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Design & Coding

Why YouTube’s Move to HTML5 May be Huge



Today YouTube announced a new beta program that will allow you to view the movies on its site using pure HTML5, no Adobe Flash required.

To be fair, it isn’t a huge change if you enter the beta. The controls for the movies are different and the loading animation says “HTML5” rather than having the familiar YouTube spinner, but the potential impact could be huge.

Even though it is just an early test and has several limitations, including it only working on Safari/Chrome and does not support full screen viewing or videos with ads/annotations, YouTube’s efforts to shift away from Flash could signal a major change for the Web and one that will likely be for the better.

Why is it important? The reasons lie below the surface but it is very easy to see why this feature has been so heavily requested by YouTube and why the have decided to act.

A Brief History of Flash

Flash started its life in 1996, almost 15 years ago, for the purpose of adding animated and interactive content to the Web. Since then, it has been used in absolutely everything from annoying banner ads to gorgeous games, from animated buttons to entire Web sites.

Though Flash has always been important, for much of its existence, one could easily surf the Web without Flash installed and largely have a complete Web experience. However, in 2002, when Flash Video was added to the product, the floodgates were opened.

For years effective video playback on the Web had been something of a holy grail. The first attempts were bogged down by a combination of codec issues, which prevented people without the proper codecs from playing the file, and lack of broadband. However, increased availability of inexpensive high-speed Internet solved the second problem and Flash Video solved the first since almost everyone had Flash on their computers.

However, this changed the purpose of Flash. It went from being something most people had but rarely used to a critical part of the Web experience. No Flash meant no YouTube or other video sites and watching videos online quickly became one of, if not the single, most common activity online.

In short, Flash went from being a nice thing to have to a necessity and a daily part of nearly every Web user’s life. While this isn’t bad by itself, it brought with it a series of problems to consider.

Why Less Flash is More

Most of the problems with Flash stem from the simple fact that it is a plugin that resides in your browser. Essentially, when you run a Flash element, it is running inside a separate program that runs within your browser, including the following:

  1. Security: Like any program, Flash has security issues that often need to be patched and can be exploited. These security issues can, very often, be very dangerous.
  2. Stability/Speed: Every layer you add to a browser the more you slow down the system and the less stable it becomes. Flash is well known for crashing on computers, often taking the browser with it, and can be a major performance drag.
  3. Privacy: Finally, Flash adds another layer of privacy issues to the browser. Flash can and does save cookies and will do so even in private browsing modes on most browsers.

This isn’t a case for eliminating the use of Flash, or any other plugin for that matter, but a definite argument for minimizing their use when possible. Fortunately, HTML5 gives us the chance to do just that when dealing with video sites and the Web will be better off if we seize the opportunity.

Why HTML5 is Better

The reason HTML5 is better is simple, unlike Flash that requires another program, HTML5 runs natively in your browser (so long as it is compatible). You can view multimedia without a plugin at all. This brings with it improvements in performance, security and privacy.

It is especially good for users of operating systems other than Windows, most of all Linux, who have not gotten the same level of support for their Flash plugins as Windows. Though the versions are the same now, at least numerically, there are many reports of Flash being more problematic on OSX and Linux.

Imagine, for a moment, if every single image on the Web required a third-party plugin to view it and the plugin was controlled by a single company. The Web would be almost impossible to use for many and we would all be at the whims of this company, their choices of operating systems and decisions about features. That is not what the Web wants.

Fortunately, you can insert images (of multiple formats) into pages without plugins but with the rising popularity of video it is not too difficult to imagine a Web where video is as, or even more, important than still pictures. As such, it is important to make sure that technology is not dependent on a plugin or a lone company for maintenance.

Bottom Line

Once again, none of this is an argument against Flash itself. HTML5 video will not kill of Flash as it can do many things that HTML5 can not. However, reducing our dependency on it is important and switching to open standards even more so as it is crucial for the future of the Web.

That being said, the most wonderful thing about the HTML5 version of YouTube is how much it is like the old one. Videos look and play the same and someone not paying close attention might not notice the difference.

With some tweaking and additional work, as well as better browser support, HTML5 can clear be a full replacement for Flash video and, when that time comes, it’s a bandwagon I hope other video sites jump on as well.

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Design & Coding

4 Uncommon Design Tricks That Improve User Experience 100%




Everyone’s concerned about improving conversion rates. The general consensus is that user experience is the place to start.

There are several ways to improve user experience on your blog. Most strategies center on tweaking the design of your website, but sometimes it’s how you organize your navigation. You’ve probably made basic changes like switching to WordPress or alphabetizing your drop-down menu’s items.

Here are some strategies you may not have tried:

1 – Color-code your menus with matching page color schemes

If you’re like most bloggers, you probably created a workable color scheme for your site and called it a day. If you want to improve user experience, that’s not enough. Consider coordinating the colors between your main menu links and each of your pages.

In an article describing why color-coded, hand-written notes improve efficiency of thought, blogger Kevin Purdy reveals that “color improves recall time for graphs and charts, and can be a very effective performance factor if not overdone.” The article also summarizes the work of Michael Tipper, a speaker and consultant on mind mapping and organizational software. Tipper says that color-coding the branches of a mind map stimulates the creative side of your brain, and visually separates distinct themes (which improves recall).

This same idea can be applied to your website for optimal results. Improve user experience by color-coding your main menu with a matching color scheme for each page you link. For instance, Pioneer Seeds implements color coordination extremely well. From one side to the other, all mega menu drop-downs have a unique background color that matches the color scheme of the pages listed within that particular section. There are no complicated color schemes. Each page presents one solid color.

The continuity of matching colors feels good, it’s easy on the eyes, and it helps people keep track of what section they’re viewing.

2 – Hire a design agency to create a custom design from scratch

The era of templates is here to stay, but not without consequence. Templates are easy and cheap (sometimes free), but they lack the flexibility you need to create an impactful and smooth user experience.

For example, most templates feature a gigantic header that encourages you to create an enormous header you don’t need. The most popular templates today force users to scroll endlessly through horizontal sections containing nothing but large icons with a few words underneath. You can change a template, but not without effort and the frustration of having to settle for “good enough.” This is especially useful for anyone trying to making their mobile site look similar to their desktop experience. This is best accomplished when having a fully responsive theme in place for all platforms.

A design agency can give you exactly what you want from the beginning. When your website design is created from scratch, you don’t have to spend hours tweaking a template only to find out your final tweak – the one that matters most – isn’t going to work.

Men With Pens is a well-known design agency that has created custom WordPress themes for years. They specialize in design, and know exactly how to create a better user experience. Their website embodies their expertise in user experience.

Check out their tips for bloggers and see if you notice anything unique about the page design. The design fills the entire page, and the graphics extend outside the lines and boxes. When you land on the page, you’re engaged right away. Capturing a visitor’s attention is your first priority to improve user experience. If you don’t have a user’s attention, they won’t have an experience at all.

3 – Simplicity

Simplicity never goes out of style. Simplicity in design embraces the approach that “less is more.” It’s a cliché, but it’s true.

Nobody knows simplicity better than Steve Pavlina. He’s been publishing articles on his personal blog for over a decade, and until recently, his site was as plain as plain can be. He recently switched to WordPress, but managed to maintain the simplicity responsible for his success.

Simple designs are easier to read, navigate, and interact with. Less menu items, less distractions on the home page, and minimal or no sidebars is what simplicity is all about. A simple design draws attention to what’s important.

4 – Create a unique design for mobile

Don’t just optimize your website for mobile users. Create a custom design for mobile users based on your original design. When you optimize your existing design for mobile, you often sacrifice important aspects of your desktop design. Using code, you can program your site to display a different design based on a user’s device.

Statistics show that 83% of people say a seamless experience across all devices is important. By creating a custom mobile theme based on your existing theme, you give mobile users that seamless experience. It’s the best of both worlds. Just be sure to include all of your navigation links. Some people suggest limiting selections for mobile users, but that will crush the seamless experience.

How to Best Prepare Your Site for Design Success!

User experience can be improved not just by tweaking your design, but by applying principles of color, navigation, and organization. Instead of chasing the latest revelation in conversion gimmicks, invest your time and money in fact-based strategies that improve user experience. Shift your focus away from the minutia of testing every tiny design element, and toward creating a psychologically-sound foundation for your users.

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Design & Coding

Fotor Photo Editor – The Perfect Graphic Design Tool for Bloggers



As bloggers and content creators, it’s important to always have visual content built within our best articles and site designs. Infographics, clip art, stock photos and more… but customized and original images will always grab the most attention.

When it comes to actually creating such visuals, you will have many different options to choose from. Whether you are looking for a free application, one that is browser-based, or even if it’s a premium software you need to download and pay for — it’s important to know what’s out there.

Today we are going to be looking at Fotor photo editor which is a free and powerful tool that lets anyone get started with their own graphic design in just a few short minutes.

This tool allows anyone to start using it through a web browser or even with their mobile application. Whether you need to edit a photo, make a collage, or create a custom and original design, it can all be done through the power of Fotor.

The most popular features of this tool are it’s one click filters and fixes that allowed anyone to make their images pop and stand out like never before.

Let’s take a look at some of the many benefits to using Fotor photo editor for your website, blog, or just everyday life.

With most people looking to customize their mobile screenshots on photos with a few simple click of a button, and this is exactly what fotor photo editor will allow you to do. It will also allow you to create custom YouTube banners that can be used to liven up your channel as well.

You can see a few of these examples in the screenshot below.

When comparing Fotor to other graphic design applications like Photoshop, you are going to find many similarities, but it’s also important to note that premium applications like Photoshop are much more advanced, but also more costly in the process. The software is free to use, you can upgrade to Fotor Pro and find even more upgrade and options available.

What makes this design application and tool great for site owners and bloggers, is that it has a unique set of design tools and features — which are what most content creators are looking. In short, it provides users with what they need, while not overwhelming them in the process.

Fotor also offers a nice selection of design templates to choose from, which makes the process of creating new and original content even easier. These template designs scale across the many different design themes, sizes, and concepts on the site.

In addition to everything else mentioned, there is also a nice collection of resources, guides, and tutorials that can be found on their site blog. Such resources will provide users what the information and walk-through processes to get the most out of Fotor.

If you are currently looking for a new design editor to improve the look and feel of visual content on your site, be sure to give Fotor a try.

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Design & Coding

4 Essential Elements of Web Design (No.3 Will Shock You!)




If you’re a small business owner take note of these four elements of web design. They’re essential for boosting your online presence. Click here for more info!

Have you ever wondered why most business websites tend to look the same? It’s like you’ve seen one and you’ve seen them all.

The truth is a lot of business owners prefer the easy route. That means going for a website builder, which offers templated designs.

If you want something different, you’ll have to go custom. But that takes a lot of time. Plus, you’ll have to look for a skilled designer/developer.

Whatever route you choose, you need to understand the elements of web design. After all, it’s your website. If you choose to hire a pro, you need to know what to ask for.

And if you opt to DIY it, then you can steer clear of cringe-worthy web design. That said, here are 4 web design elements that will help boost your online presence.

1. User Journey

You can scroll through countless website design guides and you’ll never see one that says, “ignore what users think.”

Consider mobile apps. Would you download something that’s hard to use and has a lot of annoying ads?

When you design your website, put yourself in your visitors’ shoes. Is your website hard to navigate? Does it load fast?

But how do you know if your user interface is good? Aside from consistency, it has to be simple, intuitive, responsive, and flexible.

This is why it’s good to test different designs first before committing to one. It saves time and eliminates the need for major changes later on.

2. Content

Designing for the web doesn’t stop when you have a “pretty” website. Sure, your target customers will appreciate nifty graphics and all. But if your content doesn’t offer value, users will leave your website.

Now, this doesn’t mean huge blocks of text that will drown your visitors with information. Opt for conciseness. Give your target audience content that’s easy to digest so they can process it better.

Depending on what CMS you are using, content creation is usually the easy part. This is especially the case when using platforms like Weebly, WordPress or Wix. Since most of these platforms are drag and drop, it’s simply a matter of getting familiar with each platform, and knowing how to create great content. There are no programming or design skills required.

3. Accessibility

Did you just check the title again? If yes, you may be wondering why this would be shocking. Shouldn’t this be part of any website designing guide?

The thing is there are plenty of websites that use low contrast for text because it’s trendy. But you have to take into account users who have vision problems.

There has to be enough contrast between text and background. And you also need to choose your colors well. You don’t want to alienate color-blind and blind users who use assistive technologies.

4. SEO

Some people approach website design as a separate entity from search engine optimization. But there’s a way to be strategic about the process so that design elements improve the SEO of your site.

The easiest way would be to outsource to an all-in-one design company such as When they build your site, they also take care of the backend coding stuff. This ensures your title tags, meta tags, etc work for better search ranking.

Want to Know More About the Elements of Web Design?

Knowing the elements of web design is your first step to a website that looks and functions well. But getting them all right takes a bit of trial and error.

For more web design tips, don’t forget to check out our other blog posts.

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