Design

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2014 Year in Review

It’s that time of year again. The time where we take a moment, look at the calendar and realize just how quickly this year went by. Whether 2014 was good, bad or somewhere in between, now is the perfect time to look back and reflect on the major happenings of the year. And by looking at what happened recently, maybe we can even predict or prepare ourselves for the future in 2015.

2014 was a pretty revolutionary year for technology. New devices emerged, technology policies were tested, and cybersecurity was exposed again and again. So let’s take a moment to look at tech trends in 2014, virtual and physical, the good and the bad.

Wearables

One of the biggest tech trends this year was the advancement of wearable technology. In particular, health trackers and smart watches were pretty popular this year. With Apple releasing its own smart watch line, and introducing the HealthKit app, Silicon Valley seems to have some pretty strong ideas about what’s important to people. And it’s true. Pebble, Jawbone and Fitbit are continually revising their products to meet new demands. Even Microsoft jumped on the bandwagon (pardon the pun) and released their own health tracking device. Whether the drive for health trackers is a reflection of America’s shift toward healthier lifestyles or simply just a new trend, there’s no doubt that wearable health monitors will continue to be prevalent. With all the data people are gathering about themselves, we could see a major shift in the way we process health data, creating a more comprehensive and personalized health plan. Wearables were an exciting part of 2014, and no doubt their evolution will continue to pervade the future.

Web Design

With all these new devices coming out, companies online are starting to realize they need to adapt their websites so that all consumers can access their precious web pages, no matter how they’re accessing the internet. Responsive web design existed before 2014, but this year is really when the most conversions occurred, according to several online tech blogs. And really, responsive web design is just going to become an online standard, so it’s good many sites took the plunge to revamp their online formatting sooner rather than later. Another huge trend in web design has been the emergence of long, single page web pages. Many modern sites are favoring having all their information for a particular product on one long page that users click or scroll through. Often the pages are broken into sections, which you can jump to or take your time scrolling. New web tools and the desire for simplistic layouts are, in my opinion, the main reason for this trend. And with the amount of information we have nowadays, it makes sense to combine it all onto one page, instead of clicking through to tons of linked pages. It also makes the web developer’s job easier when designing and maintaining fewer pages. This trend might continue into 2015, but we’ll have to see.

Cybersecurity

This year has perhaps been one of the biggest for online security and privacy, and not in a good way. From credit card leaks to Heartbleed to hacks, companies have been beleaguered by flawed cybersecurity. And unfortunately, the average citizen can’t exactly do much about it. Every time you use your credit card online or in a store, there is a chance your information is at risk. But it’s a risk everyone has to take in today’s world, and the best we can do is pressure those with the ability to prevent these hacks in upping their game. Recently having talking to someone on a cybersecurity team at a major retail company, I know that many businesses are doing their best to keep their customers safe and keep their company out of the news. If anything, hopefully the online disasters of 2014 will spur new research into the cybersecurity field and raise current security measures.

So that’s 2014 in a nutshell. Be sure to stay tuned if you want to hear about predictions for 2015 in my next post! I think 2015 will be another exciting year for tech, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Happy New Year!

HTTP Secure: The Future of the Internet

httpsarrowContinuing with the safety theme of the past couple weeks, I’d like to highlight an upcoming issue that is taking the web by storm.

As mentioned in previous blog posts, the safest way to browse the web is on websites that use the HTTPS prefix. Netscape Communications came up with HTTPS for its 1994 Netscape Navigator web browser. In 2000, HTTPS gained recognition and received full documentation by The Internet Society.  HTTPS was mainly created to prevent wiretapping and hackers from stealing information while it was free floating in the internet, presumably in the middle of a transaction.

According to trustworthyinternet.org, about 25% of all websites are currently configured to use secure servers and the HTTPS prefix. HTTPS provides encryption and authentication of a web site, meaning you know you are on the website you mean to be on, not an imposter site, and all information you enter on that website will be safe from hackers. Many websites that use HTTPS are ones such as stores and retailers that require secure transactions with credit cards. As a side note, never enter your credit card information on a website that doesn’t use HTTPS – there’s the potential someone could intercept your information on its way to the website’s servers. But now, many websites are employing HTTPS as a means of securing identity profiles (such as Facebook) and various accounts, as well as keeping web browsing private.

As the world becomes more conscious about security measures, especially those online, HTTPS will become more and more common. Large companies and brands, such as Facebook, have already started to make the switch on their websites. Additionally, many other forms of encryption are taking place on smartphones and tablets, and the web is next.

In fact, Google recently changed their search algorithm to prefer HTTPS webpages over HTTP pages, which affects all websites that might appear in a result. HTTPS is the new standard of web design, and many websites will be redesigned to reflect the demand for secure online browsing. In fact, HTTPS only works if an entire website uses the HTTPS prefix; whole sites will need to be overhauled, or else are left vulnerable to attacks through backdoor, unsecure web pages attached to their site. With more preference being given to secure websites, and a change in unofficial web standards, now is a good time to reflect on whether your website is HTTP Secure (HTTPS). If not, it might be in your company’s and your customers’ best interest to change the means of how your website communicates its information.

Infographics

what-is-an-infographicLast week’s blog post covered the use of photos in projects, such as websites or blogs. Now I’d like to introduce you to another type of visual media that can help make your project more engaging: infographics. Infographics, like photos, help draw in readers by presenting information in a visually appealing manner. Infographics are almost like pieces of art; a truly creative piece will attract positive attention. So if you have a lot of data or research to present to your readers, an infographic might be the way to go. After all, reading through chunks of numbers and statistics can be quite dreary. Infographics will help keep your readers engaged and make your information more accessible.

Whether you or a graphic designer will be producing your final infographic, there are some steps you can take and questions to ask in order to maximize your infographic’s success.

  1. Brainstorm Purpose: Why are you creating this infographic? Who is your target audience? How much data do you have, and how much do you want to include? Are you persuading or informing? Are there any central design elements or a theme you would like to include?
  2. Data Visualization: What sort of data visualization techniques will you use? Diagrams are good for showing chronological changes or relationships. Maps are good for showing locations or comparing geography of data. Charts are good for showing changes over time and organizational processes. Tables are good for showing direct relationships over a large data set.
  3. Design: In choosing design elements, decide how much text vs. data visualization you want on your infographic. Choose a set of fonts and a color scheme to keep your infographic consistent. Play around with organization of information. Look at other infographics to get a sense of what you might want in your own infographic. A good place to start is Dailygraphic.com. It’s a great website with new infographics on a range of topics published every day. Remember, infographics may have to go through several iterations before they look perfect! Don’t be afraid to scrap designs in order to achieve your final vision.

Finally, remember that your infographic has a purpose. It should have beginning, middle and end in order to illustrate a point. Your data should also be reliable; double check your sources before creating your infographic in order to boost its credibility! If used properly, a well-designed infographic can be a serious boost to your website. So don’t be afraid to get creative with your data. Engage and educate readers with a visually appealing infographic (and a few pictures too!).