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Mindful Design

I know it’s strange, I’m a redneck and rednecks usually aren’t into meditation, unless it involves beer and fishing (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But, then there’s me I’m into meditation, yoga and qi gong. I’ve recently started yoga, and I have practiced qi going for years. I like to meditate, I’ve even built 2 meditational labyrinths. I walk our labyrinth regularly and recently started taking a mindfulness class.

Meditational Labyrinth by Matt Fitzwater The class is awesome, and it’s really made me realize just how much of the time I spend is just on “auto-pilot”. To be mindful or aware, to be truly present- man, that is difficult to do.

Of course I’m thinking about how to apply mindfulness to web design and that can be tricky to. Designing for everyone, being mindful of all the potential visitors. Here are just a few considerations to think about when mindfully designing a website.

  • What types of barriers could my website’s users have? Could they have a slow connection, a physical impairment?
  • 1 out of 5 people in the U.S. have a disability. Do my users need assistive technologies to access my websites, like screen readers, braille keyboards or maybe a mouth stick or head wand.
  • Is my message clear and concise?
  • Is my code clear and concise?
  • Am I writing to what my users need to hear, not just what I want to say?
  • Is my website, images, music, and videos inclusive, are they empowering people or are they excluding?
  • Am I following best practices for modern web design?

Incidentally, I guess this list could go on for a good while, but I hear some bluegill calling me.

Accessibility Classes, Badges, and Video Disasters

Accessibility has always been important to me, building an inclusive web has always seemed like the right thing to do. I’ve taken some accessibility classes in the past and this year I’ve decided to up my accessibility game. So I am taking a course from Deque University now (I’m going for the IAAP Certification) and I just finished a class from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign “Web Design: Web Accessibility Evaluation Basics” and received their badge. These classes are really helping me become more of an empathetic designer, and realize some of the challenges people struggle with daily, like being deaf or hard of hearing and trying to watch a presentation or video without captions.

I’ve not dealt with a lot of videos on the web and only recently really thought about the accessibility considerations needed when working with video. Making websites inclusive is a serious subject, but this video on the fails of auto-captioning cracked me up, remember always double check the auto-captions. So now I’m in the process of redesigning my website to make it blazing fast and inclusive as possible. Stay tuned for some cool changes:)

Making websites more accessible

I passed a blind lady this morning on the steps, navigating the stairs with her cane. It really struck me how much I take my health for granted. According to the US Census of the 291.1 million people in the 2005 population of the United States, 54.4 million, or 18.7 percent, reported some level of disability.

There’s a good chance that some of our website visitors may have some form of disability, with that in mind I try to make sure sites I design meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Some of the tools I use to check accessibility are.

I try to be empathetic in design since I was born with Protanopia, doesn’t that sound awful? It’s not really that bad I’m just red-green color blind and with me being a designer, I guess it’s kind of weird. You will notice I always use a limited palette and for new colors, I will use color tools. I’m pretty safe designing when using a computer, just don’t ask me to paint using traditional tools, my paintings always come out looking like mud:)

Usability Resources

We have added a new member to our family this week and life is somewhat hectic, I forgot how much sleep you don’t get with a newborn. With that in mind, this week’s post is short.  Earlier this week someone asked what websites I like to visit for staying current in UX. My top picks uxmag.com and uie.com. I also follow Nielsen Norman Group. There are many resources for testing usability, one of my favorites is www.userfocus.co.uk they are a London-based usability consulting and usability training company and have put together an awesome workbook on usability testing.

5 Questions to Help Discover Your Website’s Primary Objective

Strategic communication is the best communication, so it’s important to define the strategy in the discovery stage of the project. Our strategy will determine the tactics we use for a developing a successful website. It’s hard to determine the strategy without knowing first what the primary objective of the project is. I have broken the discovery phase of user centered into 7 categories; each category may have questions, test or exercises.

  • Audience Discovery
  • Accessibility Discovery
  • Brand Discovery
  • Goal Discovery
  • SEO Discovery
  • Speed Discovery
  • Usability Discovery

Over the years I’ve acquired quite an arsenal of questions for gathering information. Below are 5 questions that I use in the Goal Discovery category.

  1. What exactly is purpose of this website? (please define a clear, concise objective)
  2. What is your vision for the website?
    How will you determine whether the vision is a success?
  3. What are your goals for this website and each section of the website?
    Are the goals really the goals? Can you define alternative goals? Last year Home Depot sold millions of ¼” drill bits. “Nary a soul” (as my grandmother used to say) wanted ¼”drill bit, they all wanted 1/4” holes. What is the end result, users need?
  4. Can you rank the applicable purposes of your site below, with 1 being the most important?

[ ] Information
[ ] Branding
[ ] Lead generation/qualifying prospects
[ ] Sales revenue
[ ] Ad revenue
[ ] Internal needs
[ ] Transformation

  1. What are the 3 main things you want people to do you your web site?

Some of the questions will lead to more questions, and hopefully, they will help define the overall strategy.

Testing Readability

When optimizing a website for usability content should be easy to read. Writing web or email copy should be easy to scan and written on a 6th to 8th-grade level. You might want to knock that down a couple of grades if you are writing for the average redneck. Regardless of your audience, it is important to test the readability of your copy. I try to score a 60 or above on the Flesch–Kincaid readability tests there’s a great online tool or you can use Microsoft Word to test this.

To check the readability of your copy in Microsoft Word

  • Make sure “Show readability statistics” is checked under “File > Options > Proofing”
  • Open Microsoft Word and paste your text in the new document
  • Click “Review > Spelling and Grammar”

For this post, I scored 69.3 on the test, and it looks like I am writing on about a 7th-grade level. I am guessing my audience is not the average redneck; I’m guessing they are classy and sophisticated or at least like me — an above average redneck:)