Apr 27 2017

Cherry City: A Case Study in Design Work

Working in web design can be a complicated process. A lot of creative decisions need to be made while working under a deadline, and within a budget.  Both functionality and the client’s needs have to take  priority, all while looking prettier than the previous iteration. So how do the pros do it? We’d like to give you an example from a recent web design project we completed for Salem, Oregon’s roller derby league, Cherry City Roller Derby.

STARTING OUT

Cherry City came to us with an outdated website, in terms of both content and design. The platform on which their site was built made it difficult for league leadership to post updates. Key information for a roller derby league would get buried in the design. Upcoming events like fundraisers, bouts, and recruitments  were hard to find. League sponsors were also not prominently featured, making sponsorship a less attractive prospect. That can be a big problem for a non-profit!

ROLLIN’ UP OUR SLEEVES

We knew we wanted to build the site on WordPress. This would be a big usability upgrade for Cherry City, and would help them keep  the site’s content fresh and up-to-date. But, we also had to consider how to organize the content in a more beautiful and less confusing way.  Upcoming events needed to be easily accessible, and presented in a consistent visual format.

All of the important elements, front and center on the first page.

We drew on our experience working with Portland’s roller derby league, Rose City Rollers, to find approaches that we knew worked with this kind of content. We knew that public bouts needed to be at the forefront of their online presence, so we made their games the star of the show. But, Cherry City also puts emphasis on recruiting, and makes a special effort to be a welcoming league that keeps its members and volunteers engaged, so we created space in their Events area to highlight Recruitment events as well.
Keeping track of Sponsors at different levels would be important to growing their sponsorship base. We also knew that the same individuals could be involved with multiple teams or committees. We created structures for both Sponsors and Team Members, so Cherry City could easily manage those details all in one easy-to-find place, instead of updating multiple pages.

THERE AND BACK AGAIN

Make sure your site works on mobile, too.

To get the visual and functional improvements we were all looking for, we communicated regularly with Cherry City’s all-volunteer Board of Directors about our design inspirations. We shared with them our wireframes and graphic mock ups, ensuring that we were persisting in the right direction on the project.
After many rounds of feedback, and all of our tweaks made, we were happy to launch their brand new website near the beginning of April!  Their league leadership is quickly gaining comfort with the new structure we’ve built, and they’ll be able to keep their fans, future skaters and volunteers, and sponsors engaged with ease.


Feb 17 2017

Climb the Google Ranks with SEO

WHAT IS SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of building your website in a way that makes it easier for a search engine to find it, and give it a high-ranking in search results. Think of it as improving your website’s communication with search engines. I’m not going to lie, implementing good SEO can be technical and tedious. That’s why I’ve written this simple guide for some SEO basics. Besides, good SEO principles overlap with qualities of a user-friendly website.

PAGE TITLES

Most search engines utilize tools that transpose key information from your web page into readable, user-friendly search engine results. For example, a page’s title tag will often appear in the first line of a result if the content matches the user’s inquiry. This is a great place to have additional information about your business. Try to think of what someone might search online when looking for a service or product you provide. This might include the name of your business, a quick summary of what your company does, or some services you offer.

 

 

EASY URLS

A good URL often means one that a human being can easily recite from memory without confusing anyone. Most people keep this in mind when choosing their URL, but page titles are just as important! URLs are included in search results, so you have another opportunity to include relevant terms people searching out your business might search.

Many web hosts make this easy to achieve by letting users define static URLs for individual pages. In WordPress, for example, you can find this feature by logging in as an Admin, navigating to Settings > Permalinks. This will display your options for how to structure your website’s URLs.

GOOD CONTENT

It seems obvious, but having good content on your website is an essential first in enticing the right people to visit. Everything else I’ve talked about in this guide won’t be as successful as it could be if your web content falls flat. Make sure your subject matter is directly related to your business and brand goals, and use good web-design principles. Now that’s good content!

Good design is what Upswept Creative does. We’re offering a new packages, all centered around helping you build your brand with elegant design:

  • Brand Essence to design your perfect look and authentic brand message
  • Online Smarts to infuse your online presence with beautiful branding
  • Empire Builder to tailor your web site to YOUR specific goals, so you can step up your business game!

 


Nov 18 2016

Feel Good About Your Website

Creativity can be a boon in difficult times. Self-expression is an essential part of being human. Finding an outlet is especially important when the world around us seems intent to silence individuality. The image of the Artist mining their pain for the page or canvas is a popular one, but it’s important to remember that painting and poetry aren’t the only avenues for creativity. Many of us make inspired decisions in the course of day to day life, especially if you run your own business. Here at Upswept Creative, we help people express their true selves through their business ventures with innovative branding solutions, especially in website design.

Your website isn’t just a digital storefront, it is a visceral experience you impart to every visitor. Your web site is often the deciding factor if they become a paying customer or not. Taking a fresh look at your website design and incorporating new elements can feel liberating.

If you don’t have a website yet, planning is essential. Assembling a good plan and following through feels powerful and gives you momentum that can carry over into other aspects of your business.

Make Your Website Awesome

Not sure where to begin? Start by asking yourself these questions to nail down some basic elements of design for an awesome web experience:

Look at how the image size, top menu, and logo design all work in conjunction here. Does it make you want to order pie right away?

What is the goal of your website?

Is it to make sales? Have visitors sign up to your newsletter? Ask questions about your products or services? Try to be as specific as possible. Your goals shape the whole experience of visiting your website, and what a visitor sees first. Is it a mind-blowing splash graphic that sets the mood for viewing your art? Or would a horizontal-scrolling bar showing off featured store items be more appropriate for your goal?

How did visitors come to your site in the first place?

The answer to this might require combing through your analytics, but it can still be an important step in the planning process in the meantime. If you use your social media to promote click throughs to your website, you’ll want to have the relevant content front and center.

What kind of image content do you need?

Product photos, team member profiles, or the perfect website background are all major elements in a cohesive web design plan. Make a list of all the types of images you think you’ll need to show off the best of your business to the world.

Will your website be viewed by people on-the-go? Be sure and consider your design for mobile platforms as well.
Will your website be viewed by people on-the-go? Be sure to think about your design for mobile platforms as well.

Don’t you feel better after newly considering those aspects of your website? Now is the time to follow through. Upswept Creative offers free consultations to folks just like you – people who have put serious thought into their business and are ready to take the next step in accomplishing their overall branding goals.

We want you to know that no matter what message you’re getting from society at large, the team here at Upswept Creative knows that your individuality matters, and so does your right to creatively express yourself. Let’s hit your creative goals together!



Sep 26 2016

Building a Nest for a Happy Brand

When we first met with Emily of Happy Nest, she had a busy day-to-day of running her professional organizing business and caring for her young children. She had the start of an online presence, but her brand didn’t feel like a good fit. “It’s just… not awesome,” she told us. So, we made a plan to turn her disappointment into excitement, and rebuilt her brand from the ground up.

Photography: a view into a brand

Professional Headshots Portland
Professional headshot of Owner, Emily (hair/makeup: Jessica Belknap)

Our photography session was a great opportunity to get to know her work and what drives her. When I moved through the spaces she’d organized, I could quickly see how her organizing work could make an entire lifestyle more orderly. And, as a mother of three (including twins!), she clearly had to be smart and creative with her solutions to keep her own life running smoothly.

Emily’s work is about creating balance and ease, rather than rigid rules. So, “helping you create a more calm and peaceful nest,” was a great way to capture that ease and show that her solutions are designed to fit your life.

Logo Design: making a nest modern

Finding the right look for Happy Nest’s logo was no small feat. The first logo had a flat, illustrated look to it, but we soon learned that Emily craved a cleaner look that wasn’t quite so literal. After a few rounds of design, we arrived at a logo that felt like just the right fit for Happy Nest.

Website Design: simplicity and structure

The Happy Nest web site didn’t have complicated needs, but, “simple,” doesn’t mean, “boring.” We wanted to create a clean look that echoes the structure that Happy Nest can bring to your life, and we’d learned a lot about Emily’s personal style and aesthetic during the project. We saw pleasing colors and clean geometric patterns in her own decor. So, we let photos from our photography session set the tone on her homepage, and framed it with patterns and colors that spoke to her.

Then, we did rounds of testing to ensure that the site worked well on mobile devices, because her clients are often busy, on-the-go people. The end result is a site that communicates her brand more strongly, and makes details about her services easy to find. (and really, if there’s anyone should have a well-organized, easy-to-use web site, it’s a professional organizer! 😉 )

Desktop web site
Desktop web site

Mobile site
Mobile site


Jun 06 2016

Use Your Web Site to Make Your Business Findable

Summer is upon us in Portland, and that means tourism! People from all over come here for vacations, explore our city, and fall in love with it. You might be making special plans to get ready for the buzz of tourists, especially if you have a storefront or tourism-based business, but there’s one thing you might be missing: is your business findable online?

If you have a web site, take a moment to make sure your web site is ready for summer: here are just a few ways to make sure people can find your business and buy into the amazing things you’re offering!

Include your address on your web site, somewhere.

If you’re looking for walk-in customers, it’s hugely important that your physical address be on your web site, and that it’s easy-to-find. Just one example of why: a recent technology study revealed that 64% of smartphone users convert their search for a restaurant into an actual visit by the end of the day!

Having a mobile-responsive is critical, especially if you get a lot of customers from out-of-town.
Having a mobile-responsive web site is critical, especially if you get a lot of customers from out-of-town.

It’s common for people to search for your location on your web site while they’re on-the-go, so it’s absolutely to your benefit to make it easier for them to find you! Make sure your address exists somewhere on your web site Homepage, even if it’s just in the footer.

Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

Speaking of customers who search on-the-go, a web site that isn’t easy to use on a mobile device? That can really sink your business. This is doubly true if you depend on tourist business and out-of-town visitors, like Random Order Pie Bar does! Tourists are much more likely to look at your web site on a mobile device, so giving them the best possible experience will help them find you, and become your newest customer.

An added bonus: when your web site is mobile-friendly, it also ranks higher in mobile searches. So, having a mobile-responsive web site will also give you a nice boost in search engine rankings!

Does your web site need a mobile facelift, but you’re not sure where to start? If so, it might be time to hire a creative team to refresh your web site, and make it look its absolute best on every device.

Use prominent call-to-action links.

Whether you’re a walk-up business or an online shop, a prominent call-to-action does a lot of the work for you–an eye-catching message with a clickable button makes it easy for customers to buy in. One great example is Beer Quest PDX–there’s a “Sign Up” link built right into the top of the web site, so customers know exactly where to click to buy in, and sign up for a beer tour adventure.

What do your customers need to buy into what you offer? Make it easy for them to buy in: design your web site with an appealing call-to-action, and put it in a prominent place, so they can make that purchase the instant they decide to choose your offering.

Just Say No to PDFs.

Have you ever visited a web site and clicked on the link to their menu or rate sheet, only to be faced with a PDF that’s hard to read online? That can get pretty frustrating, right?

Imagine doing that on a mobile device? Even worse! The print is surely too small to read, and you have to clumsily swipe and scroll and search for the information you want.

Again, this is about making it easy for people to want what you’re offering, and to learn more about it. Using a PDF instead of a standard web page may seem easier for you, but is that worth hindering your potential customers?

I’ll admit, “No PDFs” isn’t the most hard-and-fast rule–PDFs can have their place on a web site, especially if you’re selling a e-books, or if your content is the product. But, for simple information that your customers and clients will want to access quickly, create a standard web page for that content.

What else can you do to make your web site do the work for you?

There are awesome brand and design strategies that can be built right into your web site, so you spend less time worrying about marketing, and more time doing what you love. But, that means getting more specific, and building a web experience that’s a perfect fit for your business. If you’re ready for a refreshed web site that does the work for you, just click on the button below and tell us a little more about your business. We’d love to hear from you!

Tell us more about you! »


May 06 2016

Bringing strong brand to web design for Random Order Pie Bar

The "Before" Picture: Random Order's old site didn't incorporate their updated branding.
The “Before” Picture: Random Order’s old site didn’t incorporate their updated branding.

When a once-humble pie shop gains a worldwide audience, a lot of eyes will suddenly be looking for it, especially on the internet--a lot of business dream of that level of fame, but not all of them are ready for it! It’s easy for a potential new fan to see you in a magazine or on TV, pull out their smartphone, and go online to find the best pie in Portland. That means the pressure is on your web site to make a great first impression, and give them what they need to find you.

Random Order Pie Bar was more ready for fame than some, when Travel & Leisure magazine first rated their Vanilla Salted Caramel Apple Pie among “America’s Best”. When the owner of Random Order reached out to Team Upswept, they had updated their signage, menus, and other brand assets with a bolder and more polished look, and they also wisely gathered high-quality photos of their beautiful and positively scrummy pies!

But, even with all of these assets in their hands, their brand refresh was far from complete. None of their new brand imagery was being used effectively in their online presence, and they were also losing potential customers because of their not-so-mobile-friendly web site. The overall look-and-feel of the old web site felt heavy and staid, which didn’t fit at all with the welcoming and active environment of their cafe. That’s where Team Upswept came in!

Our new homepage design made bigger, better use of Random Order's updated logo and gorgeous pie photos. (click to embiggen)
Our new homepage design made bigger, better use of Random Order’s updated logo and gorgeous pie photos. (click to embiggen)

Our first order of business was designing the new web site to make the best use of their brand assets. Their updated logo now shows front-and-center with a gorgeous, full-width photo of their now-famous pie, and brand fonts are also used prominently, to tie in with their printed menus and advertisements. Their “Pie to the People” tag line also appears in multiple locations throughout the site, so this clever catch phrase can stick in the minds of future tourists and customers.

We also updated their menus to highlight both their pie flavors and cafe selections, with prominent calls to action for special ordering your favorite pie, or visiting the shop for a coffee drink and a slice. And, of course, we incorporated more of the lovely photos of the food, drinks, and cafe space throughout the site, to share the quality of their hand-crafted treats, and the community they’ve built over the years.

Random Order's new mobile site achieves the goals of the desktop version and makes it easy to view for people on-the-go.
Random Order’s new mobile site achieves the goals of the desktop version and makes it easy to view for people on-the-go.

And, now that Random Order’s reach extends far outside of its Portland, Oregon home, we made sure their web site would be easy to use for visiting tourists and local enthusiasts alike, by building a web site design that displays gracefully on mobile devices. With more and more people using mobile devices to learn about their pies–especially when traveling in from out of town–it’s absolutely critical that Random Order Pie Bar have a mobile site which is easy to use.

The new mobile site for Random Order achieves the same goals as the desktop version, and brings the brighter, more welcoming look to people on-the-go, and folks who are looking to sample a slice or a whole order of their famous pies can easily find their location or contact them with questions or special orders.

If you know me, then you know that I get more than a little excited about pie, so working with people who make some of the absolute best pie in Portland was a total blast. My only complaint? Looking at all of those photos made me so very hungry pie. Maybe that’s my cue to head up to Alberta St. and grab a world-famous slice for myself! 😉

Portland branding and web design by Upswept Creative


Jan 19 2016

On Keeping Projects Moving and Shifting Gears: an interview with Kelley “Frisky Sour” Gardiner

Writing a book is no small undertaking, and neither is being a parent. Kelley “Frisky Sour” Gardiner didn’t shy away from either of those things, though–she resolved to write and edit her first book throughout her pregnancy, and publish it before her little one’s due date! Now, she’s created Roller Derby for Beginners, a definitive roller derby resource book for new skaters that’s available as both a paperback and an e-book, and even maintained a companion web site of resources to go with it.

Now, that companion site is taking on a new life: RollerDerbyForBeginners.com has become an ongoing blog of tips, information, and resources for new roller derby skaters, “to help new skaters be better athletes, make sense of their new world, and get the reassurance that though their derby journey is their own, there’s a lot that we have in common.” It wasn’t the easiest decision to shift gears and find a new purpose to the site, but things are looking bright for the new site.

We checked in with Frisky to pick her brain on how to keep a long-term project moving, and on shifting gears and making changes to your original vision.

Kelley/Frisky, after the birth of her awesome roller derby resource book.
Kelley/Frisky, after the birth of her awesome roller derby resource book. (photo courtesy of author)

UPSWEPT: Roller Derby For Beginners was your first published book–what parts of creating and promoting it were the most important to you?

FRISKY: I think the most important aspect of me making a product was to make sure that it was worth buying. I mean, I’d rather make zero dollars and help someone than make a million dollars by bilking people $14.95 at a time. My volunteer early readers were absolutely essential to forming the book into something that was useful to all kinds of skaters with all kinds of experiences. I’m just me, and I skated for two leagues. Getting feedback from my beta readers and learning through their lenses was just as important as hiring good editors. (Hire good editors.)

UPSWEPT: Longer-term projects can be tough to manage. What did you do to keep the book project moving, and keep yourself motivated?

FRISKY: I had this kinda big deadline looming over me in the form of pregnancy. Then, I had a successful Kickstarter, so I HAD to finish, or else [I’d] be that jerk. Luckily for all those Kickstarter supporters, Baby Sour came a week after his due date, and I’d planned to take that time off anyway. I absolutely cannot recommend trying to figure out the finer points of formatting and page breaks in Word on four hours of sleep, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

UPSWEPT: Writing a book isn’t easy! What were some of the bigger challenges of creating and promoting your book?

FRISKY: What with the baby and all, my promotion plan became kind of helter skelter. I thought I’d have time to market after the kid was born, but, um, no. No one ever has more time later, least of all when they suddenly get a 24-hour on-call job.

Writing the thing was just work. I had a plan, and just chipped away at it slowly. People are impressed by that part, but it comes naturally to me as a writer to put words on a page, edit, edit, ask for help, and edit again. Knowing how to pitch this book and reach my very particular audience was the problem, especially with a pretty small marketing budget.

UPSWEPT: What made you decide to shift gears and turn your book companion site into an active blog? Is there anything that made the transition from book to blog difficult?

quotation_goal-settingFRISKY: It was a path that should have been obvious [to me] a few years ago, but it was hard to let go of my old roller derby blog. It didn’t even have a roller derby name or URL–it was personal blog that just sort of evolved to being about roller derby. It became a place to blog for beginning skaters, so it only made sense to kill off the old blog and really focus on making one site that served all those needs.

I still have to figure out a few details, like whether to transfer some old content to the new site. The only problem is that I’m learning more all the time that I wish could be in the book! That’s the beauty and the detriment of digital publishing. I hope I can just cover the basics in the book, get people rolling, and then bring them to the blog for the details. (Of course, I’m hoping to draw new [book] readers via the blog as well.)

The new blog concept is an experiment at this point, to see what kind of content people want. I want to keep putting out useful information and paying writers for it.

UPSWEPT: Do you have any advice for people who might want to publish or blog in the future?

FRISKY: I’m a professional blogger and writer, and the most common problem I see is starting without a clear goal or focus. Do you want to share your story? Sell a product? Get more exposure? Focus on a goal as early as possible, so you don’t spin your wheels in a million directions. But at the same time, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. There are just different strategies for accomplishing your goals and catching those dreams. Messing up and learning along the way is part of the deal.


Jan 11 2016

Breaking It Down: Setting Goals for 2016

The Future Is In Your Hands! Start Setting Goals and Make a Plan for 2016!

It’s a new year, and everyone has resolutions and setting goals on their mind. If you’re anything like us, you might start feeling sort of anxious or overwhelmed about all the possibilities. You keep telling yourself to floss more, drink more water, go on vacation, catch up with friends and family, do yoga, etc.

Setting Goals for business: physical, emotional, relationalTo help combat the anxiety that comes with having so many options, we like to break our goals up into categories: the Physical, the Emotional, and the Relational. Some of those examples may apply more directly to you as a business owner (seriously, go on vacation!) than others, the basic principle still applies. In what ways can your business improve physically, emotionally, and relationally? Here are a few suggestions:

The Physical

Everyone has something about their office that makes life harder. The printer never works. You don’t have enough space. Where have all the pens gone? Take this time to reflect on your physical space, and come up with some ways that you might be able to improve it.

The Emotional

Have you ever noticed how great it feels to do something nice for someone else? Find an organization that matters to you and give what you can. whether it’s time as a volunteer or a regular donation, you’ll notice your happiness levels increasing.

The Relational

Is it time to expand your network? There’s nothing like bouncing ideas off fellow business owners for feedback or support. Think about joining a network or organization that’s related to your business to spice up your relationships.

Don’t Know Where To Start Setting Goals? We’ve Got Your Back.

We’re growing and changing here at Upswept HQ, too, and that means we can do more for you AND do it better. We have some awesome new team members coming aboard to lend you a helping hand, whether it’s with the small stuff, or the big visions. (you’ll meet them soon!)

  • Struggling with the Physical? We can help you make your business look fabulous on the outside with strong design, attractive and usable web solutions, and smart content strategy.
  • Looking for the Emotional center of your business? When you do a branding and web project with us, we’ll be taking you through a more in-depth Discovery process, so you feel confident in your message and do better business.
  • Feeling disconnected on the Relational side of things? We’re now taking on Social Media Management! We can help you create new content, manage campaigns, and navigate the technical side for you, so you don’t have to waste your precious day-to-day on Facebook.

We can help you formulate an action plan for making your brand image smarter and prettier in the new year. A consultation with us is always free, and we love helping you grow! Click the link below, answer a few questions about your project, and we can take the wheel.

Talk to us! We like you already. »

Hearts, successes, and good vibes to you in the coming year!


Sep 25 2015

Freelance Web Designers & Developers: We’re Seeking You!

web design and development in PortlandAre you a freelance Designer or WordPress Developer? It’s looking like a busy Fall here at Upswept, and we might just need your help! So, we’re updating our resources and looking for smart, fun, and all-around-stellar people to work with us on current and future projects.

DEVELOPERS:

We have front-end development projects coming up in the very near future, and potentially back-end projects further down the line. You should have:

  • Strong knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP.
  • Experience building WordPress themes from scratch is a must!
  • Experience with coding mobile-responsive sites is a huge plus.
  • Knowledge of Bootstrap and Sass are also plusses.

DESIGNERS:

We handle a variety of projects for independent businesses, including brand design, web sites, photography, and other creative endeavors. Here’s what we’re looking for from freelance designers:

  • Web Design experience is a must, as that is our biggest need.
  • Experience with logo/branding and print design is also a bonus.
  • Agency experience is a plus.
  • Familiarity with 12-column and responsive design would also be great.

Portland is our home. Hopefully it’s yours, too.

We believe in giving back to our local economy whenever we can, so we have a very strong preference to work with freelancers who are located in PDX. We want to be able to meet with you face-to-face! However, there is a slim chance that remote work may also be possible for the perfect person. Individuals only–please no firms or companies. Please no inquiries from outside of the U.S.

Sound like you?

Fantastic! Just e-mail us at ask [at] upsweptcreative [dot] com using the subject line, “Freelancing is Awesome.” Include your resume and a portfolio link, and a brief paragraph about who you are, what you love, and why you want to make pretty with us, and we’ll reach out to you soon. Thank you!


Jul 01 2015

Open Source Bridge Day 2: You Are Not Your User

Day Two of Open Source Bridge encouraged us to look beyond our own experience, and try to see the world through a different lens. Not only does it help us be more compassionate as people, but it also helps us create and code better design and user experiences for everyone we want to reach.

Algorithms Can Have Powerful Consequences

Open Source Bridge Keynote: Carina C. Zona talks about using data insights responsibly.
Carina C. Zona talks about using data insights responsibly.

Carina C. Zona opened Day 2 with “Consequences of an Insightful Algorithm” and talked about the incredible number of things we can learn about people through data, and subsequently, the potentially hurtful actions that can stem from it. Zona brought up several examples of big-name companies who have used their data less-than-responsibly, such as FitBit’s public exposure of sexual activity on profile statistics, or even more disastrous, Target’s advertisements towards pregnant women exposing a teen pregnancy. Big companies can learn a great deal about their customers by gathering and analyzing customer data, but they can easily fail at using that data responsibly.

Inadvertent algorithmic cruelty–a phrase coined by Eric Meyer–is, “what happens when code works in the majority of cases, but fails to take other use cases into account.” These types of things often happen because the consequences of how data is being used aren’t being thoroughly considered, which is easy to do when you assume that your customers and users are similar to you. That means that people outside of the assumed majority can get hurt.

We all have biases, whether we’re aware of them or not, so it’s important for us all to consider what motivates our choices, and how that can affect others who don’t share our biases. Data can be an extremely powerful tool, but it’s up to us to be honest and trustworthy, to use data responsibly, and to actively counter the biases that exist in ourselves and our culture.

Good User Experience Means Seeking Other Perspectives

With the Day 2 keynote fresh in my mind, I attended multiple sessions that encouraged all of us in tech to reach outside of our own perspectives, to think and learn about users who are different from us, and use that knowledge to create better user experiences for everyone.

Amelia Abreu facilitates a session about creating better design with user research.
Amelia Abreu facilitates a session about creating better design with user research.

Amelia Abreu and Rachel Shadoan facilitated a longer-form session, Dog Food is for Dogs: Escape the Crate of Your Perspective with User Research,” which focused on escaping the limitations of our own perspective through user research. We know our own projects inside and out, but our users don’t have that same advantage, so it’s part of our job to do the research and learn more about the people we’re designing for.

The session focused on a couple of different strategies to help us learn to see beyond our own experience: first, we looked at a photograph and brainstormed about everything from the circumstances and feelings of the people in said photo, to potential solutions to their problems. Later in the session, we broke up into several groups and explored different scenarios, so we could strategically think about the different types of people who might work with our projects, what’s exciting them about our work, and what their struggles might be.

The clear message here was that we need to consider a variety of people when we create user experiences. People tend to congregate with others who are just like them, so that can easily lead us to assume that our experience is the only one that matters. Our user scenarios should be based on field research, or we risk falling into tropes and our own biases.

In a similar vein, David Newton tackled the topic of making web design more inclusive in Universal Web Design: How to create an awesome experience for *every* user.” Newton looked at successful examples of universal design in the real world–such as curb cuts to improve accessibility for wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes–and then expanded on the concepts of universal design and how they can apply to Web Design.

Creating web design that’s intuitive, flexible, and easy to use in a variety of situations was a big topic here, and it’s one that I loved talking about. A good universal design works for us, and we don’t really think about it until it’s not there when we need it. No matter what type of web site we’re building, be it business, personal, or community, our number one goal? We want people to use the site. If you have a web design that’s confusing, or that isn’t easy to use for all of our users, then your web site is falling down on the job.

Newton went into a detailed run-down of tips, concepts, and best practices for making web designs more accessible. And, he also stressed the importance of listening to and considering a variety of users. Diversity is not only about the user, but also how they access the web, what devices, connection speeds, and so forth. We were encouraged to listen to our users, respond to their email feedback, do focus groups, and do our best to learn what they need, so we can create a better web site experience for everyone.

In short: “Remove barriers. Make things easier for users, even if it’s a little harder for us [as designers and developers].”

Did you miss out on the conference? Look back at Day 1 of Open Source Bridge, and take a look at some of our photos on Facebook.