Author Archives: Sharon Villines

About Sharon Villines

I am an artist and writer. This is a perfect combination of skills for designing websites because I can help you with writing and information structure as well as design. I live in Washington DC but with the internet, location isn't important. I prefer to communicate by email. It allows me to think about your questions and investigate issues before responding. And there are no time-zone issues. It doesn't matter if you are just waking or I'm sound asleep when questions arise. Feel free to contact me with any questions: sharon@sharonvillines.com

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Snazzy Maps is a collection of links to, you guessed it, Snazzy Maps. When a Google Map isn’t enough look a these: Pale Dawn, Midnight Commander, Avocado World, Neon World, and more. A map to match every color scheme.

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Editorially logo and tagline: The Best Writing is Rewriting

Editorially: The Best Writing is Rewriting

Stet’s full title is Stet: A Writer’s Journal on Culture and Technology. Many wonderful articles on how writing on for the web.

It is published by Editorially: The Best Writing is Rewriting, a collaborative writing forum.

STET’s goal is to demystify writing by drawing attention to how writing works. To that end, STET pairs good writing with notes that explain what makes writing good.

Topics on STET range across culture and technology, with special attention paid to the intersections between them. We aim to be as accessible and interesting to both practitioners and users of technology. You won’t find insider lingo here; you will find astute, well-written, and nuanced takes on subjects both timely and timeless.

The title pays homage to a discussion between writer and editor, in which one or the other marks a change “stet,” meaning “let it stand.” It suggests both discussion and revision, elements which we believe are at the heart of good writing.

Visual Content from Visual.ly

The graphic design company Visual.ly specializes in  ”visual content,” information conveyed using a combination of images and language—infographics, videos, interactives, presentations. They pull together storytellers, number crunchers, designers, and animators.

Their Infographics start at $999 and are worth every penny. They are delightful and elegant and effective—the magic word.

Their front page is a continuous scroll of their work, which is amazing: Visual.ly

The blog entries explain data visualization: Visual.ly Blog.

Go to Visual.ly to be inspired and to have a fabulous infographic designed. Three examples   of staff picks:

English Grammar Verbs

Grammar: Verbs at Visually.
A Beginner

The Beginner’s Guide to Wine from  Visual.ly.
All Sci-Fi Spaceships Known to Man

All Sci-Fi Spaceships Known to Man at Visually.

 

Simple Design, Short Names, No Ads

Flexi Websites are simple, and becoming simpler. It takes time to learn to leave out what people don’t really need to know, but we’re getting there.

Simplifying the Internet

Today’s examples of simple are from a post by  on the BuzzFeed FWD website. It includes examples of simple design sites and the new attitude: “Welcome To The New Internet: Simple Design, Short Names, No Ads”

These examples are publishing platforms directed at simplifying and redesigning blogs. John Herrman writes:

In recent months, at least four of the most interesting new startups — all either from or backed by people with deep roots in the current internet, including Twitter cofounders and many of the most prominent VCs in Silicon Valley — have been launched to, in some way, replace the internet. Not add to it, or change some part. These sites want to fix the whole thing: to remake comments, content, and updates with little to no encumbrance from the current web.

Simple Blogging Websites

 

 

The Perfect Website

Addressing the key elements of the perfect website as simply as possible is the basis for designing an affordable, effective, and fast website.

The Key Elements

  • Design: Testing on multiple browser capabilities, and screen sizes and resolutions. Valid HTML and CSS coding.
  • Navigation: The ability to find information
  • Usability: Including features that aid users and avoiding those that irritate them
  • Content: Information in the language of your users.
  • SEO: Optimizing a site for search engines is more than improving your rankings, it’s about engineering your site so users can find it using a search engine — clear content and keywords.
  • Social Media: In May of 2011, US web users spent 53,457,259 minutes on Facebook. Nielson reports that people don’t like doing business on Facebook. But a personal website might be effective.
  • Tracking and Analytics: 80% of all websites used Google Analytics in 2011, but the important thing is using the data from your analytics to  learn what your users are reading and looking for on your site, and how they get there. That doesn’t mean being user driven. It does mean looking at what is important to you and measuring it against what your users are viewing. You may need to present yourself more clearly.
  • Footer: Don’t slack off at the footer. Repeat navigation links, include your copyright, and contact information, including your company name.

The infographic from Visual.ly:

The Anatomy of a Perfect Website

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

Navigation Guidelines for Better Navigation and Categories

Navigation Guidelines is  report on an e-commerce  study at Baymard Institute which researches the best ways to improve the online user experience. This was an eight month large-scale usability research study on the product-finding experience—a multi-syllabic way of saying how people do or do not find things they are looking for on the web and how they feel about it. The study tested multi-million dollar websites by the best designers. Amazon, Best Buy, Blue Nile, Chemist Direct, Drugstore.com, eBags, GILT, GoOutdoors, H&M, IKEA, Macy’s, Newegg, Pixmania, Pottery Barn, REI, Tesco, Toys’R’Us, The Entertainer, and Zappos. They found more than 900 usability problems.

While most of these guidelines apply to retail shopping sites, the principles can be applied to any site.

1. Don’t Make Parent Categories Shallow. (Also, Have Parent Categories.)

Use parent categories and child categories. Both should be clickable, not just a list of items. Users expect items in a menu to be clickable and they like to explore.

2. Put the Same Subcategory Within Multiple Main Categories When Necessary.

When a subcategory could logically appear in multiple parent categories but appears only in one, users believe it isn’t there when they don’t find it where they expect it to be.

3. Consider Having a “What’s New” Category or Filter.

Some users want to see what’s new — to be inspired or buying a gift — without having to plow through known products.

4. Suggest Both Alternative and Supplementary Products on Product Pages.

Alternatives, substitutes, add-ons and accessories to the product that the user is currently viewing are often hard to find.

5. List “Recently Viewed Items.”

Returning to a a previously visited product becomes needlessly complex using only the browser’s “Back” button or has to re-navigate the categories or reuse search.

6. Create Dedicated Pages that List Compatible Products.

Users have a difficult time finding compatible products and verifying their compatibility when the website doesn’t explicitly state their compatibility or link to the corresponding products. In other words put matching stuff together with matching stuff.

7. Always Link Contextual Images Directly to the Products Shown.

Users quickly grow frustrated when they spot a product in a front page display image but can’t navigate to it.

GoOutdoThe full article can be found here: Navigation Guidelines for Better Navigation and Categories

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Photo of Rachel Andrew

Rachel Andrew

Start Small and Listen. That is Rachel Andrew‘s advice in this helpful article in Smashing Magazine. No matter how many articles you have read on business, one more is never a bad idea. This one is likely to contain both new ideas and reminders for you.

Building a Successful Product: Start Small and Listen

“The goal of a startup is to find the sweet-spot where minimum product and viable product meet — get people to fall in love with you. Over time, you listen to your customers, make improvements and raise the bar on what viable means — making it more expensive for competitors to jump in.”

– John Radoff