Design for Change

Known has the “King of Web Standards” and a longtime hero of ours is Jeffrey Zeldman. He’s one of the brains behind WordPress, the blogging software launched in 2003 that has evolved into a popular publishing system for websites. Jeffrey once said…

“Your company’s survival is tied to the ability of the products it makes to work in situations you haven’t imagined, and on devices that don’t yet exist.”

When we’re asked to design a “responsive design” website, we still start with words. Before one pixel of design is undertaken, we have done our research on all their competitors and listed the top keywords for our customer’s industry. We list what sticks out in our research, we come to understand our customer’s pain points, we search for the “big idea” for the messaging, we list all the reasons why someone wouldn’t purchase from this customer and overcome possible objections, we describe products and services honestly and in process we find our voice and craft the entire message for the website’s content. 

Next we create the brand message. Starting with the current logo, we create a brand messaging style guide based on the website’s copy. We gather all the social proof like customer testimonials and case studies and optimize the images to look great on all device sizes such as desktops and mobile phones.

Copy dictates design, not the other way around.

Because we started with the end in mind, we have all the content for the entire website and have created a site map. Every paragraph has a goal and a call to action and the content document is packed with relevant SEO words and phrases. Then we build the wireframe to define the layout structure on the many device form factors (2-dimensional sizes). On the left side of the wireframe is the site design as it will be viewed on computers; the right side is for tablets and mobile devices. Saved as a PDF, this document serves as a “go by” during coding and development.

But what about the future of websites? The answer may surprise you. Look at that growth of wearable devices like the Apple watch. We already use responsive design to translate websites on smaller screen sizes like tablets and mobile phones, but our wearable device is already forcing web designers to redefine responsive design. It’s more intuitive and less distracting to glance at a device on your wrist. Watch for it. The Internet of Things (IoT) is on the move!

Web Design Trends for 2021

It’s a tradition at ActiveCanvas to share with our clients and readers what website design industry “experts” believe will trend for the coming year. Some of these trends stick around and become part of the fabric of online design, while others fade into oblivion. Both the winners and the losers give us useful insight. So here are our top 5 for 2021 with our favorite trend rated #1.

#1 Dark Mode. Dark mode is how Apple changed the way we see our screens. Instead of a white background with dark text, users have the option to switch to light text on a dark background to preserve battery life and reduce blue light exposure. If you want to convey caring, try Dark Mode. 

#2 Minimalism. These sites use basic shapes, clean, usually sans serif text, limited color palettes, and an abundance of empty space to put the focus on content and functionality. The minimalist style trend is not new, but because it’s such a strong factor in boosting SEO and extending audience reach these functional and inclusive sites are still madly popular. If you want to be trusted, use Minimalism.

#3 Illustration. These sites use graphic design and hand-drawn elements to communicate in place of photographic elements. The illustrations aren’t always accurate either — drawings of people in odd shapes and sizes are known as “odd bodies” and hand-drawn shapes have little or no symmetry. If you want to convey diversity, freedom, and individualism; try Illustration. 

#4 Organic Design. Maybe a year of isolation indoors has us begging for the look and feel of the outdoors because a new and growing trend uses nature for inspiration. Organic designs use warm, subtle, earthy colors, natural shapes and textures…a favorite choice for businesses connected to our environment and sustainability. If you want to convey health, wellness or beauty, think Organic.

#5 Anti-Design. These quirky websites defy balance and good taste by using asymmetrical layouts, distortion, odd layering patterns, and really terrible color palettes. About the only positive thing about this new style is that it does make a site stand about. If you want to be talked about, use Anti-Design.

You are invited to join us for the ride as we plunge into 2021 with open minds and a commitment to excellence. For our part, we promise to continue building solid, hand-coded websites using best practices for page speed, user experience, and conversion.

Why You Should Not Design Your Own Logo

Your logo is your most powerful branding tool. It is far more than your name in pretty type or a clip art symbol in your favorite color. 

Your logo is the primary connection between your product or service and your customer or client. It’s an emotional connection that creates an instant opinion, mark of credibility, and level of confidence. 

Your logo’s emotional response is markedly affected by the psychology of color, font choice, and message.

Here are the reasons why you shouldn’t design your own logo:

1. You Probably Don’t Have The Right Tools
Logo Maker and Canva are tools, but not the right tools. The right tools are a combination of professional design software and someone who understands branding, color theory, and how the human brain responds to both color and typography. No amount of tutorials will defeat the work of a professional Graphic Designer with Adobe Creative Suite, a sizable font library and decades of experience.

2. Your Logo Signals Your Professionalism
Your logo is not your brand, but it is part of your brand. Brand is your values, the beliefs that drive your company and what makes you different. A strong brand serves as your voice and personality, and demonstrates to potential customers how they can expect to be treated. A professionally designed logo creates that signal.

3. Your Focus is Sales, Not Design
You built your business to create revenue, to make sales, to make a positive difference in your life and the lives of those you serve. Your product or service is what creates revenue. Without sales, you cannot invest in design. So, build your business and run your business with fierce determination and let the professionals handle the design aspects.

“BRANDING is strategic. MARKETING is tactical. 
MARKETING may contribute to a BRAND, but the BRAND is bigger than any particular MARKETING effort.” 

—James Heaton, Brand Strategist

A logo that was once modern and compelling can lose its power over time, or refuse to adapt to a digital world. If outdated, there can exist a perception that an organization is out-of-touch. Perhaps your values have changed over time, or the original logo needs to be simplified. Or maybe, your brand simply needs a gentle kick in the pants to meet today’s competitive landscape. 

If you recognize that your branding no longer reflects your company’s values, or it just feels out of date, you’ve already taken that first step forward. We offer no-obligation written assessments of your current brand. You have nothing to lose, except more business!