Friday, November 18, 2016

Why the type of music you listen to affects design

Background noise can sometimes starve creativity and build frustration, especially for mentally intensive creative work, writes Kaysie Garza. She gives suggestions for the best music for design in any environment.

“Could you take that call outside?”

That’s the question you hear asked across the co-working space you booked for your latest design sprint. It’s a little bold, but you’re glad the ambiance will go back to one that’s filled with clacking keyboards instead of shrill voices.

Sound familiar?

The preference for background noise tends to be black or white. Picture the stock representation of a software engineer or web developer. No matter who you imagine, I’ll bet they’re wearing headphones.
Sure, a person could be wearing headphones to drown out the everyday sounds of coffeeshops or co-workers. But for 15 percent of people, listening to music while working is key.

To go a step further, the kind of music (or sounds) you listen to while working could also affect your productivity and concentration. So the question is, what are all those coders listening to, and does that music affect the creative process?

Here are a few instances when it benefits you to listen to music while designing, as well as what kinds of tunes to queue up.

1. When you’re trudging through repetitive tasks

Music during boredom
Some say web design has lost its diversity—that modern frameworks and best-practices have made design boring. Whether you agree or not, there are parts that get a little slow after you’ve done them a dozen times.

In these instances—instances that involve repetitive actions or second-nature keystrokes, turn up the beats. A study published in the Journal of Applied Ergonomics found that “music is effective in raising the efficiency of this kind of work.” The options are endless, but you can start with Pandora’s “Beats for Studying” station.

2. When you work in a noisy office

Music at a noisy office
It may seem counter-intuitive to drown out noise with noise, but hear me out. When you’re smack-dab in the middle of a crowded office with various teams buzzing around you, the jarring mix of conversation can suck you away from that HTML in the blink of an eye.

The difference with music, or measured sound streams from nature, is that it’s relatively dependable. You’ve chosen the tone or style, unlike the sporadic comments made by your teammates. On the flip side, you could also tune into even more noise to create a steady hum.

That’s the basis of Coffitivity, a research-based playlist that offers coffee shop sounds. You won’t hear the barista yelling orders over the crowd. But you will hear so many conversations at once that you can’t quite listen to them—and that’s good. However, if you’re in the camp that thinks human voices are flat-out disruptive, give movie soundtracks a go.

3. When you’re feeling stressed out

Music when you're stressed
Deadlines, client demands, and mismatched creative visions are just a few things web designers contend with on a regular basis. It’s part of the gig, but music can cut down on stress caused by the daily grind.

How does that work? It happens as a result of a dopamine and serotonin boost. These feel-good neurotransmitters flood your brain with happy feelings—especially if your mixtape is upbeat.
Not only can music lift your mood after you spend hours debugging and tweaking final touches, but it can also relax you. If stress relief keeps you from maximizing creativity, switch to something more mellow. Start with slow classical music in a major key, even if you may have knocked it before.

What kind of music you should listen to while designing 

Music Style for designers
Don’t worry, you don’t have to listen to Mozart if it chips away at your energy or sounds like old-timer racket. In fact, a study from the University of Helsinki covered everything from how music affects learning and memory to the effects of hearing specific genres. Researchers found that listening to any type of music a person likes can elicit the same positive physical effects.

But just because it’s your jam doesn’t necessarily mean you should crank up the volume to 10. When it comes to tapping into creativity, music is best in moderation. Another study of creative cognition found that reducing the volume until it’s like background noise is ideal. Of course, it needs to be background noise you enjoy.

Watch out, though; looping your favorite song may sweep you up in the lyrics—which could distract you. Luckily, technical creatives can tap into a unique community of like-minded artists who value music in the process through DesignersMX. The website houses curated mixes that blend a variety of tunes with art.

When it comes to the stats, there’s lots of evidence pointing to music for creative boosts. Considering these points, as well as the genres and technicalities mentioned, you can up your web design game by plugging in headphones. Then, it won’t matter one bit what that chatty person next to you is saying on the phone.

 - Kaysie Garza, Vandelay Design

Build solid mobile apps with these 6 platforms

Mobile App Builders
A number of platforms are available for developers building mobile applications, but which ones will provide an enduring foundation? Janet Anthony reviews six promising choices: Shoutem, Good Barber, Como DIY, Bizness, AppInstitute and AppYourself.

Mobile apps are the way to go. Everybody is using them. In fact, in many countries, people are skipping the desk and laptop entirely and moving straight on to mobile telephony. Mobile use is growing globally, which means that your chances to sell your app are growing along with it.

Of course, if you want to build a mobile app, you’re going to need the right platform to do it. You can build on solid rock, or you can build on desert sand. One will keep your app standing, while the other will introduce all kinds of problems.

The question then becomes, which platforms are the bedrock? That’s what we’re going to explore in this article.


This one’s very pretty and well organized to boot. Shoutem has tons of very powerful options for you to choose from. They’ve also got some great monetization options, such as allowing you to integrate your app with Shopify and other mobile advertising platforms.

That’s probably a good thing, because if you want to be hosted in the Apple or Android stores you do need to pay a hefty 49 USD for the advanced plan. (Note that there is a more basic plan, at 19 USD a month, but that obviously won’t allow you to host in those places. And, let’s be honest about it, that will crimp your style).

Of course, they have a free trial, which you can access straight from their homepage.

Good Barber

This fantastic app builder (with a rather unusual name) is a great choice if you’re going for visual. Maybe that’s because it comes from the island of Corsica, which is a uniquely beautiful (and odd – hence possibly the name?) place.

Good Barber isn’t just pretty, either. It also has a lot of functionality built into it. This includes social media, chat capacity, geofencing, which his to use GPS or RFID to create virtual borders, and Ibeacons, which allows the app to pinpoint your position and react to your location on a hyper-local scale.

What’s more, the platform has a free trial and, once you exceed that, will give you your app for as little as 16 euros a month, which makes it very competitive indeed.

Como DIY

This one’s great as well. And that’s why so many people have chosen it (at least, if you can believe the creators) with them claiming that they’re supporting more than 1 million apps. It’s not a hard thing to believe, to be honest. Como is very versatile, which means that it’s easily adapted to whatever it is you want to build.

They seem to be the most used for event management, with many bands and restaurants finding these apps quite useful. This is because they’ve got a wide selection of basic building blocks that will help, such as appointment scheduling, loyalty card features, e-commerce, reviews and – of course – event scheduling.

Como has recently changed their pay structure. Now, if you want to pay monthly, it will run you 57 USD each 30 days. If you want to pay per year, you’re paying the equivalent of $48 per month, while if you’re willing to commit to two years, the total monthly cost drops to $41. A good strategy to lock people in, no?

One note of caution: they will over-market you in the first week, with them sending you at least an email a day. Annoying, but fortunately you’ve got the handy delete key to deal with that. Sometimes it seems like that’s the key I use the most on my keyboard (And I’m a writer!).


Want to create leads? Then take a look at the Bizness app builder, for that’s what they’re all about. They’ve got a huge number of ways to integrate third party apps, which will help you to boost your lead generation tremendously.

The result? A solid platform that will help you build an online business that can actually make you money.

Note, you will need to make money to pay for the service, as this platform isn’t exactly cheap. Their mobile plan will put you back a whopping 59 USD a month. That’s like 10 cups of coffee with an extra shot (or, at the rate coffee companies seem to raise their prices, two next year). So yeah, make sure that you put time and thought into your go to market process when you select these guys, because you will want your app to be up and available as quickly as possible.


Another good choice, the AppInstitute, has won numerous awards for being an innovative and well-run startup. Part of the reason is that they’ve got great e-commerce features, which means that if you’re trying to run some kind of online store this is a good choice.

They’ve also got unusual depth, allowing you do quite a lot – more than you initially expect, in fact.
The best part? If you’re willing to accept some restrictions you can build an app for android in as little as 6 USD a month. Now I’ve got to say, for those kinds of prices you’re doing well, don’t you think? Want to check them out? You can find them here.


The great news with this app is that you can also use it to build a website. That’s a nice two-in-one, don’t you think? What is more, your app and your website will automatically sign up, which means you don’t have to. That’s a nice little bonus if you’re short on time or personnel.

They’ve got a whole range of different price options. For example, the web only costs you 5 euro a month, while their business package puts you back 50 a month plus a 200 euro setup fee.

One nice bonus, you can try it out for free as long as you like. The only restriction is that you cannot submit it anywhere until you’ve paid for at least the basic plan. Still, that does give you some freedom to experiment and decide if you like it before you are forced to put down a wad of cash, so it’s great for those who are more experimental.

Last words

So there you go! Here are 6 different app builders that will give you a great bedrock to build on. Of course, you’ll still have to build the app yourself, but fortunately with these builders that will be quite easy and not too time-consuming.

Personally, I heartily advise that you try one of these out. Then, when you decide to go true hardcore and really get one built, you know what the programmers are up against and what they need to do. That will give you a much better idea of what’s going to happen and how much it should cost you, which might actually save you money in the long run.

 - Janet Anthony, B2C

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Understanding the purpose of color

Busting The Color Conversion Myth

Color doesn’t happen on accident. Except in finger painting, of course.

In the world of marketing, everything has a purpose, and color is no exception. From the logo to the landing page, color is instrumental in communicating to customers what your purpose is, what image you’re projecting and, most importantly, how you want them to feel.

There’s been a lot of talk on the internet about which colors convert the best in online marketing, but most experts agree that a one-stop solution doesn’t work. What works for an organic produce shop might deter customers from an online software company. So no matter how many websites swear they’ve figured out the definitive answer to the color conundrum, the truth is, no one really knows for sure.

So what do we know? Well, for starters…

Color matters. A lot.

Just because there’s no one perfect color doesn’t mean there’s no one perfect color for your company. Blindly throwing together a color palette doesn’t work for anyone, because, like everything else in marketing, customers don’t respond to spontaneity. They respond to research.

According to Kissmetrics, people make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds, and up to 90 percent of that judgment is based on color alone.

Check out this page from NASA’s Color Usage Research Lab, where they detail the importance of color usage in display graphics. Even astronauts care about color, so business owners probably should, too.

That being said, color doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Different cultures and disciplines understand color differently, and what represents “mourning” to one nation may project “wealth” to another. (Hint: we’re talking about purple!)

Gender affects color psychology as well—though generally, everyone hates orange. Data suggests the colors that appeal best to women are blue, purple and green, and men are drawn toward blue, green and black. That might explain why so many of the world’s largest social media networks (think Facebook and Twitter) use blue as their primary design color.

Something else to consider when choosing colors for your business or product—words associated with color. The English language has a way of making phrases out of color cliches, like “green with envy,” but there are other words that have been found to relate to specific colors as well.

In a study, researcher Joe Hallock found the following associations to be most prevalent:
  • Trust, 34% of respondents chose the color blue.
  • Speed: 76% chose red, which may explain all those speeding tickets for red Ferrari’s!
  • High quality: 46% of respondents said black communicated high quality to them.
  • Reliability: 43% picked blue!
  • Fun: This one was close, with 28% picking orange and 26% choosing yellow!

So which colors should I use?

So you understand the basics of why color is important, but now comes the hard part—deciding which colors to use in your own design. Again, there is no “correct” answer. The most reliable way to find the color that works for you is going to be about the same answer we find in any area of marketing: test, change and test again.
Yep, no surprise here…A/B testing is the best way to figure out which color converts best for you. Luckily, you don’t have to start off blindly testing colors. By now you understand the basic principles of color association, so start by brainstorming there.
How do you want people to associate your brand? Do you want to be seen as reliable? Fast?
Think about your target customer.
  • What do they look like?
  • How do they dress?
  • Where do they go out to eat?
  • How do they decorate their home?
Starting with a detailed, hyper-focused vision of your target customer (and we mean target customer, as in the person you like the MOST, better than anyone else!) makes the entire creative process easier.

We’ve talked on the site before the importance of a brand inspiration board, so that might be a good first step. Make a Pinterest board that you think your target customer would curate. Spend some time surfing the web for images that stand out to you, and use a color picker to pull colors that you think both represent your brand and create the word association you’re looking for.

No matter what color(s) you end up with, nothing means more in design and business than authenticity. Don’t choose something because it’s popular, and stray away from magical colors or design principles that anyone claims to be a quick fix. So long as you’re making choices that reflect your vision and elevate your business, you will find people who love and connect with your brand. It’s inevitable!

- Lexi Merritt, Vandelay Design

Monday, September 19, 2016

Brutal is the new beautiful in latest web design trend

The Preston Bus Station, built in 1969 in Lancashire, England, is known for its Brutalist architecture. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Designers are choosing to stand out from purely crafted, highly stylized aesthetics by adopting brutalism, a style loosely defined by a wide range of plain sites, visually unappealing elements and giant clusters of color, text and links. "Brutalism reminds us that more isn't always better -- especially on the web," Aja Romano writes.

Friday, September 16, 2016

8 web design mistakes and easy ways to fix them

Sloppy hierarchies and chaotic color schemes are two design mistakes that can ruin your content. Nate Butler outlines eight design missteps and easy fixes that will improve your visual appeal.