Throughout my marketing career I have always strived to make my clients happy. Now in a twist of fate, I find myself on the other side of the table and I am the client. Here at iMarc we are in the process of evolving our brand and redesigning our website, both of which are very exciting. But even more thrilling for me, is the opportunity to experience our process from the other side.
When we kicked off the project I got an email from the Producer on the project Dave, and I was thinking oh no, Dave meant to send this to a client. But then I re-read it and realized he was treating me just as he would any of our clients. It was nice to be updated on the project and know what the next steps are and where the responsibility lies.
From there we dove into the strategy and planning portion of the site and developed a sitemap and key wireframes; both of which we reviewed and approved at 5am on a flight to visit a client. Ok this part was a little unorthodox, but we were able to collaborate, revise, and tweak the information architecture and as a result our site will be better for it.
We are currently in the design phase of the website and I have to say it looks awesome! I am always proud of the work that we do and you can really see the passion in the latest designs. We just had our initial review yesterday and of course there are changes that the team is incorporating; but I can’t wait to see the next version. Again this was another great opportunity to collaborate, share ideas, and rely on our design experts to demonstrate our message.
As we move into development, QA, and testing I am sure that my expectations will be exceeded yet again. The reality is that our collaboration with our clients is what makes our websites so successful, and I really do encourage all of our clients to work with us, test us, and push us to excel. Be sure to ask us questions, after all your website is often your organization’s first impression. Leverage our expertise to make it the best it can be.
P.S. Be sure to keep an eye out for our new website launching in June!
iMarc is proud to announce that it has been honored with FIVE Communicator Awards from the International Academy of the Visual Arts for our work designing exceptional web and mobile sites for our clients. The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring the creative excellence of communications professionals.
We are thrilled to receive all of these awards, and very pleased to share them with our deserving clients. Two of the awards highlight our commitment to achievements in mobile development, and we look forward to many more as we expand this practice for more of our clients.
Communicator Awards of Excellence Winners (GOLD)
iMarc won two Gold awards for our work developing the Steamship Authority Mobile Site and Constant Contact’s Social Media Quickstarter Website.
The Steamship Authority provides year-round ferry access to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Its mobile site helps users check schedules, parking information, and ferry status. Optimized for Android and iPhone devices, the site has helped tourists and year-round residents alike since its launch prior to Memorial Day in 2011. The mobile site was nominated for the MITX Interactive Awards in the Mobile category in 2011.
iMarc and Constant Contact created Social Media Quickstarter, an easy-to-use site designed for small business leaders to follow step-by-step instructions on how to use social media to build online social connections with results. This site was also nominated in 2011 for the MITX Interactive Awards in the eLearning category. But it’s the client testimonial that we are most thrilled to share:
"I have worked with iMarc on so many projects over the last four years, at two totally different kinds of companies. There are so many reasons I come back to them again and again – it goes without saying that they instantly align with our business goals and help us meet them, but they do it in a way that results in exceptional work AND, in many cases, helps me to envision the project even further than I had considered from the outset. They don’t just deliver, they truly partner."
- Rachel O'Connell, Director of Content
Communicator Awards of Distinction Winners (SILVER)
iMarc values the accolades we received across a variety of categories. iMarc is recognized in the following categories as Communicator Awards of Distinction Winners:
Friday is Will Bond's last day at iMarc.
Will started at iMarc as an intern over 7 years ago. After graduating from college he became a full-time Developer, then a Senior Developer, then our Technical Architect, and eventually iMarc's Director of Engineering. Through it all, Will has always been the guy who takes the time to understand what the real problem is, then figures out an elegant and innovative, yet pragmatic, solution.
We're going to miss Will. I've personally learned a ton from Will and have enjoyed watching him grow both professionally and personally. While it is sad to see him go, we all wish him the best.
But this isn't a sad story.
There's great news.
Jeff Turcotte has been promoted to Director of Engineering at iMarc. Jeff has been with iMarc since 2006 and brings so many positive qualities to the role of leading our engineering staff. Jeff is one of the most creative people I've ever worked with. Jeff has the unique ability of being able to visually communicate a user-focused solution while also planning the complex behind-the-scenes programming strategy to get it done.
So we wish you well Will. And we welcome Jeff as our Director of Engineering.
Last night, I gave a talk at the monthly North Shore Web Geeks meetup in Newburyport. The talk was titled Crash Course in Wireframing. About 20-25 people hung out in the Port Tavern’s upstairs room, enjoying cocktails and talking about the web. Are you close to Newburyport, MA? NSWG meets the third Thursday of every month. Come on down.
What We Talked About
The presentation revolved around what wireframes are, why they're useful, and tools used to create them.
What are Wireframes?
Wireframes are web site blueprints, void of design. They're usually black and white and convey all components on a web page, from copy to navigation to calls to action and so forth.
There are generally two types of wireframes used in the industry:
Lo-Fidelity Wireframes: These wireframes are quick-and-dirty. Rarely is real content used. Rather, lo-fidelity wireframes block out spaces in an interface. They are great for internal/external brainstorming.
Hi-Fidelity Wireframes: Ideally, hi-fidelity wireframes are deliverables that use as much real-word content as possible. An entire page is mocked up and important parts of the page should be annotated so if any stakeholder views this independent of a review meeting, the document should make sense to them.
Benefits of Wireframing
Efficiency: Wireframes can be turned around faster than full design comps.
Focus: Design can illicit a lot of emotion. Wireframes help clients objectively focus on a user interface.
Spark: Reviewing wireframes with clients can uncover more site requirements. Knowing these additonal requirements before design and development is very helpful.
Team Helper: Get other members on the team to work in parllel has clients approve templates.
Content: Clients can better understand earlier in the process where their content just won’t work. Maybe they have too much or too little.
Check out the presentation to see everything we covered.
The Fold – we have many conversations about what content appearing "above the fold". Important and engaging content typically belongs towards the top of most pages. However...
Designing around the mythical fold can be counterproductive.
The term "above the fold" comes from newspapers, where the most compelling story appears on the top-half of the front page. The folded newspaper, displayed on a newsstand, hopefully piques the interest of passersby. This strategy rightfully assumes that the public is too lazy to pick up the paper without first seeing something that engages them. This concept works for selling newspapers, but shouldn't carry over to the top 600 pixels of a web homepage. On the web, we can't assume that users will first land on the homepage. Also – thanks to a scrollwheel or the flick of a finger – there is no effort involved in scrolling below the browser's initial viewport.
The entire page is above the fold
If anything, the next page – the page you haven't clicked to yet – is what's below the fold. What takes effort at the newsstand is picking up the paper and turning it over. On the web, it's clicking a link and waiting for a new page to load that takes effort. Scrolling takes almost no effort. Everyone can do it. (See ClickTale's 2007 Scrolling Research Report – Visibility and Scroll Reach)
Research shows that the vast majority of users do scroll but only click to 3 or 4 pages. On the web, it's better to think of "the fold" as any entire page that the user might land on first; and "below the fold" are other pages.
Cluttered design discourages scrolling
In The myth of the page fold: Evidence from User Testing, CX Partners found that page design has a signifant effect on whether the user actually chooses to scroll. One way to discourage scrolling is to cram everything at the top of the page worrying about the fold. Unfortunately, this practice also muddies the message and discourages overall conversion.
Instead of worrying about the fold, the smart designer will:
- Include appropriate content that serves the purpose of the page;
- Prioritize content with a logical plan;
- Design pages to not discourage the natural practice of scrolling. "Less content above the fold may encourage more exploration below the fold" – CX Partner's Design Tips to Encourage Scrolling)
With such a variety of screen resolutions – phones, iPads, laptops, desktop displays – figuring out where the viewport ends is futile anyway. But, by cramming tons of content towards the top of a page, designers discourage scrolling and perpatuate the myth of the fold.
What other experts say
In 1994, usability guru Jakob Neilsen did argue against scrolling. That's almost 20 years ago. We don't live in that world anymore. Your website doesn't look like these anymore.
As far back as 1997, Jakob Neilsen revised his recommendation:
"In more recent studies, we have seen that most users scroll when they visit a long home page or a long navigation screen. This change in behavior is probably due to users getting more experience with scrolling Web pages."
– Jakob Neilsen, http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9712a.html
By 2010, Mr. Neilsen was advocating for scrolling pages instead of forcing users to click:
"In fact, if you have a long article, it's better to present it as one scrolling canvas than to split it across multiple pageviews. Scrolling beats paging because it's easier for users to simply keep going down the page than it is to decide whether or not to click through for the next page of a fragmented article."
"People will look very far down a page if (a) the layout encourages scanning, and (b) the initially viewable information makes them believe that it will be worth their time to scroll."
– Jakob Neilsen, http://www.useit.com/alertbox/scrolling-attention.html
Paddy Donnelly has a beautifully designed essay about how successful pages can start with something engaging, build up interest as the user scrolls, and offer "the prize" at the bottom of the page. As opposed to starting with "the prize" and filling the rest of the page with waste.
"Don't live in the old world of pushing all your quality content on the visitor at once because they've only got 4 seconds before their attention drops (or whatever other statistic is doing the rounds at present).
Think about the ultimate journey you want them to take. Entice them in, make them actively want to scroll and read on, and on, and on. Guide them with your excellent content and let them explore your site. Tell a story with your content. Space it out a little and you will have some happy visitors who actually want to be there!"
– Paddy Donnelly, http://iampaddy.com/lifebelow600/
Jared Spool's company User Interface Engineering studied the pros and cons of longer pages that require scrolling vs shorter pages that require clicking.
"In the trade-off between hiding content below the fold or spreading it across several pages, users have greater success when the content is on a single page."
"Users may tell us they hate scrolling, but their actions show something else. Most users readily scrolled through pages, usually without comment."
"One criticism of long web pages is that they hide some information, forcing users to scroll. Short pages may avoid this potential problem by showing more (or all) of an individual page, but the information is still hidden — on other pages. Users must still click repeatedly to get to the desired information."
– Jared Spool, As The Page Scrolls (Jul 1997), http://www.uie.com/articles/page_scrolling/
UX Movement's Why Scrolling is the New Click (Jan 2012) talks about how it's often better to have a longer page that scrolls over splitting content into multiple pages.
"There are advantages and disadvantages to both scrolling and clicking. However, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for scrolling. Scrolling is faster for users than clicking. With mouse wheels and touchpad swipes, users can scroll through content with a flick of a finger. Compared that with clicking, where users have to find the link, read it, target it, click it and wait for the page to load.
Users get content in the order that it’s designed on the page with a glimpse of everything. With clicking, users can skip a link and go to the next one without ever visiting the pages they skipped.
Scrolling keeps users in their reading flow. They scroll to continue reading until they read the end of the page. Clicking breaks the user’s reading flow because after they’re through with a page, they have to stop and click the link to the next one. Users also don’t have to wait for a new page to load, which can further break reading flow. All they have to do is scroll to the next section."
– UX Movement, http://uxmovement.com/navigation/why-scrolling-is-the-new-click/
Conversion Rate concludes that when user's don't scroll it's not because they don't want to, it's because of the design.
"In split tests, long pages often beat shorter pages. But for a long page to be effective, the reader must be aware that it’s long. If the user doesn’t scroll—either because they don’t want to or because they aren’t aware that the page is long—then all of your hard work has gone to waste."
"Long pages are effective, but only if your users know that they can scroll, and are given compelling reasons to do so."
– Conversion Rate Experts, http://www.conversion-rate-experts.com/scrolling-tips/
From Kara McCain: Can we all stop arguing about "the fold" now?
- Users will scroll, as long as the design is not crammed with content above the 600 pixel line.
- It's better to have a longer page about a single topic, than spliting it into multiple pages that require the user to click.
- Prioritize your content and give users a compelling reason to stay engaged. This holds true wether you're goal is for the user to scroll or click a button.
- When debating a long page that scrolls versus splitting content into smaller pages that require clicking, scrolling is the path of least resistance to keep your users engaged.
☺ – "I'm about 3,600 pixels down from the top of this page. If you're reading this, you probably scrolled"
Instant message exchange just now:
- Jared: Have you ever checked out: http://wearehunted.com/a/#/remix/:
pretty good mix of new electronic
- Robert: i want to be interested but i'm burned out on all the music streaming websites that have launched in the past year and not interested in trying any more.
Spotify, Grooveshark, MOG, Turntable, Rdio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Last.fm, DI.fm, Maestro, Jango, Slacker, Shoutcast, Blip.fm… Internet radio and music discovery has been done to death over the past decade, but especially in the past year.
Just as we don't need yet another social network – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the Google+ wasteland are plenty, thanks – I definitely don't need another music service. It takes time and energy to learn, without the promise of anything new. And I'm tired of it.
All those services trying to get us to try them? Noise. And listening to noise is fatiguing.
If something truly worthwhile comes along, that signal is going to have a hard time getting through that noise.