Friday, 24 April 2015


Getting your website mobile-ready is attracting a lot of attention of late. Just yesterday Google rolled out a hefty algorithm change that will put an increased emphasis on mobile-usability as a key ranking factor.

Most businesses are starting to realize that more customers are visiting them on the web via their mobile devices yet few are acting on that potent piece of information. In a recent study of the top 10000 websites, fewer than 19% were utilizing responsive design, and for the top 100 websites that number is a puny 12%. Some of the largest companies in the world are serving up a very poor user experience to about half the users hitting their site.

Some of the largest companies in the world are serving up a very poor user experience

People don’t have the patience to scroll over, expand the screen and try to determine what the meat of the page is on those tiny smartphone screens. They are just going to click the back button and try out your competitor. For the companies who get it, this is a huge opportunity to add value to their customer experience and win new business in the process. For those who don’t, I hear there are some cool new animated gifs they might want to try out.

Now we know Google hates non-responsive websites on par with cruddy link spam. We’ve also established that your visitors have you on an extremely short leash, but are we asking the right questions? After all if a website converts, shouldn’t that be what truly matters? Its time to ask that critical question — do responsive websites actually translate into higher sales? Let’s dig into the raw data and determine if responsive design really is the hat trick of web development.

Are you providing poor customer service? You’ve got well-trained phone reps. You consistently grade out as one of the top customer service providers in your industry. Yet if you don’t have a mobile-ready website, your customers think you don’t care. 48% of users said just that when faced with a traditional website hopelessly trying to adapt itself to a mobile environment. Who can blame them?

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Can you navigate those tiny drop down menus? What about picking a different shirt pattern from those minute color swatches? Can you even get back to the website once you land on the terms and conditions page? Trying to force a traditional website into a mobile environment puts hurdle after hurdle in front of your potential customer that ultimately leading to abandonment of the sale.

Monetates numbers seem to support this. One of their metrics looks at conversion rates by device quarter-over-quarter. In the most recent quarter, traditional desktop environments converted 3.11% of visitors while tablets were not that far behind at 2.59%. Smartphone heavily lagged the pack at a paltry 1.01%. When you consider a responsive adoption rate of 19%, is there really a question why this great divide exists?

62% of companies saw increased sales following a conversion to a mobile-ready website

Econsultancy reported that 62% of companies saw increased sales following a conversion to a mobile-ready website. While that number is nice, it is also painfully vague. It begs the question who are these companies that are seeing results and at what magnitude?

WebUndies specializes in sleepwear for the whole family. This e-commerce retailer took the mobile plunge in 2012 and saw sales rally 169.2% over the year prior. Think Tank Photo provides any accessory a photographer could ask for. When they made the switch to responsive, it translated into a 188% increase in revenue. Not only that, but mobile page views jumped 200% with double the transactions originating from smartphones and tablets.

O’Neill Clothing saw…Transactions…up 112.50% on iPhones and 333.33% on Android.

It turns out even surfers are browsing the world wide web while looking for that perfect wave. O’Neill Clothing saw perhaps the most impressive increases after their conversion to mobile-ready. Transactions went up 112.50% on iPhones and 333.33% on Android. Conversions rang in at 65.71% on the iPhone and 407.32% on Android. Total revenue cleared 101.25% on iPhone and 591.42% on Android. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got to wonder what the heck was so different about that Android-optimized platform that resulted in these spectacular gains over iOS…

Still not convinced? Chris Leake captured some random Tweets on Twitter of companies showing off their responsive gains: State Farm saw a conversion rate of 56% post move; Career Builder tweaked their email design and had click through rates run up 20%. While they aren’t the eye popping numbers we saw before, it is still impressive. It also may hint at the fact that responsive design can’t overcome poor design which can blunt your overall results.

Responsive design doesn’t just boost sales. The Aberdeen Group looked at a bucket of customer engagement metrics including brand awareness, average order value and company revenue. The year-over-year results showed significant improvement across the board. Conversion rates were 8% higher with responsive design (10.9% to 2.7%). Brand awareness increased a whopping 30% (34.7% vs 4.8%). There wasn’t a single category that didn’t see significant gains after the responsive design switch.

With desktop PCs on the decline and mobile devices quickly taking over our lives, people will rely more and more on the convenience of shopping on their mobile devices. Companies that ignore this tidal wave of human behavior will ultimately pay the price in lost revenue and lost market share.

I must admit that I’m oddly curious to witness the aftermath of Google’s mobile algorithm this week. Will massive traffic drops be the lightning strike that forces a change, or will companies continue to go extinct online by not prioritizing their website presentation?


Thursday, 23 April 2015

12 social media truths no one tells you

There’s no shortage of social media tips, how-tos, and advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs getting started and building a strategy. But if you’re like most business owners, you don’t have a lot of time. So here are 12 social media truths I hope can save you some time, avoid some common pitfalls, and focus your efforts on success.

1. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have.

People often fall into the trap of chasing follower numbers (or worse, paying for them). I’d rather have a network of 500 people in my industry who I can learn from and influence than 10,000 randomly-acquired bots and spammers and self-promoting chuckleheads. Build your networks by engaging like a real human being and helping people and you won’t have to worry about this.

2. You don’t have to be on every network.

I love Pinterest. These days I’m pinning ideas to spruce up our back patio. (It’s a thrill a minute ’round our place.) As a former social media snake oil salesman, I can make a convincing argument why any business can get value out of Pinterest or Instagram or Periscope or Glabberplat (I made one of those up). But if you have limited time, focus on providing value on the networks where your customers and prospects are most active. Better to not be somewhere than to have a presence there and ignore it.

3. You know your audience better than anyone. And if you don’t, ask.

You could pay a consultant to do an audience survey and explain the demographics of each social network and make recommendations about what networks you should use and what your customers want to see from you. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of smart consultants out there who can do that well. Or you could just spend the next couple of weeks asking your customers yourself.

4.Yes, your customers are on Facebook.

There’s, like, a billion people on Facebook. No, I mean literally. The number grows so rapidly that I check it every time I mention it. Your customers may not use Facebook daily to conduct business, but they’re definitely there, sharing pictures of their kids and finding out which Game of Thrones character they are and researching products and checking out local businesses. If you’re there too, and are interesting and helpful and human, they’ll appreciate that and remember you.

5. Social media isn’t free.

Have we thoroughly debunked this by now? Even if you only use free channels to engage and don’t pay to promote your posts, social media requires a time commitment, and like everything in life except making hamburger patties, the more time you put into it, the better it will be. Is your time free? Nope.

6. You don’t have to be a millennial.

Yes, “digital natives” have a lower learning curve when it comes to picking up apps and new social networks, but none of this is hard, no matter your age. Can you balance a checkbook? Can you do a Sudoku puzzle? I can’t, and I do social media for a living. Apps and networks won’t get traction if they’re hard to use, so the makers have an incentive to create a good user experience.

7. No, your cousin’s kid can’t do it for you.

Maybe Little Jimmy can build a wicked house in Minecraft, but does he know your business? Your customers? Does he have anything of value to add to a conversation about your industry? He can probably use a telephone, too (as long as it isn’t a pay phone, because how does that thing work and who even has change, gah!) but would you ask him to lead a call with your biggest client?

8. Yes, you do have time.

You’re busy. I’m busy. Everybody’s busy. Do you ever watch television? Then watch a little less and spend that time building your business. Need another example? I’m writing this post on my smartphone on the…train. (What did you think I was going to say?)

9. You can produce content. Yes. You can.

Have you ever sent an email to a business associate giving your take on the impact of some piece of industry news? Do you talk to your sales team about the potential ramifications of a piece of legislation, or a big move by a competitor or industry leader? That’s content. Just type it up next time. Your customers will find it valuable too. Don’t you want to be a thought leader? It’s so much better than being a guru. The hours are better and you don’t have to sit on the ground.

10. A blog post is whatever you say it is.

Some people think a blog post is a 2,000-word white paper. Some of the most useful posts I read are lists of links to important news in my industry. They might take 10 minutes to create, start to finish, but they can be very valuable. One paragraph that gets a customer thinking (and thinking about you) is a successful blog post.

11. Your customers really do care where you went on vacation.

Have you ever had a prickly email or telephone exchange with a new prospect or client, and then you met in person and found out your kids both play volleyball and are going to the same tournament in two weeks and then you were pals? That’s Facebook.

12. You can do it.

Building a social media strategy doesn’t have to be a big, hairy, difficult thing; in fact, it can and should be fun. Imagine having better, more human relationships with your prospects and customers, all the time. Social media can be the part of your marketing strategy you’ll actually enjoy. And if you’re having fun, your customers and prospects will have fun, too, and they’ll want to work with you. And that’s how you’ll know it’s working.

12 social media truths no one tells you

Sunday, 19 April 2015


It’s been a while since Style Tiles were brought into this world by the genius of one Samantha Warren. For those of you who might have looked at them once, and then forgotten what they are, here’s a quick explanation:

Style Tiles are a sort of template that allows you to quickly test and preview various colors, fonts, textures, and other aesthetic style-related options for your designs before you create a high-fidelity mockup, but after the wire-frames are made. They’re meant to be presented to clients, stakeholders, or any other interested parties fairly early in the design process. That way, you can get past concerns about the font choice, and questions like “Can we have a ‘flashier’ red?”

Simply put, you should be using them, even if only for yourself. It might seem like a lot of trouble to add yet another step to the design process; but I can tell you from personal experience that it’s worth it. I design in the browser: staring at a blank Photoshop canvas can be daunting; staring at a blank browser window seems to hit that much harder.

The sense of direction provided by creating a Style Tile makes designing the rest of the site so much easier. It’s nothing so complex or constricting as a style guide; thus, it gives both a place to start, and the freedom to adjust things as you go along.

This does bring up a small problem with the original Style Tiles, however. They’re PSDs. Browser-based designers like myself will want browser-based Style Tiles. We want to see how this stuff is going to look in the Web, after all, and on as many devices as possible.

Pre-made options

Several people have already gone way ahead of us on that front. There are pre-made templates for people who want to get started with making Style Tiles in their browser. Check them out:

The Style Prototype

The lovely people at Sparkbox created a responsive Style Tile template based on HTML and Sass. It’s one of the simpler options, as seen in the demo, but the code is well-commented. They even went and included optional scripts to make it compatible with IE 7 and below, in case your client hasn’t updated their browser in… forever.


Created by Namanyay Goel, Webstiles have a lot in common with the other solutions on this list. What makes them different is that they were built with the lesser-known (some would say underrated) Stylus CSS pre-processor.

Compass Style Tiles

If you work with the Compass framework, along with things like Ruby and Sass, try this one on for size. It can be installed like any other Ruby gem, so it should drop quite neatly into your work-flow. Interestingly, body copy can be “generated” via a Sass variable and the content: attribute. The whole thing’s designed so you never have to touch the HTML.

Responsive Boilerplate for Style Tiles

The Responsive Boilerplate for Style Tiles brings some rather harsh drop-shadows with it, but it’s responsive, and uses nothing more complicated than classic HTML and CSS. No frameworks, no pre-processors, nothing. It’s a good starting point if you just want to open it in a text editor and go.

Make your own

With this many pre-made options out there, why would you want to build your own HTML/CSS Style Tiles from scratch? Seems like a waste of time? Well, yes and no.

If you’re making a simple site, and you don’t have all the content planned out yet, or the client hasn’t sent it, one of the pre-made options will do fine. However, if you’re building a complex web app, or a very large site with a lot of distinct content types or UI elements, you might want to make a Style Tile template from scratch.

The existing ones just don’t account for the sheer range of possible content and element types out there. Thus, you might want a Style Tile that includes an embedded video, audio player, or map. You might want one that showcases a tabbed interface, or an accordion menu.

If you’re building a site that depends on certain uncommon user interface elements, you might want to make a Style Tile template that includes those features.

It doesn’t have to be that hard. Just set up a simple two-three column layout, and start including the visual elements that will be most important to your design, based on the content/functionality. These will include:

  • color, pattern, and/or texture swatches;

  • typographical elements (headings, paragraphs, list elements, perhaps a blockquote);

  • image styles (if you plan to include image galleries, for example);

  • most commonly used form elements;

  • any extra UI elements you deem important to the design, based on content and site structure.

There’s generally no need to make it production-ready code for all browsers. Keep it simple, keep it to HTML5. Unless you’re using a non-standard UI element that has to be coded from scratch in HTML and CSS, don’t bother with JavaScript.

The best part? You get to refine and re-use all of the relevant CSS as you start coding your browser-based mockup!


Style Tiles are more than worth looking into if you’re not already using them.

Show them to clients, keep them to yourself, use the pre-made options, or roll your own… it doesn’t matter. Just having that sense of stylistic direction will make filling in that blank browser window so much easier.


Wednesday, 8 April 2015


Affordance is a term originally coined by a psychologist, J.J. Gibson, in the 1970s. He defined it as the relationship between an environment and an actor. Today, affordance extends beyond behavioral or cognitive psychology and into the design of digital interfaces. Understanding affordance will allow you to better understand product and interfaces design, in turn, making you a much better designer.

What is affordance?

A situation where an object’s sensory characteristics intuitively imply its functionality and use.

Crowdcube’s layman’s term definition is spot on. All of the objects around us have affordances, some more obvious than others. Affordance is the possibility of an action with an object; it is not a property of the object itself. In other words, a button can be pushed; the possibility of pushing a button is its affordance.

The original definition coined by J. J. Gibson described all possible physical actions you could take with an object. Over time the definition shifted. Now, the definition is broader and includes discoverability of actions. This change has been brought about the technological evolution of digital interfaces. Discoverability is an interesting concept in the digital realm, as when you’re using a computer, you get to discover actions through the hints given to you within the interfaces themselves.

Physical objects

Take a step back to the physical world, where you see that objects have physical properties like size, shape or weight that provide hints as to what you could do with them. Here are a few classic examples. Let’s start with a teacup; it’s small and has a handle, which affords holding. Its dipped bowl-like shape, indicating that it can hold something too. When it’s holding tea, the affordance is that you can hold the teacup and drink out of it. Another example is a toothbrush: it has a long-but-thin handle, which affords gripping, and so on.

Physical objects can be sorted three affordance types:

Perceptible affordance is the basic definition of affordance, where an object’s characteristics imply an action.

Hidden affordance is when an object has affordances that are not so obvious; for instance, simply looking at a beer bottle you wouldn’t be able to tell you that you can use it to open another beer bottle.

False affordance is when there is a perceived affordance; but no results happen from the possible action. For example, pressing a button that doesn’t do anything, like using your TV remote to turn the TV on, but it doesn’t work for some reason. The affordance is still there — you are free to press that button as much as you want — but nothing happens, there is no function.

Affordance in digital spaces

Digital interfaces are special. They allow us to do things that are limited to a two-dimensional world that is a computer screen. There are so many things we could do within any app, website or program; but they all have one big, crippling limitation: they cannot provide you with physical clues as to what you can do. Instead, they all rely on visual clues or affordances. This can be very tricky if you don’t understand the important role affordance plays in creating successful interfaces.

If you understand how affordances work, you will be able to use them to your advantage. When you can make affordance a tool you will be able to create designs that are intuitive and easy to use. Intuitive designs have this certain appeal to them — most likely because we find a lot of websites or apps tedious and annoying — so it’s really refreshing to use them. Additionally, affordance effects conversions, which matter a lot in creating a successful design.

Types of affordance that affect UX

If you want to fully understand how affordances work in interface design, we need to get specific. Let’s do that now by covering six different affordance types seen within digital interfaces including: explicit, pattern, hidden, false, metaphorical, and negative affordance.

1) Explicit affordance

Similar to perceptible affordance, explicit affordance is the hints given off by language or physical appearance of the object. A raised button that says ‘Click me’ is a great example of both language and physical cues. The button’s raised appearance indicates the possibility of clicking and so does the ‘Click me’ text. It’s obvious.

Language plays such an important part of guiding users through digital interfaces. An input field that asks you for your ‘Full name’ affords entering your name into it. Language provides clear guidelines on not only what you should be doing, but also what you could be doing. Entering letters, like your name, is different than entering numbers, like your phone number and you can tell which one you’re able to do by the context of the text. However, it’s also important to consider how obvious your interface is to use without explicit, spelled out directions. Your design needs to be usable and intuitive without holding your user’s hand at every step.

2) Pattern affordance

A pattern affordance is affordance set out by conventions. A great example would be a logo that’s at the top left corner of a webpage being clickable. It’s a pattern we see everywhere; so we expect it everywhere. Text that is different color, sometimes maybe underlined or italic, among unchanged body text like a paragraph, is assumed to be a link. Email is often represented with an envelope, while settings are represented with a gear.

In these examples, email doesn’t require an actual envelope — it never has — and neither do settings require dealing with gears. It’s a metaphorical pattern we have been exposed to for a long, long time; so it became a convention.

Patterns are great for communicating mental shortcuts, but only if your users are aware of these patterns. There are new patterns introduced all the time, for example, the hamburger menu is a relatively new concept for menus and navigation. When designing with new patterns in mind, you have to make sure your users are familiar with them. But, when you know your audience has been previously exposed to these patterns, you have the ability to create some amazing designs without being explicit.

3) Hidden affordance

Hidden affordance in digital designs is similar to that of physical objects. In the digital world, however, the actual affordance isn’t available until an action has been taken to reveal it. For instance, hovering over a button to see whether to not it’s active, and therefore clickable. Drop down menus are another example, where you don’t see the menu unless you hover or click on the parent list item.

Hidden affordances are oftentimes used to simplify the visual complexity of a design. In the drop down menu example, we use the drop down to hide all of the navigation options, as there are too many to show all at once. If a user wants to navigate somewhere, they have to find it within the drop down. Now, a big drawback to hidden affordances is that they require the user to find the affordance while sometimes giving them no hints of their existence. You don’t know what to expect. It’s a guessing game, so to speak, based on finding these affordances as you go.

4) False affordance

False affordance in the digital space affords something else that is unexpected — like turning on your lights instead of the TV with the TV remote – or no action at all. This type of affordance is all over the Web, mostly by accident, like a button that looks active but does nothing, a logo that isn’t linked to anything, the words ‘click here’ within text that aren’t at all a link, or a red button that does something good with a green button that does something bad.

False affordance is most plentiful in designs where details have been missed, like a broken link situation. Colors have specific associations with them. In the western world, green is good while red is bad. When you switch the two, you will most certainly confuse some of your users, especially when the buttons are side by side. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it; but you should be cautious when doing so. You don’t want any false affordances within your design if you can help it. You shouldn’t surprise your users like that.

5) Metaphorical affordance

Skeuomorphism relied heavily on metaphorical affordances, like imitations of real objects, to communicate. Icons are wonderful examples of this: map, shopping cart or basket, home, printer, video, microphone, phone, etc. Take the concept of email for example. Its roots are in the metaphor of a physical letter; its icon is usually an envelope. It’s a great example of metaphorical affordance all around. If you are designing something and are not sure how to convey it, it’s always good to go back to the physical world, at least for inspiration and a starting point.

Now, you don’t need you go over the top like Apple’s old designs, where for their game app they made the background a green pool table cloth. But, compare that to their current Games app icon which is just a few bubbles. What do they have to do with games? I don’t know, the metaphor is no longer there. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you to decide. Whether the metaphor needs to be there in your design, or not, is up to you.

6) Negative affordance

Negative affordance can be thought of as specifically indicating no affordance; it’s when you have an inactive button or a button that looks inactive. The most common instance of this is when a button or a link is greyed out. Now, here is the tricky part: it’s not that you are specifically trying to tell a user you can’t use this button — although it could be — but that the button appears that you cannot use it, even if in fact you can.

There are certain instances where you’d want to clearly indicate that you couldn’t do something. For example, if a user if filling out a form and they haven’t filled everything out yet, your button state could appear inactive because you don’t want them to proceed yet. But, if the button looks inactive, but is active, then it’s simply poor design. Be careful with this one.


Monday, 6 April 2015

Twitter has changed the “quote tweet” function in its iPhone and desktop apps.

Now instead of displaying a text version of the quoted tweet it will display the entire tweet. It’ll also provide much more room for the quoter to add some commentary at the top — a full 116 characters.

Here’s how you quote a tweet in iOS (according to Twitter):

  1. Tap the Retweet icon.

  2. Tap Quote Tweet.

  3. Add a comment and tap Tweet.

  4. The Tweet will then be shared with your followers as a quote Tweet!

The change will come to the iPhone and desktop apps in an app update, which began rolling out today.

Twitter says new “quote tweet” function will be coming to the Android app soon.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Wikipedia now makes it easy to create shareable images directly from your mobile

The Wikimedia Foundation, parent organization of ubiquitous online encyclopediaWikipedia, wants to help its users create more shareable content on mobile.

An update to the Wikipedia Android app introduces a new “enhanced sharing” feature that lets anyone highlight text from an article and share within an image.

Users choose a little interesting factoid from any page by long-pressing their screen and dragging the little sliders. They then hit the “share” button and they’ll see an option to share as text, or as part of a picture — the user can’t define what picture is used, however, as the app automatically pulls one in from the Wikipedia page in question.

This can then be shared through any compatible application, such as Twitter or Facebook.

Wikipedia sharing

This may not seem like a major move on the surface, but it does follow a growing trend across the social realm — sharing pictures with text on top, rather than plain text. This has been proven to increase interactions and general shareability, be it retweets or Facebook “Likes”.

Last month, popular social-scheduling tool Buffer unveiled a similar new tool called Pablo, designed to complement its main offering and help marketers create shareable images in under 30 seconds. Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich said at the time that tweets with images increased engagement by “up to 150 percent,” according to their own studies.

Wikipedia’s enhanced sharing feature isn’t designed specifically for marketers, but it does offer them — or anyone — an easy way of creating shareable content on the move. While it is restricted to Wikipedia for Android just now, it will likely arrive for iOS in a future update too.

Wikipedia now makes it easy to create shareable images directly from your mobile

Friday, 3 April 2015

Google and Mozilla decide to ban Chinese certificate authority CNNIC from Chrome and Firefox

Google and Mozilla have announced that their browsers will stop trusting all digital certificates issued by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), China’s main digital certificate authority. The decision follows last week’s news from Google, which said on March 20 it discovered unauthorized digital certificates for several of its domains. Google found that the certificates were issued by Egypt-based MCS Holdings, an intermediate certificate authority that CNNIC allowed to operate.

On April 1, Google updated its blog post with the following statement:

As a result of a joint investigation of the events surrounding this incident by Google and CNNIC, we have decided that the CNNIC Root and EV CAs will no longer be recognized in Google products. This will take effect in a future Chrome update. To assist customers affected by this decision, for a limited time we will allow CNNIC’s existing certificates to continue to be marked as trusted in Chrome, through the use of a publicly disclosed whitelist.

While neither we nor CNNIC believe any further unauthorized digital certificates have been issued, nor do we believe the misissued certificates were used outside the limited scope of MCS Holdings’ test network, CNNIC will be working to prevent any future incidents. CNNIC will implement Certificate Transparency for all of their certificates prior to any request for reinclusion. We applaud CNNIC on their proactive steps, and welcome them to reapply once suitable technical and procedural controls are in place.

In other words, Chrome users will get security warnings for new sites authenticated by CNNIC, particularly those that require entering login information. Some pages, such as those involving monetary transactions, will simply stop working (any bank or commerce site worth its salt will not allow money to move without proper security).

Google does not say when exactly this change will go into effect (the company typically specifies a Chrome version number for security changes and updates). It likely wants to give affected website operators time to switch to a different certificate authority.

CNNIC responded on April 2 (today) with the following:

1. The decision that Google has made is unacceptable and unintelligible to CNNIC, and meanwhile CNNIC sincerely urge that Google would take users’ rights and interests into full consideration.

2. For the users that CNNIC has already issued the certificates to, we guarantee that your lawful rights and interests will not be affected.

It’s not clear whether CNNIC plans to do something specific in regards to the second point. The firm is likely still weighing its options.

Mozilla followed in Google’s footsteps today:

After reviewing the circumstances and a robust discussion on our public mailing list, we have concluded that CNNIC’s behaviour in issuing an unconstrained intermediate certificate to a company with no documented PKI practices and with no oversight of how the private key was stored or controlled was an ‘egregious practice’ as per Mozilla’s CA Certificate Enforcement Policy. Therefore, after public discussion and consideration of the scope and impact of a range of options, we have decided to update our code so that Mozilla products will no longer trust any certificate issued by CNNIC’s roots with a notBefore date on or after 1st April 2015.

The notBefore date that will be checked is inserted into the certificate by CNNIC. We will therefore be asking CNNIC for a comprehensive list of their currently-valid certificates, and publishing it. After the list has been provided, if a certificate not on the list, with a notBefore date before 1 April 2015, is detected on the public Internet by us or anyone else, we reserve the right to take further action.

Like Google, Mozilla is offering CNNIC the option to reapply for full inclusion. The restriction thus might be removed assuming CNNIC meets Google’s and Mozilla’s requirements.

If Chrome and Firefox were to stop recognizing all website certificates issued by CNNIC, the impact could be huge in China; millions of users would suddenly not be able to connect to various websites. Presumably, Google and Mozilla will wait a reasonable amount of time before flipping the switch, so website operators can ensure their sites will continue to work as expected.

Google and Mozilla decide to ban Chinese certificate authority CNNIC from Chrome and Firefox

Thursday, 2 April 2015


In 2010, Elliot Stocks stirred up a hornets’ nest with a provocative tweet:

Honestly, I’m shocked that in 2010 I’m still coming across ‘web designers’ who can’t code their own designs. No excuse.

The internet was abuzz for a long time, and the debate continues. To code or not to code? It remains a charged topic with strongly opinionated advocates on both sides.

Let’s put it to rest. It’s 2015. Web design has come a long way. We have ridiculously specialized roles now (like “User Experience Analyst”); it’s no longer one designer plowing through the full development stack on their own. We have better tools and efficient best practices.

Let’s examine both sides of the argument:

Why you don’t need to code

With the right tool, a designer simply doesn’t need to know how to code to build a beautiful, functional, and responsive website. What’s more, most designers simply don’t want to code. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s called specialization. In the past, there was nothing designers could do to get around the necessary development work (if not by them, then by someone else). It was a necessary nuisance. But that’s no longer the case — we have professional drag-and-drop tools now.

Designers are no longer limited to creating static wireframes and mockups. With tools like Webflow, or Macaw, designers can easily create live websites using simple drag and drop principles. Guess what? Website builders don’t suck anymore. They generate clean, W3C compliant, HTML and CSS that’s better than what most developers write by hand. Webflow for example, is based on Twitter’s Bootstrap framework, and it works remarkably well.

And, no, you’re not limited at all in terms of functionality. Further, if desired, the code generated in Webflow or Macaw can be exported off the platform entirely so you can work on it in the comfort of your IDE to develop extended functionality.

But the argument against learning how to code goes beyond merely having the right tools in 2015. It’s also a matter of facing the emotional facts: You’re not “lame” for not knowing how to code, you’re simply realistic and efficient with your time. If you’re a professional designer, you should be the best designer you can be. After all, design trends are constantly shifting and new techniques are endlessly being paraded about. There’s a lot to stay on top of — more than enough to keep you busy as a designer alone, let alone also being a developer.

Let’s also talk about how it’s an incredibly steep learning curve to learn how to code properly. Sure, anyone can slap HTML and CSS together and pray it works across multiple devices, but most people simply can’t code well enough to be doing professional client work. Those who can have worked at the craft for years. For as many trends and competing best practices there are in the designer community, there’s infinitely more in the developer community. And, frankly, from a technical perspective, developing is much harder than designing. Much harder.

Why you should learn to code anyway

You better at least know what you don’t know. Think about that. If you’re entirely ignoring the concepts inherent to web development, you’re going to be worse off for it. You should learn the basics of coding so that you can properly understand the needs of the developers you work with. Conversely, you should build the skill set and vocabulary to best express your design ideas to developers who oftentimes have conflicting technical considerations before them.

Also, quite simply, you will be a better designer if you have a basic understanding of how the development process works, why certain programming languages are used, and how they restrict or expand your ability to design your intentions. When you have a better sense of what’s technically realistic before you start designing, you’ll be less likely to waste your time and more likely to focus your energy focusing on the parts of your site that aren’t up to the whims of the developer’s implementation.

Plus, any professional working in this industry should be the type of person to enjoy the process of learning. If you don’t keep your desire to learn sharp and charged, you will quickly fall behind. There are many aspects to what we do, and millions of eager people are poking their head in trying to find out if it’s for them. Stand out from those people.

What designers really want

What designers really want is to be able to create their own websites. Not necessarily code them. There are two driving factors behind this:

  1. Offering consolidated services to clients. As a freelance designer, you may not have the deep pockets to hire a developer to translate your design work into a functioning site. Meanwhile, your client doesn’t want the headache of having to search for someone else to code your design then also have to manage the communication between you two. If you can perform both aspects as a designer, that’s all that matters — despite whether or not you can actually code. Hence, we come back full circle to professional design tools which are worth your while.

  2. Gaining greater control over their work. Every artist wants full artistic control over their creations. Unfortunately, a lot is lost in translation going from designer to developer. Adapting a PSD to HTML and CSS is not a 1-for-1 process in the era of responsive design. When designers are able to develop their own sites, and are consequently in charge of the entire product flow, the site benefits from the unity of their intentions, and the designer is infinitely better able to respond to client change requests on the fly.

Figure out what you want. Do you simply want to be able to code in order to see your designs come to life? If so, don’t join the herd to head off to coding school; play it smart and skip the queue by learning one of the professional design tools available to us today.

Now, if you do truly want to indulge in the beautifully empowering aspects of programming, by all means buckle down and dig in — just do it for the right reasons and set your expectations appropriately.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Firefox 37 arrives with improved YouTube HTML5 playback on Windows, faster downloads on Android

Mozilla today launched Firefox 37 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Notable additions to the browser include HTML5 playback improvements on YouTube for Windows computers, and improved download performance for Android devices.

Firefox 37 for the desktop is available for download now, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. As always, the Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play.

Mozilla doesn’t break out the exact numbers for Firefox, though the company does say “half a billion people around the world” use the browser. In other words, it’s a major platform that web developers target — even in a world increasingly dominated by mobile apps.


Firefox for Windows is gaining improved support for HTML5 playback on YouTube. While Firefox users see the HTML5 video player by default for most videos, the browser doesn’t support all the features that YouTube requires.

Firefox 37 arrives with improved YouTube HTML5 playback on Windows, faster downloads on Android

Riff is Facebook’s latest bet on social video

Riff, a real app launched on April Fools’ Day, lets you pick a topic — like #Duckface — make a video around that topic, and see if your friends want to remix it. In the simplest terms, it’s a video-sharing app for homegrown memes.

Remixing apps aren’t new (remember Canvas?), nor is Riff’s asynchronous conversation style (remember Selfie?), but the app’s still interesting — at least, it’s more interesting than some of Facebook’s past experiments (Poke, Slingshot, Camera, Paper, etc.).

Facebook made it clear when announcing Riff that it doesn’t have wild expectations for the app. Calling it a “side project,” Facebook says Riff was made when “a few Facebook employees stayed after-hours.”

There you have it. The expectations are set. Totally don’t judge this app like it was launched by the world’s largest social network. We’ll try not to.


How Riff Works

Anyone can start by creating a video. All you have to do is give it a topic, like #AprilFools, then your friends can view it and choose to add their own clips on that topic. Once a friend adds a clip to your video, your friend’s friends will also be shown the video in Riff and will be able to add to it. The potential pool of creative collaborators can grow exponentially from there, so a short video can become an inventive project between circles of friends that you can share to Facebook, or anywhere on the internet, at any time.

Riff is Facebook’s latest bet on social video

6 mobile marketing strategies that need to die

When it comes to technology and innovation, the bandwagon mentality rarely works. By the time everyone is doing it or using it, it’s probably nearing the end of its natural lifecycle. That’s why the great innovators take a look at what everyone else is doing and then invent a new way to revolutionize technology.

Mobile marketing is currently experiencing a mad dash toward the familiar and predictable. Like kids scampering to collect the candy after the piƱata bursts, mobile marketers are looking to scoop up strategies they think will help them market to their audience, but many of these strategies aren’t worth pursuing anymore.

Let’s take a look at six trategies that are sputtering, confusing and ineffective, or simply need to die:

1. Thinking of mobile channels solely as apps and mobile Web

Earning a coveted place on the app home screen – next to the likes of Tinder and Facebook – is an extremely difficult feat. Consumers also demand more context-aware experiences than mobile websites and advertisements provide. Companies must think beyond these traditional channels for customer connection on mobile and consider mobile wallet and Facebook’s new Messenger for Business.

Within a mobile wallet like Apple Passbook, people can store loyalty cards, offers, and more. For consumers, the psychological hurdle of saving something to a mobile wallet is much lower than downloading an app, and by eliminating friction from their daily lives (offer redemption, loyalty program rewards), the consumer is more inclined to engage. These saved passes can also trigger context-aware experiences based on a person’s location (geo-fence or beacon), similar to the in-the-moment marketing opportunities that apps provide.

Similarly, the new Messenger for Business is reimagining customer communication and support by enabling brands to engage with their customers privately within a private chat thread.

Companies must explore channels like wallet and Messenger that require less buy-in from consumers to opt-in.

2. Adopting new technologies that are not integrated into ‘one view of the customer’

With every new technology and emerging channel, companies are adding more and more silos of customer data (app, beacon, online marketing, email, CRM, social, etc.) none of which talks to the others. As a consumer, I might receive a personalized experience that reflects my loyalty to a brand online and an experience in-store that treats me like a stranger, even though I have spent hundreds of dollars with the company. Brands need to stop creating channel-specific databases with customer insights and instead work to create a single profile of every customer that incorporates data from all channels to create an omnichannel experience that fluidly moves between touchpoints.


3. Relying only on humans for customer support

The future is now and, unfortunately for technophobes, robots and automation are taking over. Companies should not rely solely on humans to power interactive chat or in-store support. Brands must centralize knowledge and rules of engagement in the cloud – instead of the heads of distracted, transitional sales associates and customer support employees. Lowe’s, for instance, recently piloted robots in stores to replace human associates for some shopper needs, like finding products in its massive aisles. While not every company will be able to afford actual robots, the smartphone can be used as the interactive channel for artificial intelligence-driven support that automates virtual responses to customer inquiries in and out of store, like product recommendations, product finder and availability, order status, etc.

4. Ignoring intent

Many marketers looking to contextualize user experiences rely on location – and completely ignore user implicit and explicit intent. What if a man walks through the women’s department? Should he get a message on his smartphone about a sale on lingerie? Unless it’s Valentine’s Day or a similarly appropriate holiday when he might be shopping for his wife, probably not. When a company is able to understand users’ intent at a given moment, it can help them accomplish whatever they are trying to do by providing the right experience, content, or functionality.

5. Collecting every piece of data you can [whether you use it or not]

Forget pocketing all of the candy. Just find the delicious pieces. Big data is a spectacular pool of information to pull from, but it must be mined, sorted, and distilled – and most importantly, protected. In a time when security breaches are on the rise, data minimization is more important than data maximization (collecting anything and everything). Companies should think about the information they are collecting and ask themselves whether they need it all, if the risks of collecting the data outweigh the benefits, and how that data is benefiting customers.

6. Taking advantage of every opportunity to interrupt

Like anyone trying to make a deep connection, mobile marketers must pick their spots. Everyone likes to receive a cheery text message from a friend, but an onslaught of ill-timed chirps can be distracting and ultimately a turn-off. Just because you have the power to instantly reach your customers anytime, anywhere doesn’t mean you should. Brands must show restraint. Do consumers really need to get a push alert with a 20 percent discount “TODAY ONLY” every time they pass your store? Show sophistication and discipline by only reaching out and engaging when it’s in the right context. Your customer will notice and you’ll be rewarded.

With billions of dollars in potential revenue up for grabs, mobile marketing efforts must focus on the complete customer journey and avoid the myriad crash-and-burn mobile gimmicks out there.

6 mobile marketing strategies that need to die


Designers who use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator regularly, know that they can’t get out of using it on their desktops. This means hour after hour of sitting at their workstations, especially if a big project is due, and deadlines can’t be extended. But sitting for too long isnt good for your health.

Further, designing in front of a desktop is inherently limiting because it doesn’t account for people’s increasingly mobile lifestyles. What happens if you’re traveling, and you can’t reschedule your very important trip? You obviously can’t lug your desktop with you on the plane, so what do you do? Disappoint your client by failing to deliver before the deadline? Simply ignore the deadline and hope your client is understanding? Unthinkable!

In the past, designers would just have to throw caution to the wind and bear the brunt of sitting for hours on end in front of their desktops—until now, that is.

Transforming design through mobile

Yesterday, Adobe announced that it was releasing a new mobile app that’s meant as a game changer for designers all across the world. Maybe Adobe finally caught on to the fact that designers have active lives that involve traveling for meetings and networking, or maybe it just wants to help designers avoid the negative health effects of too much sitting. In either case, Adobe released Adobe Comp CC, which is a free productivity app that lets users mock up graphics, typefaces and user interfaces.


The man behind this innovative thrust is none other than Scott Belsky, better known as the founder of Behance. These days, he’s in charge of Adobe’s mobile products division, and is he ever ambitious. Over the next year or so, Belsky has plans to transform Adobe’s mobile apps into impactful multitasking tools that allow users to engage in faster workflows than what’s traditionally been possible on your desktop. So, yeah, Adobe has plans to make desktops obsolete—at least where designers are concerned.

What sets apart Adobe Comp CC is the tremendous amount of control that it empowers designers to have and use. One way this immediately becomes clear is through how its mock ups work. The app gives designers a choice of various styles of preset canvas sizes. Examples include business card, HD resolution website and iPhone screen sizes.


Then, users are free to make their own text, pictures and gridded shapes, all through a sequence of basic taps and pinches. Think of it as incorporating the simplicity and straightforwardness of using an iPhone…into Photoshop or Illustrator.

Belsky says that Adobe’s going to market the mobile app as “the first-mile app” for all of Adobe’s desktop products. In essence, designers can for the first time skip the daunting step of opening up a project in either Photoshop or Illustrator and just seeing the blank page…with no prompts on what to do next. With Adobe Comp CC, though, things get much, much simpler as designers only have to open the app and then can start working right out of the gate.

Touchscreen controls make designing intuitive

The mobile app’s easy-to-use, touchscreen controls make all the difference in the world. Tactile and intuitive, they offer users a level of instant gratification that has been a foreign concept on the Adobe desktop versions of Photoshop and Illustrator. With instant gratification comes increased productivity and efficiency.

Picture this: you need to draw a circle for a wireframe, yet your finger isn’t the steadiest in the world, so your circle becomes a rough-shaped circle. The app intelligently and automatically improves this to a perfect circle. You have further options, too: You can stretch the circle to customize it as you want for your design needs, with just a simple tap. When you draw three, basic lines beside the circle, you’re looking at a handy placeholder for text as well.


Want filler copy instead? Not a problem. By just tapping the app’s text tool, you can take the filler copy and make it paragraph, headline or subhead size. Without any friction, the text just appears where you want it, and if you want to resize it, that’s as easy as resizing the bounding box.

Here’s a nice bonus: you’re free to use any Typekit font that you want on said text. Adobe Comp CC holds the distinction for being the first mobile app to allow you to do that.


Extra features sweeten the deal

Yet that’s not all. Additional features take this mobile app from good to great.

A slider allows designers to swiftly move through layers; this replaces the more unwieldy outline format that’s prevalent on Adobe’s desktop versions. A simple three-finger swipe—think your iMac’s touchpad, here—lets you quickly see the whole history of your entire composition.

Then there’s also the Creative Cloud Market. It features all kinds of frequently necessary graphics, such as iOS navigation UI, that you can incorporate into your creations. This frees you up to grab all kinds of required media quickly without doing a Google search. (As of the time of publication, the Market is free, yet this is always subject to change.)

While all this sounds very promising, the innovation doesn’t stop there. Perhaps the mobile app’s most attractive hook is its connectivity, which couldn’t be more important these days with workflows occurring both on desktop and mobile.

Introducing the 360-degree workflow and CDF

Never before attempted, Adobe will introduce something called the “360-degree Workflow” later in 2015. This will empower designers to smoothly use media from app to app without missing a beat. To achieve this, Adobe created a file type named Compound Document Format or CDF. CDF is a universal language that both Adobe’s desktop and mobile apps share.

Here’s what this means for designers: you can easily export anything you create in the mobile app to either Photoshop or Illustrator on your desktop. Your creation will appear as a vector file, complete with intact layers and 1:1 pixel accuracy. Finally, you’ll also be able to import files in all third party-supported Creative Cloud apps.


In the next few, to several months, designers should look forward to the integration of CDF sharing with the tool interfaces themselves. Various creative apps will be linked together as one, cohesive unit.

It’ll work like this. A designer taps an image he’s been working on in Adobe Comp CC that sits beside the app’s stock-sizing options. He’ll be able to open it in something like Photo Editor, which is a third-party photo app by Aviary. With one tap, the image can open up in Photo Editor and permit filter application and thorough color correction. After another tap, said image could be sent back to Comp in a jiffy.

One reason that CDF works and is immensely appealing is because all of Photoshop’s features and capabilities will never properly translate to mobile. After all, Photoshop’s designed for larger monitors and precision-driven mouse movements. Yet by utilizing deep linking like in the Photo Editor example above, Adobe can handily bypass building all of Photoshop’s features into just one app. The company doesn’t need to—any number of apps (third-party or otherwise) could prove to be the best solution for any given project.

User response

So how will this ambitious mobile project by Adobe be received by the design community? It’s much too early to tell, of course, but early signs are indeed promising. Adobe Comp CC has already netted a perfect, five-star score from user reviews and ratings on iTunes. Not bad for an app that’s barely been available for 24 hours.