Hello Cakewalk

February 17th, 2014 by

cakewalk-logo

This week I’m introducing Cakewalk Design Studio. I’ll primarily offer custom web design and ecommerce solutions for wineries, but I’ll also be doing work with some local companies. Since leaving Vin65 I’ve been working hard on executing a marketing plan and launching a new website for my design practice. Check out cakewallkdesign.com to see my portfolio of work and the services that I’ll be offering.

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Goodbye Vin65 Team

January 31st, 2014 by

 

Today, I’m saying goodbye to a great team.

I’m parting ways with Vin65 is to be closer with my family and to establish a healthier work/life balance. There are other reasons and opportunities, but I’ll share more of that another day. Bottom line is that working in Vancouver and living in Abbotsford hasn’t fostered a healthy family life, and it wasn’t sustainable long term.

One interaction that helped me arrive at this decision was hearing in a parent-teacher interview that my young 5YO told her teacher that I worked in another country. My kids were feeling it, and I know my workmates will understand my reasons for moving on. I’m going to miss working with this team, but I’m also excited for the new opportunities that are ahead of me.

Leaving this team doesn’t feel like leaving a company, it feels more like saying goodbye to family. We’re a pretty tight knit crew and we work, play, and even bicker more like brothers than colleagues. There are connections that I made at Vin65 that I plan to keep up. I care about these people as much as I care about the work that we accomplished together.  I’ve had some great times over the last 3 years getting to know these people, and I know that these connections will carry on after I leave.

Keep killing it Vin65.

 

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The Web Needs Less Content Carousels

December 2nd, 2013 by

Put Away Content Carousels

I’ve had some recent requests for creating content carousels on projects or on existing website, they seem to be a magic bullet of sorts for whatever ails a project. 9 times out of 10, there is a simpler solution than using a content carousel so it’s time that we see less of them.
When I’m working with a client, together, we’ll try and go through a process to discover why they’ve chosen this as solution. Whatever the reason for choosing a carousel, I don’t like hearing that company X uses one, therefore we should use one as well. Even big companies make big UX and design mistakes.

Here are some of the problems I see with content carousels, and why you should carefully consider before deploying them on a website.

Conflicting Goals

How does using a carousel solution achieve the primary goals for this content? If we have stated one single primary goal, it’s hard to achieve this goal when there are multiple rotating elements that all competing for the same primary attention.

Poor Click Through Rates

This is the most compelling reason to avoid the carousel. The further along your user browses through the content carousel, the worse-off the click through rates get. Click through rates are anywhere between 80 and 90 percent in the first slide, and after that the engagement drops off significantly. See the engagement on this article from eConsultancy. Why bother. Why expend all of that energy into having your designer create 4,5, or 6 slides, when user engagement drops off after the first few slides? Better get the first slide right.

Save the expense. The engagement on carousels aren’t good, here’s another tracking study on content carousels. And yet another study that found users were ignoring the carousels altogether.

Oh, and here are some Luke W. stats on carousels.

“The typical click-through rate of a carousel is 1-3%. Of those the majority click on the 1st image.” –@erunyon at #bdconf

— Luke Wroblewski (@lukew) July 22, 2013

Poor Page Load

Some carousels are engineered very well and can be very light and effective on resources. That effectiveness is lost when you have a half dozen (or more) content slides loading on a page. We need to use less jpg’s in web designs, not more. Your browser will be downloading all of those resources, regardless of whether or not your user is waiting around to see the content. Looking at the poor click through rates, this seems like a waste.

Well, If I must Use a Content Carousel

We just discussed conflicting goals, poor click though rates, and poor page load. If you’re still convinced to use one, make sure the content within them is all related. Show three featured products in a row, promote three events, or show a few features of your service.  Don’t start mixing and matching content and taking your users from product, to service, to event, and about you. It’s confusing.

Deploying Content as One Giant Image

Don’t embed your headings and content within images on the web. Avoid this practice at all costs. This is cruel treatment for web browsers, it causes page bloat and the information is hidden from search engines.  Unfortunately, this can be commonplace when reaching into the toolkit to deploy a content carousel.

Aggravate Your Users

Raise your hand if you’ve visited a site with a carousel only to have it switch before you’ve finished reading content? Dang, what slide was I on? Oh man, there aren’t any indicator dots. Whatever, moving on. Poor navigation and usability will send your visitors elsewhere. The indicator dots are a useless navigation decision because there isn’t any indication of what content is inside these content areas. I’ll take what’s behind dot number three!

I’m on the anti-carousel kick lately, and I’ve been collecting some resources that are helping make the case against using carousels. Bottom line is, make sure you really need one, before you decide to deploy a content carousel.

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On Collaboration

November 27th, 2013 by

Thoughts on Collaboration

When your spouse is going through school, you tend go through their studies along with them, so I’m sure this will be the first of many lessons I learn along the way.

My wife started into her teachers certification a few months ago, and one of the first things I’ve observed is how teachers collaborate with each other. Not unlike the design profession, teachers are very passionate about what they do, and love to share their ideas and refine them through collaboration with peers. In this program, students are encouraged to collaborate, and everyone seems more than happy to do it and help each other succeed, which makes sense, these are going to be future colleagues.

How Do We Start Collaborating?

What can I do for you? This is a great mindset and the right place to start with collaboration. Don’t focus on how you can benefit but on what you have to offer others. You have another point of view of a project, a different life experience, or a unique view of the world around you. Simply offering this insight, can help spark new ideas and directions to make a concept better.

Apply this lesson to my own circle, and I’ve been fortunate to work with a group of individuals that love to collaborate and share ideas. But what about collaborating with the community around us? What are some ways we can collaborate with other individuals and designers?

Inspired By Unknowing Collaborators

There is a school of thought that most of the best ideas have already been discovered, and we’re continually inspired by the many things that are already out there. We recreate, tweak, and reshape things until we arrive at the best or slightly new solutions. Take time away from your work, listen to new music, appreciate works of art, read a novel, hike a mountain, or watch a sporting event. The inspiration we get from life in general and our other passions and interests unknowingly becomes a collaborator with our work.

Offer (and Ask for) Critiques of your work

This can be done through technology easily by sharing your work with communities like Behance or Dribbble.  As well as using other designers for help and advice on a project. You won’t get any help or advice if you don’t ask, and the barriers to asking are quite small with the technology available to use.

Volunteer or Pro Bono

We all have things that we’re passionate about or causes we champion outside of what we do for work. I’m fortunate to be able to give a little back to my community and causes that I love in a real and practical way. The experience gained from volunteerism and gifting your work can be invaluable.

Join a Local Community Meetup

All the cool kids seem to be claiming introversion these days, but for others (like me) it truly does take effort to put yourself out there and join a local group or meetup. There’s a number of great communities of like-minded individuals that could spur the next big idea or collaboration.  Even if you don’t discover the next “big thing”, you’ll at least have made a new connection or friend.

Side Projects & Freelance

There is a stigma with freelance and side projects that ‘working on the side’ will adversely affect your day job. That is true if you do too much of it, or if you take on work that will directly affect your employers bottom line. If you cannot offer your employer 100% before embarking on a side project, then don’t do it. However, your employer will benefit from the side projects you choose to work on. For example, as a front end designer, I can reach into other areas of development, programming and project management, that wouldn’t be otherwise afforded to me in my full-time role.  Or I can try new techniques on a personal side project that may be too risky for client venture.

Anyways, these are some ideas and suggestions on how you can collaborate with others. Happy connecting!

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