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Strava and MapMyRun are both GPS-based web and mobile tracking services for runners and cyclists.
At a glance, they have similar homepages, designed to explain the concept and coax visitors to sign up.
The respective pages are similarly sized, with large imagery, simple text, top and bottom menus and the aim of quickly informing the user of the service proposition.
And yet, Strava is more effective. How does it do it?
The rise of the smartphone has ushered in a new way of thinking among web designers and developers, who need to create websites that work on smaller screens.
The constraints of smaller screens have actually helped the web to become that little bit more modular, with responsive design now one of the foremost web design trends: pages can be broken up into their constituent parts, and reordered on the fly, depending on browser or screen sizes. Content spread over three or four columns can be repositioned into just one.
This has refocused attention on 'cards', as a design pattern for displaying information in bite-sized chunks. Cards are ideal for the TL;DR generation, perfect for mobile devices and responsive design, and I think we'll be seeing a lot more of them in the months and years ahead. The format may not be new, but it's on the rise.
What is a card, exactly? Well, they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but commonly cards will include information such as a title, a user name, a picture, and various icons. Sometimes there might be a brief amount of text, for example a product description. In a sense, they are miniature, condensed web pages.
Cards were one of my 18 web design trends for 2014, and I wanted to highlight some beautiful examples of card-based user interfaces. Tuck in!
What’s that plinky plonky banjo sound? Yep it’s a new website explainer video!
The TfL site has been used by two million visitors whilst in beta. That’s no mean achievement and indicative of just what a challenge the TFL website undergoes on a daily basis.
In April 2013, the TFL website had 20m visitors every month. That’s every Londoner visiting more than twice.
The new site includes some really good features that vastly improve TfL’s ability to present information to the traveller.
Let’s have a look at the new site.
The lovely header image I've used for this blog post is a 'Karlism'. I considered using a picture of Will Ferrell's Mugatu, but stopped short.
Here, I've rounded up some little features, mostly about imagery and web design but also touching on UX. I've experimented a bit by showcasing them using Vine. Some of the imagery isn't captured particularly crisply, but you can click through from each heading, or from a static image if there is one, to explore the page in question.
I could have used screencasting to capture these elements, but Vine was quite a bit quicker and maybe it even makes me look agile?
See what you think. Visit the sites and check these things out for yourself and let me know what you think works and what doesn't.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on innovation in the ecommerce sector for more than a decade now, and it seems to me that we're living in exciting times. We have hit some kind of purple patch.
Why is this? Well, ecommerce has massively matured. It's big business. Digital teams are smarter, and more agile. Sexy new tech such as HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery allows for sublime user experiences.
As such I wanted to raise a toast to innovation by highlighting a bunch of - hopefully inspiring - examples to you.
But first, a massive caveat: I would severely and mercilessly beat a few of these sites with a big best practice stick. There are product pages with missing information. There are search boxes with tiny fonts. There are usability issues galore.
Secondly, for ecommerce sites, it is all about the data. If you’re not constantly testing, measuring and refining, then you aren’t doing it right. What works for one brand might not work so well for another.
All of that aside, the ecommerce teams that take chances and push the boundaries of are to be applauded. Guidelines are precisely that: guidelines. Rules are there to be broken. And innovation is always to be encouraged, even when it doesn’t work out.
So let's take a look at some ecommerce websites (and one mobile app) that are trying new things, and that are noteworthy for their approach to the user experience. Click on the screenshots to check them out for yourself, and do let me know what you think.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression 'Never work with children or animals' right? Well, after you’ve read this lot, I reckon you’ll want to add participants, facilitators and even clients to this list.
You see, since my last blog I’ve spent a few weeks “playing journalist” sourcing weird, wonderful and downright bizarre stories from the UX (User Experience) Community.
The idea came to me while I was telling a friend how I had to sit throughout a whole study earlier this year in Norway, trying not to crack up every time a participant had to fill in his name on a form. Thing is, he was doing it with such a straight face that for a long time I thought it really was his name. Which it obviously couldn’t have been.
So it got me thinking that there must be other amusing or even downright weird experiences that my fellow UX practitioners might like to share with me... and share they did! OK, some took a little cajoling but I got there in the end.
They’re all anonymous and I hope you at least find them interesting, even if they might not tickle you as much as they tickled me.
Some of the best web and mobile app designs have a very limited colour range. Two or three colours can be more than enough, and I find that a restrained approach to colour works especially well on de-cluttered interfaces.
The use of colour in design is a bit like great music, where balance, contrast, restraint and dissonance all come into play. I picked out monochrome and hypercolour as two of my 18 web design trends for 2014, but perhaps trichromatic design is where it's really at?
For trichromatic design it is often the case that there is a 'main' colour, an 'active' colour, and a 'highlight' colour. A limited palette goes further when you reverse out the colours in certain areas (menus, or buttons, for example).
I wanted to highlight some examples of mobile interfaces that primarily focus on two or three colours, along with plenty of white (or otherwise neutral) space, and a lack of unnecessary clutter. In other words: minimal design. Less is more.
So let's take a look at a few examples. I don't claim to have used all of these apps and sites, and one or two are concepts, so the focus here is on the look and feel, rather than the user experience. Click on the images to see more in-depth or full size screenshots.
As the cinema experience continues to improve with technological advancements in Imax, 3D and fully immersive sound, so too does the aesthetic experience of the web with its glorious HTML5, parallax scrolling and super-slick CSS3 coding.
It's as if they're competing directly for our attention!
Thankfully the home experience will never match the cinema experience no matter how cutting edge your home cinema set-up may be.
Just think of the sheer visceral horror of watching Sandra Bullock spinning out of control in the depths of space and how muted it will seem while watching it in bed on your tablet.
These films still need to be marketed through these less than cinematic desktops and portable devices in order to drag us out of our homes and into the theatres.
Luckily the fast pace of change in web design trends has meant that the large scale experience of cinema can be substituted online in brilliant alternative and innovative ways.
Here is a list of movie websites that either feature captivating visuals, grand technological achievements, innovative UX or highly interactive fun, whilst also perfectly capturing the essence of the movie online.
Responsive design posts are always popular on the Econsultancy blog. That's because people enjoy looking at beautiful things.
I thought I'd add to our roundups and look at a brief selection of agencies with responsive sites.
Do have a play around with them by resizing your browser or accessing on mobile. There's a few screenshots for each and you can click through from the desktop images.
iWonder is the evocative name for the BBC’s new interactive guides. The name conjures childlike enquiry (I wonder!), ‘90s crisps (Golden Wonder) and fits nicely with the Beeb’s and Apple’s use of the stunted ‘iProductname’ format.
The guides are the BBC’s new content format, described as 'sit forward', allowing the user to learn by doing.
They organise video and audio, infographics, text and activities into stories.
I’ve been having a play with the guides and given some brief thoughts below. Do go and check them out, they’re a powerful tool for schoolchildren or older autodidacts.
A satisfying mixture of cutting edge web design, charming images and delightful usability makes the Visit Suffolk website a joy to get lost in, as much as the county itself.
Did I sound too much like an actual tourist board there?
Possibly, but it’s genuinely difficult not to be charmed by this site. Offering an experience that is not unlike exploring any attractive UK destination. In my experience I’ve certainly not found a tourism website quite so captivating.
Come with me and let’s take a little wander around the east coast…
Sports Direct is brilliant. Ok, it had some problems last year as its reputation took a blow thanks to the retailer’s use of zero hour contracts, but on the sales front, it’s flying along.
New stores are opening, other sports retailers are being battered into submission and 2,000 staff members are to receive a cool £100k bonus after profits climbed by 40% to £200m last year.
With 12 languages and 10 currency options, the Sports Direct website should continue to aid the company's growing profits.
The website has been praised in many quarters. It’s certainly easy to use and strongly conveys the brand’s identity.
Visiting the site I was struck by just how good its calls to action are, and how easy it is to get around (unlike their stores). I thought I’d round up a few of the best bits.
Enjoy them in all their enormous garish glory. I think they’re part of a growing lust for simplicity that is driving web design forward.