fundamentally on and off-brand — regardless of the touchpoint involved. Does the company’s support team feel confident about how the brand is visually represented? Does the design team have a general idea of how the brand responds to customers’ requests?

Webflow provides clear examples and instructions to empower different team members to write for the product, even if they’re not used to it. (Large preview) Holistic

No aspect of the brand’s execution is too foreign to include. Brand Systems surface the tools and frameworks various teams are using to clarify the bigger picture. Too often the customer’s experience appears disjointed because we’ve compartmentalized it. The brand experience “belongs” to marketing, or design, or some kind of executive-level team, so resources like UI components or support scripts are dealt with separately. As the unifying backbone of all business functions, the brand experience informs execution at every level.

For WeWork, physical spaces are a key part of the entire experience. Their brand system includes guidelines in this respect. (Large preview) Extensible

Individual teams can develop specific subsections within the system to fit their needs. Regardless of how specialized these different areas get, the Brand System remains accessible to all. Team members decide how deeply they want to dive into each element, but the information is readily available.

Atlassian makes use of its Confluence platform to host guidelines related to different parts of the brand experience. Sections have varying levels of access and are regularly maintained by different teams. (Large preview) Flexible

There can be alternative versions of the Brand System for external audiences, including media and partners. While we’d like the brand experience to unfold in owned channels, the reality is that sometimes customers interact with it through earned channels controlled by third parties. In those cases, a minimized version of the Brand System can help preserve the story, voice, and visual style.

Instagram, for example, offers a special set of guidelines for users broadcasting content about the brand. (Large preview) Iterative

The Brand System should evolve and be continuously updated over time. To that end, host and serve the content in a way that makes it easy to access and edit as things change.

Salesforce surfaces ongoing updates to its Lightning system in a section called Release Notes. (Large preview) What Does A Brand System Contain?

Brand Systems solve a fundamental disconnect in teams. Nobody outside of marketing feels empowered to market the product, nobody outside of design feels like they have a solid grasp of the brand’s style guidelines, nobody outside of support feels confident responding to a customer. Sounds familiar? That’s why it’s crucial to build a Brand System that is as all-encompassing and transparent as possible.

While Design Systems are the closest implementation of a resource like this, a Brand System is centered around the brand story, understanding symbols and strategy as necessary layers in its communication. It is informed by product and design teams, but also functional areas like support, marketing, and executive leadership that are key to shaping the entire brand experience. In Brand Systems, visual components are presented in the context of a business model, a company mission, positioning, and other strategic guidelines that must be equally internalized by the team.

Comet, a Design System by Discovery Education. (Large preview)

A Brand Style Guide is another commonly used tool to align teams around a set of principles. While useful, these guides focus heavily on marketing and design specifications. Their main objective is to impart a shared visual language for the brand so that it is applied cohesively across the board. That resolves part of the problem but doesn’t reveal how other functional areas contribute to the overall brand experience. Therefore, these guidelines could be considered as part of the larger Brand System.

Brand Guidelines for the Wildlife Conservation Society (Designed by Pentagram) (Large preview)

That said, these are some of the sections and components you should consider including in your Brand System:


If the brand experience is embroidery, the story is the thread weaving all the touchpoints together. It reveals what has been and will continue to be important, who the brand is trying to serve, and how it plans to do so most effectively. Start your Brand System by answering questions like:

  • What is this brand’s core value proposition?
  • What does its history look like? Include a timeline and key milestones.
  • How do you summarize both of the above in an “About Us” blurb?
  • What are the brand’s core values? What propels this team forward?
  • Who is the audience? Who are the main personas being addressed and what are these individuals trying to get done?
(Large preview) The Smithsonian Institution included a section called Audience Segments in the strategy section of their branding website. (Large preview)
  • What does their journey with us look like? If known, what is their sentiment towards the brand?
  • What is the brand’s mission as it relates to its target customers? How about the team itself and society at large?
  • How does this business model work, in general terms? (Specifics will be included in the “Strategy” section).
  • Who are the brand’s direct competitors? What sets it apart from them?
  • How does this brand define product/service quality? Are there any values around that?
  • What is the brand’s ultimate vision?
Shopify summarizes the brand’s Product Experience Principles in their Polaris design system. (Large preview) Symbols

You know what drives the brand and the narrative it brings to the table. This part of the Brand System is about actually representing that. Symbols are sensory: they define what the brand looks, sounds, and feels like. Because they help us convey the story across multiple touchpoints, it’s vital for the entire team to have a grasp of what they stand for and how they can be properly deployed.

Here are some examples of building blocks you’ll want to define in this section:

  • Main and alternative versions of the brand’s logo
  • Color palette
  • Typography scheme
  • Icons, photography, and illustration style
  • Patterns, lines, and textures
  • Layout and spacing
  • Slide deck styling
  • Stationery and merchandising applications
  • Motion & sound, including audiobranding
  • Packaging (if applicable)
  • Scent (if applicable).

For brands built around digital products:

  • User Interface components
  • Interaction patterns
  • Key user views & states
  • User Experience guidelines
  • Code standards
  • Tech stack overview.
IBM includes patterns for common actions like “Next” in its Carbon design system. (Large preview)

Bear in mind that the nature of your product will determine how you complete the section above. A tech-based company might list elements like interaction patterns, but a retail brand might look at aspects like store layout.


Once you’ve clarified the brand’s story, and the symbols that will represent it, define how you go about growing it. This part of the Brand System addresses both messaging and method, narrative and tactics.

It’s not enough for the team to be aware of why this brand is being built: the goal is to get everyone familiar with how it is sustained, grown, and communicated.

Just like customer support can feel alienated from the design function, these growth-related tenets are often not surfaced beyond marketing, acquisition, or executive conversations. However, those kinds of strategic ideas do impact customers at every touchpoint. A Brand System is a crash course that makes high-level perspective accessible to all, unlocking innovation across the entire team.

Here are some guiding questions and components to include:

  • How does this brand define success? What growth metric does the team focus on to track performance? (GMV, revenue, EBITDA, sales, etc).
  • What does the conversion funnel look like? How does this brand acquire, activate and retain customers?
    • What is the average Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)?
    • What is the retention rate?
    • What is the Customer’s Lifetime Value (LTV)?
    • Which channels drive the most revenue? Traffic?
    • Which products and categories drive the most revenue? Traffic?
    • Which of the buyer personas defined in the “Story” section bring the most revenue? Traffic?
  • What are the brand’s key objectives for this year (to be updated)? These are company-wide goals.
  • What initiatives or themes is the team focusing on to meet those objectives this year?
  • How is the team organized to meet those objectives?
  • What channels does this brand use to communicate with its target audience? Name them and specify how big they are in terms of reach and/or traffic.
    • Owned
      • Website, blog, or other web properties
      • Social channels
      • Email
    • Earned
      • Ongoing brand partnerships
      • Referrals
    • Paid
      • Specific ad platforms
      • Influencers
      • Affiliates
  • What is this brand’s personality like?
  • What defines the brand’s voice? How does it adopt different tones in specific situations?
  • How does the brand’s voice come to life in owned, earned, and paid channels?
    • Company website and landing pages
    • Social channels. Clarify if tone varies
    • Email
    • Ads
    • Sales collateral
    • Press releases
    • Careers page & job sites
  • How does the brand’s voice come to life in the customer’s experience with the product, before, during, and after purchase?
    • Call to action
    • Navigation
    • Promotion
    • Education
    • Success/error
    • Apology/regret
    • Reassurance/support
  • How does the brand’s voice come to life internally (within the team)?
    • Employee handbooks
    • Onboarding process.
  • What topics should this brand aim to be a thought leader at?
UC Berkeley defines the themes and key messages to highlight when speaking to different audiences. (Large preview)
  • Grammar and spelling-wise, does this brand adhere to a specific style manual?
  • What are some common words and expressions users can expect from this brand?
Mailchimp’s Content Style Guide (Source) (Large preview) How To Get Started With Your Own Brand System

If you’re feeling ready to shape your own Brand System, here are some steps you can take to approach the challenge as a team:

1. Kickoff

Set up a company-wide planning session. If you can’t have everyone attend, make sure there’s someone representing product, design, marketing, support, and the executive team. Lead a conversation with two goals:

  • Brand audit
    How is the brand represented in various contexts? Is there brand debt to account for? Consider the brand’s story, symbols, and strategy.
  • Brand definition
    Discuss how this brand:
    • sounds,
    • looks,
    • speaks,
    • feels,
    • interacts,
    • introduces itself in a few words.
2. Production

After having that open discussion, delegate the various sections described above (Story, Symbols, Strategy) to the teams that interact most closely with each of them. Ask specific individuals to document the brand’s point of view regarding each system component (listed in point 2).

3. Publication

Upload the full Brand System to a central location where it is readily available and editable. Schedule a team-wide presentation to get everyone on the same page.

4. Summary

Condense the main guidelines in a one-page document called Brand-At-a-Glance. Here are some of the key points you could include:

  • Brand mission, vision, and values
  • Visual identity: color palette, main logo versions, type scheme, illustration style
  • About Us blurb.
5. Revision

Establish a periodic cross-functional meeting where the brand is protected and defined. Frequency is up to you and your team. This is also where the Brand System is formally updated, if needed. In my experience, unless this space is scheduled, the revisions simply won’t happen. Time will pass, customers’ needs will change, the brand experience will shift, and there won’t be a common space to document and discuss it all.

Brand Systems: Aligning Teams Around A Common Story

When customers interact with your brand, they’re not aware of what’s going on backstage. And there is no reason they should. All they perceive is the play you’re presenting, the story you’re sharing, and the solution it represents for them. When the individual actors go off script, as great as they might sound solo, the brand experience breaks.

Enter the Brand System: a shared library that defines the brand’s story, symbols, and strategy. In doing so, this tool aligns all actors around the multi-faceted experience customers truly perceive. Within teams, Brand Systems help avoid fragmentation, confusion, and exclusion. Externally, they’re a script to deliver the most compelling brand experience possible — at every touchpoint, every single time.

(ah, yk, il)
Categories: Web Design

What I Learned From Designing AR Apps

Smashing Magazine - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 03:00
What I Learned From Designing AR Apps What I Learned From Designing AR Apps Gleb Kuznetsov 2019-06-24T12:00:59+02:00 2019-07-01T12:46:47+00:00

The digital and technological landscape is constantly changing — new products and technologies are popping up every day. Designers have to keep track of what is trending and where creative opportunities are. A great designer has the vision to analyze new technology, identify its potential, and use it to design better products or services.

Among the various technologies that we have today, there’s one that gets a lot of attention: Augmented Reality. Companies like Apple and Google realize the potential of AR and invest significant amounts of resources into this technology. But when it comes to creating an AR experience, many designers find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Does AR require a different kind of UX and design process?

As for me, I’m a big fan of learning-by-doing, and I was lucky enough to work on the Airbus mobile app as well as the Rokid AR glasses OS product design. I’ve established a few practical rules that will help designers to get started creating compelling AR experiences. The rules work both for mobile augmented reality (MAR) and AR glasses experiences.

Rokid Glasses motion design exploration by Gleb Kuznetsov Glossary

Let’s quickly define the key terms that we will use in the article:

  • Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) is delivering augmented reality experienced on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets);
  • AR Glasses are a wearable smart display with a see-through viewing an augmented reality experience.
1. Get Buy-In From Stakeholders

Similar to any other project you work for, it is vital that you get support from stakeholders as early in the process as is possible. Despite being buzzed about for years, many stakeholders have never used AR products. As a result, they can question the technology just because they don’t understand the value it delivers. Our objective is to get an agreement from them.

“Why do we want to use AR? What problem does it solve?” are questions that stakeholders ask when they evaluate the design. It’s vital to connect your design decisions to the goals and objectives of the business. Before reaching stakeholders, you need to evaluate your product for AR potential. Here are three areas where AR can bring a lot of value:

  • Business Goals
    Understand the business goals you're trying to solve for using AR. Stakeholders always appreciate connecting design solutions to the goals of the business. A lot of time business will respond to quantifiable numbers. Thus, be ready to provide an explanation off how your design is intended to help the company make more money or save more money.
  • Helpfulness For Users
    AR will provide a better user experience and make the user journey a lot easier. Stakeholders appreciate technologies that improve the main use of the app. Think about the specific value that AR brings to users.
  • Creativity
    AR is excellent when it comes to creating a more memorable experience and improving the design language of a product. Businesses often have a specific image they are trying to portrait, and product design has to reflect this.

Only when you have a clear answer to the question “Why is this better with AR?”, you will need to share your thoughts with stakeholders. Invest your time in preparing a presentation. Seeing is believing, and you’ll have better chances of buy-in from management when you show a demo for them. The demo should make it clear what are you proposing.

2. Discovery And Ideation Explore And Use Solutions From Other Fields

No matter what product you design, you have to spend enough time researching the subject. When it comes to designing for AR, look for innovations and successful examples with similar solutions from other industries. For example, when my team was designing audio output for AR glasses, we learned a lot from headphones and speakers on mobile phones.

Design User Journey Using “As A User I Want” Technique

One of the fundamental things you should remember when designing AR experiences is that AR exists outside of the phone or glasses. AR technology is just a medium that people use to receive information. The tasks that users want to accomplish using this technology are what is really important.

“How to define a key feature set and be sure it will be valuable for our users?” is a crucial question you need to answer before designing your product. Since the core idea of user-centered design is to keep the user in the center, your design must be based on the understanding of users, their goals and contexts of use. In other words, we need to embrace the user journey.

When I work on a new project, I use a simple technique “As a [type of user], I want [goal] because [reason].” I put myself in the user's shoes and think about what will be valuable for them. This technique is handy during brainstorming sessions. Used together with storyboarding, it allows you to explore various scenarios of interaction.

In the article “Designing Tomorrow Today: the Airbus iflyA380 App,” I’ve described in detail the process that my team followed when we created the app. The critical element of the design process was getting into the passenger’s mind, looking for insights into what the best user experience would be before, during and after their flight.

To understand what travelers like and dislike about the travel experience, we held a lot of brainstorming sessions together with Airbus. Those sessions revealed a lot of valuable insights. For example, we found that visiting the cabin (from home) before flying on the A380 was one of the common things users want to do. The app uses augmented reality so people can explore the cabin and virtually visit the upper deck, the cockpit, the lounges — wherever they want to go — even before boarding the plane.

IFLY A380 iOS app design by Gleb Kuznetsov. (Large preview)

App also accompanies passengers from the beginning to the end of their journey — basically, everything a traveler wants to do with the trip is wrapped up in a single app. Finding your seat is one of the features we implemented. This feature uses AR to show your seat in a plane. As a frequent traveler, I love that feature; you don’t need to search for the place at the time when you enter the cabin, you can do it beforehand — from the comfort of your couch. Users can access this feature right from the boarding pass — by tapping on ‘glass’ icon.

IFLY A380 app users can access the AR feature by tapping on the ‘glass’ icon. (Large preview) Narrow Down Use Cases

It might be tempting to use AR to solve a few different problems for users. But in many cases, it’s better to resist this temptation. Why? Because by adding too many features in your product, you make it not only more complex but also more expensive. This rule is even more critical for AR experience that generally requires more effort. It’s always better to start with simple but well-designed AR experience rather than multiple complex but loose designed AR experiences.

Here are two simple rules to follow:

  • Prioritize the problems and focus on the critical ones.
  • Use storyboarding to understand exactly how users will interact with your app.
  • Remember to be realistic. Being realistic means that you need to strike a balance between creativity and technical capabilities.
Use Prototypes To Assess Ideas

When we design traditional apps, we often use static sketches to assess ideas. But this approach won’t work for AR apps.

Understanding whether a particular idea is good or bad cannot be captured from a static sketch; quite often the ideas that look great on paper don’t work in a real-life context.

Thus, we need to interact with a prototype to get this understanding. That’s why it’s essential to get to prototyping state as soon as possible.

It’s important to mention that when I say ‘prototyping state’ I don’t mean a state when you create a polished high-fidelity prototype of your product that looks and work as a real product. What I mean is using a technique of rapid prototyping and building a prototype that helps you experience the interaction. You need to make prototypes really fast — remember that the goal of rapid prototyping is in evaluating your ideas, not in demonstrating your skills as a visual designer.

3. Design

Similar to any other product you design, when you work on AR product, your ultimate goal is to create intuitive, engaging, and clean interface. But it can be challenging since the interface in AR apps accounts both for input and output.

Physical Environment

AR is inherently an environmental medium. That’s why the first step in designing AR experience is defining where the user will be using your app. It’s vital to select the environment up front. And when I say ‘environment’, I mean a physical environment where the user will experience the app — it could be indoors or outdoors.

Here are three crucial moments that you should consider:

  1. How much space users need to experience AR? Users should have a clear understanding of the amount of space they’ll need for your app. Help users understand the ideal conditions for using the app before they start the experience.
  2. Anticipate that people will use your app in environments that aren’t optimal for AR. Most physical environments can have limitations. For example, your app is AR table tennis game but your users might not have a large horizontal surface. In this case, you might want to use a virtual table generated based on your device orientation.
  3. Light estimation is essential. Your app should analyze the environment automatically and provide contextual guidance if the environment is not good enough. If the environment is too dark or too bright for your app, tell the user that they should find a better place to use your app. ARCore and ARKit have a built-in system for light estimation.

When my team designed Airbus i380 mobile AR experience, we took the available physical space into account. Also, we’ve considered the other aspects of interaction, such as the speed at which the user should make decisions. For instance, the user who wants to find her seat during the boarding won’t have too much time.

We sketched the environment (in our case, it was a plane inside and outside) and put AR objects in our sketch. By making our ideas tangible, we got an understanding of how the user will want to interact with our app and how our app will adapt to the constraints of the environment.

AR Realism And AR Objects Aesthetics

After you define the environment and required properties, you will need to design AR objects. One of the goals behind creating AR experience is to blend virtual with real. The objects you design should fit into the environment — people should believe that AR objects are real. That’s why it’s important to render digital content in context with the highest levels of realism.

Here are a few rules to follow:

  • Focus on the level of details and design 3D assets with lifelike textures. I recommend using multi-layer texture model such as PBR (Physically Based Rendering model). Most AR development tools support it, and this is the most cost-effective solution to achieve an advanced degree of detail for your AR objects.
  • Get the lighting right. Lighting is a very crucial factor for creating realism — the wrong light instantly breaks the immersion. Use dynamic lighting, reflect environmental lighting conditions on virtual objects, cast object shadows, and reflections on real-world surfaces to create more realistic objects. Also, your app should react to real-world changing of lighting.
  • Minimize the size of textures. Mobile devices are generally less powerful than desktops. Thus, to let your scene load faster, don’t make textures too large. Strive to use 2k resolution at most.
  • Add visual noise to AR textures. Flat-colored surfaces will look fake to the user's eye. Textures will appear more lifelike when you introduce rips, pattern disruptions, and other forms of visual noise.
  • Prevent flickering. Update the scene 60 times per second to prevent flickering of AR objects.
Design For Safety And Comfort

AR usually accompanied by the word ‘immersive.’ Creating immersive experience is a great goal, but AR immersion can be dangerous — people can be so immersed in smartphones/glasses, so they forget what is happening around them, and this can cause problems. Users might not notice hazards around them and bump into objects. This phenomenon is known as cognitive tunneling. And it caused a lot of physical traumas.

  • Avoid users from doing anything uncomfortable — for example, physically demanding actions or rapid/expansive motion.
  • Keep the user safe. Avoid situations when users have to walk backward.
  • Avoid long play AR sessions. Users can get fatigued using AR for extended periods. Design stop points and in-app notifications that they should take a break. For instance, if you design an AR game, let users pause or save their progress.
Placement For Virtual Objects

There are two ways of placing virtual objects — on the screen or in the world. Depending on the needs of your project and device capabilities, you can follow either the first or second approach. Generally, virtual elements should be placed in world space if they suppose to act like real objects (e.g., a virtual statue in AR space), and should be placed as an on-screen overlay if they intended to be UI controls or information messages (e.g., notification).

Rokid Glasses. (Large preview)

‘Should every object in AR space be 3D?’ is a common question among designers who work on AR experiences. The answer is no. Not everything in the AR space should be 3D. In fact, in some cases like in-app notifications, it's preferable to use flat 2D objects because they will be less visually distracting.

Rokid Glasses motion design exploration by Gleb Kuznetsov. (Large preview) Avoid Using Haptic Feedback

Phone vibrations are frequently used to send feedback in mobile apps. But using the same approach in AR can cause a lot of problems — haptic feedback introduces extra noise and makes the experience less enjoyable (especially for AR Glasses users). In most cases, it’s better to use sound effect for feedback.

Make A Clear Transition Into AR

Both for MAR and AR glass experiences, you should let users know they’re about to transition into AR. Design a transition state. For the ifly380 app, we used an animated transition — a simple animated effect that user sees when taps on the AR mode icon.

Trim all the fat.

Devote as much of the screen as possible to viewing the physical world and your app's virtual objects:

  • Reduce the total number of interactable elements on the screen available for the user at one moment of time.
  • Avoid placing visible UI controls and text messages in your viewport unless they are necessary for the interaction. A visually clean UI lends itself seamlessly to the immersive experience you’re building.
  • Prevent distractions. Limit the number of times when objects appear on the user screen out of the blue. Anything that appears out of the blue instantly kills realism and make the user focus on the object.
AR Object Manipulation And Delineating Boundaries Between The ‘Augment’ And The ‘Reality’

When it comes to designing a mechanism of interaction with virtual objects, favor direct manipulation for virtual objects — the user should be able to touch an object on the screen and interact with it using standard, familiar gestures, rather than interact with separate visible UI controls.

Also, users should have a clear understanding of what elements they can interact with and what elements are static. Make it easy for users to spot interactive objects and then interact with them by providing visual signifiers for interactive objects. Use glowing outlines or other visual highlights to let users know what’s interactive.

Scan object effect for outdoor MAR by Gleb Kuznetsov. (Large preview)

When the user interacts with an object, you need to communicate that the object is selected visually. Design a selection state — use either highlight the entire object or space underneath it to give the user a clear indication that it’s selected.

Last but not least, follows the rules of physics for objects. Just like real objects, AR objects should react to the real-world environment.

Design For Freedom Of Camera

AR invites movement and motion from the user. One of the significant challenges when designing or AR is giving users the ability to control the camera. When you give users the ability to control the view, they will swing device around in an attempt to find the points of interest. And not all apps are designed to help the user to control the viewfinder.

Google identifies four different ways that a user can move in AR space:

  1. Seated, with hands fixed.
  2. Seated, with hands moving.
  3. Standing still, with hands fixed.
  4. Moving around in a real-world space.

The first three ways are common for mobile AR while the last one is common for AR glasses.

In some cases, MAR users want to rotate the device for ease of use. Don’t interrupt the camera with rotation animation.

Consider Accessibility When Designing AR

As with any other product we design, our goal is to make augmented reality technology accessible for people. Here are a few general recommendations on how to address real-world accessibility issues:

  • Blind users. Visual information is not accessible to blind users. To make AR accessible for blind users, you might want to use audio or haptic feedback to deliver navigation instructions and other important information.
  • Deaf or hard-hearing users. For AR experience that requires voice interaction, you can use visual signals as an input method (also known as speechreading). The app can learn to analyze lip movement and translate this data in commands.

If you're interested in learning more practical tips on how to create accessible AR apps, consider watching the video talk by Leah Findlater:

Encourage Users To Move

If your experience demands exploration, remind users they can move around. Many users have never experienced a 360-degree virtual environment before, and you need to motivate them to change the position of their device. You can use an interactive object to do that. For example, during I/0 2018, Google used an animated fox for Google Maps that guided users to the target destination.

This AR experience uses an animated bird to guide users. (Large preview) Remember That Animation Is A Designer’s Best Friend

Animation can be multipurpose. First, you can use a combination of visual cues and animation to teach users. For example, the animation of a moving phone around will make it clear what users have to do to initialize the app.

Second, you can use animation to create emotions.

One second of emotion can change the whole reality for people engaging with a product.

Well-designed animated effects help to create a connection between the user and the product — they make the object feel tangible. Even a simple object such as loading indicator can build a bridge of trust between users and the device.

Rokid Alien motion design by Gleb Kuznetsov. (Large preview)

A critical moment about animation — after discovering the elements of design and finding design solutions for the animation base, it’s essential to spend enough time on creating a proper animated effect. It took lots of iterations to finish a loading animation that you see above. You have to test every animation to be sure it works for your design and be ready to adjust color, positioning, etc. to give the best effect.

Prototype On The Actual Device

In the interview for Rokid team, Jeshua Nanthakumar mentioned that the most effective AR prototypes are always physical. That’s because when you prototype on the actual device, from the beginning, you make design work well on hardware and software that people actually use. When it comes to unique displays like on the Rokid Glasses, this methodology is especially important. By doing that you’ll ensure your design is implementable.

Motion design language exploration for AR Glasses Rokid by Gleb Kuznetsov. (Large preview)

My team was responsible for designing the AR motion design language and loading animation for AR glasses. We decided to use a 3D sphere that will be rotated during the loading and will have nice reflections on its edges. The design of the animated effect took two weeks of hard work of motion designers and it looked gorgeous on high-res monitors of our design team, but the final result wasn’t good enough because the animation caused motion sickness.

Motion sickness often caused by the discrepancies between the motion perceived from the screen of AR Glasses and the actual movement of the user's head. But in our case, the root cause of the motion sickness was different — since we put a lot of attention in polishing details like shapes, reflections, etc. unintentionally we made users focus on those details while the sphere was moving.

As a result, the motion happened in the periphery, and since humans are more sensitive to the moving objects in the periphery this caused motion sickness. We solved this problem by simplifying the animation. But it’s critical to mention that we won’t be able to find this problem without testing on the actual device.

If we compare the actual procedure of testing of AR apps with traditional GUI apps, it will be evident that testing AR apps require more manual interactions. A person who conducts testing should determine whether the app provides the correct output based on the current context.

Here are a few tips that I have for conducting efficient usability testing sessions:

  • Prepare a physical environment to test in. Try to create real-world conditions for your app — test it with various physical objects, in different scenes with different lighting. But the environment might not be limited to scene and lighting.
  • Don’t try to test everything all at once. Use a technique of chunking. Breaking down a complex flow into smaller pieces and testing them separately is always beneficial.
  • Always record your testing session. Record everything that you see in the AR glass. A session record will be beneficial during discussions with your team.
  • Testing for motion sickness.
  • Share your testing results with developers. Try to mitigate the gap between design and development. Make sure your engineering team knows what problem you face.

Similar to any other new technology, AR comes with many unknowns. Designers who work on AR projects have a role of explorers — they experiment and try various approaches in order to find the one that works best for their product and delivers the value for people who will use it.

Personally, I believe that it’s always great to explore new mediums and find new original ways of solving old problems. We are still at the beginning stages of the new technological revolution — the exciting time when technologies like AR will be an expected part of our daily routines — and it’s our opportunity to create a solid foundation for the future generation of designers.

(cc, yk, il)
Categories: Web Design

Design Your Mobile Emails To Increase On-Site Conversion

Smashing Magazine - Fri, 06/21/2019 - 04:00
Design Your Mobile Emails To Increase On-Site Conversion Design Your Mobile Emails To Increase On-Site Conversion Suzanne Scacca 2019-06-21T13:00:59+02:00 2019-07-01T12:46:47+00:00

I find it interesting that Google has pushed so hard for web designers to shift from designing primarily for desktop to now designing primarily for mobile. Google’s right… but why only focus on designing websites to appeal to mobile users? After all, Gmail is a leader within the email client ranks, too.

Email can be an incredibly powerful driver of conversions for websites, according to a 2019 report from Barilliance.

On average, emails convert at a rate of 1.48%. That includes all sent emails though — which includes the ones that go unopened as well as the ones that bounce. If you look at emails that are opened by recipients, however, the average conversion rate jumps to 17.75%.

Let’s go even further with this:

Recent data from Litmus reveals that more emails are opened on mobile than on any other device:

Litmus data reveals that 43% of email opens occur on mobile devices. (Source: Litmus) (Large preview)

Many sources even put the average mobile open rate at well over 50%. But whether it’s 43% or 50%+, it’s clear that mobile is most commonly the first device people reach for to check their emails.

Which brings us to the following conclusion:

If users are more likely to open email on mobile and we know that opened emails convert at a higher rate than those that go unopened, wouldn’t it make sense for designers to prioritize the mobile experience when designing emails?

Mobile Email Design Tips to Increase Conversions

Let’s explore what the latest research says about designing emails for mobile users and how that can be used to increase opens, clicks and, later, your website’s conversion rates (on mobile and desktop).

Design the Same Email for Mobile and Desktop

Although email is often ranked as the most effective marketing channel for acquiring and retaining customers, that’s not really an accurate picture of what’s going on.

According to Campaign Monitor, here’s what’s actually happening with mobile email subscribers:

Campaign Monitor charts the progression from mobile email opens to click-through rate. (Source: Campaign Monitor) (Large preview)

The open rates on mobile are somewhat on par with the Litmus data earlier.

However, it can take multiple opens before the email recipient actually clicks on a link or offer within an email. And guess what? About a third of them make their way over to desktop — where they convert at a higher rate than those that stay on mobile.

As the report states:

Data from nearly 6 million email marketing campaigns suggests the shift to mobile has made it more difficult to get readers to engage with your content, unless you can drive subsequent opens in a different environment.

I’ve reconstructed the graphic above and filled it with the number of people who would take action from an email list of 1,000 recipients:

An example of how Campaign Monitor’s data translates into real-world numbers. (Source: Campaign Monitor) (Large preview)

At first glance, it looks as though mobile is the clear winner — at least in terms of driving traffic to the website. After the initial mobile open, 32 subscribers go straight to the website. After a few more opens on mobile, 5 more head over there.

Without a breakdown of what the user journey looks like when opened on desktop, though, the calculation of additional clicks you’d get from that portion of the list isn’t so cut-and-dried.

However, let’s assume that Litmus’s estimate of 18% desktop opens is accurate and that Campaign Monitor’s 12.9% click-through rate holds true whether they open the email first on mobile or desktop. I think it’s safe to say that 23 desktop-only email opens can be added to the total.

So, that brings it to:

37 clicks on mobile vs 26 on desktop.

Bottom line: while mobile certainly gets more email subscribers over to a website, the conversion-friendliness of desktop cannot be ignored.

Which is why you don’t want to segment your lists based on device. If you want to maximize the number of conversions you get from a campaign, enable subscribers to seamlessly move from one device to the other as they decide what action to take with your emails.

In other words, design the same exact email for desktop and mobile. But assume that the majority of subscribers will open the email on their mobile device (unless historical data of your campaigns says otherwise). Then, use mobile-first design and marketing tips to create an email that’s suitable for all subscribers, regardless of device.

Factor in Dark Mode When Choosing Your Colors

You don’t want there to be anything that stands in your users’ way when it comes to moving from email to website. That’s why you have to consider how their choice of color and brightness for their mobile screen affects the readability or general appearance of your email design.

There are a number of ways in which this can become an issue.

As we hear more and more about how harmful blue light from our devices can be, it’s no surprise that Dark Mode options are beginning to roll out. While it’s prevalent on desktops right now, it’s mostly in beta for mobile. The same goes for email apps.

That said, smartphone users can hack their own “Dark Mode” of sorts. This type of color inversion can be enabled through the iPhone’s “Accessibility” settings.

Gadget Hacks shows how iPhone users can hack their own 'Dark Mode'. (Source: Gadget Hacks) (Large preview)

Essentially, what this does is invert all of the colors on the screen from light to dark and vice versa.

Unfortunately, the screenshotting tool on my iPhone won’t allow me to capture the colors exactly as they appear. However, what I can show you is how the inversion tool alters the color of your email design.

This is an email I received from Amtrak last week. It’s pretty standard with its branded color palette and brightly colored notices and CTA buttons:

What a promotional email from Amtrak looks like on the Gmail mobile app. (Source: Amtrak) (Large preview)

Now, here is what that same email looks like when viewed through my iPhone’s “Smart Invert” setting:

What a promotional email from Amtrak looks like in Gmail when colors are inverted. (Source: Amtrak) (Large preview)

The clean design of the original with the white font on the deep blue brand colors is gone. Now, there’s a harsh mix of colors and a hard-to-read Amtrak logo in its place.

You can imagine how this kind of inconsistent and disjointed color display would create an off-putting experience for mobile users.

But what do you expect them to do? If they’re struggling with the glare from their mobile device, Dark Mode (or some other brightness adjustment) will make it easier for them to open and read emails in the first place. Even if it means compromising the appearance of the email you so carefully designed.

One bright spot in all this is that the official “Dark Mode” being rolled out to iPhone (and, hopefully, other smartphones) soon won’t alter the look of HTML emails. Only plain-text messages will be affected.

However, it’s important to still be mindful of how the design choices you make may clash with a surrounding black background. Brightly colored backgrounds, in particular, are likely to clash with the surrounding black of your email app.

How do you solve this issue? Unfortunately, you can’t serve different versions of your email to users based on whether they’re viewing it in Dark Mode or otherwise. You’ll just have to rely on your own tests to confirm that potential views in Dark Mode don’t interfere with your design or message.

In addition to the standard testing you do, set your own smartphone up with Dark Mode (or its hack counterpart). Then, run your test email through the filter and see what happens to the colors. It won’t take long to determine what sort of colors you can and cannot design with for email.

Design the Subject Line

The subject line is the very first thing your email subscribers are going to see, whether it shows up as a push notification or they first encounter it in their inbox. What do you think affects their initial decision to click open an email rather than throw it in the Trash or Spam box immediately? Recognizing the Sender will help, but so will the attractiveness of the subject line.

As for how exactly you go about “designing” a subject line, there are a few things to think about. The first is the length.

Marketo conducted a study across 200+ email campaigns and 2 million emails sent to subscribers. Here is what the test revealed about subject line length:

Marketo tested over 2 million sent emails to determine the ideal subject line length. (Source: Marketo) (Large preview)

Although the 4-word subject line resulted in the highest open rate, it had a poor showing in terms of clicks. It was actually the 7-word subject line that seemed to have struck the perfect balance with subscribers, leading 15.2% of them to open the email and then 10.8% of them to click on it.

While you should still test this with your own email list, it appears that seven words is the ideal length for a subject line.

Next, you have to think about the buzzwords used in the subject line.

To start, keep this list of Yesware’s Spam Trigger Words out of it:

Yesware’s analysis and list of the top spam-trigger words. (Source: Yesware) (Large preview)

If you want to increase the chance the email will be opened, read, clicked on and eventually convert on-site, you have to be savvy about which words will appear within the subject line.

What I’d suggest you do is bookmark CoSchedule's Email Subject Line Tester tool.

CoSchedule tests and scores your email subject lines with one click. (Source: CoSchedule) (Large preview)

Here’s an example of how CoSchedule analyzes your subject lines and clues you in to what increases and decreases your open rates:

The first part of CoSchedule’s subject line analysis and scoring tool. (Source: CoSchedule) (Large preview)

As you can see, CoSchedule tells you which kinds of words increase open rates as well as those that don’t. Do enough of these subject line tests and you should be able to compile a good set of wording guidelines for your writers and marketers.

Further down, you’ll get more insight into what makes for a strongly worded and designed subject line:

The second part of CoSchedule’s subject line assessment and recommendations. (Source: CoSchedule) (Large preview)

CoSchedule will provide recommendations on how to shorten or lengthen the character and word counts based on best practices and results.

Finally, at the very bottom of your subject line test you’ll see this:

The final part of CoSchedule’s subject line tester includes an email client preview. (Source: CoSchedule) (Large preview)

This gives you (or, rather, your writer) a chance to see how the subject line will appear within the “design” of an email client. It’s not a problem if the words get cut off on mobile. It’s bound to happen. However, you still want everything that does appear to be appealing enough to click on.

Also, don’t forget about dressing up your subject lines with emoji.

When you think about it, emoji in mobile email subject lines make a lot of sense. Text messaging and social media are ripe with them. It’s only natural to use this fun and truncated form of language in email, too.

Campaign Monitor makes a good point about this:

If you replace words with recognizable emoji, you’ll create shorter subject lines for mobile users. Even if it doesn’t shorten your subject line enough to fit on a mobile screen, it’s still an awesome way to make it stand out from the rest of your subscribers’ cluttered inboxes.

The CoSchedule test will actually score you based on how (or if) you used emoji, too:

CoSchedule suggests that the use of emoji in subject lines will give you an edge. (Source: CoSchedule) (Large preview)

As you can see, CoSchedule considers this a competitive advantage in marketing.

Even just looking at my own email client, my eye is instantly drawn to the subject line from Sephora which contains a “NEW” emoji:

A Sephora email containing an emoji stands out from others in the inbox. (Source: Sephora) (Large preview)

Just be careful with which emoji you use. For starters, emoji are displayed differently from device to device, so it may not have the same effect on some of your subscribers if it’s a more obscure choice.

There’s also the localization aspect to think about. Not every emoji is perceived the same way around the globe. As Day Translations points out, the fire symbol is one that could cause confusion as some countries interpret it as a literal fire whereas some may view it as a symbol for attraction.

That said, emoji have proven to increase both open rates and read rates of emails. Find the right mobile-friendly emoji to include in your subject line and you could effectively increase the number of subscribers who visit your website as a result.


There are so many different kinds of emails that go out from websites:

  • Welcome message
  • Post-purchase transaction email
  • Abandoned cart reminder
  • Promotional news
  • Product featurette
  • New content available
  • Account /rewards points
  • And more.

In other words, there are plenty of ways to get in front of email subscribers.

Just remember that the majority of them will first open your email on mobile. And some will reopen it on mobile over and over again until they’re compelled to click on it or trash it. It’s up to you to design the email in a way that motivates them to visit your website and, consequently, convert.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: (ra, yk, il)
Categories: Web Design