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The Importance of Color and the Mind

Color is an important element of visual language in most user interface designs. People process color before they are consciously aware of it., so the colors you choose to use can be the difference between a user-friendly design and a confusing, unusable design. Careful planning and implementation of color will create not only an aesthetically pleasing website, but a functional one as well. Below are ten color –related benefits you may want to consider when creating your next design.

1.  Speed visual search.  Color-coding will help the user stay focused on a certain area of information. This comes in handy when multiple areas of information are being displayed. Color-coding helps keep the eye focused and the information organized.

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2.  Improve object recognition.  Colors should reflect the physical world. Seeing objects that are colored different than real world expectations causes cognitive confusion. For speedy recognition, use colors that are normally associated with objects, e.g., bananas are yellow.

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3.  Enhance meaning.  Colors can be used for emphasis, to display a most important element or message. The example below shows an emphasis on red that gets our attention and clues us to what the site is all about.

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4.  Convey structure.  In addition to speeding visual search, color can structure a page or presentation. It offers yet another form of organization, allowing the user to quickly identify and recognize information.

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5.  Establish identity.  In today’s world, brand identity is the greatest visual recognition element of any business or organization. Color is ubiquitous and is a source of information; incorporating and utilizing the appropriate color palette in your visual design will reinforce the client’s brand throughout the user experience.

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6.  Symbolism.  Color can also be used to represent cultural and psychological concepts. Color in design is very subjective. What evokes one reaction in one person may evoke a very different reaction in someone else. Sometimes this is due to personal preference, and other times due to cultural background. Context plays a large part in color symbolism. One color can have positive or negative connotations depending on the larger framework. Take a look at the “white” website image below. In western cultures, white represents color of purity and peace. In Eastern and Asian cultures, white is the color of death. Understanding the cultural context of your client’s audience can alert you to culturally based color sensitivity. 

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7.  Improve usability.  Colors impact site visitors psychologically, and can affect the user’s experience. In user interfaces, color informs visitors of the most important functions and areas of the screen. Take the user’s need and site functionality into consideration before strategizing your use of color.

8.  Communicate mood.  Color creates mood. Research shows that lighter colors have a more positive effect on users than darker colors. The following link provides examples of colors and the psychology it impacts.  http://usabilitygeek.com/colour-user-experience-psychology/

9.  Show associations.  Color can be used to indicate associations to groupings or other graphical elements. For example, we recognize the U.S. political party colors to be blue for democratic and red for republican. In the same way, colors used in web design can be utilized to help a user identify certain information or functionality.

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10.  Express metaphors.  You have heard of feeling blue or seeing red as metaphors for being sad or angry. Metaphoric inferences can be translated visually in your design.  Utilizing a color like pink, for example, can translate into a young, teen girl experience for a youth clothing store.

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In the end, don’t be afraid to experiment with the use of color to enhance the appearance and functionality of your design. Color has great meaning and will you create an impactful, functional and beneficial user experience.

 Tell us about your color experience and design considerations. Are there specific colors you avoid in your design to improve the user experience?

“5 Quick Ways to Improve Website Usability”-usabilitygeek.com

“10 Reasons to Use Color”-understandinggraphics.com

“Color Theory for Designers” –smashingmagazine.com

Posted in Creative, Design

Presenting is a Skill

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If you’ve ever been to a meeting, then chances are you have sat through at least one bad presentation. A presentation that contains a series of slides with so much text that nobody can actually read it. A presenter that takes the time to go through every bit of that text on all 40 slides. Content so bland that it makes you want to fake an illness. And let’s not forget clip art…

Why are these presentations so bad? Is it because the presenter is nervous, or simply not an eloquent speaker? Is it because PowerPoints are inherently painful? No, I believe it is simply that these individuals have not been trained how to present. The ability to present is not a talent that is reserved for only the most charismatic individuals. Anybody can learn to be an effective presenter. They just need to be given the proper guidance and training in order to successfully deliver their message.

Nowhere is this more important than in the consulting world. In my time, I’ve seen many consultants put in a lot of hard work into developing deliverables, only to have them fall flat in a client presentation. It’s not because the deliverables were of poor quality, but because the message was not properly conveyed. A poor presentation tends to reflect negatively upon the subject of that presentation.

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Presentation is a practiced skill. With the proper training and experience you can strengthen your skills over time. Yes there will be times when things won’t go smoothly. For instance, when your presentation is scheduled for an hour, but your client tells you they only have 15 minutes. However, if you start with these 7 basic principles you can avoid many of the pitfalls of the bad presentation.

1. Know Your Audience
Whenever you are presenting, it is essential to know your audience. A technical team may want a very detailed explanation of the topic that consist of 40 slides, however if you’re presenting to a CMO or CIO, your presentation will need to be more succinct and to the point. Knowing your audience will help you create the right type of presentation.

2. Set Expectations
When presenting project deliverables, it’s important that your audience understands where you are within a given process. If it’s only the second week of a twelve week project and you’re showing some early design concepts, then your audience should know that they are being involved early on in the process. That will set their expectations for the completeness of the work they are seeing. It would be a mistake to assume that everybody attending understands the project schedule and milestones heading into the meeting. For this reason, I typically begin my presentations with a project timeline that shows the client where we are in project and what are the next steps.

3. Provide context
Don’t assume the client knows what they reviewing. You know it, you’ve been working on it for the past week, however the client may have no idea what they are reviewing and why they are reviewing it. Take a style tile for example. A style tile utilizes, colors, fonts, typography, imagery and iconography to convey the visual communication of a site without specifying the layout, content or functionality. However without the proper context, a client may interpret a style tile as a mockup of the site. As a result, they may be giving you feedback on elements such as the layout or content, instead of the visual communication. Which brings me to my next principle.

4. Give Direction
Before you ask for feedback on a deliverable, you should specify the purpose of the deliverable and the type of feedback you are looking for. If it’s a style tile, you may want feedback on the aesthetics and branding elements. If it’s a prototype, you may want feedback on the organization of content or specific interactions. Whatever your goals are, if you establish the rules upfront, you will get more valuable feedback.

5. Focus on the Why
When presenting something like wireframe or a mockup, its important to focus on the design decisions you have made vs. the elements that exist on the screen. I’ve seen too many designers struggle because they gave a tour of their design, instead of focusing on the why. When a designer simply points to a feature and describes it “Here is the login box”, they are simply pointing out what the client can clearly see. The message that should be expressed is “We included a highly visible login area on the home page, because it is a primary task for our users coming into the home page. The placement, which aligns with best practice standards, is in the area where users expect to find it.” This type of explanation will validate your design decisions and communicate to the client that every detail of the design has a purpose. Clients want to know that you’ve thought about their unique challenges and have provided solutions that address those challenges. If you and the client agree on the intent, then you can work together to refine the specific execution of the concept.

6. Know Your Material
Nothing is more frustrating than a presenter that just reads the text on a slide or in the above example, just points out what can be plainly seen. If the presentation had all the information that the client needed, then they wouldn’t need you to present. You are a very important part of the message. And in order for you to be effective, you must know your material. That doesn’t mean that you have to memorize every bullet on your slide, or perfectly recapture what’s in the notes. You can simply focus on what you feel are the most important elements and then let your excitement shine through. If you’re excited about the topic you’re presenting, the client will feel it too.

7. Engage Your Audience
This principle goes hand-in-hand with knowing your material. You can’t communicate with your audience if you’re staring at your presentation. As the presenter, it’s your responsibility ensure that you’re audience is engaged. The best way to do that is by putting their needs at the forefront of your messaging. Whenever possible, connect directly with the individuals in the room and address their challenges. Also, pay attention to the feedback you’re getting (verbal and non-verbal). If you’re unsure whether you’re capable of reading body language, check out this article by R.L. Howler (http://www.presentationdynamics.org/read-your-audience/). Focus on the points that are hitting home and gloss over topics that are not of interest. The key is to keep the audience engaged so that you can successfully deliver your message.

Yes, presentation is a skill. It’s something that can be learned, practiced and mastered. It may not come naturally to everyone, but following these basic principles will set you on the path to more effective presentations.

This Post Is Late

Why is time management so hard for this creative professional?

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Morphart Creation

I wanted to go ahead and get that out upfront. My week for writing and posting was last week, and I have this lovely plan to write and post on a semi-regular basis going forward. Like many of the creative people I work with, however, I find I am not always successful at managing my time to my advantage. Sometimes, I’m terrible at it.

Time management is hard. It isn’t simply that we have busy jobs. We are all tasked with deadlines and responsibilities, often managing multiple internal and client projects at the same time. We have busy personal lives. Many of us have kids, and some of us are going to school or pursuing additional training and education. We have creative pursuits and other interests and commitments, plus bills and home or car repairs and doctor appointments and extended friends and families that need us. We have a life and a professional life, and we generally like them both.

The way we manage our time has something to do with the way we think, as well. The creative mind doesn’t like to simply solve a problem or meet a challenge and be done. Our approach includes the tendency to go beyond problem solving to imagining “what else.” We poke at things, and then peel them back to reveal hidden intricacies. We twist them around, sometimes breaking them, yes, but then putting them back together in a new or enhanced way.

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I&I musings – css, Apache, jQuery, web storage and LeanUX

CSS multi-language support

Chiuhua Chen, senior front end developer and prototyping expert at Perficient XD, is currently working on a web application that has a visual design supporting only english language. As with every other I&I Musingsproject, the business later on proposed support for multi-language support. When the application is in another language, spanish or Chinese, due to design constraints, the page appears messed up with some text occupying more width than what is actually allocated. On further research and checking with other peers, Chiu is working on implementing language specific stylesheet which would override the generic css file to take care of this issue. Lead front end developer Jacob Schulke has a few good points on the topic and has already shared his thoughts here. To learn more on how Chiu is tackling the multi-language css support issue, get in touch with her here.

Apache Virtual Hosts

Derek Montgomery, senior front end developer at Perficient XD, with a strong penchant for infrastructure setup and command line coding, is currently working on setting up a new virtual host for Perficient XD and doing further research on the topic, agrees that “If you have made a website, you have probably used Apache. One widely used application of virtual hosts is shared web hosting, whose prices are lower than a dedicated web server because many customers can be hosted on a single server”. He points out virtual hosts can potentially solve problems such as –

  • I have one domain (perficientxd.com), but I want multiple subdomains (e.g. dev., client., etc.).
  • I have one IP address available, but I need to test how multiple subdomains would function(use ports)!
  • Cost efficient, and pretty easy to configure and test.

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Agile and UX Design: Can they work together? Part One

Diet pills and Agile have a commonality – people want a quick fix to lose weight only slightly more than they want a fix to all their project management issues. Unfortunately, diet pills nor agile are silver bullets to correct either concern. It takes dedication, work and an understanding of the principles behind the body’s metabolism to lose weight. Likewise, it takes dedication, work and an understanding of the principles behind agile to improve delivery of a project. Once you understand these principles you can become a two pizza team, improve project delivery and lose weight at the same time.

This is the first part of an ongoing series attempting to not only bring clarity to what it means to be agile, but also to answer the question, can agile methodologies work during the UX design phase of a project? I have heard arguments on both sides of that debate. Many designers saying ‘no’ it doesn’t work and the more traditional waterfall methodology works best. Why? Because you have to business requirements before you can start wireframes and you have to have wireframes before you can start creative design. Before starting creative you have to have a content strategy which depends on the wireframes, which depends on the business requirements and on and on. While I am not arguing these needs I want to explore the possibility of providing these needs within an agile process.

But, before the exploration of this feasibility can begin let’s first define what agile means. I hear the word tossed about to describe a single methodology of project management or software development. Ask a project team what methodology they are following and often you hear “we are using agile”. What does that mean? Each week we change our process because we didn’t like what we did last week? Or, the client wants us to change how we are doing things because they didn’t like what we did last week? That isn’t agile, that’s chaotic and reactive. So, what is agile?

It’s difficult to define as agile is an umbrella term for multiple approaches to project management of software development projects. At the core, agile is a group of methods that enable small, cross-functional teams to quickly deliver business value in an iterative, collaborative approach. Where change is expected, not feared and where requirements can be expanded upon as the team learns more. Where conversation and collaboration are valued over strict adherence to a set plan defined before the requirements are even made clear to the customer, let alone the team.

The agile manifesto describes the values and principles of agile software development practices and I won’t take the time to reiterate them here, but if you don’t know them I suggest checking out that link. The manifesto itself is made up of four key values supported by twelve principles.

Agile Manifesto Values

Agile Manifesto Values

Some agile methods which exhibit these values and principles are:

• Scrum – arguably the most popular
• Kanban
• XP (Extreme Programming)
• Lean Software Development
• Feature Driven Development
• DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method)
• Crystal

This is not an exhaustive list of all agile methodologies, but some of the more popular ones currently in use. Which of the approaches to use depends on the team’s knowledge and expertise in each methodology, their culture and sometimes the project goals.

Making a move to agile is a cultural change that impacts the entire organization, not just the IT department. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. An evolution not a revolution. There is compelling evidence that iterative methods reduce project risk, compared to more traditional waterfall approaches. Next time we’ll move into the discussion of bringing Agile and UX together.

In the meantime, have you been involved in a cultural shift to using agile? What pain points did you find and how did you resolve them?

Adobe Summit: Building a Global Digital Marketing Platform

This session had a nice abstract that set some high expectations for a case study.

Creating a dynamic platform to support global digital marketing programs? PwC and USG developed a strategic plan and roadmap to deliver an integrated solution that enables local markets to take advantage of the global investment, from digital asset management, assets and product data, to developing country-specific workflows, while also ensuring brand compliance and consistent analytics and measurement. This scalable, Adobe Marketing Cloud based solution provides USG with the framework to target its marketing and optimize experience based on real-time data. Learn how USG and PwC collaborated to develop a cloud-based platform based on Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Analytics and Adobe Tag Manager, and DAM. In this session: – Learn how starting with a Mobile First mentality drove the experience design – Discuss global analytics dashboards – Explore marketing automation platform integration, and hear how USG is leveraging the platform for their employee intranet This session is for digital marketers.

Data

  • 50 billion connected devices by 202
  • 2X the E7 GDP will double
  • Gartner by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO
  • eMarketer – just under 40% of marketing big data spending will go to software investment

USG is a building manufacturer. They had a large impact in the recent downturn and needed to deal with that plus making changes in how the company dealt with the market.  They had a lot of challenges including an outdated site, outdated technology, no clear user experience, no analytics or decent benchmarks. On top of that they were in the midst of going global

The old site was a bunch of links focused on their products and not much. It had little valuable information.

What did they do?

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Adobe Summit | Laying Out Your Digital Experience Game Plan

As a B2B marketer with a previous organization, I was tasked with consolidation of websites for my division. My CMO set the goal of having a unified brand experience for the entire company and my division was the first to adopt the “one-company” brand.  To provide a bit of context, my organization was a large company that had grown through acquisition. We had 20 websites to consolidate for my division — some of which had not been touched for several years. It’s also hard to admit this, but we had no meaningful plan to effectively engage with our online customers. This is something that’s a big “no-no” in marketing today!  I needed help building a game plan – something that would provide the strategy and technology processes I needed to drive success – but I didn’t know where to find that. Fortunately there are some options for marketers today.

Adobe Summit | Laying Out Your Digital Experience Game PlanAt Adobe Summit this year, the Perficient booth will be focused on building compelling marketing “Game Plans” for both prospects and clients. The goal is to find those key components and critical next steps that clients must take to enhance their digital marketing initiatives – whether they are focused on customer experience or on the technology that glues the experience together.  As a marketer, I find our solution expertise unique. Our in-house digital agency and web content management practice work in concert to help marketing and IT stakeholders work effectively together. We accomplish this by providing these stakeholders with key insights and analysis which supports the creation of digital marketing solutions that enhance customer engagement and drive revenue across all channels and touch points…something I could have used several years ago!

Robert Sumner our WCM practice director said it best, “If marketers want to truly understand who their customers are, what those customers want from the company and how to provide value, aligning their digital marketing strategies with their customer experience management strategies becomes crucial to achieving solid ROI results. We’re pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the Adobe Summit as the desire to address this evolution is native to Adobe’s approach with its Marketing Cloud solutions, and specifically with their Adobe Experience Manager solution.” Read more here.

If you are at Adobe Summit, I invite you to join us at  booth 208 to help layout your digital experience game plan. We’ll have our experts on hand to demonstrate how we’ve helped our clients to create a more compelling, personalized digital experience across touch points including legacy websites, mobile sites, social networks, customer transactions, and in-person or contact center interactions. Visitors to the booth can learn how best to integrate the right digital marketing tools with traditional web content strategies, including Adobe Experience Manager.

See you in Utah!

Invitation from Google to become a Glass Explorer

Earlier this year, Google had launched +Project Glass contest and offered a unique opportunity to experience Google Glass in-person. I entered into the contest as well and my submissions can be found here. Approximately eight thousand winners were selected and I was not one of them.

Recently, I received an email from “Glass Support” with an invitation to become a glass explorer! See email below:

Google Glass Invitation

I have not yet decided if I will join the program and purchase the Glass Developer Kit which has a price tag of $1500. Trying to figure out business value for Google Glass; from an enterprise IT perspective, I’m not sure how we can use Glass currently. In addition, I don’t think any of our largest partners are working/developing for Glass – example: IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, etc.

Since I am a technology enthusiast, I would like to get Glass for personal use anyway; it would create nice blog posts to share my experiences with especially how wearable tech is transforming user experience.

I would like to hear your opinion – Should I invest in Google Glass? Why or Why Not?

IT Pros: Visualize tech industry news using Pinterest

The title of this post by CIO.com caught my attention immediately this morning:

How IT Pros Can Use Pinterest for Career Growth

Pinterest launched in 2010, and since then I have kept my eyes on its growth and how people are using it for sharing and posting visual content. I never thought that the visual aspect of industry news in the enterprise IT space would take off on this social network, which is mostly known for sharing recipes, crafts and other media that lends itself to compelling images more than the enterprise IT space.

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Technology infographics on Pinterest

But this post really gives some great reasons why Pinterest makes sense as a place for IT professionals to spend time:

  1. Find and follow influencers – they’ve had 3 years to find their way to the platform. Now there’s on Pinterest, and you should see what they’re up to here, just as you do on Twitter or LinkedIn.
  2. Pin helpful articles and books – you can post an article link and Pinterest will find a related graphic/image in that post to use as the main image.
  3. Find useful infographics – It seems to me that 2013 is the year of the infographic – there’s no shortage of them on Pinterest!
  4. Track information on specific topics – just use Pinterest’s search function to find helpful articles in the area of enterprise IT that interests you most.
  5. Webinars and events TED Talks is on Pinterest, for example.
  6. Get career and talent search help

 

Read CIO.com’s post here.

 

SxSW Day 3 – Behavior Change as Value Proposition

At the end of the third day of SxSW, I sat in on a session about Behavior Change and how design can use that as a value proposition. Chris Risdon, of Adaptive Path, was the speaker, and it was great to sit in on this topic again and see how much it’s matured since the last time I got to see Chris present on it. The market today is becoming filled with products and services that are designed to not only track and monitor our behavior, but provide insight into how we might change that behavior for the better. Chris covered many of the concepts and principles behind this new breed of products during his talk.

Below are the notes I took during the session, please note it is mostly a stream of consciousness so please forgive any spelling or grammer mistakes.

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