30 September 15 -

Super8: Eight intriguing articles from September 2015.

Spring is here and with it we’ve seen change and new beginnings. Fresh design, new releases – picking just eight articles from such a jam-packed September is a tall order.

But Matt Agar, curator of this month’s Super8, didn’t let that stop him! Here’s his top picks for the month.

If there’s an article you tweeted, Facebooked, Instagrammed or told your desk buddy about this month, add it to the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.

1. Google’s new logo: standing out or blending in?

design

September started with a big change. Love it or loath it, Google’s new sans serif logo made for big news. The Google Design Team published their own article on the new design, however this round-up from the Zurb team presents a less biased overview of the reactions. The article offers insight from Ruth Kedar, designer of the original Google logo, and examines opinion from both experts and consumers.

Google’s focus on design has been evident over the last few years. This is demonstrated most notably by their Material Design guidelines. The change in logo will help support the ongoing efforts in this respect, but as the article from Zurb mentions, it probably won’t make a huge amount of difference otherwise!

2. What makes top company blogs so successful?

marketing

HubSpot analysed the top 50 business blogs and compared the top 10 with the remaining 40 to see what the differences were.

They discovered some fairly interesting differences, the biggest of which appears to be the frequency of posts. The top 10 business bloggers post to their blog an average of 39 times per month. Whereas blogs ranking 11-50 only post five times per month on average.

As HubSpot mentioned in their article,

“We know the quality of your content is important, but this chart also demonstrates how important content volume is”.

A key factor was the frequency that top ranking blogs could share new content through other social channels. If there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s publish new blog posts as frequently as you can (while maintaining a high quality, of course).

3. The tools designers are using today.

design

In early June, Khoi Vinh put together a survey to collect data from designers around the world to see which programs are mostly used for brainstorming, wireframing, interface design, prototyping, project management and version control.

The results are in. There’s some interesting shifts in the technologies employed. In particular, the adoption of Sketch for wireframing and interface design has been huge, quickly pushing aside more traditional tools like Photoshop.

Check out this is handy list if you’re looking to develop your skills in design or try out some new tools.

4. Evaluating ideas.

brainstorming

In the early days of a new project, brainstorming often generates a tonne of ideas which in turn, spark discussions that often generate more ideas. The trouble is not necessarily coming up with the ideas, but rather working out which ones should be used.

Eileen Webb runs through a framework she uses to whittle down this initial set of ideas. Moving past considering just what the business and end-users want or need, she adds in consideration of both what is appropriate for the website and what is sustainable for the organisation.

Grouping ideas by these four traits provides a valuable framework to objectively discuss what should be kept and what can be discarded without people becoming emotionally attached to ideas. Ideas that live in the small cross-section of all four traits will no doubt provide clarity on what is key.

5. Front-end principles for designers.

design/development

Shifting from static, flat designs to live code is always a challenge. The web is, by nature, flexible and something not well demonstrated in the tools we use to design.

Jon Yablonski looks at some of the principles a designer needs to understand in order to create great digital experiences. This doesn’t mean every designer being able to code, but instead having a greater understanding of the medium they’re working with.

Key for me in this article is the focus on communication. Gone are the days where designers and developers can work in isolation. Producing compelling, responsive websites for today’s wide variety of devices requires a high level of teamwork, communication and understanding.

6. The importance of context-shifting in UX patterns.

user experience design

Everyone has those days where just as you’re getting started on a task you have to switch to something new.

Switching context like this is a costly exercise and time spent re-adjusting to a different task causes frustration. Whilst this is most easily demonstrated on a macro scale (i.e. a worker switching between different tasks), Sarah Drashner explains that the problem also exists on a micro scale within the interactions we design for digital projects.

In this article, Sarah looks at how changing the placement of elements in a UI upon interaction also asks the user to readjust to this new view. She offers practical examples for designers and developers to make the association of space, time and placement seem more fluid and intuitive.

7. The no. 1 predictor of career success according to network science.

career

Michael Simmons takes a look at what he sees to be one of the key factors in the career success of people like Steve Jobs, using network science to help describe the phenomenon.

Whilst most people spend their careers in closed networks, networks of people who already know each other, Michael sees the greatest success in people who expand beyond this. People who are able to bridge the gap between being involved in multiple closed networks. These types of people are able to gain a more accurate view of the world. They essentially serve as a translator between groups which often leads to breakthrough ideas.

There’s something for everyone in this article, regardless of what industry or profession you’re in. Just taking to the time to step outside your comfort zone and learn about how things work in a different part of your own business could be enough to provide insight that would otherwise be missed.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. ”
Steve Jobs

8. Welcome to hell: Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook and the slow death of the web.

mobile + advertising

September has seen another big launch from Apple, with new hardware and a new version of the iOS software.

One of the more interesting developments with the release of iOS9 is the addition of native mobile content-blocking. This will allow anyone using an iPhone or iPad to install software on their mobile device that blocks not just content from advertisers, but potentially parts of any site.

This article offers a rather negative, but probably fairly accurate, summary of what’s happening now and next for content publishers. This is a much anticipated and hotly discussed development by Apple. It will no doubt affect smaller publishers who rely on advertising revenue in this space to survive.

While it’s very early days for this technology, some see it as a fantastic opportunity for a do-over on monetisation of web content. One thing is for sure though – it’s going to have widespread effects.

Watch this space.

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And that’s a wrap for this month’s Super8. Keep ahead of the curve by signing up to next month’s Super8 and the August eDM below.