Web Design News 23/03/10

Paul Boag

This week: IE9 is revealed, a new web design resource is launched, visual hierarchy is explained and we apply some phycology to our sites.

Microsoft reveal Internet Explorer 9

The big news of the week is Microsoft giving us a glimpse of IE9 at the MIX conference. This has been followed up with more details on the IEblog and the release of the IE9 Platform Preview.

The focus of the new browser seems to be on performance, standards support and improved font rendering. All good news for web designers.


The response has been generally positive with Zeldman writing:

The reported web standards improvements are encouraging, and better type rendering in IE is a consummation much to be desired.

Roger Johansson was equally enthusiastic when he wrote:

I’m still amazed at how few IE8 problems related to CSS 2.1 I have run into. If IE9 can deliver that level of support for HTML5, DOM, CSS3, and SVG… yay!

Unsurprisingly this announcements have further fanned the flame of anti-IE6 hatred. However, over at Sitepoint there is an interesting article that points out that we will never be happy with users choice of browser.

So will the end of IE6 make you, me, and everyone else happy? Ten years ago we were calling for Netscape 4 to die (if you thought IE6 was bad, NS4 would have appalled you!). IE6’s death may be imminent, but will we then start demonizing other browsers?

There is just no pleasing some people!

New web design resources

There is an interesting new web design blog on the block this week.

You might be asking why we need yet another web design blog? This is a perfectly valid question. However, Relpost is different.

As the site says…

Relpost diggs deep to bring you fresh content from the hottest web designers and the coolest blogs serving you juicy, related goodness.

In other words it hand picks some of the best web design posts out there and collates them into one handy place. Useful if you have given up on keeping on top of your RSS feeds.


Another random resource I wanted to mention is Mark Boulton’s book “Designing for the Web.”

This book that provides an excellent introduction to good design has been around for a while. The reason I am mentioning it now is because it has just been re-released for free!

If you’re a designer, developer, or content producer, reading this book will enrich your website and plug the holes in your design knowledge.

I highly recommend it.

Visual hierarchy & weight explained

While on the subject of design principles can I suggest you check out two posts on 52 Weeks of UI. These posts tackle both visual hierarchy and visual weight, and are excellent reading for anybody interested in understanding better how design works.

The posts not only explain what hierarchy and weighting are but why they are important. For example when talking about hierarchy the author writes:

The best visual hierarchies lead users to take the action confidently. They have a clear, obvious order in which to view and act on things, with the most important things first.


These are actually great posts for non-designers because it explains the things designers do intuitively but can rarely explain well.

Bring psychology to web design

If it was possible to have a single theme for a conference as diverse as SXSW, this year it would have been psychology. From Andy Budd’s talk on persuasive design to Stephen Anderson who looked at the art and science of seductive interaction, it was all about understanding what motivates users.

The one thing that grabbed my attention the most in Stephen Anderson’s talk was his ‘Mental Notes‘ cards.

Get Mental Notes

Although not currently available he did hand out preview packs to all attendees and they are truly awesome (as the american’s would say).

Each one of the 50 cards highlights some characteristic of human psychology. It then suggests ways you can use that characteristic to improve your website. For example…

Curiosity – When teased with a small bit of interesting information, people will want to know more!

This is the kind of tip that helps shape the design of your site.

There was a real feeling at SXSW that subjects like usability, accessibility and standards should be taken for granted. Instead the conference seemed to focus on nuances that take your website to the next level.