New Year, New Web Design Tools

The new year always seems to motivate us to get a fresh start in both our personal and professional lives. You might notice your coworkers cleaning up their workspace and discussing their New Year’s resolutions. Your boss might come around and encourage you to organize your digital files, as well.

But what about getting a fresh start with your web tools? Technology is advancing quickly, and there is probably a new web design tool available that can help you save time, work smarter, and achieve more in the new year. Web design tools should inspire creativity and innovation; not bog down workers with complications or bore them with out-of-date features.

If you resolve to step up your UI design in the new year, check out these new (and newish) web design tools that can help you redefine productivity. Sure these tools don’t actually make designers better, but they certainly help a designer display their talent and inner brilliance.

Adobe XD 

Adobe XD is a tool for vector designs and wireframing. Adobe is a well-known name in the design community, for good reason since Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are key tools for many in the trade. Since it is an Adobe product, designers will immediately find that Adobe XD has little to no learning curve, as the UI will already feel like an old friend. Working within the Adobe product catalog also allows for integration with the Adobe Cloud products for quick and easy collaboration of library assets. The light interface allows for quick concepting and prototyping of mock ups using drawing tools, interactions and previews. There is also the option to share designs for collaborative feedback. Designers also like to use this tool when they have to present functionality to clients, because it is easy to instantly push content live. Adobe XD is accessible to most designers since it is available on both Macs and PCs.

One of the most innovative features that gives Adobe XD an edge is its introduction of voice capabilities. As more and more households convert to using smart speakers and screens as a part of their daily lives, designers need to be able to develop experiences for this immersive technology. This update allows users to, in Adobe’s own words, “design, prototype, and share digital experiences that extend beyond the screen.”

InVision Studio

This collaborative product design platform is a great tool for teams of all sizes, and helps everyone manage the process of prototyping, reviewing, managing and testing web and mobile apps. They have made it easy to transition from other web design tools, like Sketch, and the interface is intuitive enough that anyone with experience can jump in without lengthy tutorials. InVision allows for quick use of animation and saves time during the revision process as well, by offering the animation interface in a single window.

Sketch 

Sketch is giving Adobe a run for its money, with many designers preferring it for their UI design. Sketch was built with an intuitive interface, specifically for the design of websites and apps. Sketch uses small documents which are easy to sort and revise, and offers a minimal, grid-based interface that is easy to use for both novice and experienced designers. Sketch also offers a huge library of plug-ins for designers to use, as well as a preview feature that encompasses any mobile device. The one big limitation for Sketch, however, is that it is only available to use on Macs.

Micro Animations Have a Major Influence on User Experience

In today’s emoji-centric world, the way that we communicate, on- and off-line, has changed dramatically. Pair that communication shift with technology advances, and the outcome is a brand new way to reach and influence your interface users.

Enter micro animations; this feature might have a small name, but it packs a big punch.

Digital interface animation, as a concept, is not new. In fact, if you are old enough to have been around during the birth of the Internet, you might remember the gloriously awful animations that were included even on the earliest websites. We’ve come a long way, baby, and digital interface animation has been reborn.

Micro animations are momentary, artfully-crafted visual cues that are meant to guide users through their digital experience by providing feedback, clarity, and confirmation during interactions. It allows designers to use their creativity to convey messaging without crowding an interface with words, which helps manage the user’s focus and provides them with instant gratification for their action.

Micro animations work best when they are functional within the interface so that they can create delightful moments for users. Here’s what micro animations should accomplish:

  • Enhance navigation
  • Offer tips that enhance the user experience
  • Provide users with status updates and feedback on their progress
  • Drive user attention while providing them with augmented control
  • Confirm actions by showing results
  • Establish an emotional connection between the brand and the user

A few basic examples of micro animation use include:

  • Status Bars. These can be used on forms, in galleries, and during uploads and downloads. It not only reassures the user that their action has registered, but it calls attention to the progress they are making, which can be rewarding.
  • Calls-to-Action. Micro animations have the ability to attract and hold attention. This makes them ideal for use with and around your calls-to-action. Whether you are persuading them to take a starting action or a continuing action, highlight it with a subtle-but-effective animation.
  • Kudos. When used with some restraint, micro animations can also be a great way to offer rewards to your users. Maybe they completed a form, or checked off a task, or they were the first or fastest person to do something; whatever small achievement they had, offer them kudos with a fun, brand-centric micro animation. This can be as simple as a thumbs up or even clapping hands.
  • Swiping. Touch-screen devices have ushered in the ‘swipe’ culture and made ‘tapping’ yesterday’s news. Swiping can be used to move between pages or images, and to access additional information about a product or service.

However you decide to use micro animations, remember that less is more. Too many animations will just clutter the interface and your branding and messaging will get lost. Instead, work through a system where you define which triggers you want to include micro animations. Once defined, establish a set of rules for each trigger, and be sure to discuss which user-facing feedback needs to be communicated as well.

Featured Employee Of The Month: Office Pup, Fawnzie the Frenchie

Employee Feature Questionnaire

1. What was your very first job?

Professional cuddler! I’m a natural at it.

2. What degree(s) do you have, and from which institutes and fields of study?

Nothing yet, but mom says I am going to puppy school soon!

3. What do you to when you’re not at the office? 

Pretty much the same things – just at home! I also love exploring, my mom says she should have named me ‘George’ because I am so curious. I love seeing new things and meeting new people, especially people who will give me attention

4. Do you have any hobbies?

My number one hobby is definitely sleeping, I can sleep anywhere, anytime, in any position. Some of my other hobbies include playing in the grass, ripping apart stuffed animals and chewing ice.

5.What thing(s) are you obsessed with?

Chasing after leaves, my pawrents, car rides, sitting on people’s feet and eating things off the ground (and when I say things…I mean anything I can find)

Things I am not obsessed with: My harness, yoga balls and baths

6. What’s one thing about yourself that would surprise people?

Any time I wake up from a nap, I get the hiccups.

9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

If you’re going to fart in a meeting, don’t look so guilty.

Featured Employee Of The Month: Account Manager, Jaime Allen

Employee Feature Questionnaire

1. What was your very first job?

As much as I hate to admit it, I worked at Hollister all throughout high school. My official title was ‘model’….ha

2. What degree(s) do you have, and from which institutes and fields of study?

I have a Bachelor of Science in Communication and a certificate in Special Events Management (I originally thought I wanted to be an event planner), both from Arizona State University

3. What do you think is one of the most significant changes that you’ve seen since you started working in your industry?

I would have to say the major shift of focus to everything digital. When I first started at my internship we were so focused on traditional advertising. Now some of those things aren’t even considered effective in a marketing strategy. It’s all about reaching the consumer where they always are, online.

4. What excites you most about the digital marketing world?

The fact that there is so much to learn. There are always new innovations popping up and so there is always room to grow and try new things. It’s an exciting space, because there is really so much opportunity in what you can do.

5. What do you do when you are not at work?

I newly became a dog mom, so if I’m not at work (and even sometimes at work) I am chasing after my little munchkin making sure he stays out of trouble.

6. Do you have any hobbies?

Well my two biggest hobbies are somewhat contradictory – I love to workout, in particular spin and barre….and I love to eat. I enjoy going to new restaurants, old favorites or just cooking at home. If it involves food and wine, count me in.

7. What thing(s) are you obsessed with?

My puppy, football, sleeping, traveling, lazy Sundays, bitchin’ sauce, pinot noir, bears, friends and family

8. What’s one thing about yourself that would surprise people?

I am half Mexican. Don’t let the name fool you! My mother is 100% Mexican and fluent in Spanish. Growing up in Tucson I was able to really experience and love the culture, not to mention it taught me how to make some mean enchiladas

9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Breathe and just let it go