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How Visual Identity Impacts Branding & UX and Why It Matters

How Visual Identity Impacts Branding & UX and Why It Matters

By | branding | No Comments

Visual content, brand positioning and outstanding user experience (UX) are main things that help businesses stand out from the competition. Combined, they constitute your visual identity. This visual identity makes you different in the eyes of existing and potential customers. Both brand positioning and UX center around a company's interaction with its target audience. Brand messaging constitutes the foundation of any business-customer relationship. However, your visual identity and the form in which your company communicates with its buyers play a pivotal role – and ultimately determines the overall success of your customer engagement.

That’s why a properly designed visual identity can not only make a company’s digital presence beautiful. But it is also an effective tool for demonstrating a brand “personality” and improving the overall user experience (UX).

In this article, we will provide some visual design examples. We’ll explain how elements of graphic design and visual content constitute content marketing 101. Additionally, we’ll explain how it can strengthen your bond with customers.

We’ll also provide you with some useful tips for creating an outstanding brand image with the help of visuals and user interface (UI) design. But before we dive into the practical stuff, let’s briefly outline the basics.

What is a "visual identity"? 

Visual identity and branding are often used interchangeably. But, they are not the same thing. Branding is a broad term and is about how a business wants to be perceived by consumers or clients.

For instance, a coffee shop that uses only recyclable coffee cups may identify itself as an eco-friendly place. They can demonstrate this through design as well as visual and text content. This position would be a distinctive feature differentiating it from many other cafes which also offer good coffee.

brand vs identity
Image credit: justcreative.com

At the same time, a visual identity is a set of visible elements that would help the coffee shop convey its brand message. In general, it may include anything from interior design, graphic design principles and elements, to a logo. But if we narrow it down only to the digital presence, then visual identity would consist of the following two blocks: 

  • elements of basic design (i.e. typography, colors, layouts, grids, etc.)
  • visual content (i.e. images, infographics, screenshots, videos used mainly for marketing purpose)

So, for example, a green color palette might be a great choice for a website or mobile app of the eco-friendly coffee shop. See the example below. At the same time, an infographic showing what happens with coffee cups after they’ve been used would be a nice supplement to its blog posts or marketing emails. They could also feature as pamphlets or posters.

The Pear Tree Kitchen
Example of a website for the eco-friendly cafe
Image credit: The Pear Tree Kitchen

The above case is oversimplified, but it perfectly explains the main idea. When website visitors know what you and your offers are about, their trust and engagement levels increase. This naturally leads to better experience optimization, business growth, and higher profits. 

Why establishing effective visual communication is a must 

As human beings, we perceive visual information easier and process it faster than plain text. That’s why internet users in most cases prefer images and infographics to other types of content. In fact, visual content statistics really underline this: 

  • People are really good at remembering images. One study found that people remember 55 percent more information they heard three days ago – if there was a picture added to it.  
  • Infographics can drive the increase in website traffic by 12 percent. On top of that, internet users spend more time on a web page if it contains informative visuals. See what type of visuals draws perform best in the image below.
visual content performance
Image credit: venngage.com
  • Interestingly, Twitter users retweet 150 percent more tweets that contain images as compared to tweets without photos, memes or infographics.
  • It’s three times easier for people to follow visual instructions than written guidelines. This is why you should focus on illustrations, icons, and color hierarchy which guide users to their goal when creating UX design for a digital product.
  • More than 63 percent of digital buyers believe that the quality product image is more important than a detailed product description or reviews.
  • Internet articles that contain images have 6.5 times higher engagement than text-only blog posts.

So how design works, creating engaging visuals and building a decent design system, is not only about drawing customer attention. It's also about communicating and conveying information in an efficient way.

It’s worth mentioning that there is no visual content vs text confrontation. Both types of content are important elements of any good content marketing strategy and brand positioning. That’s why they should complement rather than replace each other. 

The role of design and visual content in branding

As we’ve outlined above, visual appearance is a crucial component of a company’s online presence. But how exactly does it benefit businesses’ self-presentation and the customer perception of a brand? Let’s discuss this in greater detail.

Setting the right tone 

Website design and visual content marketing are the focal points and tools of visual communication. They determine the tone the brand use to “speak” to its target audience. Once visitors enter a web page, they form their first impression about the business behind it. If that impression meets visitors’ expectations they stay on the website. If not, they leave in the first few seconds without even reading the text.

For instance, if a bank’s website was designed like a digital platform for kids it would probably have a high bounce rate. So make sure that the visual appearance of your web design and brand corresponds with your brand identity and cannot be misinterpreted. But don't forget about the aesthetics — it plays a crucial role as well. That's why you should try to create a visually pleasant and relevant UI design without compromising on any of these aspects. 

Building brand recognition

The long-term success of any commercial organization heavily depends on brand awareness and recognition. To build them, a company needs to develop a comprehensive brand strategy. This includes visual identity, among other elements such as a story, messaging, and personality. For most customers, the visual identity is the key differentiator since visuals are in general more memorable than text or audio.

Judge for yourself. When someone mentions Coca-Cola, what is the first thing that pops up in your mind? Chances are it’s the logo or brand colors. In most cases, it works in reverse equally well even if some element of graphic design is taken out of context.

For example, the combination of yellow and red is often associated with Mcdonald’s. Generally speaking, you should avoid any divergences between your offline and online core visual elements.

McDonald’s screenshot
Image credit: McDonald’s

Delivering brand messages

There is a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. And that’s exactly what visual identity is all about. Because while it may seem that we communicate mostly with words, studies show that nearly 90 percent of the information that is processed by our brains is visual. That’s why visual content and identity should not only describe what the business stands for – but also demonstrate it visually.

The question becomes; how do we do this successfully? Since every brand is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all recipe. However, different colors evoke different emotions (see below). Similarly, typography, layouts, and icons may tell a lot about the company's style, while color hierarchy shows what exactly a business wants to emphasize, and so on.

Colors and emotions
Image credit: bigmouthdesign.co.uk

The same applies to the visuals used in marketing campaigns. For instance, even the high-level review of visual content on social media may give you a clear idea of what values a brand has and whether you want to buy from it.  

The role of design and visual content in UX

An awful user experience can break even the most thoroughly built brand identity. That’s why when designers and marketers are working on a visual identity for a company, they should also think about the usability of a website or app.

The bottom line is that all elements and principles of basic design, as well as any pieces of visual content, must enhance the UX. In short, a decent visual identity and brand positioning should not come at the cost of user convenience. But let’s take a closer look at how visual identity impacts the UX.

Capturing attention and telling a story 

According to Forbes, Google performs around 3.5 billion searches per day. Additionally, a study by the New York Times shows that modern people are on average exposed to 5,000 ads every day.

For businesses, this means that older marketing strategies likely struggle to grab customer attention. Or, in other words, they should use other means to help internet users notice them. Unique UI design, overall design, and high-quality visual content are the best tools to do that.

Besides, visual storytelling is often perceived by website visitors more easily and can, therefore, be considered more convenient. Look at the image below. 

Fitbit screenshot
Image credit: Fitbit

Instead of describing a potential use case, site creators just showed a photo of a busy man who checks his work messages on the go. As a consequence, users can understand how the product may help them while they’re scrolling a web page. They don’t need to read long product characteristics to figure out if they need this item.

Guiding a customer through a site or app

People use websites and applications for a reason. For instance, they may search for information, want to buy a product, order a service, watch a movie, play a game, or text to friends. Ideally, the design of a software solution should be straightforward enough for users to reach their goals without putting too much effort into figuring out how to do this. 

A great example is the Uber app. It’s built according to the basic principles of linear UX design which is a minimalistic approach aimed at creating goal-oriented experiences.

Simply put, this means that the app “guides” users to their goals through a number of steps and users clearly know what to do next at every phase of their journey. The UI design is also in line with this idea since it’s rather simple: black and white colors for buttons and notifications, straight lines, plain layout, and no distractions. 

Uber confirmation
Image credit: Uber

How to create an awesome visual identity for your brand

Creating a visual identity that would properly present a brand and resonate with its customers is a complex process that doesn’t happen overnight. But here are a few recommendations that would help you do everything right.

Perform a website design audit

Before you start working on something new, you need to review what you already have. A comprehensive visual audit will allow you to understand if the visual identity of your business complies with its brand positioning. When a design audit process covers the evaluation of all design assets, its results will help your marketing team create more engaging visual content for social media, blog, and future marketing campaigns.

visual brand assets
Image credit: infographicworld.com

Develop a design system

Once a design inventory is ready, you may proceed to the next stage and develop a design system. In short, a design system is a set of guidelines and standards defining common rules for building different components of visual identity. For example, a design system will determine a color palette and brand fonts. Not only will it allow you to set a single vision of the outward expression of your brand, but it will also help designers avoid so-called design debt in the future. 

Components of a design system
Components of a design system
Image credit: Ines Serizer

Consider basic design principles 

When it comes to creating visuals for a brand, applying graphic design principles is always beneficial. They will help you develop a comprehensive visual language and make your brand “personality” look both consistent and attractive. Some things like visual weight, the level of white space, and visual texture might seem unessential to non-designers but they play a critical role in creating a holistic visual identity.

Avoid visual noise

Sometimes less is more. You should remember that every element of your design, as well as every visual, should serve a particular purpose, not just be mere decoration.

For example, there is no point in using five bright colors on a web page if three of them will just distract users and impair user experience. The same is with images. Instead of choosing a photo because it looks beautiful to you, pick a picture that tells a story or explains the benefits of your product. 

Hire professionals!

Luckily, you don’t have to do everything yourself. Although there are some tools that can help you create simple template-based visuals, more complex tasks need to be performed by professionals. Otherwise, there is a risk your efforts won’t bring the expected results.

Looking for experienced designers who can help your brand stand out with an impressive visual identity? Reach out now!

Why Marketing Automation is Vital for Your Business Growth

Why Marketing Automation is Vital for Your Business Growth

By | cloud, marketing automation | No Comments

The number of enterprises which adopted or plan to adopt marketing automation is constantly growing. A report by Social Media Today shows that nearly 75 percent of marketers use at least one tool for automating marketing activities. And according to Statista, the size of global marketing automation market is expected to hit 25.1 billion U.S. dollars by 2023. Hence, it’s no wonder that conversations about marketing automation are quite common among marketers, CEOs, and CTOs.

Yet, as we see from the practice, not all of those people really understand what it is and why a company needs it. Even fewer of them know how to automate marketing processes right. We bet you have also heard of so-called marketing automation failures when someone invested lots of money in automation software and received no positive results at the end of the day.

In this article, we will try to sort thing out so you can do everything correctly to make your business grow with the help of marketing automation.

What is marketing automation?

In general, marketing automation is the utilization of software aimed at automating the company’s marketing activities. However, such definition is oversimplified and it does not take into account some crucial aspects. So let’s look at the whole concept in greater detail.

The foremost thing you should understand about marketing automation is that it’s not limited just to purchasing the software that would do all the work for you. To receive the expected return on investment, you should use the right tools in the right way. Otherwise, such tools can do more harm than good to your business.

Example:

Let’s take a typical situation when a company decides to automate its email marketing process. With the help of automation software, a sales team can send out promotional emails to the whole customer list in a simple and fast way. But would it help them close more sales? Well, maybe, but only in a short-term perspective. At the same time, it’s much more likely that a lot of people would want to unsubscribe from the company’s emails not to receive irrelevant information in the future.

So the main purpose of marketing automation is to deliver the right messages to the right people at the right time rather than just automate marketing activities. Hence, marketing automation software should help you nurture leads and, as a result, turn them into customers rather than do the hard sell automatically.

Key functions of marketing automation software

people in the office

When it comes to marketing automation, the first thing that comes into mind is email marketing. Sending out thousands of emails in one click can indeed free up a significant part of your team's working time. However, marketing automation software can do much more than that. The exact feature-set of such software will depend on the provider. But let’s take a look at the most basic features and functionality most of them offer.

SEO optimization

To get more leads, you need to get more traffic to your website in the first place. Marketing automation software usually offers a set of Search Engine Optimization tools. For instance, it can provide you with some recommendations for keywords and let you compare your keywords with the ones your competitors have.

Personalization tools

Personalization is probably one of the greatest benefits marketing automation brings. It creates the feeling that the company knows you by name and this helps brands build loyalty. For example, personalization tools will allow you to personalize email content and subject lines so your customers will get highly-targeted information tailored to their needs and product interests.

A/B testing

Marketing automation is not something you set and forget. It’s a continuous process that helps you get to know your customers better and learn from their behavior. That’s why we recommend you to opt for the software that allows for A/B testing of landing pages and emails.

Tracking customer behavior

Tracking behavior is essential in terms of providing customers with the most relevant content and spotting the hottest leads. This function will let you build strong relationships with customers and properly target your marketing efforts.

Segmentation

By dividing your customers into groups with some common characteristics you can talk to each of them individually but in an automated way. It’s worth mentioning that the segments are dynamic, meaning that a customer can migrate from one segment to another based on his or her behavior. Also, one person may belong to several segments.

Analytics

To get the most out of your marketing activities, you need to always measure and analyze. The analytics function will help you see what works and what doesn’t by allowing you to create reports, calculate your marketing ROI, monitor campaign performance, etc.  

Benefits you get with marketing automation

a laptop with analytics on the screen

Now, it’s high time to speak about return on investment you may expect after adopting marketing automation. Of course, everything will depend on a variety of factors, for instance, your business goals and inbound marketing strategy, software you’ll choose, and the way you’ll use different tools. But we hope the numbers and statistics below will allow you to see the full potential of marketing automation.

Higher revenue

This is the number one reason why companies need marketing automation software. Because let’s be honest: the ultimate goal of any business is making money. And if something can help you earn more, ignoring it is not a reasonable decision. The statistics show that companies which implemented marketing automation managed to increase their revenue by up to 77 percent.

Improved targeting

According to the survey, 70 percent of marketers believe that improved targeting of messages is the most essential benefit marketing automation brings. This is because it allows you to deliver personalized and relevant information to every customer. As a result, you build strong relationships with customers and don’t spend time and money on advertising to people who are not interested in your products.

Increase of conversion rate

If you have good website traffic but close only a few sales a month, investing in a marketing automation platform is the best business decision you can make today. Nearly 80 percent of companies that use marketing automation software said that their number of leads increased. On top of that, 53 percent of such businesses saw the higher conversion rate of leads into paying customers.

Stronger customer engagement

As we already mentioned, marketing automation lets marketers learn from customer behavior and track the performance of campaigns. This naturally results in more refined and targeted marketing strategies that allow brands to build loyalty and stronger relationships with the target audience. According to the survey by Liana Technologies, 45.9 percent of respondents believe that the opportunity to serve customers better is the critical advantage of marketing automation.

Enhanced productivity

Besides all those awesome things we mentioned above, marketing automation helps marketers work more efficiently. By using automation tools, your marketing and sales teams do not have to waste time on routine tasks and can focus on other priorities. A study shows that both business owners (33 percent) and marketers (74 percent) consider saving time a significant advantage of marketing automation.

Top providers of marketing automation software

If you decide to adopt marketing automation, you will quickly find out that the market is full of automation platforms. The good news that you have the opportunity to pick the software that fits you best and has necessary functions to cater to your specific business needs. But the bad news is that not all of the vendors are reliable and not all of the platforms offer the functionality you require to implement your inbound marketing strategy.

To stay on the safe side, we recommend you to choose among market leaders. The quality of their platforms is proven by the huge number of satisfied users. And they are always improving their products to keep the bar high.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the leading providers of marketing automation software you may want to consider.

1. Marketo

marketo screenshot
Image source: Jenna Molby

Marketo is a versatile marketing automation platform that offers rich functionality. Basically, you cannot go wrong with this software because it covers literally everything a modern marketer needs. Among other things, Marketo has a reputation for its analytics and email automation features. It lets users create large customer bases and manage complex marketing processes. So if you expect your business to grow and search for the solution that allows for scalability, Marketo is the best choice for you.

2. HubSpot

hubspot screenshot
Image source: HubSpot Blog

Hubspot is also a popular platform commonly used by marketers. Like Marketo, it offers a wide range of functions that are necessary for running inbound marketing campaigns. The main advantage of HubSpot is its intuitive design. The platform is indeed user-friendly so you don’t need to have any coding background to take advantage of all the features. However, the drawback is that HubSpot may not be as good as Marketo for large enterprises since it’s more focused on small and medium-sized businesses.

3. Pardot

pardot screenshot
Image source: Salesforce

Pardot is another marketing automation platform that may help you increase conversion rate and drive sales. It’s a Salesforce solution so its reputation speaks for itself. On top of that, Pardot makes a great emphasis on lead generation by tracking anonymous users from landing pages. The main drawback of this software is its price — Pardot is one of the most expensive solutions on the market today.

Marketing automation success stories

The numbers we mentioned above sound quite impressive. But we also want to show you some real-life examples of marketing automation success. If you still have doubts, we hope these stories will help you make a wise decision.

Panasonic Europe

Panasonic is a global corporation that has millions of customers all over the world. In 2012, it merged its European subsidiaries into one company and the new challenge arose. The company wanted to improve the level of B2B services by integrating all customer databases into one unit. At that time, Panasonic Europe had about 72 websites with over 63,000 web pages in 22 languages. So, as you might have guessed, achieving that goal was not an easy task.

To implement its marketing automation strategy, Panasonic Europe chose Marketo platform. The results they received were profound. Marketing’s contribution to the total company’s revenue grew from 10 to 26 percent in just 18 months! On top of that, the marketing campaign output increased by 5 times.

Randstad

Randstad is a leading recruitment company, the second largest in the world. It was established more than 50 years ago but didn’t use any marketing automation software up until 2015. As a result, Randstad’s website contained lots of quality content, it showed excellent traffic but all the efforts made by the marketing team were fruitless. The company didn’t have effective tools to capture new leads and nurture them in order to convert in customers. After the adoption of marketing automation, Randstad managed to increase the number of leads by four time and conversion rate by 25 percent in just one year.

Schwab Advisor Services

Schwab Advisor Services is a network of investment advisors who provide wealth management services. Due to the specifics of this business sector, a personal approach to every customer is a crucial factor that defines the effectiveness of the company’s activity. Hence, the main goal of Schwab Advisor Services was to improve the level of personalization and better adjust its marketing activities to the customers’ needs and expectations.

With the help of Marketo, the company saw an increase of 500% in the engagement rate. It also reports a dramatic improvement of the team’s productivity.

The bottom line

The success of most modern businesses heavily depends on technologies, and marketing automation software is one of the most effective tools you can invest in. Like any other automation solution, it will help your marketing and sales teams work more productively. But not only that. With the help of marketing automation platform, you can also increase the revenue and conversion rate, generate more quality leads, close more sales, and build stronger relationships with customers. Hence, if your business is aimed at growth, there is no chance you can go without marketing automation.

Looking for a professional team to help you with marketing automation? Contact us!

Hottest IoT-based Solutions Transforming the World

By | customer experience, design, IoT, omnichannel | No Comments

With the emergence of smart home devices like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and more, everybody is going nuts about connectivity. Wearables such as smartwatches and fitness bands are no longer something rare or unique – a lot of us have and use them on a daily basis. This is also the case with remote-controlled home appliances that are connected to the internet, industrial assets and transportation systems. It’s no wonder that the IoT market size is expected to grow to $457.29 billion by 2020.

The concept of connected devices, more commonly called the Internet of Things (IoT), is not brand new – it was introduced in the early 80s. However, tech experts and ordinary people alike are still excited to see where this is all going.

As professional designers and developers, we also keep track of the current IoT trends. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the new IoT services and solutions which have the potential to become an integral part of our everyday lives in the near future.

Even more smart stores

It’s only been a year since Amazon opened its first no-checkout Amazon Go store to the public in Seattle. This automation solution has been made possible by the leaps in machine learning and IoT data processing. However, rumor has it that the company already plans its international expansion. As of today, the chain consists of nine smart stores located in the US but we can expect to have the first cashier-less store in the U.K in the nearest future. And, according to Bloomberg, Amazon will open about 3,000 other smart supermarkets by 2021.

Shopping in Amazon Go gif
Image source: giphy.com

The idea of doing shopping by just entering the store, grabbing the groceries and leaving without being checked out still sounds futuristic to a lot of people. Yet, Amazon is not the only company trying to take advantage of advanced shopping technology. Microsoft is already treading on its heels.

Recently, the company announced its partnership with Kroger, a large chain of US supermarkets. And many of the innovative solutions they created are based on IoT technology. Digital shelves, personalized ads and automatic alerts notifying store staff of low inventories are already redefining the way we think about supermarkets.

Reportedly, other retailers around the world will also have an opportunity to buy this solution. In other words, it’s just a matter of time before the smart store like Amazon Go will become an industry standard.

Smart fridges and the smart way of shopping for groceries

Smart grocery management is another category of IoT solutions which are going to take customer shopping experience to the next level. The main idea behind it is simple, yet genius. It is to make smart home products help us do grocery shopping in an easy and time-effective way.

The most famous smart device of this kind that already exists is Samsung Family Hub. Simply put, it’s a smart fridge that, among other things, can take photos of products stored in it. Users then can view such photos via their smartphones as they shop. On top of that, the fridge can mirror a TV, synchronize with calendars, share notes and messages. It can even help its owners control smart lighting, oven, front door video doorbells or security cameras etc. remotely.

Samsung Family Hub gif
Image source: Samsung.com

The smart home hub

Speaking about front door cameras, they’ll become smart too. At CES 2019, an IoT product called Door View Cam was announced by Ring company. The camera can be used as a regular glass peephole. But besides that, it can stream video to your smartphone and let you talk to anyone standing at your front door.

doors with Door View Cam
Image source: USA TODAY

As a side note, the smart home niche is expected to grow significantly in the near future (see the chart below). In short, the smart home niche can potentially become a gold mine for businesses that are ready to invest in IoT and new technologies. Among the many new products, you’ll find: the smart thermostat, smart speaker, smart plug, smart locks, and more.

Smart Home technology expected growth

Fairytales can come true with smart mirrors

Remember that episode from the fairytale about Snow White when she asks the magic mirror:  ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’ ? Well, it no longer sounds like a fairytale because a ‘magic’ mirror can actually answer that question. A smart mirror by Capstone Connected Home was introduced at CES 2019 and it’s expected to be released later this year.

a girl in front of a smart mirror
Image source: Capstone Connected Home

At first glance, this smart mirror looks like a regular mirror and can be used as such. But that is far from all it can do. Besides working as a mirror, this gadget also has Google Assistant built-in, so it can practically do all the things the latter does. For instance, you can check the emails while brushing your teeth, access social media, stream YouTube videos or even play games.

Another cool thing about Capstone Smart Mirror is that you’ll still be able to see yourself through the content shown on the mirror ‘screen’, so it’s not just a huge tablet. We believe that the idea behind this device is very promising and that smart mirrors will make our mornings more pleasant and productive very soon.

IoT provides the future of healthcare

Unlike the previous two types of IoT solutions which aim to make our lives easier, the Internet of Healthcare Things (or IoHT) also helps people feel better and be healthier. It even has the potential to save lives.

The list of ways you can implement this technology in practice is virtually endless. For instance, there are solutions that gather information about the patient’s health and send a notification to a doctor if something is wrong. Other apps help monitor user’s medication schedules, activities and sleep cycles. Some IoT devices can also automatically identify any glitches in medical hardware so they can be fixed in a timely manner.

E-Alert by Philips is a great example of the latter type of IoHT solution. This tool measures key parameters of magnetic resonance imaging and alerts if something in the system doesn’t work properly.

e-Alert by Philips chart
Image source: philips.com.au

Moreover, there are also IoT devices that help doctors train without the risk of doing any harm to bodies or patients. For instance, Osso VR is a training gadget for surgeons that combines IoT and VR technologies and allows doctors to perform realistic operations in a risk-free virtual reality space. The product was released a few years ago but is still actively discussed on different professional platforms, such as this year’s CES conference.

a surgeon using OSSO VR
Image source: Osso VR

Although some smart medical devices already exist, we expect even more are in development already. And the IoT technology is versatile and flexible enough to satisfy the needs of any medical organization or hospital.

Pets will live better too

Human beings are not the only creatures who can benefit from the innovative solutions you can create with IoT. With the help of IoT technology, the life of our four-legged friends can be more pleasant and safer as well.

Different pet trackers that utilize GPS technology appeared a few years ago and have already won the hearts of animal owners. You can attach a small sensor to a pets’ collars or embed the sensor into them. This makes it possible to easily find the location of your cat or dog via a smartphone.

People often treat their cats, dogs, hamsters, parrots etc. as family members. That’s why they seek out pet care products that will make their pets happier. One of the most innovative solutions in this regard is a smart bed such as Petrics Smart Pet Bed introduced at CES 2018. Besides controlling the key health parameters (weight, sleep time etc.), it allows for the remote thermostatic control to maintain the temperature that is optimal for a specific breed.

Dog on Petrics Smart Pet Bed

Another popular IoT product that has the potential to become a must-have for any pet parent is a smart feeder. This type of device remotely controls food supply for cats and dogs (portion sizes, feeding schedule etc.). Some also have a camera, allowing the pet owner to check in on the pet remotely.

Cat eating from smart feeder
Image source: HomeCrux

It’s worth mentioning that quite a few smart feeders have already been created. Yet, the niche is ever-growing so there’s plenty of room for new pet-caring products with more advanced features.

Hyperconnected businesses and IoT manufacturing

One can hardly find a business that will not benefit from IoT-fueled solutions. No matter what your company produces and sells there are always processes that can be automated and done faster and more efficiently.

As of today, a lot of businesses, especially in the manufacturing industry, are successfully harnessing the power of IoT technology. For instance, at the Siemens plants in Germany, 75 percent of the production process is automated. The figure is quite significant, however, Siemens is planning on taking it further by creating a smart plant that is entirely automated.

And Siemens is not alone with its intentions. According to Juniper Research, the number of industrial IoT connections is going to grow to 46 billion in the next four years. This means that all businesses must consider investing in IoT solutions to stay competitive.

IoT is revolutionizing our personal and professional lives

Many IoT solutions may seem revolutionary or even unbelievable to us. However, we have to come to terms with the thought that most aspects of our lives will include IoT devices in the very near future. At the same time, the Internet of Things provides fantastic potential for innovation for businesses. So if you have a brilliant idea for an IoT-based product that will either allow people to handle their routine tasks more easily or help you optimize your business activity, it’s the perfect time to turn it into reality.

Looking for a development team for your next IoT project? Just contact us!



The State of UX for 2019

The State of UX for 2019

By | design, interaction design, omnichannel, user experience, user interface, voice | No Comments

Keeping up with the current trends is important for any area, not to mention the UX design which directly influences the way your digital product is positioned and perceived by the users. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at what happened with 2018 UX trends and try to anticipate the emerging tendencies that have potential to become real big things in the coming year.

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How to Conduct a Design Audit to Strengthen your Brand

By | design, user experience, user interface | No Comments

A design audit might sound a little intimidating, after all, the word audit doesn’t exactly scream fun. But, it’s actually a very beneficial exercise. A design audit is merely an analysis of the design elements and branding guidelines in use by a company. Its main purpose is to make sure that the branding is consistent across all channels and outlets. When we say branding we do mostly mean visual design elements, however, branding is also the written and verbal communication as well as the user experience.

A good design audit will also take those into consideration, to make sure that’s consistent as well. The truth is that the need for a design audit is a sign of good things. It means a company has grown a lot and now simply needs to re-align its design efforts. Briefly, let’s discuss the benefits of design audit for companies and then let’s get right into how to conduct one.

Benefits of a design audit

No matter if you run a smaller company or a large corporation, a design audit might be in order if your company is growing and evolving. It’s a great idea because it will help you manage your visual design material and written message. In turn, this will lead to a well-defined identity and brand.

 

 

When inconsistencies in either visual style or messaging start shining through, a brand is weakened. It no longer has a solid foundation, and it starts diverging into different directions. Consistency is key, and by conducting an audit you are creating a chance to once again strengthen your brand. Think of a design audit as an opportunity to check the quality of the designs, the products, the user experience, and the overall strength of your company’s brand.

The visual branding audit

First thing first, it’s time to gather all the design assets. And we’re serious when we say all of it. Gather all the ads, the social media posts, the website and its desktop and mobile versions, the mobile apps, the letterheads, and the business cards. Include lead magnets, content upgrades, master classes or webinar slides. Include any pitch decks too. Anything that is a touchpoint for a customer. Yes, we do mean everything.

What you want to do here is to study the different collaterals to the notice patterns and their deviations. For example, you may notice that the social media ads are using the wrong logo file, or the quality of the graphics is just not what it needs to be. You may notice that you have many functionally similar sections throughout your website, but they are all designed differently.

As a result, you’re now aware of the issues. Meaning that you can now provide the people who run your Twitter and Facebook ads with the correct logo file and render final ad images in higher quality. You also now know that you will need to sit down and make sure that the footer is the same on every page, or that the custom made graphics for Leadpages use the correct brand colors.

 

 

Additionally, this might give you ideas on how you and the design team might want to update the branding going forward. Maybe you have too many or too few colors to perfectly depict the vibe your company is going for.

Tone, voice, and message branding elements

While you’re taking a look at all the visual elements, you should also consider the content itself. In the previous example, the only thing we didn’t mention was audio/radio ads because it’s the only thing that inherently doesn’t automatically come with a visual aspect too, as opposed to video.

Once again, it’s important to evaluate the actual content when performing your design audit. Read everything, listen to everything. Again notice what patterns you see, or should see but don’t. Just like with the visuals, you’re looking out to make sure that the tone, voice, and message is correct and consistent. As with all your marketing materials, it’s important to keep meticulous notes.

 

 

Pay attention to what no longer sounds like the company or any evolving patterns that just don’t seem right fit anymore. You might find that your company needs to have a more authoritative voice, be more playful, or use a softer vocabulary. Maybe you and your team realize that you can improve the overall tone, voice, and message of the company to be even stronger, better and relevant to the target audience.

The heuristics for usability and accessibility

Another thing a good design audit will include is a heuristic evaluation. This one focuses on the design process, examining usability and accessibility of a website or app. Usability and accessibility are crucial for a good user experience as these are the touch points between yourself and your customers. Those also help make your company and brand shine. Usability problems will affect people’s perception of your company too. They can be something simple, like a broken link, or complicated, like a confusing online order form. Accessibility problems, like missing alt tags, or low contrast between text and background, also mater.

Nielsen created a thorough heuristic evaluation guide – a standards manual if you like – back in 1994 that is still popular and reliable today. We recommend that you check out Nielsen’s heuristic evaluation guide here.

Next, you go through your website, web app, or mobile app, and little by little make a note of where the experience falls shorts of these heuristics.

For the best possible results of a heuristic evaluation, it’s best to have at least 10 people (ideally some of them should be web designers) who objectively evaluate your designs.

Utilize a design system

You can tie all of this together into a design audit system. Once you’re done with the audit it’s important to regroup. From there you can figure out what needs to go, what stays and what needs to be updated. When it comes to the visual design and brand messaging, consider implementing a design system. We’ve written a couple great pieces on how to build a design system to scale and what best to include in one. Keeping your styles in a design system will ensure ongoing consistency so that you don’t have to do a design audit every few months.

The value of a well-performed design audit

As you can see, a design audit can be extremely helpful. It will boost consistency for your company’s branding and improve the user experience. Don’t forget, the truth is that a design audit is a branding recalibration, which means that your company and brand are growing. With a professional design audit, you now know what you must do in order to tighten up your brand’s visuals and message.

Have you done a design audit before? Did you find it helpful for your company? Share any tips you might have for us in the comments!

How to Design an Outstanding and All Inclusive Design System

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A design system is there to help a team keep the visual, written and even coded designs of its brand consistent throughout. A proper design system is much larger and more in-depth than a typical style guide. In this post, I’ll explain the different elements that go into creating an outstanding and all inclusive design system that will serve your team’s needs. Let’s go!

The anatomy of a design system

A design system must explain what elements can be used, when those elements can be used, and how they should be used.  The “what” is the introduction of the actual design elements, such as a button, along with its properties like size, colour, and font. , The “how” dictates the particular usage of each design element. For example, links can never be red, CTA buttons must have a specific size and colour. The “when” describes the relationship of the design elements to others, including their hierarchy. It’s when to use a CTA specific button, versus a normal button, or a link. For example, you only use a normal button with a contact form but you must use only the CTA button for all the lead magnet email forms.

The structure of a design system

The actual structure of your design system will vary depending on the needs of your company. To give you an example, Atlassian’s design system is divided into three parts, Brand, Marketing, and Product. Under each section, you can find design elements and guidelines that are relevant to that specific area. Logos in a web app might have different requirements and restrictions than a logo on a Facebook ad or a free download file.

 

 

Shopify, on the other hand, has guides for their apps and for their admin designs as well as general design principles that apply to both. They have their design system include rules and instructions for Visuals, Components, Patterns, and Content. That’s right, a design system isn’t strictly visual. You should also consider including guidelines on tone, voice, and message, as the language is also part of the brand. MailChimp had a whole design system dedicated to tone and voice alone.

 

 

Basic design elements to include

Each design system will have to cover key basic design elements such as colours or typography. That’s a given. Additional elements like layout or illustrations will vary depending on your company needs. Below I am going over the most common design elements you should consider including in your design system.

Typography

For typography, you must include the typefaces in use and downloadable files. For sizes, whether you’re using pixels, pts, or rems, include the specific number and show the size of the text next to it. But, only include sizes that are allowed to be used. Include typographic treatments and design styles such as font weights. Additional properties to consider adding include line heights, line lengths, mobile breaking points if your typography is responsive, and whether or not headlines and links are sentence or title case.

At the very least, include the individual text styles starting with p, em, strong, and H1-6 to whatever else is in your designs, like subtitles. Include the relationship of padding, line height and margins between H1 and p, H1 and H2 and so on.

 

 

Use IBM’s Carbon design system typography section for inspiration. It’s very thorough.

Colors

When it comes to colors include every color that is allowed to be used. If ones are for special circumstances make a note. Explain how to use the colors in relationship to one another such as text on a background, and keep in mind accessibility as well. If there are specific color combinations or pallets to be used, explain them too. Provide both, HEX and RGB values as well as code variables for developers. Add CMYK if you ever print anything too.

Check out how Salesforce is handling colors in their design system documentation.

Icons, graphics, and images

When it comes to icons, graphics, and images you must include sizes such as minimum and maximum restrictions. If you’re running a blog, include specifications for author’s and commenters’ avatars. For inline images, you can include alt tag best practices, size recommendations, as well as recommendations on the image’s content. For example, you might want to use only photographs, no images with text, or to never use dark or cluttered pictures but only ones with natural light or with pink backgrounds. Provide actual examples of good and bad photographs for better clarification.

Atlassian goes into extensive detail in the marketing section of their design system for both illustrations and iconography.

 

Additionally, Estonia’s design system has a fantastic section for imagery where they meticulously talk about the quality of photographs and their content as well. They include information on lighting, colours, post-production, and compositions. This makes sure that the images used within their designs are the right essence for the brand. This is exactly what an outstanding design system ought to do!

Motion

I’m using motion as an umbrella term. It can also refer to animations, transitions, mobile gestures or other movable behaviors and feedbacks. Motion can be complex to express; it’s got a lot of different but important properties. It’s a good idea to explain when it’s appropriate to use motion, what specific choreographies are okay, and how are they best to be used. Speed, sequencing and movements need to be addressed too.

 

 

A great example of motion can be found in Google’s Material Design system. It goes into a detailed overview of how motion can and should be used within Material Design. It also provides many dos-and-don’ts, with short videos snippets to better understand the intention.

Layout and grids

Layout and grids are important for web pages, mobile apps, and responsive designs.  Think of layout as common patterns to arrange the different contents within a screen. It can include information about what patterns to avoid and how to arrange the content within your layouts in an acceptable manner. You could get a little bit more specific and address how to use the larger design elements like the card designs that we especially see in web apps or mobile apps (commonly associated with Material Design). You’re welcome to provide a standard screen layout as the base.

Shopify’s design system has a great example of how they approach layout in their web app. It’s filled with recommendations, and it talks about many variables such as screen types and small-scale layouts too.

With grids, talk about the size of the columns and gutters, include pixels or % (if they are fluid), and mobile breakpoints.

 

 

From a coding perspective, go ahead and include the different class codes for the gird, and whether or not it can only be used on divs or other elements like images too. If there is a clearfix class, explain how and when to use it or whether or not the grid uses border-box or content-box box model. Consider including a vertical grid if you have one.

Take a look at Mapbox’s grid section – it’s comprehensive. Buzzfeed’s design system includes a whole section on flexbox too.

UI elements

No design system would be complete without explaining the various UI elements out there such as inputs, button, and forms, errors, lists and tables.

 

 

MailChimp is doing a great job with these. They have a Form Elements section in their design system that details buttons, selects, inputs, field help, radio buttons, and checkboxes. One by one, they include the styles and code for each element and their variation. For example, they have 8 different button example from a typical button to a combo button. For each, there is a description to explain how to best use it within a design. Consider including how the messages should be phrased in addition to how they should look.

Errors and feedback

MailChimp additionally has a designated Feedback section which talks about how to provide feedback to a user who is using their app. This section does include errors, but also other forms of feedback such as callout tips or small badges for inline feedback and labels.

 

 

Don’t forget, an input error is not the only thing that can go wrong. Errors can also include the 404 page or the 503 page and that’s exactly what Heroku includes in their error section too.

More design elements to consider

At this point, I think you have a pretty good idea of what goes into a well-defined, outstanding and an all-inclusive design system. However, I wanted to put together a quick list of additional ideas for you to consider as there really is a lot you can do here.

Conversations

HelpScout has a section for both Conversation Lists and Conversation Threads. Their product is conversation based so it makes sense they’d detail this part of their designs as well.

Navigations

Ant Design includes a section for navigations. It contains more than just the top nav we see on every web page. Here they define navigation as anything that tells a user where they are and it includes tabs, breadcrumbs, and pagination.

 

 

Lexicon categorizes navigation in a similar way. They have sections under navigation which include the typical primary and secondary navigation. They also include breadcrumbs, nav bar, and vertical navigation there too.

Logo

No design system would be complete without the logo section either. Louder Than Ten has their logo ready to download atop the page. Next, they mention good and bad sizing and cropping, as well as padding and sample applications.

Accessibility

I’ve briefly mentioned accessibility before. But let discuss it in greater detail right now. You can have a designated Accessibility section in your design system the same way Quickbooks does. Under the Accessibility section, they cover a wide range of topics including alt texts, readability, colours, and contrasts. They also have a list of additional resources for anyone interested in learning more about the topic.

 

 

Because accessibility is so important, it wouldn’t hurt to have the content be redundant in multiple places. Include the contrast content in both typography and colour sections. But, on top of that, have a separate accessibility section as well just like Quickbooks.

Putting it all together

Now that you understand the autonomy of an outstanding design system it’s time to go and make your own. You can do them in a couple of different ways. All of the linked examples you’ve seen in this article today have been made by large teams who put time aside to create these custom design systems and publish them live. If your team has the time and the resources go ahead and make a custom one for yourself too.

 

 

However, there are a couple of apps out there that will also help do it for you. It’s a perfect solution for smaller teams or smaller design systems. UXPin has a design system feature that you can utilize to create one of your own. It’s both designer and developer friendly. Additionally, InVision has a similar app that comes with a Sketch plugin.

Conclusion

Design systems don’t have to be complicated beasts. They are informative platforms that make sure your teammates continue to use a consistent design style within your company’s brand. Design systems don’t have to be lengthy or over complicated; they just have to let everyone know what can be used, when and how. If you have made a design system, with this article’s help or not, share a link in the comments below. We’d love to check it out!