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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Responsive web design will cover all screens

Responsive web design will cover all screens

When you start a sentence “wouldn’t it be cool if …,” you’re halfway there. Innovations and trends beget more innovations and trends. And the part that comes after that declaration – execution – has been bending the web in a new direction this year.
In 2013, content became king again. Design morphed into minimalist, clean form. App-style interfaces scaled our designs to fit on smaller and smaller screens. Which trends will continue? Some seem set on course. Visually, the ideas of minimal style, scalable graphics and touch-based user interfaces are here to stay. For technology, retina images, cross-platform building and HTML5 will continue to drive development. But the next great ideas probably haven’t even been put to paper (ok, computer screen) yet.

As mobile device usage increases, consumers are able to see our sites on devices of their choosing. And that means screens of all sizes.
Web and mobile design no longer live in separate caves. The choice to go with native mobile apps or a responsive site is no longer there, because the divide is not between desktop and smartphone. Now, it’s among desktop, laptop, tablet, phablet and smartphone. The “lite” version of a site is already dead.

Tomorrow’s trend will be design that’s simple enough for mobile, but with the functionality of a full screen. Sites that take hundreds of hours to create need to be consumable in a matter of seconds.

How your environment can influence your design

How your environment can influence your design

Sometimes, as web and digital designers, we can get trapped in our little world of computers and software, attempting to work out the solution to our clients’ design problems, but failing to make any real breakthroughs. If you often find yourself stuck in a rut of technology, sometimes the best solution is just to get up from your desk and go experience the world outside. But what should a designer pay attention to specifically that will help get them past creative block?
Today, we’ll explore some options and discuss possible solutions.

Co-Opting The Outside World

Product and environmental designers often preach that designers need to use the world around them to create their own design solutions to problems. But what about web designers, or brand managers, or creative directors? I think the same principle still applies no matter what kind of design you do. Design, in general, is about going beneath the surface of a problem to find out the best approach. Even if it’s on a computer screen, the user experience of a design is
highly customizable and subjective.

Giving The Design To The People

As much as we designers might wish otherwise, we have no control over how people choose to interact with our work. But even though that’s true, sometimes the most interesting and innovative public phenomena can come from it. Sweater bombing, street art, geocaching – all of these are unorthodox uses of things in the world that nonetheless provide a completely new and compelling experience.

Design Leaders And Setting Precedents

People make their own ‘tools’ and solutions based on what’s around them. When you’re walking in the park and you see a tree that someone has used as a resting place for their bike, that’s design in action. Some brilliant ‘designer’ has decided that this tree is the perfect size and shape for a bike rest, and it’s very likely that other cyclists will see that and think ‘hmm, that’s a great idea – I think I’ll park my bike on a tree as well.’ Think about how you can use this same concept in your own design. Is there another ‘use’ for your design that a user might see but you don’t?

Using Others As Peripheral Vision

The opportunities for improving your designs all around you. If you’re too close to your own work (and who isn’t from time to time?) ask a friend or even a stranger to give you a quick evaluation. Observe how they interact with your design. If they point out something that you missed – say, a more efficient way to contact other users, or a better use for some feature you’ve been working on – don’t take those observations lightly. This is design fitting itself within real people’s lives, and you’d be ill-advised to ignore it.

Tiny Changes

Sometimes, even the smallest adjustments to a design can make the hugest difference in how easy and enjoyable it is for people to use. Putting a call to action button at the top of the screen rather than in the sidebar. Making the navigation icons a contrasting color so they will ‘pop’ more. Increasing the font size just a bit more than what you think most people can see (this is a big one for me). Tiny, seemingly insignificant changes like these can take your design from ignored to overwhelmingly popular in a flash.

Human Influence

Many times, people don’t even realize that they’ve created a design solution with their simple, everyday actions. If people are using your business card to write notes on the back, or to scribble down a relevant email address or extra phone number, this is gold you can mine for your next redesign. How are people reacting to the things you design? Polls and surveys can be immensely helpful here. Once your design goes live, it is part of the world, and people will use it however they see fit to get the most efficient result.

What Do You Think?

How do you create design solutions from the world around you? Is there anything you’ve learned from simple observation of people and their interactions with design? Tell us in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Facebook launches 'dislike' button for Messenger


    Facebook has updated its Messenger app that includes a 'dislike' button.

However, the 'dislike' option is only available on the desktop and mobile versions of Facebook Messenger, Fox News reports. The dislike button is not available for the newsfeed and cannot be used in statuses and other posts.

In order to access the new sticker pack, users will have to download it from the Sticker Store inside the Messenger app.

While a "like" sticker was already available on Facebook Messenger, the new set of finger stickers was added only now, after having been created during a hackaton that took place this fall.

Facebook is said to be mulling launching a 'sympathize' button.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why Google paid $3.2B for a thermostat company


Google is moving into your home. On Monday, the Internet company said it was acquiring Nest, a maker of smart smoke alarms and thermostats, in a move that gives Google a strong foothold in a hot new market known as the "connected home."
The idea behind the connected home is to connect heating systems, lighting systems and appliances such as refrigerators to the Internet so that they can be made more efficient and controlled from afar. In the process, companies can collect more data about people's habits, something Google loves.
Nest's price tag shows Google means business: $3.2 billion cash. If the deal goes through -- which Google expects in the next few months -- it will be one of its largest acquisitions since the Internet giant bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.6 billion. Google has been interested in Nest since at least 2011, when it led a round of funding in the company, followed by another in 2012.
Nest makes a thermostat and a smoke-and-carbon-monoxide monitor that can be controlled via Wi-Fi from a smartphone, and that can re-program themselves based on people's behavior. The privately held company was founded in 2010 and has more than 300 employees spread across three countries. A good number of its workers, including CEO Tony Fadell, are former Apple employees.
So why is Google willing to cough up so much for such a young company? For starters, it likely saw a pool of talented engineers who can help it tap into a hot new market. It may also be seeking a launching pad to play a bigger role in connecting all those home devices, be they thermostats or perhaps one day your toaster oven.
"This is a new area for Google, representing a desire to take advantage of all devices," said Ben Bajarin, director of consumer technology at Creative Strategies, a market intelligence and research firm. "Google wants its own platform for this world of connected things."
Google certainly wants a bigger presence in the home -- it's shown that already through other products. Earlier this year it unveiled the Chromecast, a $35 device for streaming television, movies and other content to your TV -- its answer to Apple TV. It also operates the Play Store, providing all sorts of entertainment options.
On its own website, Google maintains a "tips" page devoted to Google services in the home, like how to use Google+ to "get the family together."
Linking home appliances is an emerging market where Google won't want to get left behind. The timing of the announcement -- coming on the first business day after the massive International CES closed its doors -- is interesting. At that show, the connected home was one of the biggest topics.

Give your site a custom feel


8 Great Icon Font Generators to Give Your Site a Custom Feel

High-quality images can make the difference between a good website and a great website. However, they also add file weight, aren't easily scaled, edited or manipulated, and result in additional HTTP requests.When it comes to responsive design, the best solution is often not to use an image at all, and instead use icon fonts when appropriate. They're easily customized, allow for transparency and have good browser support. And because they contain fewer characters than a complete typeface, they also take up less memory.

Creating icon fonts doesn't have to be time-consuming, because there are several generators that let you build your own custom font — using only the icons you really need — to help reduce file size. These also provide a download package with font and CSS files, ready to integrate straight into your website.Using an icon font can improve load times by up to 14%, and because they're vector in nature, they're infinitely scalable, while still being smaller in size than an image sprite. You can style icon fonts dynamically using CSS, rather than requiring a new graphic, with the added bonus of using CSS3 properties such as "text-shadow."The process for using icon fonts is the same as loading any other font — by using the "@font-face" method, you can create the CSS rules that apply to each icon, create specific icon classes and finally add some simple HTML markup. Or, you can take an alternate approach and use the "data-icon" attribute in combination with CSS attribute selectors.
We've rounded up eight of the best icon font generators to help you start using scalable, lightweight, resolution-independent fonts in your own projects. 

1. Icon Vault

Icon Vault lets you create icon fonts using only the icons you need, meaning less HTTP requests and faster page loading times. The fonts are vector graphics that will scale gracefully and look great on all devices, including those with Retina displays.
You can apply CSS styling, including color, text shadows, vertical alignment, animation and font size. It's easy to get started creating your own -- just download the template and upload a folder of your own icons for Icon Vault to make them into a custom font, using a simple drag-and-drop interface.


2. Fontastic

Fontastic helps you create customized icon fonts with ease, and it's ideal for those just starting to work with the concept. Simply import your own icons by uploading them as SVG files, and sit back as Fontastic converts them in seconds. You can take control of of the styling, as well as rescale, recolor, add drop-shadows or animate your icon fonts. Since you're only including the icons you need, you drastically reduce load times, by combining all your icons in a single font file.
You can use the standard settings from Fontastic, or you can change the character and CSS mapping. 

3. Fontello


Fontello is an open-source project that lets you combine any selected items from a range of fonts in order to create your own custom font. You can shrink glyph collections (to minimize font size), merge symbols from several fonts into a single file, with access to a large collection of open source artwork.
Fontello lets you search quickly for specific icons, preview the result and then change the class names to suit your website or project. Since every generated font pack has a config file included, you can load it back into Fontello to continue work. 


4. Pictonic


Pictonic offers both free and premium versions when you sign up for an account. Use the live search to browse available icons and click on the ones you want. You can also filter results via category.
Once you've finished choosing your icons, simply click Continue and download the package, which includes the font files, CSS, SVGs, PNGs and more. The number of files you receive depends on how many icons you've chosen to include. You're able to customize all icons by size, color and text shadow.

5. IcoMoon

IcoMoon provides icon fonts and the ability to import and create your own, generating icon fonts of any size or color. There are both open-source and premium versions, with icon packs available to purchase and a free pack that you can download from Github.
Making your own icon font is easy -- just select the IcoMoon web app, click the icons you want to include and then download your font. You can change the name of the font, enable or disable ligatures, set baseline and em size, and change the character assigned to a glyph.


6. Font Custom


Font Custom runs on Ruby and generates cross-browser icon fonts from a collection of SVGs, making it easy to create your own icon font and vectors, without limiting yourself to popular, generic icon sets. There is no configuration required; just create a directory of your SVG files, run a command and Font Custom will create the font files and accompanying CSS file.
The command line watcher means there's no need to manually update. You can style the icons however you choose with CSS, using Twitter Bootstrap's naming convention.

7. Pictos


Pictos provides handcrafted, infinitely scalable, royalty-free icon fonts. With the introduction of Pictos server, you can build your own icon fonts by choosing any icon in the Pictos library, and assign a keyboard key that corresponds to the icon. Simply paste the generated code snippet into your HTML and the Pictos Server will serve your custom-made icon font straight into your website, utilizing a simple CSS "link" tag (with no reliance on Javascript).
There are more than 650 icons to choose from, allowing for an unlimited number of icon fonts.

8. We Love Icon Fonts


We Love Icon Fonts is an open-source directory to choose and build your own icon font package, with a choice of several high quality icon fonts, including Brandicon, Entypo, Font Awesome, Fontelico, Make, OpenWeb Icons, Typicons and Zocial.
To use a set on your own site, click "Add" to add them to your own collection. Then, you receive the embed code, using CSS to further customize how the icon fonts are displayed. While it doesn't offer a way to use specific icons from a set (you have to embed the whole font), it is a simple, straightforward way to get started using icon fonts for those new to them.



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