Posts Tagged ‘digital design’

What responsive design brings to multi-lingual interfaces

Posted on: June 7th, 2012 by Fransgaard No Comments

The original version of this article can be seen at the award-winning Capgemini – Capping IT Off blog.

As described in my previous article responsive design caters for different screen resolutions by, at the most basic level, resizing and repositioning content.

More sophisticated responsive design solutions can deliver differently optimized content for different screen sizes.

A simple example of a multilingual responsive solution

But what does responsive design bring to an international website? Let’s say we are designing a UK-based website about traffic regulations. The main navigation has traffic related buttons such “Speed limits” all designed to fit neatly at the top of the screen.

English navigation

However, we decide we want to extend the site to cover the rest of Europe in major native languages such as German where “speed limits” is “Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung”. As you have probably guessed it doesn’t fit the navigation bar design. Re-designing the buttons to be wider is the answer although it is at the expense of a few of the main navigation items… but moving “Contact” to the footer is ok, right?

German navigation

Following on from the success of the Europe launch, we decide to go global. “Speed Limits” in Japanese is “速度制限” and we now have a main navigation bar with buttons wide enough to fit 36+ letter long words, but with only 4 letters in them!

Japanese navigation

It doesn’t look great, but it is the best we can do if we want the navigation bar to fit different languages… or rather it was. With responsive design we can deliver different buttons (and different number of buttons) to different regions using different languages.

Region-specific responsive content

Different nationalities react differently to content. Red, a warning sign in the western world is a colour of luck in Asia.

Likewise online, people in some countries prefer minimalistic web interfaces with simple task-oriented user experiences, while other nationalities feel more at home in busy interface with lots of options and content. Of course regional broadband speeds play a role in this as well.


Thanks to Twitter friend Jenny Liu for screenshots.

Again, responsive design can help deliver a complex mixture of device specific, language specific and region specific content creating a unique and tailored user experience to the individual.

Looking to the future

While responsive design is a new concept it has already taken a firm hold on the Internet, so what do the future hold?

  • Weather-responsive interfaces. If the webcam of the device identifies bright sunlight it makes the screen brighter to deliver a legible interface.
  • Velocity responsive design: On the move or is your device being shaken? Bigger letters makes for better reading.
  • Network connectivity. Is the 4G not what they promised it would be? Deliver a simpler less image heavy interface.
  • Touch sensitive design. Interface detecting clumsy fingers results in bigger buttons.
  • Altitude responsive design… not quite sure what this would do, but connected with a 3D printer maybe it could present an emergency parachute?

What do you think the future of responsive design will bring to real user-centered design?

Why I left the London digital design agency world and joined Capgemini’s UX team

Posted on: April 5th, 2012 by Fransgaard 2 Comments

I’ve just been watching a video of David Reed, a Principal Consultant for Capgemini Consulting, talking about his first 100 days with Capgemini and it made me think about why I, as a creative person, made the move to join Capgemini.

Having worked in the amazing London digital creative industry since 1999, in 2010 I was looking for a new job. As expected I started interviewing with various agencies but none of the roles really felt right. This scared me as some of the roles on offer where top jobs at great companies.

Having turned down the first few job offers, roles I would have accepted in the past, I decided to take a look at what I wanted and where the industry was heading.

Place your bets

Just then a recruitment agency contact me with a role that did not fit what I was looking for. The role was an internal role for a betting company. I had never considered inhouse roles as an option before and not being a betting/gambling man and not having the slightest interest in watching sports, this role seemed wrong on all accounts.

But because I was going through this what-do-I-want-to-do crisis I went to the interview and was really gobsmacked at the professional approach to digital design, including proper user testing, real objectives to reach and a tangible creative design process.

It felt like utopian version of agency world where the team had time to create properly crafted work that delivers tangible results.

In the end the role was too junior, but it was the first vacancy I got really exited about, which was strange as I had no personal interest in the product.

Rethinking my views on digital creative work

And then it hit me: In recent years companies are increasingly establishing internal digital departments owning the digital strategy and the creative thinking leaving only tactical design work to the agencies (banners, anyone?).

I started applying for inhouse jobs and suddenly the roles got more interesting. I think it is because the inhouse roles and teams felt like a grown-up version of the digital agency environment, which to some extend still suffers from the early days of web design working crazy hours, mixed with getting drunk and playing table fussball.

But was I ready to work for only a single brand? I was looking for a company where I could stay for a long time and the prospect of working with the same brand day in and day out for years and years didn’t feel all that appealing even though I had no experience to base that negative feeling on.

Why Capgemini

The Capgemini role felt like the best of both words: One one hand it had the professional feel of the inhouse teams I had met and on the other hand it offered the variety of working with several clients that agencies can offer.

But the single thing that made me go “yes” was the creative freedom a company like Capgemini can offer. Think about it for a second:

If you work for an digital agency your creativity is actually limited to what your development team can deliver.

With a company like Capgemini I would have an army of tens of thousands of developers behind me. Whatever crazy solution I come up with there would be at least one developer  capable of delivering my concept.

I joined Capgemini in the summer of 2010 and so far all of the above has been true:

  1. I work within a UX team made of talented craftspeople in a professional organisation.
  2. I work with a range of exiting projects and clients.
  3. And I’ve made good use of the creative freedom of having an army of developers.

And there’s been further benefits: I have learned a lot of new things from some brilliant people (Windahl Finnigan, Laurence Buchanan and Guy Stephens to name a few). And this is the first time in many years I feel I am learning and growing rather than only teaching and mentoring.

I hope I’ll stay with Capgemini for a long time to come.


Designing a website without designing a website

Posted on: September 13th, 2011 by Fransgaard 4 Comments

I have been a professional web designer since 1998 and can design and built the user interface of websites by myself. So historically I have done porfolios of static HTML pages based around the visual design with few PHP coding snippets here and there for contact forms etc.

But a few years ago I picked up Posterous as a mean to write longer Tweets and one thing led to another and I was suddenly blogging. And naturally I soon wanted to embed my blogging on to my site.

Which led me to WordPress, which as CMS systems go is very easy to deploy and manipulate. And I did. The first two WordPress’ed version of my site where fully designed from scratch and giving me grey hair when I deployed them. It was a long process but I was happy with the results.

Skip a few years and I rather suddenly decided to find a new job and I simply didn’t have the time to do a new fully designed and built WordPress theme.

So I cheated.

…at least I cheated in the eyes of designers. Had I not been a digital designer nobody would have winced but I am so they did. I deployed an existing WordPress theme and used my skills to do a range of structural changes but overall the visual identity of the theme was kept intact.

And I successfully landed a job.

As my portfolio is now less important I want to give my blog more prominence. But I am busy at work and I have things I’d rather do in my spare time… having already successfully cheated I have yet again opted to cheat (don’t hit me), but this time in a more structured way. So while commuting I wrote a list of what I wanted from my site:

  • Blog as main content
  • Disqus as commenting system for easy access
  • Social sharing crucial
  • Social proof
  • Easy access to my other online profiles with emphasis on Twitter and Instagram
  • “About me” page populated by Linkein (to avoid duplicating maintenance efforts)
  • “Contact me” form
  • Portfolio section
  • Links to blogs by colleagues, friends and blogs I like
  • …and I wanted my logo back on.

All these decisions were made completely without thinking about the visual design, a new approach for me for my personal site.

Last Saturday I browsed my WordPress links and rather quickly decided to use the ModernClix theme as a base as it had both Twitter stream and Flickr stream already embedded and it had an appealing design and treatment of typography.

I spend all of Saturday deploying and modifying the theme to fit the direction I want and as you can see it has moved away from the ModernClix theme but I still want to credit the theme as a big part of making a WordPress theme is to design every little aspect of it. By modifying an existing theme I can leverage a lot.

I wanted to write this article when I was done, but I think it makes more sense posting it now so you can see how far you can re-design an existing theme in a very short span of time.

Sure, I am missing the portfolio pages and there’s still a suite of things I want to do to the design, but it is there. It is up and running and provides a better blog-reading experience for my visitors which was indeed the main reason for the re-design in the first place.

Am I cheating?

I don’t think I am. I am making best use of existing work rather than re-inventing the wheel. So I don’t think it is cheating; it is being smart leaving me time to do what I want on my spare time.