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May 27 2020
May 27

Is a design revolution on the way? History says yes.

A new decade tends to usher in new design trends, but 2020 is turning out to be much more than just a new decade. As we look forward to finally breathing a sigh of relief, once Covid-19 heads for the history books, now is the time to prepare for what’s next. 
 
Seismic shifts and societal aftershocks stemming from the global pandemic stand to reframe how we view and interact with the world, and that includes websites. Design is inextricably linked to world events and there is no doubt that the economic, emotional, and political impact of Covid-19 has rocked “business-as-usual” to the very core.
 
During stay-at-home lockdowns, websites were catapulted into the primary means of connection. Chances are, the strengthened online attachments made over the past few months aren’t going away. Moving forward, “normal” will look a lot different than how we remember it. 
 
What does this mean for your website? How can you ensure that your site aligns with emerging expectations, current concerns, and new preferences for staying connected and conducting business?

Looking Back to Look Forward

For perspective on the design approach that will resonate with your audience, let’s take a quick look back to the design revolutions that followed major global upheavals from past decades -- starting with the last time that world was gripped by a pandemic that rivaled Covid-19. Of course, web experiences were not a factor for much of the previous century, but many of the same principles apply. Whether we are talking about color choice, fonts, building facades, or refrigerators, design has a powerful impact, even when -- often especially when -- it registers on a subtle or unconscious level. 

From Pandemic to Prosperity

Immediately following the devastation of World War I, which killed 40 million people worldwide and more than 5 million Americans, one-third of the world’s population became infected with the Spanish Flu. More than 20 million people died as a result, including 675,000 Americans. 


It’s hard to imagine a series of events that sparked a more desperate need for optimism and a determination to reshape a vision for the future that was driven by positive energy. 
 
Enter the Roaring Twenties: Modernist designs, marked by innovation and experimentation vs. realism and the rules of the past were the primary influences during this era. It was a time of fun, flashy and opulent design with gold as a dominant color and art deco as the signature style. 

an representative Roaring 20s illustration of a woman1920s design depicted opulence, sophistication, art deco designs and women stepping out of traditional roles.

 

Then: The Crash

The Great Depression of the 1930s marked a sudden and sweeping turn in economic realities. It sparked another design revolution that reflected efforts to lift up a population who was dealing with tremendous loss and uncertainty. Bright colors and positive messaging were intended to spark optimism and hope.
 
Streamline moderne emerged as a new architectural style that emphasized industrial materials such as concrete and glass, along with smooth curves. A lack of ornamentation and sharp angles aligned with the economic austerity of the times, while unexpected colors injected bright spots into the dreary realities of the day. 

The Blytheville Ark Bus station built in 1937The former Blytheville, Ark., Greyhound Station. Built in 1937 and listed in t he National Register of Historic Places. Public domain Photo by Nyttead, Wikimedia Commons.

A signature Depression-era design achievement was the Sears, Roebuck & Company’s decision to hire industrial designer Raymond Loewy to redesign its Coldspot refrigerator in 1934, in an effort to create excitement about the appliance and encourage consumers to shop. Touted as a “single, smooth, gleaming unit of functional simplicity,” the redesigned Coldspot sparked a fivefold increase in sales for Sears between 1934 and 1936, due to both the redesigned appliance and the effective advertising campaign.


Impact on a far greater scale accompanied the graphic design campaigns created to spark excitement about the National Recovery Administration (NRA). Posters with the Blue Eagle were splashed in major cities all over the United States, and Blue Eagle became a widely recognized symbol of the government’s commitment to helping with jobs that would offer much needed food, shelter, and economic security.

NRA Blue Eagle PosterDepression-era poster widely displayed by retailers to show support for the National Recovery Act.

Onward and Upward

During World War II, iconic propaganda posters fueled the war effort with messages that urged specific actions, while conveying unity, strength and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. 
 
As the war ended, the United States was quickly catapulted into the “atomic age,” which encompassed the years of 1945 through 1963. Atomic Age design trends reflected a determination to redirect the world away from one of history’s darkest chapters, while harnessing the war’s massive destructive capabilities for scientific achievements that would have a positive impact on humanity. Abstract designs, bright colors (turquoise was huge) and graphic elements inspired by science and space emerged as dominant design devices that represented a bright future of boundless possibilities.
 
The “boomerang” emerged as a signature motif of the 1950s, as well as designs that suggested galaxies, planets, stars and space travel. 

1950s boomerang pattern1950s "Atomic Age" designs references galaxies, space and the iconic boomerang motif.


 

Radical and Rebellious

Post-war optimism took a nosedive in the late 1960s and 1970s, as the Civil Rights movement, along with opposition to the draft and the war in Vietnam, fueled widespread unrest and antagonism toward authority. 

Psychedelic designs that featured bright and unexpected colors, kaleidoscopic patterns, and groovy typography reflected an emerging youth culture noted for rebellion and a determination to be seen and heard. 

A 1960s era graphic design"Psychedelic Dingbats," by Hendrike. Wikipedia Commons.

 

The Next Big Downturn

Throughout the 20th century, graphic design served as an essential tool for shifting societal gears following crises and setbacks. As we entered the age of digital communications, rapid change and heightened competition called for far more rapid response to evolving user needs and expectations. 
 
Let’s fast forward to 2008 and the Great Recession that followed the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the near collapse of global financial markets. At this point, the web had long since entered into the mainstream as a critical component of consumers’ connection to the world. The rise of “Web 2.0” was allowing for widespread sharing, interaction, and connection via social media and commenting capabilities.
 
As the Great Recession sparked distrust in mega-corporations and complicated, behind-the-scenes financial dealings, it fueled the rise of simple, web capabilities that offered transparency, no-nonsense, and value. Digital natives for whom online interactions were second nature, drove the growth of direct-to-consumer brands such as Warby Parker. Casper®, and Blue Apron. 

Successful web designs trended toward unintimidating colors, most notably “millennial pink,” along with minimalism and simple, clean graphics. The elegant simplicity of Apple’s design sensibility is emblematic of this era. 
 

What Now? Post Covid-19 Design

At Promet Source, we are in no way suggesting that Covid-19 is behind us, but as we proceed with hope and caution toward that point, we are devoting a depth and breath of empathy and insight into the types of redesigned web experiences that will effectively resonate with audiences. 
 
While the pandemic had and is having a distinctly different impact on every household and every individual, it’s fair to assume that varying degrees of post-traumatic stress will accompany adjustment to the new normal.  
 
It seems no surprise that the Pantone 2020 color of the year appears closely aligned with the reassurance that post-pandemic audiences will be seeking. Classic blue is described on the Pantone website as, “a reassuring presence, instilling calm, confidence, and connection. This enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.”

Pantone Color of the year 2020. Classic blueClassic Blue: Pantone 2020 Color of the Year

Calm and confidence is certainly not limited to a single color, but the concept is essential. Successful web experiences will not be looking to further rock anyone’s world. 
 
Confined to their homes, audiences have spent more time on the web than ever before. Chances are, they’ve experienced sites that offered excellent, streamlined navigation, sites that were frustrating to find what they needed, and everything in between. Moving forward, the bar is high, and like never before, audiences will appreciate impeccably designed web experiences. 

As people are confined to their homes and finding online experiences to be their primary connection to the outside world, websites are being called upon to do more heavy lifting than ever before.

Historically, economic downturns, and large-scale disasters of every kind have presented an opportunity for renewal and reinvention. This renewal is reflected in the design of the world around us, from fashion to websites. Our expectation for the post-pandemic era is design trends that evolve towards brighter colors, whimsical styles, and simplicity. For your website, this might mean a fresh, new color palette, bolder fonts with smoother edges, brighter images, and a renewed organization of previously complex menus and data.

At Promet Source, we’re committed and uniquely qualified to work closely with clients to ensure that their websites exceed the expectations of their audiences. Looking to start a conversation on aligning your site with new and emerging realities? Contact us today.
 
 

 

 

Apr 13 2020
Apr 13

A crisis can put a website to the test, and never has this been more true than in the current COVID-19 outbreak. As social distancing and stay-at-home orders are fueling a heavier than usual reliance on online communications, people are looking to state and local websites for up-to-date and authoritative information that’s specific to their area.

Due to excellent planning, perspective, and great partnerships, the Martin County Florida website is serving as a trusted resource for residents on COVID-19 information. 

Solid Foundation for COVID-19 Response

When Martin County Florida partnered with Promet Source last year on the redesign of its website, the need for a flexible content management system (CMS) to communicate essential and up-to-the minute information about hurricanes and weather-related events was well understood. This is one reason why the team at Martin County chose Drupal for their web platform. 
 

The Martin County Florida website homepageMartin County Florida's Drupal website homepage

While the COVID-19 crisis was not anticipated, a high level of foresight and planning has served Martin County well. Since Martin County Florida is in a hurricane prone region, a communication strategy and website plan was already in place, along with yearly practice drills. Residents have relied heavily on the site in the past, and never more so than in the current environment.  

This emergency preparedness perspective has been a strong asset in developing a website that is providing residents with quick and comprehensive information on COVID-19. 

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has driven a sharp increase in the number of visitors to the site. Between February 23rd and April 5th, 2020, the website had more than 375,000 sessions. A sharp increase than the previous month when COVID-19 was not yet considered by most people in the United States to be a significant threat, noted Jennifer Hagedorn, web content specialist. She added that the recent spike in web visits exceeds that of any other hurricane or crisis event by 44%. 

Surge in Mobile Usage

There has also been a shift in the number of visits to the site from a mobile device. Pre-pandemic, about 40% of visits were from a mobile device, that figure now stands at about 70%, and represents a 200% increase in mobile usage over the previous month. This recent surge in mobile usage has been factored into how information is being presented on the site. 

To facilitate the increased mobile usage, the website content editors at Martin County began to utilize shorter blocks of content and placing content within an accordion-style page layout for mobile users to scroll through multiple topics and quickly locate what they were looking for.
 

Accordion Design Interface for Mobile Friendly ContentAccordion style user interface design ideal for mobile users and to consolidate topics for easy browsing

While there are many metrics indicating that the website is proving itself to be successful in providing residents with the information that they need, Jennifer pointed out that there has been noteworthy feedback by residents who have reached out to express their appreciation for the quality of the content on the website and the frequency of the updates. 

Success Factors

Key among the factors that have driven the success of the Martin County Florida website:

  • The ability to build new pages as needed and create page alerts facilitated a high-functioning emergency response system. 
  • Martin County also set up a single, easy-to-navigate Coronavirus page for all updates and information, which kept track of only the most up-to-date information and deleted all out-dated information and announcements to prevent confusion from website visitors accessing outdated information and articles on their site.
  • The Drupal CMS and WYSIWYG editor provides for a high degree of flexibility, enabling non-technical members of the communications team to perform in-line editing, simply create new pages, add them to the menu, update alerts, and easily embed videos and insert images.
  • The communications team can easily collaborate and are given the appropriate level of permissions for their role so they can help edit content, and those with a higher level of permissions can publish approved content to the live site.
  • The Drupal site uses Paragraphs, a Drupal module, that allows regions of a page to be interchangeable by content editors and does not require complicated code by technical developers to quickly build in functionality and apply custom arrangements on site pages.
  • For purposes of ensuring messaging validity, all communications are consistently branded and include the Martin County seal both on the website and social media images.
  • Website messaging is closely aligned with shareable, social media graphics and posts that are shared to help reach more people with the critical messaging and updates.
  • Residents can sign up for regular text messaging, offered via a third-party provider. The county has branded this capability “Alert Martin,” and these mobile text messages provide critical updates with links back to the website for the full story. This functionality offers one explanation for the increased traffic from mobile devices.
  • The “ALERT” region on the home page provides emergency and informative alerts and is color coded by level of importance: blue for general information, yellow for health and safety updates, and red for critical issues and warnings that require immediate attention. 
Alert system for websiteMartin County’s color coded alert system notifying site users of crucial health, safety, and general county updates.

By including these features on their website, along with many more, their site has received positive feedback from local residents saying they were very happy with Martin County’s COVID-19 emergency response and found the site easy to use and access the information they were looking for. The site was also recognized with industry awards for visual aesthetic and superior digital experience, proving to be not only nice to look at, but also usable and useful in a time of need.

COVID-19 is a moving target that is being attacked on many fronts. Never before have local governments had a greater opportunity and responsibility to ensure that their websites provide a trusted and single source of truth while providing a flexible content management experience for the site’s managers.

Looking to ensure your website is ready to communicate in a crisis? Contact us today.

Apr 08 2020
Apr 08

COVID-19 has fueled, among many things, a hefty appetite for data and analytics.

Having witnessed a rapid-fire evolution from a few, isolated cases in another corner of the world, to a pandemic that has the globe in its grips, data visualizations are now helping to tell the story and reveal the kinds of big data insights that are now possible. 

Near the top of the list of data visualizations that are providing an updated perspective on the Coronavirus is the Johns Hopkins University interactive global map, which offers a global view of the pandemic, along with the ability to drill down for a closer look at the spread of the virus within specific countries and regions. 

Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Map

A screen shot of the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 MapThe above screen from the the Johns Hopkins University interactive COVID-19 map is from April 8, 2020, and is among the interactive graphics on the site that depicts the global spread of the pandemic.  

 

Tracking Movement Via Cell Phone Data 

An April 2, 2020 article in an online edition of the New York Times, offered another angle from which to view the response to the Coronavirus in the United States. Using mobile phone GPS data, a color-coded map of every county in the United States, depicted miles traveled for the week of March 23, as an indicator of the degree to which people were adhering to shelter-in-place recommendations or orders.
 

A screen shot from a New York Times online article of a county-by-county map of the U.S. and movement over a weekend based on cell phone data.GPS data provided insight on a county-by-county basis into the degree to which mobility and travel had been impacted by the recommendations to stay home. 

Modeling Steps to Curtail the Spread

This third example is from a March 14, 2020 article in an online edition of the Washington Post, designed to demonstrate the impact of various degrees of social distancing. The article entitled, “Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to ‘flatten the curve,’” included animations of dots that demonstrated the impact of various levels of human contact on the spread of a hypothetical virus.

Screen shot from a Washington Post article that shows 4 models of the spread of a disease resulting from varying levels of social distancing. The four interactive graphics above represent the outcome of the different degrees of response designed to mitigate against a rapid spike in the spread of the virus.

Untapped Potential

While big data is fueling insights, that would have been difficult to fathom as recently as a decade ago, a depth and breadth of analytics and actionable data are within closer reach than many realize.  

Potentially rich data sources that too often go underutilized include:

  • Google analytics,
  • A/B testing,
  • Sales tracking, 
  • Live chat,
  • Customer surveys,
  • Heat mapping of visitors’ website activity,  
  • Competitor assessments,
  • Usability testing, and
  • User interviews. 

At Promet Source, we are passionate about helping clients to uncover and unlock the full potential of their data and analytics. We are also experts at creative visualization strategies that help clients and constituents to clarify complexities and understand information from new angles. 

Interested in igniting new data- and analytics-driven possibilities? Contact us today.

Mar 31 2020
Mar 31

Recent challenges sparked by widespread work-at-home mandates are revealing an essential need to ensure productivity and engagement for remote meetings.

Many of us are familiar with the internet meme video, A Conference Call in Real Life.  It may resonate as all too real (but still very funny!). 

With the right approach, however, remote meetings can be productive, engaging, and spark creativity. 

                  Register for a Free Webinar: Design Thinking for Optimal Online Collaboration

Since distributed teams and remote work environments are how we’re already accustomed to working here at Promet Source, we’ve been able to adapt many onsite Design Thinking meeting techniques, using Human-Centered Design activities and adjust them to a virtual format. We often accommodate remote teams who have attendees in varying areas throughout the globe that find it impossible to all get together for an onsite meeting, but still need to put their heads together to define an organization’s priorities or innovate together toward common goals.

On many levels the uncertainty and upheaval of our recent change in workplace environments represents limitation, but one of the main principles of design thinking is that creativity thrives in an environment of time constraints and limitations, which provides the opportunity for innovation and creativity when a few key guidelines are followed. 

Planning and Facilitation

A productive meeting has an agenda. Create a written agenda and share it with participants prior to the remote meeting, as well as at the beginning of the meeting itself. Be sure to include time slots for each discussion item, even if it is only 10 minutes.

Follow the agenda items closely and assign someone the “time keeper” function to give a 2-5 minute warning before the planned agenda item is due to time out and stick to it! 
 

Use Interactive Tools for Alignment

Oftentimes, the loudest voices in the meeting or those of upper management are the only opinions that get heard. Utilize online tools to facilitate discussions and to ensure every voice and opinion can be shared, regardless of hierarchy and position.   

Interactive tools can also help document what is being discussed in real-time without “note taking” so attendees can see what is being discussed and agreed upon. 

Creating an interactive forum also allows open discussion, presentation of ideas, and collecting maximum input from participants. If the users can contribute anonymously to the meeting, it allows for critical evaluation of ideas as a neutral and anonymous format.

Interactive tools we like to use during online meetings include:

FunRetro

  • Originally a Sprint Retrospective board we have co-opted for interactive meetings.

Google Sheets & Docs

  • Allows multiple users in a document at the same time for meeting collaboration.

InVision

  • In addition to a good design and prototyping tool, InVision also has a great virtual whiteboard that allows multiple people to draw on the whiteboard at the same time.

Prioritize & Gain Consensus

Working with the group to prioritize items that come up during the discussion helps to gain group consensus. Act as a facilitator for the meeting, listen to what is being said, and put your opinion aside in order to encourage participation and optimize input. Create follow-up activities for what the group sees as most important and assign next steps assigned to team members. Let them come up with a solution and present it back to the group in this or a future meeting.

Remember, online meetings can be productive and innovative when we allow the space for people’s ideas to be heard and thrive. Leveraging the right tools along with an intentional focus on connection and engagement sets the stage for memorable meetings that get participants to perk up and be on their A Game.

Design Thinking offers a whole new perspective on running a meeting. Engagement and connection are a particular imperative in the current environment and never has there been a better time to put design thinking to work. 

               Register for a Free Webinar: Design Thinking for Optimal Online Collaboration

[embedded content]

Design Thinking for Optimal Online Collaboration

When:

Tuesday, April 14, 2020    12 p.m. CST

In this webinar you will learn to:

  • Leverage interactive, online tools for meeting facilitation
  • Adapt design thinking techniques for the virtual meeting environment
  • Facilitate team activities that enhance online engagement
  • Understand the core of design thinking to facilitate more successful ideas
  • Implement a meeting format that sparks creativity and accelerates the evolution of ideas from good to great
  • Develop a process for creating joint ownership of ideas
  • Apply key steps for ensuring follow up and accountability

Interested in starting the conversation now? Contact us today to learn more about how you and your team could benefit from a Human-Centered Design / Design Thinking Workshop facilitated by Promet.
 

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