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How To Create A Flat Vector Illustration In Affinity Designer




How To Create A Flat Vector Illustration In Affinity Designer

Isabel Aracama



(This is a sponsored post.) If you are in the design world, chances are that you’ve already heard about Affinity Designer, a vector graphics editor for Apple’s macOS and Microsoft Windows.

It was July 2015 when Serif Europe launched the amazing software that many designers and illustrators like me are using now as their main tool for professional work. Unlike some other packages, its price is really affordable, there’s no subscription model and, as mentioned already, it’s available for both Macs and PCs.

In this article, I would like to walk you through just some of its very user-friendly main tools and features as an introduction to the software and to show you how we can create a nice flat vector illustration of a Volkswagen Beetle. The illustration will scale up to whatever resolution and size needed because no bitmaps will be used.

Note: As of today, July 11, Affinity Designer is also available for the iPad. Although the iPad app’s features and functionality almost completely match the desktop version of Affinity Designer, it relies much more on using the touch screen (and the Apple Pencil) and because of that, you may expect to find some differences in the workflows.


Final image that we’ll be creating in this tutorial.


Final image that we’ll be creating in this tutorial. (View large version)

I will also explain some of the decisions I take and methods I follow as I work. You know the old saying, “All roads lead to Rome”? In this case, many roads will take us where we’d like to get to, but some are better than others.

We will see how to work with the Pen tool to trace the main car outline, how to break curves and segments, how to convert objects into curves, and how to use the wonderful Corner tool. We will also, among other things, learn how to use the Gradient tool, what is a “Smart copy”, how to import a color palette from an image that we can use as a reference for our artwork, how to use masks, and how to create a halftone pattern. Of course, along the way, you will also learn some helpful keyboard shortcuts and commands.

Note: Affinity Designer has three work environments, referred to as “personas”. By default, Affinity Designer is set to the draw persona. To switch from the draw persona to the pixel persona or to the export persona, you have to click on one of the three icons located in the top-left corner of the main window. You can start working in the draw persona and switch to the pixel persona at any time, when you need to combine vectors and bitmaps.

The three work environments: draw persona (leftmost icon), bitmap persona (middle icon) and export persona (rightmost icon).
The three work environments: draw persona (leftmost icon), bitmap persona (middle icon) and export persona (rightmost icon). (View large version)

Introduction: The Flat Design Era

In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of “flat design”, in contrast to what is known as skeuomorphic representation in design.

To put it simply, flat design gets rid of the metaphors that skeuomorphic design uses to communicate with users, and we’ve seen these metaphors in design, especially in user interface design, for years. Apple had some of the best examples of skeuomorphism in its early iOS and app designs, and today it is widely used in many industries, such as music software and video games. With Microsoft’s (with Metro) and later Google’s material design and Apple’s iOS 7, mobile apps, user interfaces and most systems and OS’ have moved away from skeuomorphism, using it or elements of it as mere enhancements to a new design language (including gradients and shadows). As you can imagine, illustrations on these systems were also affected by the new design currents, and illustrators and designers started creating artwork that would be consistent with the new times and needs. A whole new world of flat icons, flat infographics and flat illustrations opened in front of our eyes.


iPhone’s home screen (iOS 6 versus iOS 7).


iPhone’s home screen (iOS 6 versus iOS 7). (View large version)




(Image source) (View large version)




(Image source) (View large version)




(Image source) (View large version)




(Image source) (View large version)

Let’s Draw A Flat Illustration!

I am providing here the source file for this work, so you can use it to explore it and to better follow along as we design it. If you do not yet have a copy of Affinity Designer, you can download a trial.

1. Canvas Settings

Open Affinity Designer, and create a new document by clicking Cmd + N (Mac) or Ctrl + N (Windows). Alternatively, you can go to “Menu” → “File” → “New”. Be sure not to check the “Create Artboard” box.

Set the type to “Web”, which will automatically set the field DPI to 72. It should be understood now as PPI, but we won’t dive into the details here. If you want to learn more on the topic, check the following two resources:

Also, remember that you can change this setting at any time. The vectors’ quality won’t be affected by scaling them.

Set the size to 2000 × 1300 pixels, and click “OK”.

Our white canvas is now set, but before we start, I’d suggest you first save this file and give it a name. So, go to “File” → “Save”, and name it “Beetle”.

2. Importing A Color Palette From An Image

One of the things I use a lot in Affinity Designer is its ability to import the colors contained in an image and creating a palette from them.

Let’s see how this is done.

For the illustration I want to draw, I thought of warm colors, like in a sunset, so I searched Google with this query: “warm colors yellows oranges reds palette”. From all the images it found, I chose one that I liked and copied it into Affinity Designer in my recently created canvas. (You can copy and paste the image to the canvas directly from the browser.)

If the Swatches panel isn’t open yet, use menu “View” → “Studio” → “Swatches”. Click the menu in the top-right corner of the panel, and select the option “Create Palette From Document”, and then click on “As Document Palette”. Click “OK” and you’ll see the colors contained in the image form a new palette in the Swatches panel. The default name for it will be “Palette” if you still haven’t saved your file with a name. In case you have, the name of this palette will be the same as your document, but if you want to rename it, simply go to the menu on the right in the Swatches panel again and select the option “Rename Palette”.

I will call it “Beetle Palette”.


Creating a palette from an image.


Creating a palette from an image. (View large version)

We can now get rid of that reference image, or simply hide it in the Layers panel. We will be using this palette as a guide to create our artwork with harmonious colors.

Interface: Before we continue, I will present a quick overview of the main sections of the user interface in Affinity Designer, and the names of some of the most used tools.


Main areas of the UI in Affinity Designer when using the draw persona.


Main areas of the UI in Affinity Designer when using the draw persona. (View large version)


Tools for the (default) draw persona in Affinity Designer.


Tools for the (default) draw persona in Affinity Designer. (View large version)

3. Creating The Background With The Gradient Tool

The next thing is to create a background. For this, go to the tools displayed on the left side, and select the Rectangle tool. Drag it along the canvas, making sure to give it an initial random fill color so that you can see it. The fill color chip is located in the top toolbar.


Click the Rectangle tool and drag it along the canvas. Fill it with a random color.


Click the Rectangle tool and drag it along the canvas. Fill it with a random color. (View large version)

Next, select the Fill tool (the color wheel icon, or press G on the keyboard), and in the top Context toolbar, select the type: “Linear”.


Select “Linear” from the Fill tool’s contextual menu.


Select “Linear” from the Fill tool’s contextual menu. (View large version)

We have several options here: “None” removes the fill color, “Solid” applies one solid color, and all of the rest are different types of gradients.

To straighten the gradient and make it vertical, place your cursor over one of the ends and pull. When you are near the vertical line, press Shift: This will make it perfectly vertical and perpendicular to the base of the canvas.

To straighten a linear gradient, pull from one end, and then press the Shift key to make it perfectly vertical.
To straighten a linear gradient, pull from one end, and then press the Shift key to make it perfectly vertical. (View large version)

Next, in the Context toolbar, click on the color chip, and you’ll see a dialog that corresponds exactly with the gradient we just applied. Click now on the color chip, and an additional dialog will open.

In the combo, click on the “Color” tab, and then select “RGB Hex Sliders”; in the field marked with a #, input the value: FE8876. Press “OK”. You’ll see now how the gradient has been updated to the new color. Repeat this action with the other color stop in the gradient dialog, and input this value: E1C372.

You should now have something like this:


Setting gradient colors.


Setting gradient colors (View large version)

Let’s go to the Layers panel and rename the layer to “Background”. Double-click on it to rename it, and then lock it (by clicking on the little lock icon in the top-right corner).

4. Drawing The Car Outline With The Pen Tool

The next thing we need to do is look for an image that will serve as our reference to draw the outline of the car. I searched Google for “Volkswagen Beetle side view”. From the images I found, I selected one of a green Beetle and copied and pasted it into my document. (Remember to lock the layer with the reference image, so that it doesn’t move accidentally.)

Next, in the side toolbar, select the Pen tool (or press P), zoom in a bit so that you can work more comfortably, and start tracing a segment, following the outline of the car in the picture. Give the stroke an 8-pixel width in the Stroke panel.

Note: You won’t need to create a layer, because the segments you trace will be automatically placed on top of the image.

The Pen tool is one of the most daunting tools for beginners, and it is obviously one of the most important tools to learn in vector graphics. While practice is needed to reach perfection, it is also a matter of understanding some simple actions that will help you use the tool better. Let’s dive into the details!

As you trace with the Pen tool in Affinity Designer, you will see two types of nodes: squared nodes appear first, and as you pull the handles, they will turn into rounded nodes.


Sharp, smooth nodes and handles on a path segment


Sharp, smooth nodes and handles on a path segment (View large version)

Affinity Designer comes with several pen modes, but we will only be using the default one, called “Pen Mode”, and as we trace the car, we will get rid of one of the handles by clicking Alt in such a way that the next section of the segment to be traced will be independent of the previous one, even if connected to it.

Here’s how to proceed. Select the Pen tool, click once, move some distance away, click a second time (a straight line will be created between nodes 1 and 2), drag the second node (this will create a curve), Alt-click the node to remove the second control handle, then proceed with node 3, and so on.

An alternative way would be to select the Pen tool, click once, move some distance away, click a second time (a straight line will be created between nodes 1 and 2), drag the second node (this will create a curve), then, without moving the mouse, Alt-click the second handle’s point to remove this handle, then proceed with node 3, and so on.

Trace the outline of the car and get rid of the handles we don’t need by Alt-clicking.
Trace the outline of the car and get rid of the handles we don’t need by Alt-clicking. (View large version)

Note: Don’ be afraid to trace segments that are not perfect. With time, you’ll get a better grip of the Pen tool. For now, it’s not very important that each node and line looks as we want it to look in the end. In fact, Affinity Designer makes it really easy to amend segments and nodes, so tracing a rough line to start is just fine. For more insight on how to easily use the Pen tool (for beginners), check out Isabel Aracama’s video tutorial.

5. Resculpting Segments And Using The Corner Tool

What we need now is to make all of those rough lines look smooth and curvy. First, we will pull the straight segments to smoothen them, and then we will improve them using the Corner tool.

Click the Node tool in the side toolbar, or select it by pressing A on your keyboard. Now, start pulling segments to follow the lines of your reference picture. You can also use the handles to help make the line take the shape you need by moving and pulling them accordingly. Just do it in such a way that it all fits the reference image, but don’t bother much if it’s not yet perfect. With the Node tool (A), you can both select and move nodes, but you can also click and drag the curves themselves to change them.

Resculpt and correct segments with the Node tool A.
Resculpt and correct segments with the Node tool (A). (View large version)

Once all of the segments are where we need them, we are going to smoothen their corners using the Corner tool (shortcut: C). This is one of my favorite tools in Affinity Designer. The live Corner tool allows you to adjust your nodes and segments to perfection. Select it by pressing C, or select it from the Tools sidebar. The method is pretty simple: Pass the corner tool over the sharp nodes (squared nodes) that you want to smoothen. If you need to, switch back to the Node tool (A) to adjust a section of a segment by pulling it or its handles. (Smooth nodes (rounded nodes) don’t allow for more softening, and they will display a smaller circle the moment you select the Corner tool.)




View large version




View large version

Use the Corner tool on sharp nodes to smoothen the lines.
Use the Corner tool on sharp nodes to smoothen the lines. (View large version)

Once our corners and segments look good, we’ll want to fill the shape and change the color of the stroke. Select the closed curve line that we just created for the car, click on the fill color chip, and in the HEX color field input FFCF23. Click on the stroke color chip beside it and input 131000.


This is what you should have after applying the fill color and stroke color.


This is what you should have after applying the fill color and stroke color. (View large version)

Create now a shape with the Pen tool, and fill it with black (000000). Place it behind the car’s bodywork (the yellow shape). The exact shape of the new object that you will create does not really matter, except that its bottom side needs to be straight, as in the image below. Place it behind the main bodywork (the yellow shape) via either the Layers panel or through the menu “Arrange” → “Back One”.


Black shape behind the car bodywork.


Black shape behind the car bodywork (View large version)

6. Creating The Wheels Using Smart Copy

We need to put the wheels in place next. In the Tools, pick the Ellipse tool, and drag over the canvas, creating a circle the same size as the wheel in the reference picture. Click Shift as you drag to make the circle proportionate. Additionally, holding Ctrl (Windows) or Cmd (Mac), you can create a perfect circle from the center out.

Note: If you need to, hide the layers created thus far to see better, or simply reduce their opacity temporarily. You can change the opacity by selecting any shape and pressing a number on the keyboard, from 1 to 9, where 1 will apply a 10% opacity and 9 a 90% opacity value. To reset the opacity to 100%, press 0 (zero).

Choose a random color that contrasts with the rest. I like to do so initially just so that I can see the shapes well contrasted and differentiated. When I am happy with them, I apply the final color. Set the opacity to 50% (click 5 on the keyboard) to be able to see through as you draw it.

Zoom into your wheel shape. Press Z to select the Zoom tool, and drag over the shape while holding Alt key, or double-click on the thumbnail corresponding to it in the Layers panel. (It doesn’t need to be previously selected, although this will help you to visually locate it in the Layers panel.)

We will now learn how to use Smart copy, and we will paste some concentric circles.

Select the circle and press Cmd + J (Mac) or Ctrl + J (Windows). A new circle will be placed on top of the original one. Select it. This command is found under “Edit” → “Duplicate”, and it’s also known as Smart copy or Smart duplicate.

Click Shift + Cmd (Mac) or Shift + Ctrl (Windows), and drag in to transform it into a smaller concentrical circle. Repeat three times, reducing a bit more in size each time, to fit your reference. Smart duplicating a shape by pressing Shift + Cmd (Mac) or Shift + Ctrl (Windows) will make the shape transform in a relative way. This will happen from your third smart-duplicated shape onwards.

smart copy via keyboard shortcuts
Smart copy via Cmd + J or Ctrl + J. (View large version)

So, we have our concentric circles for the wheel, and now we have to change the colors. Go to the Swatches panel, and in the previously created palette, choose colors that work well with the yellow that we have applied to the car’s bodywork. You can select a color and modify it slightly to adapt to what you think works best. We need to apply fill and stroke colors. Remember to give the stroke the same width as the rest of the car (8 pixels) except for the innermost circle, where we will apply a stroke of 11.5 pixels. Also, remember to put back to 100% the opacity of each concentric circle.

I chose these colors, from the outer to inner circles: 5D5100, 918A00, CFA204, E5DEAB.

Now we want to select and group all of them together. Select them all and press Cmd + G (Mac) or Ctrl + G (Windows). Name the new group “Front Wheel” in the Layers panel. Duplicate this group and, while pressing Shift, select it and drag along the canvas until it overlaps with the back wheel. Name the layer accordingly.


The car should look similar to this now.


The car should look similar to this now. (View large version)

7. Breaking Curves And Clipping Masks To Draw The Inner Lines Of The Car’s Bodywork

To keep working, either hide all layers or bring down the opacity so that they don’t get in your way. We need to trace the front and back fenders. We have to do the same as what we did for the main bodywork. Pick the Pen tool and trace an outline over it.

Once it is traced, modify it by using the handles, nodes and Corner tool. I also modified the black shape behind the car a bit, so that it shows a bit more in the lower part of the body work.


Fenders added to the car.


Fenders added to the car. (View large version)

Now we want to trace some of the inner lines that define the car. For this, we will duplicate the main yellow shape, remove its fill color and place it onto our illustration in the canvas.

Press A on the keyboard, and click on any of the bottom nodes of the segment. In the top Context toolbar, click on “Action” → “Break Curve”. You will see now that the selected node has turned into a red-outlined squared node. Click on it and pull anywhere. As you can see, the segment is now open. Click the Delete or Backspace key (Windows) or the Delete key (Mac), and do the same with all of the bottom nodes, leaving just the leftmost and rightmost ones, and also being very careful that what is left of the top section of the segment is not deformed at all.

(View large version)

I use this method for one main reason: Duplicating an existing line allows for a more consistent look and for more harmonious lines.

Select now the newly opened curve, and make it smaller in such a way that it fits into the main yellow shape when you place them on top of one another. In the Layers panel, drag this curve into the yellow shape layer to create a clipping mask. The reason for creating a clipping mask is simple: We want an object inside another object so that they do not overlap (i.e. both objects are visible), but one nested inside the other. Not doing so would result in some bits of the nested object being visible, which is not what we want; we need perfect, clean-cut lines.

Note: Clipping masks are not to be mistaken for masks. You will know you’re clipping and not masking because of the thumbnail (masks show a crop-like icon when applied) and because when you are about to clip, a blue stripe is displayed horizontally, a bit more than halfway across the layer. Masks, on the other hand, display a small vertical blue stripe beside the thumbnail.


Clipping versus masking in Affinity Designer


Clipping versus masking in Affinity Designer (View large version)

Clipping mask once it is applied
Clipping mask once it is applied (View large version)

Now that we have applied our clipping mask to insert the newly created segment inside the main shape of the car, I’ve broken some nodes and moved some others around a bit in order to place them exactly how I want. I’ve stretched the width a bit, and separated the front from the rest of the segment using exactly the same methods we’ve already seen. Then, I applied a bit more Corner tool to soften whatever I felt needed to be softened. Finally, with the Pen tool, I added some extra nodes and segments to create the rest of the inner lines that define the car.

Note: In order to select an object in a mask, a clipping mask or a group when not selecting the object directly in the Layers panel, you have to double-click until you select the object, or hold Ctrl (Windows) or Cmd (Mac) and click.

Adding extra lines to a segment.
Adding extra lines to a segment (View large version)

After some amendments and tweaking using the mentioned methods, our car looks like this:


How the car looks after a little tweaking of the segments and nodes


How the car looks after a little tweaking of the segments and nodes (View large version)

8. Drawing The Windows Using Some Primitive Shapes

In the side Toolbar, select the Rounded Rectangle tool. Drag on the canvas to create a shape. The size of the shape should fit in the car’s bodywork and look proportionate. No matter how you create it, you will be able to resize it later, so don’t worry much.

Note: When you create a shape with strokes and resize it, be sure to check “Scale with object” in the Stroke panel if you want the stroke to scale in proportion with the object. I recommend that you visually compare the difference between having this option checked and unchecked when you need to resize an object with a stroke.


Make sure this is checked if you plan to resize your artwork, so that it scales the strokes accordingly.


Make sure this is checked if you plan to resize your artwork, so that it scales the strokes accordingly. (View large version)

Once you have placed your rounded rectangle on the canvas, fill it with a blue-ish colour. I’ve used #93BBC1. Next, select it with the Node tool (press A). You will now see a little orange circle in the top-left corner. If you pull outwards or inwards, you’ll see how the angle in that corner changes. In the top Context toolbar, you can uncheck “Single radius”, and apply the angle you want to each corner of the rectangle individually. Uncheck it, and pull inwards on the tiny orange circle in the top-left corner. If you pull, you will be able to round it to a certain percentage, but you can also input the desired value in the input field for it, or even use the slider it comes with (it will show whether you’ve clicked on the little chevron). Let’s apply a value of 100%.




View large version


How the rounded rectangle primitive shape looks in default mode and how it changes when we uncheck the single radius box. Now we can manipulate the corners individually.


How the rounded rectangle primitive shape looks in default mode and how it changes when we uncheck the single radius box. Now we can manipulate the corners individually. (View large version)

Primitive shapes are not so flexible in terms of vector manipulation (compared to curves and lines), so, in order to apply further changes to such a shape (beyond fill, stroke, corners, width and height), we will need to convert it to curves.

Note: Once you convert a primitive shape into curves, there is no way to go back, and there will be no option to manipulate the shape through the little orange stops. If you need further tweaking, you will need to do it with the Corner tool.

Select the rectangle with the Node tool (A), and in the top Context toolbar, click the button “Convert to Curves”. The bounding box will disappear, and all of the nodes forming the shape will be shown. Also, note how in the Layers panel, the name of the object changes from “Rounded Rectangle” to “Curve”.

Now you need to manipulate the shape in order to create an object that looks like a car window. Look at the reference picture to get a better idea of how it should look. Also, tweak the rest of the drawn lines in the car, so that it all fits together nicely. Don’t worry if the shapes don’t look perfect (yet). Getting them right is a matter of practice! Using the Pen tool, help yourself with the Alt and Shift keys and observe how differently the segment nodes behave. After you have created the front window, go ahead and create the back one, following the same method.

We also need to create the reflections of the window, which we’ll do by drawing three rectangles, filling them with white color, overlapping them with a bit of offset from one another, and setting the opacity to 50%.

Place the cursor over the top bounding-box white circle, and when it turns into a curved arrow with two ends, move it to give the rectangles an angle. Create a clipping mask, dragging it over the window shape in the Layers panel as we saw before. You can also do this by following the following alternative methods:

  • Under the menu “Layer” → “Insertion” → “Insert Inside” the selected window object.
  • With the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + X (Windows) and Cmd + X (Mac), select your window object → “Edit” → “Paste Inside” (Ctrl/Cmd + Alt + V).

Repeat this for the back window. To add visual interest, you can duplicate the reflections and slightly change the rectangles’ opacities and widths.

Create the reflections on the windows, and clip them inside.
Create the reflections on the windows, and clip them inside. (View large version)

9. Adding Visual Interest: Halftone Pattern, Shadows And Reflections

Before we start with the shadows and reflections, we need to add an extra piece onto the car so that all of the elements look well integrated. Let’s create the piece that sits below the doors. It is a simple rectangle. Place it on the corresponding layer order, so that it looks like the picture below, and keep inserting all of the pieces together so that it looks compact. I will also move a bit the front fender to make the front shorter.


The car, once the final bodywork pieces have been placed and tweaks made. We’re getting there!


The car, once the final bodywork pieces have been placed and tweaks made. We’re getting there! (View large version)

Now let’s create the halftone pattern.

Grab the Pen tool (P) and trace a line on your canvas. In the Stroke panel (you can also do this in the Pen tool’s Context toolbar section for the stroke, at the top), set the size to something like 7 pixels. We can easily change this value later if needed. Select the “Dash” line style, and the rest of the dialog settings should be as follows:


Settings for the first part of creating the halftone pattern.


Settings for the first part of creating the halftone pattern. (View large version)

Now, duplicate this line, and place the new one below with a bit of an offset to the left.




View large version

Group both lines, duplicate this group with a Smart copy, and create something like this:


Smart copy the first two lines, and create the whole pattern.


Smart copy the first two lines, and create the whole pattern. (View large version)

When you drag a selection in Affinity Designer, only objects that are completely within the selection area will be selected. If you want to select all objects without having to drag over all of them completely, you have the following options:

  • Mac: Holding the (Ctrl) key will allow you to select all objects touching the selection marquee as you draw it.
  • Windows: Click and hold the left mouse button, start dragging a selection, and then click and hold the right mouse button as well. As you are holding both buttons, all objects touching the selection marquee will be selected.
  • Alternatively, you can make this behavior a global preference. On Mac, go to “Affinity Designer” → “Preferences” → “Tools”, and check “Select object when intersects with selection marquee”. On Windows, go to “Edit” → “Preferences” → “Tools”, and check “Select object when intersects with selection marquee”.

To make the illustration more interesting, we are going to vary the beginning and end of some of the lines a bit. To do this, we select the Node tool (A), and move the nodes a bit inwards.

It should now look like this:




View large version

To apply the pattern to our design, make sure everything is grouped, copy and paste it into our car artwork, reduce its opacity to 30%, and also reduce the size (making sure “Scale with object” is checked in the Stroke panel). We will then create a clipping mask. It is important to keep consistency in the angle, color and size of this pattern throughout the illustration.

Applying the halftone mask.
Applying the halftone mask (View large version)

Now, apply the halftone pattern to the back fender and to the car’s side; make sure to create a placeholder for it first, be it the fender itself or a new shape. Make some tweaks if you need to adapt the pattern to your drawing in a harmonious way. You can change the overall size, the dots’ size, the transparency, the angle and so on, but try to be consistent when applying these changes to the pattern bits.

For the shadow below the windows, I drew a curve to be the placeholder, and applied the color #CFA204 so that it looks darker.

10. Creating The Remaining Elements Of The Car

Now, it’s all about creating the rest of the elements that make up the car: the bumpers, the back wheel and the surf board, plus the design stickers.

  • The front and back lights
    For the front light, switch to the Segment tool and draw the shape. Then we need to rotate it a bit and place it somewhere below the car’s main bodywork. The same can be done for the back light but using the Rectangle tool. The colors are #FFDA9D for the front light and #FF0031 for the back light.
Creating the front light
Creating the front light (View large version)
  • Surfboard
    To create the surfboard, we will use the Ellipse tool and draw a long ellipse. Convert it to curves and pull up the lower segment, adjusting a bit the handles to give it the ideal shape.
Creating the surf board
Creating the surf board (View large version)

Now, just create two small rounded rectangles, with a little extra line on top for the board’s rack. Place them in a layer behind the car’s main body shape.


Board rack pieces


Board rack pieces (View large version)

With the Pen tool, add the rudder. Its color is #B2E3EF. And for the stroke, use a 6-pixel width and set the color to #131000.

  • Spare wheel
    Now let’s create the the spare wheel! Switch to the Rounded Rectangle tool. Drag over the canvas to draw a shape. Color it #34646C, and make the stroke #131000 and 8 pixels in size. The size of the spare wheel should fit the proportions of your car and should have the same diameter as the other wheels, or perhaps just a bit smaller. Pull the orange dots totally inwards, and give it a 45-degree angle. For the rack that holds the wheel, create a small piece with the Rectangle tool, and give it the same 45-degree angle, color it #4A8F99, and make the stroke #131000 and 4.5 pixels in size. Create the last piece that rests over the car in the same way, with a color of #34646C, and a stroke that is #131000 and 4.5 pixels in size.

Lastly, let’s create a shadow inside the wheel to add some more interest. For this, we’ll create a clipping mask and insert an ellipse shape with a color of #194147, without a stroke.

Note: We may want to create the same shadow effect for the car wheels. Use the Rectangle tool and a color of #312A00, create a clipping mask, and insert it in the wheel shape, placing it halfway.


Three simple shapes to draw the spare wheel and its rack


Three simple shapes to draw the spare wheel and its rack (View large version)

  • Bumpers
    For the bumpers, we will apply the boolean operation “add” to two basic shapes and then clip-mask a shadow, just as we did for the wheels.

Boolean operations are displayed in the section of icons labeled “Geometry” (Mac) and “Operations” (Windows). (Yes, the label names are inconsistent, but the Affinity team will likely update them in the near future, and one of the labels will become the default for both operating systems.) If you don’t see them in the upper toolbar, go to “View” → “Customize Toolbar”, and drag and drop them into the toolbar.

Important: If you want the operation to be non-destructive, hold the Alt key while clicking on the “Add” icon (to combine the two basic shapes).


Boolean operations: Add, Subtract, Intersect, Divide, Combine.


Boolean operations: Add, Subtract, Intersect, Divide, Combine. (View large version)


Applying the (destructive) Add operation to create a single shape from two shapes.


Applying the (destructive) Add operation to create a single shape from two shapes. (View large version)

Note: If you try to paste the “shadow” object inside the bumper, it will only work if the bumper is one whole object (a destructive operation). So, if you used Alt + “Add”, this will not work now. However, you can still work around this by converting the Compound shape (the result of a non-destructive operation that is a group of two objects) to one Curve (one whole vector object). You just need to click on the Compound shape, then in the menu go to “Layer” → “Convert to Curves” (or use the key combination Ctrl + Enter).

  • Back window
    We are still missing the back window, which we will create with the Pen tool, and the decoration for the car. For the two colored stripes, we need the Square tool and then clip-mask these two rectangles into the main bodywork. The size is 30 × 380 pixels, and the colors are #0AC8CE and #FF6500. Clip them by making sure you’ve put them on the right layer, so that the dark lines we drew before are above them.

  • Number 56
    For the number “56” decoration, use the Artistic Text tool (“T”), and type in “56”. Choose a nice font that matches the style of the illustration, or try the one I’ve used.

The color for the text object is #FFF3AD.

(I added an extra squared shape behind the back fender, which will look like the end of the exhaust pipe. The color is #000000.)

  • Color strips
    Now that we’ve done this, check the color stripes and the window they overlap with. As you can see (and because we put some transparency in the window glass), the orange stripe is visible through it. Let’s use some Boolean power again to fix this.

Bumpers and exhauster added. Check out the overlapped window and the orange stripe!


Bumpers and exhauster added. Check out the overlapped window and the orange stripe! (View large version)

Duplicate the window object. Select both the window object (the one you just duplicated) and the orange stripe in the Layers panel. Apply a “subtract” operation.


Stage 1, before the subtract operation.


Stage 1, before the subtract operation. (View large version)


tage 2, once the subtract operation is applied.


Stage 2, once the subtract operation is applied. (View large version)

Now, the orange stripe has the perfect shape, fitting the window in such a way that they don’t overlap.


Stripe and window with subtraction operation applied.


Stripe and window with subtraction operation applied. (View large version)

  • Smoke
    To create the smoke from the exhaust, draw a circle with a white stroke, 5.5 pixels in size and no fill. Transform it to curves and break one of its points. From the bottom node, trace a straight line with the Pen tool.

Duplicate this “broken” circle, and resize to smaller circles, and flip and place them so that they look like this:


Creating the exhaust smoke


Creating the exhaust smoke (View large version)

Note: Now that the car is finished, group all of its layers together. It will be much easier to keep working if you do so!

11. Creating The Ground And The Background Elements.

  • Ground
    Let’s trace a simple line for the ground, and add two bits breaking it in order to create visual interest and suggest a bit of movement. We also want to add an extra piece to create the ground. For this, we will use the Rectangle tool and draw a rectangle with a gradient color of #008799 for the left stop and #81BEC7 for the right stop. Give it 30% opacity.

Gradient for the ground piece and the grouped car layers for a clean view in the Layers panel.


Gradient for the ground piece and the grouped car layers for a clean view in the Layers panel. (View large version)

  • Clouds
    For the clouds, select the Cloud tool from the list of (primitive) vector shapes. Draw a cloud by holding Shift to keep the proportions. Make it white. Transform it into curves, and with the Node tool (A) select the bottom nodes and delete them. Sub-select the bottom-left and bottom-right nodes (after deleting all of the others), and then in the Context toolbar, select “Convert to Sharp” in the Convert section. This will make your bottom segment straight. Apply some transparency with the Transparency tool (Y), and duplicate this cloud. Place the clouds in your drawing, spread apart as you wish and in different sizes.

My clouds have 12 bubbles and an inner radius of 82%. You can do the same or change these values to your liking.

Creating the clouds with the Cloud tool and the Transparency tool
Creating the clouds with the Cloud tool and the Transparency tool (View large version)
  • Palm trees
    To create the palm trees, use the Crescent tool from the list of primitive shapes on the left. Give it a gradient color, with a left stop of #F05942 and a right stop of #D15846.

Drag to draw the crescent shape. Move its center of rotation to the bottom of the bounding box, and give it a -60-degree angle.

The center of rotation can be made visible in the Contextual toolbar section for the Move (and Node) tool. It looks like a little crosshair icon. When you click on it, the crosshair for moving the rotation center of an object will show. Duplicate it, either via Cmd + C and Cmd + V (Mac) or Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V (Windows), or by clicking and then Alt + dragging on the object, and move the angle of the new crescent to -96 degrees. Make it a bit smaller. Copy the two shapes and flip them horizontally.

I also created and extra crescent.

Creating the palm leaves
Create the palm leaves (View large version)

To create the indentations on the leaves, transform the object to curves, add a node with the Node tool, and pull inwards. To make the vortex sharp, use “Convert” → “Sharp”.

Creating the leaves’ indentations
Creating the leaves’ indentations (View large version)

Create the trunk of the palm tree with the Pen tool, group all of the shapes together, and apply an “add” boolean. This way, all of the shapes will transform into just one. Apply a 60% opacity to it.


The palm tree once the Add boolean operation has been applied.


The palm tree once the Add boolean operation has been applied (View large version)

Duplicate the tree shape several times, changing the sizes and tweaking to make the trees slightly different from one another. (Making them exactly the same would result in a less interesting image.)

The last thing we need to make is the sun.

  • The sun
    For this, simply draw an ellipse and apply a color of #FFFFBA to it. Apply a transparency with the Transparency tool (Y), where the bottom is transparent and gets opaque at the top.

Transparency applied to the sun shape


Transparency applied to the sun shape (View large version)

Now we will add some detail by overlapping several rounded rectangles over the sun circle and subtracting them (click Alt for a non-destructive action, if you prefer).

Applying a subtract operation
Applying a subtract operation (View large version)

Place your sun in the scene, and we are done!

12. A Note On The Stacking Order (And Naming Of Layers)

While you work, and as the number of objects (layers) grows, which will also make your illustration more and more complex, keep in mind the stacking order of your layers. The sooner you start naming the layers and placing them in the right order, the better. Also, lock those layers that you’re done with (especially for things such as the background), so that they don’t get in the way as you work.

In this illustration, the order of elements from bottom to top is:

  • background,
  • ground,
  • sun,
  • clouds,
  • palm trees,
  • car.

Conclusion

I hope you could follow all of the steps with no major problems and now better understand some of Affinity Designer’s main tools and actions. (Of course, if you have some questions or need help, leave a comment below!)

These tools will allow you to create not only flat illustrations, but many other kinds of artwork as well. The tools, actions and procedures we’ve used here are some of the most useful and common that designers and illustrators use daily (including me), be it for simple illustration projects or much more complex ones.

However, even my most complex illustrations usually need the same tools that we’ve seen in action in this tutorial! It’s mainly a matter of understanding how much you can get out of each tool.

Remember the few important tips, such as locking the layers that could get in your way (or using half-transparency), stacking the layers in the right order, and naming them, so that even the most complex of illustrations are easy to organize and work with. Practice often, and try to organize things so that your workflow improves — this will lead to better artwork and better time management as well.

Also, to learn more about how to create this type of illustration, check out the video tutorial that I posted on my YouTube channel.


The completed Volkswagen Beetle illustration.


The completed Volkswagen Beetle illustration. (View large version)

Smashing Editorial
(mb, ms, ra, yk, al, il)


Excerpt from: 

How To Create A Flat Vector Illustration In Affinity Designer

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A Reference Guide For Typography In Mobile Web Design




A Reference Guide For Typography In Mobile Web Design

Suzanna Scacca



With mobile taking a front seat in search, it’s important that websites are designed in a way that prioritize the best experience possible for their users. While Google has brought attention to elements like pop-ups that might disrupt the mobile experience, what about something as seemingly simple as choice of typography?

The answer to the typography question might seem simple enough: what works on desktop should work on mobile so long as it scales well. Right?

While that would definitely make it a lot easier on web designers, that’s not necessarily the case. The problem in making that statement a decisive one is that there haven’t been a lot of studies done on the subject of mobile typography in recent years. So, what I intend to do today is give a brief summary of what it is we know about typography in web design, and then see what UX experts and tests have been able to reveal about using typography for mobile.

Understanding The Basics Of Typography In Modern Web Design

Look, I know typography isn’t the most glamorous of subjects. And, being a web designer, it might not be something you spend too much time thinking about, especially if clients bring their own style guides to you prior to beginning a project.

That said, with mobile-first now here, typography requires additional consideration.

Typography Terminology

Let’s start with the basics: terminology you’ll need to know before digging into mobile typography best practices.

Typography: This term refers to the technique used in styling, formatting, and arranging “printed” (as opposed to handwritten) text.

Typeface: This is the classification system used to label a family of characters. So, this would be something like Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, Comic Sans, etc.

Typefaces in Office 365


A typical offering of typefaces in word processing applications. (Source: Google Docs) (Large preview)

Font: This drills down further into a website’s typeface. The font details the typeface family, point size, and any special stylizations applied. For instance, 11-point Arial in bold.

3 essential elements to define a font


An example of the three elements that define a font. (Source: Google Docs) (Large preview)

Size: There are two ways in which to refer to the size (or height) of a font: the word processing size in points or the web design size in pixels. For the purposes of talking about mobile web design, we use pixels.

Here is a line-by-line comparison of various font sizes:

An example of font sizes


An example of how the same string of text appears at different sizes. (Source: Google Docs) (Large preview)

As you can see in WordPress, font sizes are important when it comes to establishing hierarchy in header text:

An example of font size choices in WordPress


Header size defaults available with a WordPress theme. (Source: WordPress) (Large preview)

Weight: This is the other part of defining a typeface as a font. Weight refers to any special styles applied to the face to make it appear heavier or lighter. In web design, weight comes into play in header fonts that complement the typically weightless body text.

Here is an example of options you could choose from in the WordPress theme customizer:

An example of font weight choices


Sample font weights available with a WordPress theme. (Source: WordPress) (Large preview)

Kerning: This pertains to the space between two letters. It can be adjusted in order to create a more aesthetically pleasing result while also enhancing readability. You will need a design software like Photoshop to make these types of adjustments.

Tracking: Tracking, or letter-spacing, is often confused with kerning as it too relates to adding space in between letters. However, whereas kerning adjusts spacing between two letters in order to improve appearances, tracking is used to adjust spacing across a line. This is used more for the purposes of fixing density issues while reading.

To give you a sense for how this differs, here’s an example from Mozilla on how to use tracking to change letter-spacing:

Normal tracking example


This is what normal tracking looks like. (Source: Mozilla) (Large preview)

-1px tracking example


This is what (tighter) -1px tracking looks like. (Source: Mozilla) (Large preview)

1px tracking example


This is what (looser) 1px tracking looks like. (Source: Mozilla) (Large preview)

Leading: Leading, or line spacing, is the amount of distance granted between the baselines of text (the bottom line upon which a font rests). Like tracking, this can be adjusted to fix density issues.

If you’ve been using word processing software for a while, you’re already familiar with leading. Single-spaced text. Double-spaced text. Even 1.5-spaced text. That’s leading.

The Role Of Typography In Modern Web Design

As for why we care about typography and each of the defining characteristics of it in modern web design, there’s a good reason for it. While it would be great if a well-written blog post or super convincing sales jargon on a landing page were enough to keep visitors happy, that’s not always the case. The choices you make in terms of typography can have major ramifications on whether or not people even give your site’s copy a read.

These are some of the ways in which typography affects your end users:

Reinforce Branding
Typography is another way in which you create a specific style for your web design. If images all contain clean lines and serious faces, you would want to use an equally buttoned-up typeface.

Set the Mood
It helps establish a mood or emotion. For instance, a more frivolous and light-bodied typeface would signal to users that the brand is fun, young and doesn’t take itself seriously.

Give It a Voice
It conveys a sense of personality and voice. While the actual message in the copy will be able to dictate this well, using a font that reinforces the tone would be a powerful choice.

Encourage Reading
As you can see, there are a number of ways in which you can adjust how type appears on a screen. If you can give it the right sense of speed and ease, you can encourage more users to read through it all.

Allow for Scanning
Scanning or glancing (which I’ll talk about shortly) is becoming more and more common as people engage with the web on their smart devices. Because of this, we need ways to format text to improve scannability and this usually involves lots of headers, pull quotes and in-line lists (bulleted, numbered, etc.).

Improve Accessibility
There is a lot to be done in order to design for accessibility. Your choice of font plays a big part in that, especially as the mobile experience has to rely less on big, bold designs and swatches of color and more on how quickly and well you can get visitors to your message.

Because typography has such a diverse role in the user experience, it’s a matter that needs to be taken seriously when strategizing new designs. So, let’s look at what the experts and tests have to say about handling it for mobile.

Typography For Mobile Web Design: What You Need To Know

Too small, too light, too fancy, too close together… You can run into a lot of problems if you don’t strike the perfect balance with your choice of typography in design. On mobile, however, it’s a bit of a different story.

I don’t want to say that playing it safe and using the system default from Google or Apple is the way to go. After all, you work so hard to develop unique, creative and eye-catching designs for your users. Why would you throw in the towel at this point and just slap Roboto all over your mobile website?

We know what the key elements are in defining and shaping a typeface and we also know how powerful fonts are within the context of a website. So, let’s drill down and see what exactly you need to do to make your typography play well with mobile.

1. Size

In general, the rule of thumb is that font size needs to be 16 pixels for mobile websites. Anything smaller than that could compromise readability for visually impaired readers. Anything too much larger could also make reading more difficult. You want to find that perfect Goldilocks formula and, time and time again, it comes back to 16 pixels.

In general, that rule is a safe one to play by when it comes to the main body text of your mobile website. However, what exactly are you allowed to do for header text? After all, you need to be able to distinguish your main headlines from the rest of the text. Not just for the sake of calling attention to bigger messages, but also for the purposes of increasing scannability of a mobile web page.

The Nielsen Norman Group reported on a study from MIT that covered this exact question. What can you do about text that users only have to glance at? In other words, what sort of sizing can you use for short strings of header text?

Here is what they found:

Short, glanceable strings of text lead to faster reading and greater comprehension when:

  • They are larger in size (specifically, 4mm as opposed to 3mm).
  • They are in all caps.
  • Lettering width is regular (and not condensed).

In sum:

Lowercase lettering required 26% more time for accurate reading than uppercase, and condensed text required 11.2% more time than regular. There were also significant interaction effects between case and size, suggesting that the negative effects of lowercase letters are exacerbated with small font sizes.

I’d be interested to see how the NerdWallet website does, in that case. While I do love the look of this, they have violated a number of these sizing and styling suggestions:

The NerdWallet home page


NerdWallet’s use of all-caps and smaller font sizes on mobile. (Source: NerdWallet) (Large preview)

Having looked at this a few times now, I do think the choice of a smaller-sized font for the all-caps header is an odd choice. My eyes are instantly drawn to the larger, bolder text beneath the main header. So, I think there is something to MIT’s research.

Flywheel Sports, on the other hand, does a great job of exemplifying this point.

The Flywheel Sports home page


Flywheel Sports’ smart font choices for mobile. (Source: Flywheel Sports) (Large preview)

There’s absolutely no doubt where the visitors’ attention needs to go: to the eye-catching header. It’s in all caps, it’s larger than all the other text on the page, and, although the font is incredibly basic, its infusion with a custom handwritten-style type looks really freaking cool here. I think the only thing I would fix here is the contrast between the white and yellow fonts and the blue background.

Just remember: this only applies to the sizing (and styling) of header text. If you want to keep large bodies of text readable, stick to the aforementioned sizing best practices.

2. Color and Contrast

Color, in general, is an important element in web design. There’s a lot you can convey to visitors by choosing the right color palette for designs, images and, yes, your text. But it’s not just the base color of the font that matters, it’s also the contrast between it and the background on which it sits (as evidenced by my note above about Flywheel Sports).

For some users, a white font on top of a busy photo or a lighter background may not pose too much of an issue. But “too much” isn’t really acceptable in web design. There should be no issues users encounter when they read text on a website, especially from an already compromised view of it on mobile.

Which is why color and contrast are top considerations you have to make when styling typography for mobile.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) has clear recommendations regarding how to address color contrast in section 1.4.3. At a minimum, the WCAG suggests that a contrast of 4.5 to 1 should be established between the text and background for optimal readability. There are a few exceptions to the rule:

  • Text sized using 18-point or a bold 14-point only needs a contrast of 3 to 1.
  • Text that doesn’t appear in an active part of the web page doesn’t need to abide by this rule.
  • The contrast of text within a logo can be set at the designer’s discretion.

If you’re unsure of how to establish that ratio between your font’s color and the background upon which it sits, use a color contrast checking tool like WebAIM.

WebAIM color contrast checker


An example of how to use the WebAIM color contrast checker tool. (Source: WebAIM) (Large preview)

The one thing I would ask you to be mindful of, however, is using opacity or other color settings that may compromise the color you’ve chosen. While the HEX color code will check out just fine in the tool, it may not be an accurate representation of how the color actually displays on a mobile device (or any screen, really).

To solve this problem and ensure you have a high enough contrast for your fonts, use a color eyedropper tool built into your browser like the ones for Firefox or Chrome. Simply hover the eyedropper over the color of the background (or font) on your web page, and let it tell you what the actual color code is now.

Here is an example of this in action: Dollar Shave Club.

This website has a rotation of images in the top banner of the home page. The font always remains white, but the background rotates.

Dollar Shave Club grey banner


Dollar Shave Club’s home page banner with a grey background. (Source: Dollar Shave Club) (Large preview)

Dollar Shave Club beige banner


Dollar Shave Club’s home page banner with a beige/taupe background. (Source: Dollar Shave Club) (Large preview)

Dollar Shave Club purple banner


Dollar Shave Club’s home page banner with a purple background. (Source: Dollar Shave Club) (Large preview)

Based on what we know now, the purple is probably the only one that will pass with flying colors. However, for the purposes of showing you how to work through this exercise, here is what the eyedropper tool says about the HEX color codes for each of the backgrounds:

  • Grey: #9a9a9a
  • Beige/taupe: #ffd0a8
  • Purple: #4c2c59.

Here is the contrast between these colors and the white font:

  • Grey: 2.81 to 1
  • Beige/taupe: 1.42 to 1
  • Purple: 11.59 to 1.

Clearly, the grey and beige backgrounds are going to lend themselves to a very poor experience for mobile visitors.

Also, if I had to guess, I’d say that “Try a risk-free Starter Set now.” is only a 10-point font (which is only about 13 pixels). So, the size of the font is also working against the readability factor, not to mention the poor choice of colors used with the lighter backgrounds.

The lesson here is that you should really make some time to think about how color and contrast of typography will work for the benefit of your readers. Without these additional steps, you may unintentionally be preventing visitors from moving forward on your site.

3. Tracking

Plain and simple: tracking in mobile web design needs to be used in order to control density. The standard recommendation is that there be no more than between 30 and 40 characters to a line. Anything more or less could affect readability adversely.

While it does appear that Dove is pushing the boundaries of that 40-character limit, I think this is nicely done.

The Dove home page


Dove’s use of even tracking and (mostly) staying within the 40-character limit. (Source: Dove) (Large preview)

The font is so simple and clean, and the tracking is evenly spaced. You can see that, by keeping the amount of words on a line relegated to the recommended limits, it gives this segment of the page the appearance that it will be easy to read. And that’s exactly what you want your typography choices to do: to welcome visitors to stop for a brief moment, read the non-threatening amount of text, and then go on their way (which, hopefully, is to conversion).

4. Leading

According to the NNG, content that appears above the fold on a 30-inch desktop monitor equates to five swipes on a 4-inch mobile device. Granted, this data is a bit old as most smartphones are now between five and six inches:

Average smartphone screen sizes


Average smartphone screen sizes from 2015 to 2021. (Source: TechCrunch) (Large preview)

Even so, let’s say that equates to three or four good swipes of the smartphone screen to get to the tip of the fold on desktop. That’s a lot of work your mobile visitors have to do to get to the good stuff. It also means that their patience will already be wearing thin by the time they get there. As the NNG pointed out, a mobile session, on average, usually lasts about only 72 seconds. Compare that to desktop at 150 seconds and you can see why this is a big deal.

This means two things for you:

  1. You absolutely need to cut out the excess on mobile. If this means creating a completely separate and shorter set of content for mobile, do it.
  2. Be very careful with leading.

You’ve already taken care to keep optimize your font size and width, which is good. However, too much leading and you could unintentionally be asking users to scroll even more than they might have to. And with every scroll comes the possibility of fatigue, boredom, frustration, or distraction getting in the way.

So, you need to strike a good balance here between using line spacing to enhance readability while also reigning in how much work they need to do to get to the bottom of the page.

The Hill Holliday website isn’t just awesome inspiration on how to get a little “crazy” with mobile typography, but it also has done a fantastic job in using leading to make larger bodies of text easier to read:

The Hill Holliday home page


Hill Holliday uses the perfect ratio of leading between lines and paragraphs. (Source: Hill Holliday) (Large preview)

Different resources will give you different guidelines on how to create spacing for mobile devices. I’ve seen suggestions for anywhere between 120% to 150% of the font’s point size. Since you also need to consider accessibility when designing for mobile, I’m going to suggest you follow WCAG’s guidelines:

  • Spacing between lines needs to be 1.5 (or 150%, whichever ratio works for you).
  • Spacing between paragraphs then needs to be 2.5 (or 250%).

At the end of the day, this is about making smart decisions with the space you’re given to work with. If you only have a minute to hook them, don’t waste it with too much vertical space. And don’t turn them off with too little.

5. Acceptable Fonts

Before I break down what makes for an acceptable font, I want to first look at what Android’s and Apple’s typeface defaults are. I think there’s a lot we can learn just by looking at these choices:

Android
Google uses two typefaces for its platforms (both desktop and mobile): Roboto and Noto. Roboto is the primary default. If a user visits a website in a language that doesn’t accept Roboto, then Noto is the secondary backup.

This is Roboto:

The Roboto character set


A snapshot of the Roboto character set. (Source: Roboto) (Large preview)

It’s also important to note that Roboto has a number of font families to choose from:

The Roboto families


Other options of Roboto fonts to choose from. (Source: Roboto) (Large preview)

As you can see, there are versions of Roboto with condensed kerning, a heavier and serifed face as well as a looser, serif-like option. Overall, though, this is just a really clean and simply stylized typeface. You’re not likely to stir up any real emotions when using this on a website, and it may not convey much of a personality, but it’s a safe, smart choice.

Apple
Apple has its own set of typography guidelines for iOS along with its own system typeface: San Francisco.

The San Francisco font


The San Francisco font for Apple devices. (Source: San Francisco) (Large preview)

For the most part, what you see is what you get with San Francisco. It’s just a basic sans serif font. If you look at Apple’s recommended suggestions on default settings for the font, you’ll also find it doesn’t even recommend using bold stylization or outlandish sizing, leading or tracking rules:

San Francisco default settings


Default settings and suggestions for the San Francisco typeface. (Source: San Francisco) (Large preview)

Like with pretty much everything else Apple does, the typography formula is very basic. And, you know what? It really works. Here it is in action on the Apple website:

The Apple home page


Apple makes use of its own typography best practices. (Source: Apple) (Large preview)

Much like Google’s system typeface, Apple has gone with a simple and classic typeface. While it may not help your site stand out from the competition, it will never do anything to impair the legibility or readability of your text. It also would be a good choice if you want your visuals to leave a greater impact.

My Recommendations

And, so, this now brings me to my own recommendations on what you should use in terms of type for mobile websites. Here’s the verdict:

  1. Don’t be afraid to start with a system default font. They’re going to be your safest choices until you get a handle on how far you can push the limits of mobile typography.
  2. Use only a sans serif or serif font. If your desktop website uses a decorative or handwritten font, ditch it for something more traditional on mobile.

    That said, you don’t have to ignore decorative typefaces altogether. In the examples from Hill Holliday or Flywheel Sports (as shown above), you can see how small touches of custom, non-traditional type can add a little flavor.

  3. Never use more than two typefaces on mobile. There just isn’t enough room for visitors to handle that many options visually.

    Make sure your two typefaces complement one another. Specifically, look for faces that utilize a similar character width. The design of each face may be unique and contrast well with the other, but there should still be some uniformity in what you present to mobile visitors’ eyes.

  4. Avoid typefaces that don’t have a distinct set of characters. For instance, compare how the uppercase “i”, lowercase “l” and the number “1” appear beside one another. Here’s an example of the Myriad Pro typeface from the Typekit website:

    Myriad Pro characters


    Myriad Pro’s typeface in action. (Source: Typekit) (Large preview)

    While the number “1” isn’t too problematic, the uppercase “i” (the first letter in this sequence) and the lowercase “l (the second) are just too similar. This can create some unwanted slowdowns in reading on mobile.

    Also, be sure to review how your font handles the conjunction of “r” and “n” beside one another. Can you differentiate each letter or do they smoosh together as one indistinguishable unit? Mobile visitors don’t have time to stop and figure out what those characters are, so make sure you use a typeface that gives each character its own space.

  5. Use fonts that are compatible across as many devices as possible. Your best bets will be: Arial, Courier New, Georgia, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS and Verdana.

    Default typefaces on mobile


    A list of system default typefaces for various mobile devices. (Source: tinytype) (Large preview)

    Android-supported typefaces


    Another view of the table that includes some Android-supported typefaces. (Source: tinytype) (Large preview)

    I think the Typeform website is a good example of one that uses a “safe” typeface choice, but doesn’t prevent them from wowing visitors with their message or design.

    The Typeform home page


    Typeform’s striking typeface has nothing to do with the actual font. (Source: Typeform) (Large preview)

    It’s short, to the point, perfectly sized, well-positioned, and overall a solid choice if they’re trying to demonstrate stability and professionalism (which I think they are).

  6. When you’re feeling comfortable with mobile typography and want to branch out a little more, take a look at this list of the best web-safe typefaces from WebsiteSetup. You’ll find here that most of the choices are your basic serif and sans serif types. It’s definitely nothing exciting or earth-shattering, but it will give you some variation to play with if you want to add a little more flavor to your mobile type.

Wrapping Up

I know, I know. Mobile typography is no fun. But web design isn’t always about creating something exciting and cutting edge. Sometimes sticking to practical and safe choices is what will guarantee you the best user experience in the end. And that’s what we’re seeing when it comes to mobile typography.

The reduced amount of real estate and the shorter times-on-site just don’t lend themselves well to the experimental typography choices (or design choices, in general) you can use on desktop. So, moving forward, your approach will have to be more about learning how to reign it in while still creating a strong and consistent look for your website.

Smashing Editorial
(lf, ra, yk, il)


Link: 

A Reference Guide For Typography In Mobile Web Design

Optimizing Sketch Files: Lessons Learned In Creating The Reduce App (Case Study)

Sketch had brought totally new standards for file sizes. You no longer see 10 GB Photoshop files all over the place. Nevertheless, huge Sketch files exist, and they slow down Sketch. As a result, your productivity slows down as well.
Let’s be honest: It’s not the design files that become bigger by magic. It’s designers who fill their files with unused, unoptimized and hidden elements that take unnecessary space. We have faced this problem in our startup, Flawless App.

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Optimizing Sketch Files: Lessons Learned In Creating The Reduce App (Case Study)

Standing Out From The Crowd: Improving Your Mobile App With Competitive Analysis

The mobile app industry is arguably one of the most competitive industries in the world. With around 2.8 million apps available for download in the Google Play store and 2.2 million in Apple’s App Store, getting your app seen, let alone downloaded, can be difficult.
With such fierce competition, it is important to make your app the best it can be. One of the most productive ways to do this is by conducting a competitive analysis to see where your competitors are at, what is working for them, what isn’t and what you can do better.

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Standing Out From The Crowd: Improving Your Mobile App With Competitive Analysis

The Evolution Of User Experience Design

(This is a sponsored post.) We’re fortunate enough to be working at an incredibly exciting time in our industry. Yes, the challenges are considerable, but the opportunities are – equally – transformational. It’s never been a more exciting time to work as a User Experience (UX) designer.
Great designers deliver wonderful, considered and memorable experiences. Doing that isn’t easy and – through this series of articles – I’ll provide a wealth of pointers to ensure you’re on the right track.

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The Evolution Of User Experience Design

4 Ways to Use Typefaces on Your Landing Page to Elevate Your Brand

There’s a reason you can recognize an Apple ad right away. Same with Nike and Airbnb. A big part of that is because of imagery, copy, and layout, but typefaces play a huge role as well.

Although the ROI of having a strong brand is harder to measure than, say, clear button copy, it’s telling that some of the most respected companies in the world have strong design cultures and distinct aesthetics.

Brand recognition via typefaces and design

Examples of Apple and Nike’s on-brand design aesthetics.

When designing landing pages, you need them to be on-brand, pixel for pixel. Great design is often a tell-tale sign of more sophisticated marketing (and can give you an easier time getting conversions as it can help convey that you’re well established). One of the most obvious elements that need complete design versatility on your landing pages is your typeface.

This is why Unbounce launched built-in Google fonts in September of this year. Now there are 840+ fonts to choose from for all your text and button needs, straight from the text editor’s properties panel:

New Google Fonts in the Unbounce builder

For some inspiration on how to best use this newfound world of hundreds of fonts, we’re passing the mic to some of our in-house designers at Unbounce. See what they have to say about everything from the best fonts for creating a visual hierarchy to how your text can communicate emotion. Plus see what types of fonts they’re excited to use in their upcoming design work in the builder.

Break the rules where possible

Cesar Martinez, Senior Art Director here at Unbounce, hears a lot of talk about rules. But they’re not the be-all-and-end-all. As he tells us:

“Often when discussing typography with my peers, I hear about all sorts of design principles, some of which I’ve always challenged myself to learn almost as commandments. I realized that is very easy to fall into a vortex of overused principles of visual communication that can potentially damage your integrity (or what some call originality) as a brand.

When designing landing pages that need to feel especially branded or out of the box, try breaking these rules every now and then
(then A/B test to see what works and doesn’t). For example, you could use more than two typefaces in one paragraph, break the kerning on your headers, use a big bold-ass serif on a semi-black background and see how it looks with a thin handmade brushed calligraphic font as the subheader…I know it sounds crazy, but this can lead to unexpected results and it’s something I’m really looking forward to doing with the builder’s new built-in Google fonts.”

Some of Cesar’s favorite out-of-the-box examples of typography?

“I love what ILOVEDUST does when it comes to typography. I also recommend reading Pretty Ugly2 as an introspection of “bad” typography applications that succeed in the way they communicate a visual idea.”

Which font is Cesar most excited to use in the builder? A few: Roboto, Playfair, and Abril Fatface.

Try Roboto, Playfair and more in your next landing page design. See how to create a landing page in Unbounce and experiment with typefaces in a free 30 day trial.

Use fewer fonts to clarify information hierarchy

Denise Villanueva, a Product Designer, created our Unbounce Academy with clear and consistent hierarchy in mind.

“Good typography is the most straightforward way to create a clear content hierarchy. That, above anything else, should be the main criteria of choosing typefaces for your brand.”

Denise provided some specific pointers to help you achieve sound content hierarchy on your landing pages:

Denise

“When in doubt, using one font family in 2–3 weights (or two font families in 1-2 weights) will work the vast majority of the time. Using more than three typefaces can be distracting and chaotic — avoid doing it.”

As an example, Unbounce’s Fitspo template features the Raleway font (in all caps for headers and sentence case for regular body copy) and a clear, attention-grabbing header with supporting sections that guide you further down the page. Think of it as presenting your information in clearly defined levels that are easy to read.

Unbounce's Fitspo landing page template

Create a new landing page fast with the Fitspo template — or browse through other stunning designs you can use today.

Give someone all the feels with typographic details

For Denis Suhopoljac, our Principal User Experience Designer, using the right typography can evoke feelings in your audience:

Denis Suhopoljac

“Typefaces are all about composition, harmony, and mood rolled into one. By matching the right typography traits with voice, style and tone of a brand, you can enhance the wit, humor, or seriousness of a piece of copy. When it’s done right, typography makes your copy (and your entire brand experience) legible, readable, and appealing.”

Typefaces can convey emotion

Different fonts convey different types of emotions via text — what do these typefaces make you think of? Professionalism? Reliability? Playfulness? Timelessness?

Try incorporating typeface as part of your message

To Ainara Sáinz, our Interactive Designer, good typography can do double duty and save you from having to use other supporting imagery.

Ainara Sainz“If typography is done well, you don’t always need extra elements like images, backgrounds or even colors to reinforce the message. And sometimes, the execution is so flawless that the audience might not even need to know how to read to understand and feel the message behind it. Like Ji Lee’s Word as Image project—just… wow.”

Image via Ji Lee’s Word as Image project.

Your landing pages can make use of stunning fonts too

Having solid branding does wonders for a brand’s credibility, and our customers have been telling us that they want to get in on the action. Get into the builder today to explore the 840+ new typeface options available, and find your favourite pairings for your next landing page.

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4 Ways to Use Typefaces on Your Landing Page to Elevate Your Brand

Understanding The Product Adoption Curve Could Totally Transform Your SaaS Marketing

product adoption curve

Like with any type of marketing, SaaS marketing is all about understanding your customers. If you don’t know your audience like you know yourself, you might as well pack your bags and choose another career. That’s how crucial it is. But sometimes, you can know your audience super well, and you just get…stuck. It’s happened to even the best of businesses. Your product development, marketing, and launch could all be on point, and everything could still go belly up. Maybe you’re only getting a few sales, so you get demotivated. Is your product really good after all? Could you be…

The post Understanding The Product Adoption Curve Could Totally Transform Your SaaS Marketing appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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Understanding The Product Adoption Curve Could Totally Transform Your SaaS Marketing

Launching An App? Make App Store Optimization Your Foundation For Growth

Most apps developed and released in Google’s Play store are abandoned by their developers. Over half of these apps get fewer than 5000 downloads, and most apps are considered unprofitable. This article is not going to make you the next Instagram, but it will hopefully help you get a nice base level of users that you can grow from.
To give you some better understanding of numbers, the example app in this article received 100,000 downloads in eight weeks.

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Launching An App? Make App Store Optimization Your Foundation For Growth

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The iOS 10.3 Security Alert Is Killing App Store Downloads: Here’s How To Fix It

In its move to patch a security hole as part of the iOS 10.3 release, Apple has introduced (yet) another redirection mechanism that developers must handle when attempting to implement mobile deep-link routing (i.e. the mechanism to route users to a specific page inside a mobile app, rather than the App Store or app home page).
This redirection instance has introduced additional friction to the app download and reopening process, and data shows that it has decreased conversion rates on iOS 10.

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The iOS 10.3 Security Alert Is Killing App Store Downloads: Here’s How To Fix It

Your mobile website optimization guide (or, how to stop frustrating your mobile users)

Reading Time: 15 minutes

One lazy Sunday evening, I decided to order Thai delivery for dinner. It was a Green-Curry-and-Crispy-Wonton kind of night.

A quick google search from my iPhone turned up an ad for a food delivery app. In that moment, I wanted to order food fast, without having to dial a phone number or speak to a human. So, I clicked.

From the ad, I was taken to the company’s mobile website. There was a call-to-action to “Get the App” below the fold, but I didn’t want to download a whole app for this one meal. I would just order from the mobile site.

Dun, dun, duuuun.

Over the next minute, I had one of the most frustrating ordering experiences of my life. Labeless hamburger menus, the inability to edit my order, and an overall lack of guidance through the ordering process led me to believe I would never be able to adjust my order from ‘Chicken Green Curry’ to ‘Prawn Green Curry’.

After 60 seconds of struggling, I gave up, utterly defeated.

I know this wasn’t a life-altering tragedy, but it sure was an awful mobile experience. And I bet you have had a similar experience in the last 24 hours.

Let’s think about this for a minute:

  1. This company paid good money for my click
  2. I was ready to order online: I was their customer to lose
  3. I struggled for about 30 seconds longer than most mobile users would have
  4. I gave up and got a mediocre burrito from the Mexican place across the street.

Not only was I frustrated, but I didn’t get my tasty Thai. The experience left a truly bitter taste in my mouth.

10 test ideas for optimizing your mobile website!

Get this checklist of 10 experiment ideas you should test on your mobile website.




Why is mobile website optimization important?

In 2017, every marketer ‘knows’ the importance of the mobile shopping experience. Americans spend more time on mobile devices than any other. But we are still failing to meet our users where they are on mobile.

Americans spend 54% of online time on mobile devices. Source: KPCB.

For most of us, it is becoming more and more important to provide a seamless mobile experience. But here’s where it gets a little tricky…

Conversion optimization”, and the term “optimization” in general, often imply improving conversion rates. But a seamless mobile experience does not necessarily mean a high-converting mobile experience. It means one that meets your user’s needs and propels them along the buyer journey.

I am sure there are improvements you can test on your mobile experience that will lift your mobile conversion rates, but you shouldn’t hyper-focus on a single metric. Instead, keep in mind that mobile may just be a step within your user’s journey to purchase.

So, let’s get started! First, I’ll delve into your user’s mobile mindset, and look at how to optimize your mobile experience. For real.

You ready?

What’s different about mobile?

First things first: let’s acknowledge that your user is the same human being whether they are shopping on a mobile device, a desktop computer, a laptop, or in-store. Agreed?

So, what’s different about mobile? Well, back in 2013, Chris Goward said, “Mobile is a state of being, a context, a verb, not a device. When your users are on mobile, they are in a different context, a different environment, with different needs.”

Your user is the same person when she is shopping on her iPhone, but she is in a different context. She may be in a store comparing product reviews on her phone, or she may be on the go looking for a good cup of coffee, or she may be trying to order Thai delivery from her couch.

Your user is the same person on mobile, but in a different context, with different needs.

This is why many mobile optimization experts recommend having a mobile website versus using responsive design.

Responsive design is not an optimization strategy. We should stop treating mobile visitors as ‘mini-desktop visitors’. People don’t use mobile devices instead of desktop devices, they use it in addition to desktop in a whole different way.

– Talia Wolf, Founder & Chief Optimizer at GetUplift

Step one, then, is to understand who your target customer is, and what motivates them to act in any context. This should inform all of your marketing and the creation of your value proposition.

(If you don’t have a clear picture of your target customer, you should re-focus and tackle that question first.)

Step two is to understand how your user’s mobile context affects their existing motivation, and how to facilitate their needs on mobile to the best of your ability.

Understanding the mobile context

To understand the mobile context, let’s start with some stats and work backwards.

  • Americans spend more than half (54%) of their online time on mobile devices (Source: KPCB, 2016)
  • Mobile accounts for 60% of time spent shopping online, but only 16% of all retail dollars spent (Source: ComScore, 2015)

Insight: Americans are spending more than half of their online time on their mobile devices, but there is a huge gap between time spent ‘shopping’ online, and actually buying.

  • 29% of smartphone users will immediately switch to another site or app if the original site doesn’t satisfy their needs (Source: Google, 2015)
  • Of those, 70% switch because of lagging load times and 67% switch because it takes too many steps to purchase or get desired information (Source: Google, 2015)

Insight: Mobile users are hypersensitive to slow load times, and too many obstacles.

So, why the heck are our expectations for immediate gratification so high on mobile? I have a few theories.

We’re reward-hungry

Mobile devices provide constant access to the internet, which means a constant expectation for reward.

“The fact that we don’t know what we’ll find when we check our email, or visit our favorite social site, creates excitement and anticipation. This leads to a small burst of pleasure chemicals in our brains, which drives us to use our phones more and more.” – TIME, “You asked: Am I addicted to my phone?

If non-stop access has us primed to expect non-stop reward, is it possible that having a negative mobile experience is even more detrimental to our motivation than a negative experience in another context?

When you tap into your Facebook app and see three new notifications, you get a burst of pleasure. And you do this over, and over, and over again.

So, when you tap into your Chrome browser and land on a mobile website that is difficult to navigate, it makes sense that you would be extra annoyed. (No burst of fun reward chemicals!)

A mobile device is a personal device

Another facet to mobile that we rarely discuss is the fact that mobile devices are personal devices. Because our smartphones and wearables are with us almost constantly, they often feel very intimate.

In fact, our smartphones are almost like another limb. According to research from dscout, the average cellphone user touches his or her phone 2,167 times per day. Our thumbprints are built into them, for goodness’ sake.

Just think about your instinctive reaction when someone grabs your phone and starts scrolling through your pictures…

It is possible, then, that our expectations are higher on mobile because the device itself feels like an extension of us. Any experience you have on mobile should speak to your personal situation. And if the experience is cumbersome or difficult, it may feel particularly dissonant because it’s happening on your mobile device.

User expectations on mobile are extremely high. And while you can argue that mobile apps are doing a great job of meeting those expectations, the mobile web is failing.

If yours is one of the millions of organizations without a mobile app, your mobile website has got to work harder. Because a negative experience with your brand on mobile may have a stronger effect than you can anticipate.

Even if you have a mobile app, you should recognize that not everyone is going to use it. You can’t completely disregard your mobile website. (As illustrated by my extremely negative experience trying to order food.)

You need to think about how to meet your users where they are in the buyer journey on your mobile website:

  1. What are your users actually doing on mobile?
  2. Are they just seeking information before purchasing from a computer?
  3. Are they seeking information on your mobile site while in your actual store?

The great thing about optimization is that you can test to pick off low-hanging fruit, while you are investigating more impactful questions like those above. For instance, while you are gathering data about how your users are using your mobile site, you can test usability improvements.

Usability on mobile websites

If you are looking take get a few quick wins to prove the importance of a mobile optimization program, usability is a good place to begin.

The mobile web presents unique usability challenges for marketers. And given your users’ ridiculously high expectations, your mobile experience must address these challenges.

mobile website optimization - usability
This image represents just a few mobile usability best practices.

Below are four of the core mobile limitations, along with recommendations from the WiderFunnel Strategy team around how to address (and test) them.

Note: For this section, I relied heavily on research from the Nielsen Norman Group. For more details, click here.

1. The small screen struggle

No surprise, here. Compared to desktop and laptop screens, even the biggest smartphone screen is smaller―which means they display less content.

“The content displayed above the fold on a 30-inch monitor requires 5 screenfuls on a small 4-inch screen. Thus mobile users must (1) incur a higher interaction cost in order to access the same amount of information; (2) rely on their short-term memory to refer to information that is not visible on the screen.” – Nielsen Norman Group, “Mobile User Experience: Limitations and Strengths

Strategist recommendations:

Consider persistent navigation and calls-to-action. Because of the smaller screen size, your users often need to do a lot of scrolling. If your navigation and main call-to-action aren’t persistent, you are asking your users to scroll down for information, and scroll back up for relevant links.

Note: Anything persistent takes up screen space as well. Make sure to test this idea before implementing it to make sure you aren’t stealing too much focus from other important elements on your page.

2. The touchy touchscreen

Two main issues with the touchscreen (an almost universal trait of today’s mobile devices) are typing and target size.

Typing on a soft keyboard, like the one on your user’s iPhone, requires them to constantly divide their attention between what they are typing, and the keypad area. Not to mention the small keypad and crowded keys…

Target size refers to a clickable target, which needs to be a lot larger on a touchscreen than it is does when your user has a mouse.

So, you need to make space for larger targets (bigger call-to-action buttons) on a smaller screen.

Strategist recommendations:

Test increasing the size of your clickable elements. Google provides recommendations for target sizing:

You should ensure that the most important tap targets on your site—the ones users will be using the most often—are large enough to be easy to press, at least 48 CSS pixels tall/wide (assuming you have configured your viewport properly).

Less frequently-used links can be smaller, but should still have spacing between them and other links, so that a 10mm finger pad would not accidentally press both links at once.

You may also want to test improving the clarity around what is clickable and what isn’t. This can be achieved through styling, and is important for reducing ‘exploratory clicking’.

When a user has to click an element to 1) determine whether or not it is clickable, and 2) determine where it will lead, this eats away at their finite motivation.

Another simple tweak: Test your call-to-action placement. Does it match with the motion range of a user’s thumb?

3. Mobile shopping experience, interrupted

As the term mobile implies, mobile devices are portable. And because we can use ‘em in many settings, we are more likely to be interrupted.

“As a result, attention on mobile is often fragmented and sessions on mobile devices are short. In fact, the average session duration is 72 seconds […] versus the average desktop session of 150 seconds.”Nielsen Norman Group

Strategist recommendations:

You should design your mobile experience for interruptions, prioritize essential information, and simplify tasks and interactions. This goes back to meeting your users where they are within the buyer journey.

According to research by SessionM (published in 2015), 90% of smartphone users surveyed used their phones while shopping in a physical store to 1) compare product prices, 2) look up product information, and 3) check product reviews online.

You should test adjusting your page length and messaging hierarchy to facilitate your user’s main goals. This may be browsing and information-seeking versus purchasing.

4. One window at a time

As I’m writing this post, I have 11 tabs open in Google Chrome, split between two screens. If I click on a link that takes me to a new website or page, it’s no big deal.

But on mobile, your user is most likely viewing one window at a time. They can’t split their screen to look at two windows simultaneously, so you shouldn’t ask them to. Mobile tasks should be easy to complete in one app or on one website.

The more your user has to jump from page to page, the more they have to rely on their memory. This increases cognitive load, and decreases the likelihood that they will complete an action.

Strategist recommendations:

Your navigation should be easy to find and it should contain links to your most relevant and important content. This way, if your user has to travel to a new page to access specific content, they can find their way back to other important pages quickly and easily.

In e-commerce, we often see people “pogo-sticking”—jumping from one page to another continuously—because they feel that they need to navigate to another page to confirm that the information they have provided is correct.

A great solution is to ensure that your users can view key information that they may want to confirm (prices / products / address) on any page. This way, they won’t have to jump around your website and remember these key pieces of information.

Implementing mobile website optimization

As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, the phrase “you should test” is peppered throughout this post. Because understanding the mobile context, and reviewing usability challenges and recommendations are first steps.

If you can, you should test any recommendation made in this post. Which brings us to mobile website optimization. At WiderFunnel, we approach mobile optimization just like we would desktop optimization: with process.

You should evaluate and prioritize mobile web optimization in the context of all of your marketing. If you can achieve greater Return on Investment by optimizing your desktop experience (or another element of your marketing), you should start there.

But assuming your mobile website ranks high within your priorities, you should start examining it from your user’s perspective. The WiderFunnel team uses the LIFT Model framework to identify problem areas.

The LIFT Model allows us to identify barriers to conversion, using the six factors of Value Proposition, Clarity, Relevance, Anxiety, Distraction, and Urgency. For more on the LIFT Model, check out this blog post.

A LIFT illustration

I asked the WiderFunnel Strategy team to do a LIFT analysis of the food delivery website that gave me so much grief that Sunday night. Here are some of the potential barriers they identified on the checkout page alone:

Mobile website LIFT analysis
This wireframe is based on the food delivery app’s checkout page. Each of the numbered LIFT points corresponds with the list below.
  1. Relevance: There is valuable page real estate dedicated to changing the language, when a smartphone will likely detect your language on its own.
  2. Anxiety: There are only 3 options available in the navigation: Log In, Sign Up, and Help. None of these are helpful when a user is trying to navigate between key pages.
  3. Clarity: Placing the call-to-action at the top of the page creates disjointed eyeflow. The user must scan the page from top to bottom to ensure their order is correct.
  4. Clarity: The “Order Now” call-to-action and “Allergy & dietary information links” are very close together. Users may accidentally tap one, when they want to tap the other.
  5. Anxiety: There is no confirmation of the delivery address.
  6. Anxiety: There is no way to edit an order within the checkout. A user has to delete items, return to the menu and add new items.
  7. Clarity: Font size is very small making the content difficult to read.
  8. Clarity: The “Cash” and “Card” icons have no context. Is a user supposed to select one, or are these just the payment options available?
  9. Distraction: The dropdown menus in the footer include many links that might distract a user from completing their order.

Needless to say, my frustrations were confirmed. The WiderFunnel team ran into the same obstacles I had run into, and identified dozens of barriers that I hadn’t.

But what does this mean for you?

When you are first analyzing your mobile experience, you should try to step into your user’s shoes and actually use your experience. Give your team a task and a goal, and walk through the experience using a framework like LIFT. This will allow you to identify usability issues within your user’s mobile context.

Every LIFT point is a potential test idea that you can feed into your optimization program.

Case study examples

This wouldn’t be a WiderFunnel blog post without some case study examples.

This is where we put ‘best mobile practices’ to the test. Because the smallest usability tweak may make perfect sense to you, and be off-putting to your users.

In the following three examples, we put our recommendations to the test.

Mobile navigation optimization

In mobile design in particular, we tend to assume our users understand ‘universal’ symbols.

Aritzia Hamburger Menu
The ‘Hamburger Menu’ is a fixture on mobile websites. But does that mean it’s a universally understood symbol?

But, that isn’t always the case. And it is certainly worth testing to understand how you can make the navigation experience (often a huge pain point on mobile) easier.

You can’t just expect your users to know things. You have to make it as clear as possible. The more you ask your user to guess, the more frustrated they will become.

– Dennis Pavlina, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel

This example comes from an e-commerce client that sells artwork. In this experiment, we tested two variations against the original.

In the first, we increased font and icon size within the navigation and menu drop-down. This was a usability update meant to address the small, difficult to navigate menu. Remember the conversation about target size? We wanted to tackle the low-hanging fruit first.

With variation B, we dug a little deeper into the behavior of this client’s specific users.

Qualitative Hotjar recordings had shown that users were trying to navigate the mobile website using the homepage as a homebase. But this site actually has a powerful search functionality, and it is much easier to navigate using search. Of course, the search option was buried in the hamburger menu…

So, in the second variation (built on variation A), we removed Search from the menu and added it right into the main Nav.

Mobile website optimization - navigation
Wireframes of the control navigation versus our variations.

Results

Both variations beat the control. Variation A led to a 2.7% increase in transactions, and a 2.4% increase in revenue. Variation B decreased clicks to the menu icon by -24%, increased transactions by 8.1%, and lifted revenue by 9.5%.

Never underestimate the power of helping your users find their way on mobile. But be wary! Search worked for this client’s users, but it is not always the answer, particularly if what you are selling is complex, and your users need more guidance through the funnel.

Mobile product page optimization

Let’s look at another e-commerce example. This client is a large sporting goods store, and this experiment focused on their product detail pages.

On the original page, our Strategists noted a worst mobile practice: The buttons were small and arranged closely together, making them difficult to click.

There were also several optimization blunders:

  1. Two calls-to-action were given equal prominence: “Find in store” and “+ Add to cart”
  2. “Add to wishlist” was also competing with “Add to cart”
  3. Social icons were placed near the call-to-action, which could be distracting

We had evidence from an experiment on desktop that removing these distractions, and focusing on a single call-to-action, would increase transactions. (In that experiment, we saw transactions increase by 6.56%).

So, we tested addressing these issues in two variations.

In the first, we de-prioritized competing calls-to-action, and increased the ‘Size’ and ‘Qty’ fields. In the second, we wanted to address usability issues, making the color options, size options, and quantity field bigger and easier to click.

mobile website optimization - product page variations
The control page versus our variations.

Results

Both of our variations lost to the Control. I know what you’re thinking…what?!

Let’s dig deeper.

Looking at the numbers, users responded in the way we expected, with significant increases to the actions we wanted, and a significant reduction in the ones we did not.

Visits to “Reviews”, “Size”, “Quantity”, “Add to Cart” and the Cart page all increased. Visits to “Find in Store” decreased.

And yet, although the variations were more successful at moving users through to the next step, there was not a matching increase in motivation to actually complete a transaction.

It is hard to say for sure why this result happened without follow-up testing. However, it is possible that this client’s users have different intentions on mobile: Browsing and seeking product information vs. actually buying. Removing the “Find in Store” CTA may have caused anxiety.

This example brings us back to the mobile context. If an experiment wins within a desktop experience, this certainly doesn’t guarantee it will win on mobile.

I was shopping for shoes the other day, and was actually browsing the store’s mobile site while I was standing in the store. I was looking for product reviews. In that scenario, I was information-seeking on my phone, with every intention to buy…just not from my phone.

Are you paying attention to how your unique users use your mobile experience? It may be worthwhile to take the emphasis off of ‘increasing conversions on mobile’ in favor of researching user behavior on mobile, and providing your users with the mobile experience that best suits their needs.

Note: When you get a test result that contradicts usability best practices, it is important that you look carefully at your experiment design and secondary metrics. In this case, we have a potential theory, but would not recommend any large-scale changes without re-validating the result.

Mobile checkout optimization

This experiment was focused on one WiderFunnel client’s mobile checkout page. It was an insight-driving experiment, meaning the focus was on gathering insights about user behavior rather than on increasing conversion rates or revenue.

Evidence from this client’s business context suggested that users on mobile may prefer alternative payment methods, like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, to the standard credit card and PayPal options.

To make things even more interesting, this client wanted to determine the desire for alternative payment methods before implementing them.

The hypothesis: By adding alternative payment methods to the checkout page in an unobtrusive way, we can determine by the percent of clicks which new payment methods are most sought after by users.

We tested two variations against the Control.

In variation A, we pulled the credit card fields and call-to-action higher on the page, and added four alternative payment methods just below the CTA: PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Payments, and Google Wallet.

If a user clicked on one of the four alternative payment methods, they would see a message:

“Google Wallet coming soon!
We apologize for any inconvenience. Please choose an available deposit method.
Credit Card | PayPal”

In variation B, we flipped the order. We featured the alternative payment methods above the credit card fields. The focus was on increasing engagement with the payment options to gain better insights about user preference.

mobile website optimization - checkout page
The control against variations testing alternative payment methods.

Note: For this experiment, iOS devices did not display the Google Wallet option, and Android devices did not display Apple Pay.

Results

On iOS devices, Apple Pay received 18% of clicks, and Amazon Pay received 12%. On Android devices, Google Wallet received 17% of clicks, and Amazon Pay also received 17%.

The client can use these insights to build the best experience for mobile users, offering Apple Pay and Google Wallet as alternative payment methods rather than PayPal or Amazon Pay.

Unexpectedly, both variations also increased transactions! Variation A led to an 11.3% increase in transactions, and variation B led to an 8.5% increase.

Because your user’s motivation is already limited on mobile, you should try to create an experience with the fewest possible steps.

You can ask someone to grab their wallet, decipher their credit card number, expiration date, and ccv code, and type it all into a small form field. Or, you can test leveraging the digital payment options that may already be integrated with their mobile devices.

The future of mobile website optimization

Imagine you are in your favorite outdoor goods store, and you are ready to buy a new tent.

You are standing in front of piles of tents: 2-person, 3-person, 4-person tents; 3-season and extreme-weather tents; affordable and pricey tents; light-weight and heavier tents…

You pull out your smartphone, and navigate to the store’s mobile website. You are looking for more in-depth product descriptions and user reviews to help you make your decision.

A few seconds later, a store employee asks if they can help you out. They seem to know exactly what you are searching for, and they help you choose the right tent for your needs within minutes.

Imagine that while you were browsing products on your phone, that store employee received a notification that you are 1) in the store, 2) looking at product descriptions for tent A and tent B, and 3) standing by the tents.

Mobile optimization in the modern era is not about increasing conversions on your mobile website. It is about providing a seamless user experience. In the scenario above, the in-store experience and the mobile experience are inter-connected. One informs the other. And a transaction happens because of each touch point.

Mobile experiences cannot live in a vacuum. Today’s buyer switches seamlessly between devices [and] your optimization efforts must reflect that.

Yonny Zafrani, Mobile Product Manager, Dynamic Yield

We wear the internet on our wrists. We communicate via chat bots and messaging apps. We spend our leisure time on our phones: streaming, gaming, reading, sharing.

And while I’m not encouraging you to shift your optimization efforts entirely to mobile, you must consider the role mobile plays in your customers’ lives. The online experience is mobile. And your mobile experience should be an intentional step within the buyer journey.

What does your ideal mobile shopping experience look like? Where do you think mobile websites can improve? Do you agree or disagree with the ideas in this post? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

The post Your mobile website optimization guide (or, how to stop frustrating your mobile users) appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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Your mobile website optimization guide (or, how to stop frustrating your mobile users)