All posts by Rick Cole

About Rick Cole

Rick is a Social Media Strategist and Senior Consultant at Smith. Contact the author directly

Passage in Purple

Pantone’s transitional choice for Color of the Year.

Pantone was very sensitive to the global crisis when they chose 2021’s dual Colors of the Year. The combination of a bleak Ultimate Gray and a bright Illuminating yellow both acknowledged the dread of the pandemic and pointed toward a brighter tomorrow.   

Pantone’s choice for 2022’s Color of the Year is also pandemic-inspired. In Very Peri, Pantone subtly presents 2022 as a year of emergence from struggle toward renewal and hope.

“We are living in transformative times. Very Peri is a symbol of the global zeitgeist of the moment and the transition we are going through. As we emerge from an intense period of isolation, our notions and standards are changing, and our physical and digital lives have merged in new ways.”

Pantone Color Institute 

Half-mourning 

It’s not an accident that Pantone turned to the traditional half-mourning color. Elaborate Victorian grieving conventions adopted the use of shades of purple to signal the passage from grief to a resumption of life. Purples were worn after a dark period of pain and isolation­­––not as dire and stark as black, yet not back to full radiance. As the mourning period progresses, purple could shade from deep noir eggplant to light and airy lavender. 

Life goes on.
The ladies of Downton Abby wear shades of purple
while simultaneously mourning Lady Sybil’s death 
embracing the new life of her child.

Transition is key here. As we continue working ourselves out of the deep shock of a global pandemic, it’s fitting to remember all that’s been lost. Survival depends on an element of memory. Yet, survival is wasted if we do not get on with living. 

In a year where not just living, but thriving, will require us to make the transition from remembering to renewing, Pantone’s Very Peri seems very timely.

More Ideas

Thumbs Up!

The ergonomics of great mobile UX.

It’s the holiday shopping season––snow is falling, bells are ringing, and people are all headed downtown to the department stores to help Santa with his list. 

No. No, they aren’t.

If they’re like me, they’re thumb scrolling their way across various shopping sites looking for that perfect French bulldog tumbler or rustic garden trowel. In fact, almost 1/3 of all retail sales are transacted on a mobile device, and that number is only growing. 

Santa is mobile now. With all the gifts he has to get, Santa needs websites designed to be easy, efficient, fast and comfortable to use with only one hand. (The other is busy  with reindeer, chimneys, cookies and the like.)

As we continue our series on UX (User Experience) web design, let’s take a closer look at the physicality of web design. Let’s focus on our thumbs. 

Swipe left. Swipe right.

Ten years ago, websites were being upgraded to include responsive design. Now more than half of all web traffic goes over mobile devices. Mobile apps and mobile versions of a website should anticipate the way people interact with a phone to facilitate easy and fast navigation. 

A great example is Tinder’s “swipe left, swipe right” search method. It’s a super easy and economical movement that has become a cultural touchstone synonymous with Tinder’s brand. Tinder’s content display was built to facilitate ergonomically efficient touchscreen interactions. Some designers call this “thumb friendly.” 

Thumb Friendly

There are three elements to the principle of “thumb friendly” design:

Understand the role of the thumb. When holding a phone in your hand, you can most easily activate the touch screen by using either your free hand or the thumb on the hand holding the device. Assuming that people are often multitasking while looking at their screen, incorporating movements for the thumb make sense. On a right-handed person, the thumb pivots and swivels from the right bottom corner of the screen. 

Design to natural thumb movements. The thumb can easily move up and down. It can tap the phone and it can swipe left or right. Designers build devices to facilitate natural movements such as tilt, pinch, zoom, tap, double tap, swipe, scroll and more. 

Because these movements can be done with the thumb on the same hand holding the phone, as much as possible, UX web design should make navigation and important content choices accessible by locating them within the “thumb zone.”

Use the thumb zone as your guide. When designing mobile pages, keep the images below in mind. They are a good template for creating  thumb-friendly web design because they’re focused on optimizing ideal ergonomic movements. 

Left Thumb Map
Right Thumb Map

UX 2022 Series 

In 2022, good UX has become the standard for good website design. In this series we look more closely at important UX features, learn how they work and how they can improve a website.

Here are other articles in this series:

UX 2022 (An introduction.)

Core Web Vitals: Google’s Three Essentials to User Experience.

Speed: Slow websites are quickly abandoned.

Building a Green Website


More Ideas

Core Web Vitals

Google’s three essentials to user experience.

In 2022, UX (user experience) is being driven by one of the most powerful companies in the world. 

There are over 1.7 billion websites in the world. To find a site within this universe of possibilities we depend on search engines. Google is the most well-known, popular and powerful. To access and read/use a website, we depend on web browsers. One of the most widely used and influential browsers is Google Chrome.

In its role as a leader and organizer of the web, Google seeks to optimize their search function, their Chrome browser, and the way the web operates as a whole. They do a lot of research, which they share with developers. And they also set industry standards.

In 2020, Google revamped their algorithm to prioritize the UX over other technical criteria. Google grades websites in order to improve their own functionality and to inform their search rankings.  

The new grading priorities are: 

  • Loading performance: How quickly does a page load?
  • Responsiveness: How fast does a page respond to user input?
  • Visual stability: Do things stay in the same place on a screen?

Google calls these new “user experience criteria” Core Web Vitals. While subject to change in the future, these criteria are made up of the following three metrics.

First impressions

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the time it takes for the largest piece of content to show up on a user’s screen. This could be an image banner or text. It’s the first thing a visitor sees when visiting a site. 

Scoring well means that a site loads its initial impression in under 2.5 seconds. This type of speed signals the user that the site is functioning well. If the first image loads slowly, users often leave before interacting with content. 

Don’t make me wait

First Input Delay (FID) is another speed measurement. It tests how long it takes for a site to respond to an interaction (Google tests the first reaction). This could be a button tap on a mobile devise, or a link click or scroll on a desktop.

Scoring well means that a site reacts within 100 milliseconds or less. Responsive, quick reactions are key to keeping users engaged with content. Slow reaction times create frustration, and then abandonment by users. 

Hold still

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures the visual stability of a website. It looks at whether or not things like placement on screen, navigation buttons, content, etc., move around on a website as it’s loading­.

Scoring well is not measured in terms of time, but as a compilation of various factors. Users get frustrated when they see the content they want to access but need to wait for an image to load before a button will work or when a button moves to a different location on the screen.

Making it happen

Major content management systems (CMSs) like WordPress are constantly refining functionality issues like those measured by Core Web Vitals. If you use a CMS, consult with your developer about the most current specifications for your platform. If you’re building a site from scratch, make sure the developer is aware of these evolving conventions. From a strategic point of view, use this information to make smart choices about what content goes where to maximize UX.

UX 2022 Series 

In 2022, good UX has become the standard for good website design. In this series we look more closely at important UX features, learn how they work and how they can improve a website.

Here are other articles in this series:

UX 2022 (An introduction.)

Thumbs Up! The ergonomics of great mobile UX.

Speed: Slow websites are quickly abandoned.

Building a Green Website

More Ideas

UX 2022

Good website design begins with the user.

Website design is always evolving to keep pace with innovations, devices and applications. 

Knowing when and how to upgrade your website can be confusing. Just because a feature is new or popular doesn’t mean it’s beneficial or even necessary. Like many other design-driven fashions, website features often come and go within a year or two. 

Consider this article announcing the demise of the once “must have” feature. And then this article, a year later, defending and clarifying the use of parallax scrolling.

I remember finding parallax scrolling mesmerizing. But after using it a bit, I didn’t like  the annoying way it controlled my experience. The visual excitement wore off quickly. 

Instead of fashion, let UX (user experience) guide your redesign decisions. 

Human Focused

It’s easy to forget that computers and software are guided by coded machine languages––“1011000101.” They don’t speak human. 

In the 1990s, user-centered design pioneers, like Alan Cooper, opened web developers’ eyes to the human being on the other side of the interface. They created evaluation processes to understand and refine computer/human interfaces, giving us the digital world we live in today.   

UX is the evolution of user-centered design. It’s more comprehensive in its approach. Instead of merely making the machine and human fit together, UX begins with the user’s needs and designs the machine toward the user’s experience. 

UX design looks past the technology (both hardware and software), even past the content, to what is happening with/to the user. Designers interrogate the entire process with questions about:

  • Expectations––What does the user want from the experience?
  • Situation––When and where and on what devices do users access the website?
  • Ergonomics––How does the design maximize or accommodate the human body?
  • Culture––How does the user’s identity, community and experience influence their interactions?
  • Psychology––What does mind/brain science tell us about screen interactions?
  • Environment––How does your site, its processes and output effect the environment? 

Technology’s gravitational pull is toward the machine and away from the human. Good UX resists making people conform to machines. Good UX cares less about what is technically possible than it does about what’s best. Good UX creates a synthesis between users’ needs and the machine’s capabilities. 

UX 2022

In 2022, good UX has become the standard for good website design. It’s front and center in many design publications and design presentations. This is good news.

Conducting an exhaustive UX study, based on highly-researched user data and involve many tiers of modeling, testing and redesign, is very cumbersome and very expensive.

It’s more feasible and realistic to begin with a solid understanding of an organization’s goals and audience. With that understanding as a foundation, we can recommend design features that are proven, tested and will add value to both the user and the organization. Many of the features in use today have been developed using UX principles and they are being constantly refined. 

Over the next few months, we will look more closely at important UX features, learn how they work and how they can improve a website.

Here are other articles in this series:

Core Web Vitals: Google’s three essentials to user experience.

Thumbs Up! The ergonomics of great mobile UX.

Speed: Slow websites are quickly abandoned.

Building a Green Website

More Ideas