Foundation 6.4 Released

Foundation 6.4 has been released by the team over at Zurb, and while it’s packed with tweaks and improvements that you’d expect from any release, the big news is that the Flexbox-based grid is now the default layout tool.

XY Grid

The new grid is called the XY Grid, and it’s truly powerful thanks to the underlying Flexbox technology. In the XY grid you can control layouts both horizontally (x) and vertically (y) thanks to the super-amazing power of Flexbox.

Foundation has been playing with Flexbox for a while, in fact it was one of the first frameworks to adopt Flexbox as a layout option. Adopting new technology in this way is one of the things that’s kept Foundation ahead of the pack.

All we’ve been hearing about for months is CSS Grid for layout, but actually CSS Grid is still cooking with support not quite there yet—support for Flexbox is consistent across the board which makes Foundation 6.4 the way to layout websites. Of course, the old style grid is still there, for those people that need legacy support, but the XY Grid is so cool, you’ll want to stick with the new default.

ES2016

Foundation 6.4 also adopts EcmaScript 2016 standards, in practical terms the most up-to-date JavaScript there is. ES2016 moves us further towards OOP JS and that means far more efficient scripts, that run faster and enable better user experience.

Again, there’s some backwards-compatibility options, so don’t panic if you’ve got client sites that you don’t want to update, or seriously backward browser requirements.

Prototyping

Foundation was built as production code. Despite this lots of people (seriously, lots) use Foundation for rapid prototyping—sometimes you just need to throw together a working prototype, take it to users, and gather their feedback.

Unfortunately, it’s not always been clear which parts of Foundation were designed to enable rapid prototyping. The fallout from that being that occasionally, unwitting developers would push prototype-standard code out to a production environment. Sad gifs all round.

Zurb are tackling that in Foundation 6.4 by giving us a whole heap of prototyping helpers and even a “prototype mode” to speed up prototyping. This smells like something that’s going to evolve in future!

Get Foundation 6.4

Foundation 6.4 looks like being one of the best updates yet: tons of performance improvements and a whole new way to layout sites thanks to the XY Grid.

Foundation 6.4 is free to download from Zurb, and if you’re excited about getting up to speed on the XY Grid Zurb are running free webinars tomorrow (Thursday 29th June) and Friday (30th June)—make sure you sign up fast because there’s limited spacing.

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5 UX Truths Cats Can Teach Us

Cat pictures and GIFs make the web go round. That much is obvious to anyone who has used the web at all in the last couple of decades. But cats aren’t just great content. They’re great companions for those of us too busy to take care of dogs.

They’re smart little fluffy things, though. Over the millennia, cats have learned exactly how to manipulate us into giving them what they want…most of the time. Indeed, they’ve learned many ways to make us want to give them the things they demand. There’s a really strong case for the idea that all cat owners just have really bad Stockholm Syndrome.

From cats, we can learn to form relationships with people with whom we may not have much in common

Now I’m not advocating Stockholm Syndrome as the key to your site’s success. Being as demanding or sneaky as some cats are would backfire horribly. I’m suggesting that there are things we can learn from the ways that cats dig their little foot-knives into our hearts. From cats, we can learn to form relationships with people with whom we may not have much in common.

1. Give and Take

The first thing that any smart cat learns is that you don’t get your nightly tuna snack for free. The deal with my fiancée’s cat is that he has to be back inside by 10PM. As he is now an indoor cat, he meets this demand easily enough. My cat has (mostly) realized that she pays for her tuna in cuddles, nose boops, and by hopping into my lap while purring and demanding affection—she understands her side of the deal.

You gotta deliver quality (metaphorical) cuddles to earn loyalty

Now, you might not have the chance to cuddle with your site’s users and shed fur on them. You just need to understand that when a user comes to your site, you’ve just entered into a deal. So long as your site provides them with what they need and/or want, they’ll stick around and give you their attention, and perhaps their money. Tricking users is a short-term solution. You gotta deliver quality (metaphorical) cuddles to earn loyalty.

2. Make Your Needs Known

Cats don’t meow at each other. They meow at us, because apparently, it’s the only thing we understand. And even then, it’s hard to tell one meow from another, so I end up checking their food, water, litter boxes, and anything else that might be wrong before I realize that the little brat wants to go outside, but he isn’t allowed.

If you need action or input from your users, you need to make this painfully, sometimes ear-splittingly clear. Unlike cats, you can actually tell your users exactly what action or input you need. This is why buttons have to look like buttons, links have to look supremely clickable, and don’t even get me started on forms.

3. Move on From Your Mistakes

You ever see a cat screw up while rolling around and fall off the bed or couch? It’s amazing. Watching these graceful little creatures completely fumble a jump is one of life’s great pleasures. Cats are skilled in moving past their mistakes. After an initial expression of mild shock, a cat will promptly right itself and get back to doing cat things. Cats don’t sit there on the floor pretending they meant to do that. They get up and solve the problem, then pretend they meant to do that.

Cats are skilled in moving past their mistakes

In design, as in life, you can’t cling to your mistakes, whether your security was hacked, you spent too long on a UI idea that was never going to work, or you just made a typo in the CSS. You have to get back on your feet, then set things aright, or start over. And you have to do this as quickly as possible, so as to not lose momentum. The caveat is that we don’t get to pretend it never happened. Improvement requires admitting your mistakes, and apologizing to anyone they might have adversely affected.

4. Delight Your Users by Being Yourself

One of the joys of living with cats—one never truly owns a cat—is watching them do cat things. When they roll over and sleep with their bellies to the sun, you can’t help but smile. When they dose in a pose so regal, you’re reminded of a Sphinx, that’s just adorable. When they play fight, hunt, chase red dots, or inhale their tuna like addicts, they are just being themselves. And we love it.

Projecting a false personality to your users will always backfire eventually. If you are into cheesy humor, write cheesy copy. If your company maintains a highly formal environment, make your site formal. Take the best of yourself (or your company), and invest it into the site itself. If nothing else, your users will appreciate the honesty. In a best case scenario, they’ll grow attached.

5. Take Care of Your Users

When a cat brings you a dead animal, or worse, one that’s not quite dead yet, they’re just looking out for your well-being. They never see you go hunting, and assume that you must be terrible at it, opposable thumbs and tuna cans notwithstanding. So they’ve gone hunting for you, and they really want to teach you how. It’s messy, but well-intentioned.

first and foremost that users are people before they are customers

Show your new users around the site, if it has any complex functionality. Take care of their personal info, do your best to avoid leaks. Give them the best customer service you can. Remember first and foremost that users are people before they are customers. Demonstrate loyalty to the people who use your site, and they’ll be loyal to you. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of you.

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9 Exciting Open Source Sass Frameworks

Every CSS developer should know about Sass to see what it offers. This superset of CSS has revolutionized stylesheets much like jQuery revolutionized JavaScript.

And alongside many CSS UI frameworks we also have SCSS/Sass frontend frameworks. Most of these are pretty new but gaining traction quickly.

We’ve curated 9 of the best free SCSS frameworks here so if you’re a Sass user then you’ll definitely want to check these out.

1. Sierra

The Sierra framework is touted as one of the lightest and smallest SCSS frameworks on the market. Currently in v2.0 it weighs a total of 37KB.

This may not be literally the smallest option out there, but even the minified Bootstrap stylesheet totals ~120KB so Sierra is pretty light. It’s also well organized with separate files for mixins, buttons, tables, typography, and other common page elements.

This file separation is standard for Sass development and it makes your job much easier when customizing the framework.

You’ll find a complete live demo with all the main elements on Sierra’s main page along with setup documentation on GitHub. I’d rate this in the top three of all Sass frameworks so it’s definitely worth a look if you’re curious.

2. Scooter

The team at Dropbox put together their own frontend framework called Scooter. This one is a lot simpler than most since it was created for frontend prototyping.

Dropbox actually has a lot of open source stuff on GitHub which includes their own style guide for formatting CSS/SCSS code. This little resource can prove incredibly useful if you wanna dive into Scooter and tinker with the default source.

Most of the Scooter styles actually borrow ideas from Dropbox like their buttons on the components page. This offers a cool way to prototype your own webapps in Sass while using a tried & tested UI style.

3. Kickoff

For something a little more detailed you might try the Kickoff library. This runs on a Sass base and has its own naming scheme for adding new variables.

But Kickoff mixes a little bit of everything from CSS grids to more complex JS components all delivered & maintained through Gulp.js.

If you don’t already use Gulp then this framework has a bit of a learning curve. But the entire codebase is very future-centric with a focus on ES2016 and flexbox.

This is exceptionally lean with a CSS stylesheet of only 8.6KB and a measly 2KB of JavaScript. Kickoff is meant as a boilerplate where it’s merely a starting point, so you can build out something as slim or detailed as necessary for any project.

Take a peek at their online demo to see how this looks in the browser.

4. Materialize

Everyone knows about Google’s material design and how fast it spread across the web. This led to many developers creating their own stylesheets to mimic Google’s guidelines and some of those stylesheets are online for free.

Materialize is one example of a CSS/Sass framework built specifically on Google’s guidelines. The framework is still technically in beta version 0.9 as of this writing.

But I’d argue it’s complete enough for production websites and there’s a Sass option right on the intro page. So you can either download the basic CSS/JS files or get the CSS+Sass for further development.

This is so popular that it’s available on CDNs so you don’t even need to download the CSS locally.

Anyone conforming to Google’s material styles should absolutely start with the Materialize library. You’ll find complete documentation on the website along with a showcase of websites running Materialize.

5. Hocus-Pocus

The Hocus-Pocus framework doesn’t consider itself a framework, but rather a starter’s kit for designing new projects.

This UI kit restyles all the default HTML elements on a webpage and it comes with a nice responsive grid to align those elements. Naturally the whole thing relies on Sass which makes the dev process a lot simpler.

Hocus Pocus feels more like the antithesis to Bootstrap. You wouldn’t use this directly on a live website. But you would use this as a starting point to prototype and build ideas quickly. Although it can work well as a base too since it runs on Normalize.

From pre-styled tables to buttons and custom form elements, Hocus Pocus adds a minimalist touch to all default browser styles.

 

6. Gridle

The Gridle framework is one of the most customizable SCSS grid frameworks you’ll find. It’s powered by Sass and it comes with dozens of custom mixins and functions made specifically for this grid system.

You’ll find a live preview on the demo page here hosted for free on GitHub. There’s also a complete setup guide on the main repo that covers how to define grids from very simple to more complex.

Note that Gridle does require some existing knowledge of grid systems and it’s certainly not a magic bullet.

But it’ll save you hours of time hand-crafting a grid from scratch, not to mention it’s reusable for pretty much any project you design.

7. iotaCSS

One of the best methods for structuring CSS is the OOCSS style. This follows an object structure where you design for more classes & relationships rather than nested specificity.

iotaCSS is one of the few OOCSS frameworks and it’s real easy to use. You can browse through a mini preview of the source code to see naming conventions and how this uses BEM/OOCSS syntax.

One unique difference about iota is that it’s not specifically a UI kit. Instead it’s a framework to help you create a UI kit solely through Sass. This means it’s not a plug & play solution, but it also offers far more customization.

The online documentation is phenomenal so this is a fantastic framework to build out your own Sass-powered stylesheet from scratch.

8. Bulma

Modern CSS is moving towards a modular and flexible structure with flexbox. This seems to be the new normal and Bulma is leading the charge.

This free Sass framework lets you work solely with flexbox to create fully responsive grid systems from scratch. This means easy vertical + horizontal centering, fixed-height grid boxes, and a whole bunch of default styles.

You can find live demos on the main page along with install instructions on GitHub.

By default Bulma is just a CSS file and it’s even hosted on CDNs for free. But developers are encouraged to download the Sass files and work with variables to add your own features.

9. Susy

Susy is a responsive Sass toolkit for building layouts from scratch. It’s a unique library because it doesn’t come with a default grid setup or a stylesheet ready to launch.

Instead Susy offers a series of tools with tutorials that you can follow to create your own grid layouts.

These various tools let you define variables for custom breakpoints, custom grid/gutter settings, and toss in a variety of mixins for good measure. You can style nested elements quickly and target very specific page elements with just a few lines of code.

Since this doesn’t come with a default stylesheet it’s not a ready-to-go solution. But if you’re a Sass developer looking to save time then skim through Susy’s docs and see what you think.

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10 Ways to Design Menus That Don’t Suck

There are definite right and wrong ways to design navigation menus. This basic part of a website is often overlooked in the design process and it shows in terms of usability.

Clunky, overcrowded or missing navigation are the most common issues and quite frankly they can make your website simply suck. Don’t be that guy (or girl). Use these tips to ensure that you are using modern navigation patterns in your website projects for cool, creative navigation elements that don’t suck. (And are highly usable.)

1. Ditch the Mega Menus

Mega menus was a design fad that clients loved—even when designers hated it. The oversized menu style that includes “everything but the kitchen sink” is overwhelming to users and doesn’t provide any real value.

Only a handful of major retailers can really get away with using mega menus, and the purpose there is to show scale of inventory. The usefulness of the overloaded navigation element is questionable.

Often, a mega menu option is selected because it is too hard to narrow down what to put in the navigation. Make the tough choices. Dig in analytics to see what users are looking for. Honestly, most users who want a very specific thing will find it using search anyway.

2. Make Search Prominent

And speaking of search: Make it prominent. Search should be on every page. It should in in the main navigation. And it should be large and easy to access.

Superb search functionality is the link that will keep users on a website. If what they are looking for isn’t readily available, the next option is likely to search for it. (You can thank Google for this search-first thought process.)

Don’t try to fight it. Work with users and include search as part of the main navigation. (And make sure the box is big enough to type, and fully see, common phrases into.)

3. Limit the Number of Navigation Choices

It’s your job to anticipate what content users will want to access next. Limit navigation choices to the most popular pages and information in the website design.

Almost every navigation menu should include search, an about or contact page and e-commerce sites should always include a cart or buy now button. After that navigation elements should be driven by site content.

4. Develop Smart Navigation Menus

Good navigation will help users move from one bit of content to the next logical point. This content is often different on different parts of the website.

Create multiple navigation configurations so that users have easy access to the content that is the next logical step in their path around the design. While some elements might overlap, others assist users and help them move deeper into the design.

We are in an age where users have come to expect certain levels of personalization. Amazon does a great job of this with navigation elements that even call users by name. Take a close look at the navigation next time you log in to see [Your Name Here]’s Amazon.com. The secondary navigation includes information such as the user’s annual donation for Smile users, recent order history and even credits to other Amazon services. (Everything thereafter is pretty personalized, too.)

5. Order Nav Elements Purposefully

The order of navigation elements is just as important as the decision to use them. Items at the beginning and end of the navigation element will be most effective, most seen and most clicked. User these positions carefully.

There’s even some science to back this up. The serial position effect is the tendency of a person to recall the first and last items in a list most consistency. Further, users tend to recall the most recent items best (recency effect) and the first few items in a list are recalled better than middle elements (primacy effect).

Look at user flow patterns in your website analytics to help determine exactly what pages and elements should be front and center. Include pages that users are going to from the homepage and content that you want users to connect with. Eliminate navigation elements that aren’t driving user flow.

6. Use Sticky Navigation for Long-Scrolling Pages

Don’t let users lose track of navigation. Whether it sticks to the top, or bottom or side of the screen, any page with a long-scrolling format should include a sticky menu. The reason behind this is simple: Don’t make users work to keep interacting with your website.

The easier it is to move around and experience content, the more likely users are to do just that. The more time a user spends on your website with your design, the more likely they are to convert on a desired user action.

7. Don’t Hide the Navigation

Tiny menu items, links tucked away at the bottom of the screen or only in the footer, and pop-out navigation hidden behind oddball icons and lack of navigation on interior pages will only keep users from clicking. Don’t hide website navigation. It should be front and center. It should be on every page.

Users can get to your website in any number of ways. Make sure that there’s a navigational element waiting form them when they arrive.

8. Use Descriptive Labels

From navigation words to icons, every element should tell users exactly what will happen with a click. Use commonly accepted icons, such as a shopping card to check out or magnifying glass for search or even a hamburger icon for pop-out menu styles.

Then take it a step further and use text labels that tell the user exactly what information is contained therein. Try to avoid overly generic labels such as services or offerings, if there’s a word that better explains the content.

9. Consider Full-Page Nav

Sometimes the design is the navigation. If there are a few key elements that are vital for users, showcase them with full-screen navigation.

While this won’t be appropriate for every project, it can be effective for smaller websites, portfolios or project work.

10. Go Vertical

Vertical navigation is trendy right now, and for good reason. It is easy to see and draws the eye because it is somewhat different.

Side, vertically-oriented navigation is a good option for websites that need a little more space for number of navigation elements. With a deeper menu, the design can accommodate more nav elements without feeling cluttered and maintaining adequate space between elements. 

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Popular Design News of the Week: June 19, 2017 – June 25, 2017

Every week users submit a lot of interesting stuff on our sister site Webdesigner News, highlighting great content from around the web that can be of interest to web designers. 

The best way to keep track of all the great stories and news being posted is simply to check out the Webdesigner News site, however, in case you missed some here’s a quick and useful compilation of the most popular designer news that we curated from the past week.

Note that this is only a very small selection of the links that were posted, so don’t miss out and subscribe to our newsletter and follow the site daily for all the news.

CoolHue – Coolest Gradient Hues and Swatches

 

Google Introduces Spectral, a New Web Font

 

Web Developer Portfolios – Templates for Developers and Programmers

 

What is the ROI of Design?

 

How the Internet Killed Squares

 

Site Design: Tesla Autopilot

 

Finalists in Canada 150 Logo Contest Fail to Impress

 

The Expert Guide to Working from Home

 

The Modern Web Design Process: Setting Goals

 

Google for Jobs is Now Open to all Job Search Sites & Developers

 

The Buzzfeed Redesign: UK Art Director Tim Lane Talks Us Through his Seven-month Overhaul

 

Moths are Eliminating Screen Glare Once and for all

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Designing Interface Animations

 

Mollie — Better Payments

 

Qlone – 3D Scan any Object with your iPhone or iPad

 

Proofreading Marks for Typographers

 

How to Create a Side Project that Customers Actually Want

 

Scrapbox – A New Style of Note-taking Where Ideas Connect

 

Inly: Beautiful Invoicing that Gets You Paid Quick

 

Clean Todo – An Efficient and Elegant To-do App

 

Google VR 180

 

How to Build your own Alexa Service

 

Twist, a Rival for Slack?

 

The Importance of Cognitive Bias in Experience Design

 

How Big Data is Stopping Us Taking Risks

 

Want more? No problem! Keep track of top design news from around the web with Webdesigner News.

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Comics of the Week #395

Every week we feature a set of comics created exclusively for WDD.

The content revolves around web design, blogging and funny situations that we encounter in our daily lives as designers.

These great cartoons are created by Jerry King, an award-winning cartoonist who’s one of the most published, prolific and versatile cartoonists in the world today.

So for a few moments, take a break from your daily routine, have a laugh and enjoy these funny cartoons.

Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below as well as any related stories of your own…

No pants required

Designer. Not psychic.

 

Photoshop withdrawal

Can you relate to these situations? Please share your funny stories and comments below…

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Is UX Really That Important?

One of the most oft-repeated criticisms of any design is that it’s “poor user experience”. UX is set up as the ultimate achievement for any design project. But is this an over-simplification of the designer’s role? Should everything be about user experience?

To paraphrase Leonard Hofstadter: “UX is a ‘smart decision’; it is like a bran muffin—a thing that you’re choosing because it is good for you…But sometimes, you want things in your design to be a Cinnabon, you know? A strawberry Pop Tart. Something you’re excited about even though it could give you diabetes”.

Today I’ve put together a list of sites that are rarely credited with good user experience, but that are still praise-worthy despite—or perhaps because of—that fact. We can admire their originality, their interactions, and their creative direction.

1. Scrolling: parallax, long and infinite

While scrolling, in all its hypostases, underlies a bunch of today’s websites—especially those that bring to life a storytelling experience—UX gurus find this technique “mauvais ton”. They consider it bad for many reasons:

  • users may not know what to do when first they stumble upon such a site;
  • users can feel confused and frustrated;
  • users often become bored after several minutes of constant moving;
  • there is no way out, whatsoever;
  • the navigation is not transparent and habitual;
  • relatively bad site performance;
  • in some cases, it does not work in mobile devices;
  • etc.

However, we still eagerly click on a website that promises to take us on a long exciting adventure. Does the “comfort zone” matter? When all you need to do is to toy with a mouse scroll wheel and amuse yourself with some inventive tricks.

What does the Bank of England do?

Ivan Toro

2. Experiments with Typography and Taglines

As all we know, your message to the targeted audience should be as clean and clear as a little angel’s tear. Good contrast, optimal readability, and some other factors ensure the successful transmission of the company’s message. For example, Six Potatoes or Biron: their titles are pretty straightforward and plain. Without a doubt, this technique works: it is really hard to miss the tagline.

Six Potatoes

Biron

However, what about the homepage of Bolden? Their “welcome” message is a true mess. Letters overlap each other looking much like the Venn diagram. The first thing that comes to mind “What a…?” Undoubtedly, such a peculiar solution evokes mixed feelings. Nevertheless, these feelings ignite our interest. Curiosity is our natural instinct that is truly powerful.

What’s really hidden inside this tiny chaos? The team is managed to seize and hold our attention, and not only convey the message and reflect a creative thinking but also use our short memory span to their advantage.

Bolden

3. WebGL Experiments

Can anyone call WebGL along with Chrome experiments an example of good UX? Absolutely, not. Some of them even do not work on the majority of browsers, so a lion share of online audience are simply unable to open them on their desktops, to say nothing about the tablets and mobile devices. But still, the upsurge of using high-end features and experimental libraries in building web applications is evident. Interland by Google, DEVX Experiments86 and half years—all these and many more concepts slowly but surely are earning their place in the sun. They are impressive, ingenious and intriguing; and if they open in your browser you will definitely forget about the comfort at least for 10-15 minutes.

Welcome to Fillory

Senso

4. Original Navigation

“Should I stay or should I go?”

Navigation plays a decisive role in whether your users stay or leave. No one wants to fish in the dark. Navigation’s power to destroy user experience (or vice versa) take it to the next level. Good practice encourages us to make the main menu simple, handy, intuitive, but at the same time all-embracing. Everything should be on the surface, or at within easy clicks. The user should get answers to their questions quickly and without much pain.

Plain top bars with nav links, hamburger menu buttons and of course, sticky nav bars that accompany us on our journey through the website are really popular these days. Staying conservative and pragmatic in choosing the navigation lets you provide your visitors with a Navigation GPS Unit rather than a map with descriptions written in Moon-letters. Nonetheless, to a certain degree these trivial solutions will take away all the fun and playfulness of your interface.

Unexpected menus are creative, thought-provoking and captivating. Yes, they can be misleading, but when done right they are almost flawless masterpieces that pique our curiosity.

Daniel Spatzek

In The Box

Conclusion

Without a doubt, user experience is a vital aspect of a good web application whether it is just a plain blog, complex corporate portal, or huge e-commerce website. Along with such important things like mobile-friendliness or cross-browser compatibility it forms a safe and sound foundation that ensures success. However, sometimes, like in the real world, there are things that we find truly uncomfortable, like taking long trips in a sports car or wearing high heels, but still we admire them, want to possess them, they make us turn our heads.

So, should everything be about UX? Should we all abandon the desire of going off the beaten track and follow the same old roads over and over? Is it possible to strike the balance between creativeness and pragmatism?

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