Posts tagged with: web design

Content creators should do wireframes, too

I’ve said before that I believe copywriters and content creators do their best work when they collaborate closely with designers.

Quite simply, design and content are interdependent. You only get the best final product when you consider them together.

One tool that makes this easier is Balsamiq. It’s a straightforward-yet-powerful piece of software that lets you create rough layouts and low-fidelity wireframes very quickly. Here’s an example:

Balsamiq screenshot

You can choose from a wide range of design elements, drop them onto your page and arrange as necessary. It’s impressively fast and easy to get the hang of.

Bridging the design gap

Because Balsamiq is so speedy, it can help bridge the gap between writers and designers without introducing unacceptable overheads.

I use it in three main ways:

1. To indicate the relative prominence of content

When I’m working on a content plan, sketching web pages in Balsamiq is a good way to show what content elements should feature and how important they are.

If the final content plan explains the ins and outs of each page, the accompanying Balsamiq mockups provide a quick, visual guide to what content should exist and how visible it should be.

2. To put content in the design early

If I’ve agreed the rough layout of a page with a designer, I’ll knock it together in Balsamiq and drop in my draft content.

This provides context, giving an early indication of whether the content fits the proposed layout. Sometimes, it validates your approach. At other times, it can spark a rethink. Either way, it’s really useful.

3. To save the designer a bit of work

Many designers use Balsamiq to develop web page prototypes at the start of projects.

If so, I can take the prototype and add draft content, providing an altogether more representative view of each design approach without requiring the designer to copy and paste text.

Why unpolished is better

However you use Balsamiq, the resulting mockups look intentionally unpolished. And that means they’re a brilliant way to gather initial feedback without clients thinking ‘this is exactly how it’ll look when it’s finished’.

I’m no designer. But Balsamiq puts basic design tools within my grasp, providing an effective platform to communicate and collaborate with designers.

I purchased it about a year ago so I could work with one client on one particular project. Now, I’d say I use it about every other day. It really is that useful.

Balsamiq is available as an online app ($12+ a month) and as a desktop app for Mac (from $79).

Why more choice isn’t always a good thing

I’m a bit of a fan of Bristol-based Chemical, a self-proclaimed ‘music lifestyle store’ offering music, clothing, CDs, vinyl and more to its customers.

However, I’m not convinced the fashion-and-more retailer has quite got its online checkout process licked. Just have a look at this bemusing range of delivery options:

(See this image full-size in a new window.)

It reminds me slightly of the Trainline’s bonkers ticket selection screen, which I wrote about way back in 2007. In any case, the options presented are confusing and unnecessary, particularly if you want to get your order in a hurry.

With six next-day delivery options to choose from, how do you tell which is best? This comparison chart is less-than-helpful, because each of the options has exactly the same columns ticked.

Rule number one of creating an online checkout process is to keep it as simple as possible. Adding complexity makes it harder for people to complete their order, meaning fewer people manage to get to the end of the process.

Sure, it’s good to offer some choice of delivery options, but too much choice creates uncertainty: how do you know which is the best option for you?

I think Chemical would do well to chop their bemusing range of delivery services down to three: standard, guaranteed next-day and guaranteed Saturday. If they did, I bet they’d see a decrease in the number of visitors dropping out before completing their online orders.