Posts tagged ‘design’

Fresh paint

I just pushed a new design for this site. Despite my infrequent posting, I’m still getting decent traffic every day from Google. The makeover was long overdue as the previous design from 2007 was starting to feel quite dated.

My goal was to design something that felt more modern and works better on mobile. Clean and simple. Focus on the content. I’m still running on WordPress, but I hacked up a new theme that uses Twitter Bootstrap to make it responsive and the Lato font to make it pretty.

I’ve switched the comments over to Facebook. Requiring commenters to use their real identity is the best way I know to deal with spam. I can’t import old comments into Facebook, so I’ll be using Disqus for historical posts.



My talk from The AJAX Experience

Back in September 2008 I had the privilege of speaking at The AJAX Experience in Boston.  I talked about designing great forms and covered a lot of my own pet-peeves with forms on the web and shared some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Today I got an email from a guy who found the video online and said he’d gotten some great stuff out of it. I had no idea a video even existed.  600 views and many months later I finally found out about it.  And in the spirit of better late than never, I’m posting it now.  The talk is about an hour long and covers a lot of my thoughts around form design, usability and creating experiences on the web that are actually fun!

One of the coolest parts for me was the amount of discussion this talk generated, both during the show and afterwards.  I had a great audience with lots of participation but I apologize for the parts you can’t hear since we didn’t have an audience mic set up.

And here are the slides:

As always, if you’re interested in having me speak at your event, let me know.


3 web design firms I regularly recommend

I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life writing code for money. I sold my first website when I was 14, paid my way through college doing contract work and haven’t stopped coding since. When I started EventVue, I made the tough decision to not take on any contract work. I understood that for EventVue to be a success it would take my full and undivided attention (along with a lot of hard work / luck). Apparently it’s taking a while for the word to get out, because I still get regular emails asking me to design a website or code up some widget. My response is always the same. “I don’t do that anymore, but here are 3 companies I recommend. Let me know if you want me to make an introduction.”

  • OrangeCoat (Greenville, SC)
    I’ve known the OrangeCoat guys for a while now. I’ve written code for them. They’ve done design work for me. I love working with these guys.
  • Engenius Development (Greenville, SC)
    Chase did some contract work for me while we were both at Clemson. He’s since graduated and launched out on his own. He’s a great guy and you won’t find anyone who will work harder to make your website a success.
  • Slice of Lime (Boulder, CO)
    I’ve not yet had a chance to work with them personally, but I’ve admired a lot of the work they’ve done for other companies around Boulder. They make good stuff.

Beautiful new design from OrangeCoat

Evan Tishuk from OrangeCoat just sent me a link to the new site they designed for Wilderness Systems. Evan, I believe you outdid yourself this time. That design is beautiful!

Evan is one of those people that I hope to hire someday. I’m saving up, ’cause he’s worth a lot. Not only is he an amazing designer, but he’s also a great entrepreneur. Evan, I’m looking forward to building something cool together one of these days. Just let me know when you’re ready to start. 🙂

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How to build great forms

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. What many people don’t realize is that excellence isn’t achieved at the macro level. You don’t reach excellence by making one great decision. Instead, you reach excellence through making lots of small decisions consistently well. Here are some simple guidelines to help you improve the quality of your user forms:

1. Do your research

When designing a user interface, take the time to read up on stuff like eyetracking research before you design your forms. For example, did you know that you can reduce your users saccade time from 500ms to 50ms per input field, just by placing form labels above the field instead of left aligning them in another column?

2. Know your user (see #1)

Talk to people! Ask questions. And when all else fails, use common sense. For example, we recently redesigned our date input fields. We were using the popular date picker which allows user’s to select the date from a popup calendar. We thought this feature was cool, until we realized that conference organizers usually register their events 6 or more months in advance – that means they have 6 or more unnecessary clicks just to get to the right month. This didn’t make sense to us, so we went back to the drawing board and opted for regular drop-down date inputs instead.

3. Reduce friction

Every input field that you have people fill out is friction. With every second that you keep people waiting, you increase your likelihood of losing them. You need to do everything you can to reduce this friction. Sit down and evaluate every question in your form design and ask yourself what it would take to get rid of it.

I came across a good example of this yesterday as I was working on the registration form for EventVue. Since our conferences can be located anywhere, we need to collect time zone information. Every website I’ve found requires the user to manually enter their time zone. Why do they do that? Why can’t the browser just tell you which time zone the user is in and automatically select it for them? I spent a day looking into this problem, and sure enough, all it took was some time and some javascript to detect the user’s time zone automagically. So what fields do you have that you could eliminate?

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