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What’s a Design Dinosaur

dinosaurDinosaurAre you fond of applying and scrambling old and new design clichés in one helpless web page? Are you one of the thousands not yet enlightened that ‘too much of a good thing is bad’? Are you too engrossed in improvising other designs and not coming up with your own?

Being a design dinosaur is a common sickness among designers who tend to be exposed and awed in latest design clichés coming out and copying or improvising them to concentrate on making his / her original design. But this practice isn’t entirely wrong, though. There’s always some "monkey see, monkey do" in the design world. Someone comes up with a great logo, Website, package and the next thing you know, they’re everywhere.

What’s bothersome in using most design clichés is that it implies you're not using up your own talents as a designer. In graphic designing, the ultimate creation to make you cry “Eureka!” may come upon us on our thirtieth attempt. This moment will happen once you really challenge and stretch yourself.

Here, we give you several examples of design clichés which uses seem to have gotten out of hand:

    • Swooshes – this logo was started by Nike and before we knew it, "swooshes" were everywhere on the Net. It’s obviously been successful for Nike. But if your Internet company try to use this swoosh along with thousands, we can’t guarantee if anyone would remember you.
  • Beveled Anything – this give depth to the appearance of your graphics and prevent it to look flat and one dimensional. But avoid excessive beveling just because Photoshop now makes it easy. Think about the company you're designing for. What sort of image do they want to portray?
  • Ambiguous Icons – doubtful graphic icons for buttons which are supposed to lead the user to an important link won’t help you in gaining attention for your internet company. It would only serve to confuse users and eventually leave your site. Remember -- if you can't come up with a graphic that is easily identifiable with where the button leads to, don't use a graphic — or don't use a graphic with no text.

graphic designGraphic Design Some design dinosaurs are fond of Flash - fading text and moving text is pretty been there, done that. This effect can be seen everywhere and it's a rare occasion when moving text really catches the eye. There are also those who abuse drop shadows by having it go in different directions. A drop shadow, indeed gives depth to a page but if you won’t be so consistent the whole idea is spoiled.

If you don’t want to be a design dinosaur, don’t be too dependent on design clichés. The only way to achieve an original and outstanding design is by thinking about your design and deciding what’s really best for it. You have to challenge yourself and stretch your design muscles. Who knows? You might be the next one to make a design cliché.

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Writing Effective ALT Text For Images

Alt TextAlt-TextAnyone who knows anything about web accessibility knows that images need alternative, or ALT, text assigned to them. This is because screen readers can't understand images, but rather read aloud the alternative text assigned to them. In Internet Explorer we can see this ALT text, simply by mousing over the image and looking at the yellow tooltip that appears. Other browsers (correctly) don't do this.

But surely there can't be a skill to writing ALT text for images? You just pop a description in there and you're good to go, right? Well, kind of. Sure, it's not rocket science, but there are a few guidelines you need to follow...

Spacer images and missing ALT text

Spacer images should always be assigned null ALT text, or alt="" . This way most screen readers will completely ignore the image and won't even announce its presence. Spacer images are invisible images that pretty most websites use. The purpose of them is, as the name suggests, to create space on the page. Sometimes it's not possible to create the visual display you need, so you can stick an image in (specifying its height and width) and volià, you have the extra space you need.

Not everyone uses this null ALT text for spacer images. Some websites stick in alt="spacer image". Imagine how annoying this can be for a screen reader user, especially when you have ten of them in a row. A screen reader would say, “Image, spacer image” ten times in a row (screen readers usually say the word, “Image”, before reading out its ALT text) - now that isn't helpful!

Other web developers simply leave out the ALT attribute for spacer images (and perhaps other images). In this case, most screen readers will read out the filename, which could be ‘newsite/images/onepixelspacer.gif’. A screen reader would announce this image as “Image, new-site slash images slash one pixel spacer dot gif”. Imagine what this would sound like if there were ten of these in a row!

Bullets and icons

Bullets and icons should be treated in much the same way as spacer images, so should be assigned null alternative text, or alt="". Think about a list of items with a fancy bullet proceeding each item. If the ALT text, ‘Bullet’ is assigned to each image then, “Image, bullet” will be read aloud by screen readers before each list item, making it take that bit longer to work through the list.

Icons, usually used to complement links, should also be assigned alt="". Many websites, which place the icon next to the link text, use the link text as the ALT text of the icon. Screen readers would first announce this ALT text, and then the link text, so would then say the link twice, which obviously isn't necessary.

(Ideally, bullets and icons should be called up as background images through the CSS document - this would remove them from the HTML document completely and therefore remove the need for any ALT description.)

no alt textNo Alt TextDecorative images

Decorative images too should be assigned null alternative text, or alt="". If an image is pure eye candy then there's no need for a screen reader user to even know it's there and being informed of its presence simply adds to the noise pollution.

Conversely, you could argue that the images on your site create a brand identity, and by hiding them from screen reader users, you're denying this group of users the same experience. Accessibility experts tend to favour the former argument, but there certainly is a valid case for the latter too.

Navigation & text embedded within images

Navigation menus that require fancy text have no choice but to embed the text within an image. In this situation, the ALT text shouldn't be used to expand on the image. Under no circumstances should the ALT text say, ‘Read all about our fantastic services, designed to help you in everything you do’. If the menu item says, ‘Services’ then the ALT text should also say ‘Services’. ALT text should always describe the content of the image and should repeat the text word-for-word. If you want to expand on the navigation, such as in this example, you can use the title attribute.

The same applies for any other text embedded within an image. The ALT text should simply repeat, word-for-word, the text contained within that image.

(Unless the font being used is especially unique it's often unnecessary to embed text within images - advanced navigation and background effects can now be achieved with CSS.)

Company logo

Websites tend to vary in how they apply ALT text to logos. Some say, ‘Company name’, others ‘Company name logo’, and other describe the function of the image (usually a link back to the homepage), ‘Back to home’. Remember, ALT text should always describe the content of the image so the first example, alt="Company name", is probably the best. If the logo is a link back to the homepage then this can be effectively communicated through the title tag.

blind person with screen readerBlind Person With Screen ReaderConclusion

Writing effective ALT text isn't too difficult. If it's a decorative image then null alternative text, or alt="" should usually be used - never, ever omit the ALT attribute. If the image contains text then the ALT text should simply repeat this text, word-for-word. Remember, ALT text should describe the content of the image and nothing more.

Do also be sure also to keep ALT text as short and succinct as possible. Listening to a web page with a screen reader takes a lot longer than traditional methods, so don't make the surfing experience painful for screen reader users with bloated and unnecessary ALT text.

For more information, or a free quotation, please contact us

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Your Logo: Much More Than a Decoration

Logo DesignLogo DesignWhat are the company logos that you remember the most? As you are about to design your corporate identity, take a look around and notice the logos that are all around us. Most of the time, they are very simple icons. Sometimes they graphically represent exactly what the company does, but others are a simple mark that makes an impression. Here are some tips to help you get a memorable corporate identity of your own:

1) Find a Designer You Can Trust

First of all, you need to find someone that truly understands the importance of the creation and implementation of a company’s identity. Beware of a designer that says “Yeah, I do logo design.” A logo is only part of the package. In order for the logo to work, it needs a color scheme, fonts that complement it, and a complete ‘look and feel’ that ties all your communications together.

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