Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Photoshop Tutorial: How to Make a Stitched Leather Header

Design trends please us with their variety. Just choose any you like and make the most of it. No boundaries for your creativity. But which one to choose…Well, let’s take Skeuomorphism, for example. This trend is not the newest one, still, it hasn’t lost its popularity and can be observed on multitude websites. Skeuomorphic elements are easy on the eyes and can add any design some habitual charm.
Still hesitate or just want to learn more about the trend? You are welcome to follow the link – a cool Interactive Infographic will help you clarify all its pros and cons.
And if you have nothing against and want to start your own skeuomorphic experience, let me offer you this tutorial which will show you how to create a leather header with navigational menu.
Final Result

This a starter-intermediate level tutorial that will show you some simple tricks which can lead you to the desired result. So, let’s start!
1. First of all, let’s create a new document with a size of 1071×263. The Background color is white.
2. Now we go to our tools and choose a rounded rectangle tool. Set the radius to 15px and create a rectangle similar to the following. The color is set to #f98909.

3. It is time to add some blending options to the layer. Right click the layer with the rounded rectangle and choose Blending Options and insert following:

I’ve chosen the color #c0bcbc in order not to make the gradient too contrast.
Some nice leather textures you can find following the link. Download them and make the following steps to add them to your patterns set: Edit – Preset Manager – Ctr+5 ( or just choose Patterns)- Load – Done.
And that is the result we got after all these manipulations.
4. Now let’s make our stitches. Take your brush tool (set the radius to 4px, color #c0bcbc). Press Shift and draw your stitch. Choose Blending Options and insert the following:

5. Press Ctrl+T and transfer the stitch.

6. Duplicate the layer and shift it to the right.

7. Merge the two layers and duplicate again. Shift to the right.
Thus merging the layers you increase the number of stitches on the same layer and duplicating it you add the necessary number of stitches to your header.
Finally you’ll get the following.

All your stitches are on the same layer.
8. Duplicate the layer with the stitches 2 times. Place the original layer over its copies.
9. Change the color of the first copy to #c08554. Shift it to the right and down.
10. Change the color of the second copy to #010101 and shift it to the right.
You will get the following result:

11. To make our stich elements look more realistic we need to add one more detail.
Let’s draw a stripe using brush tool and #8a695d color. Go to Blending Options and choose the same pattern overlay as we have already done (step 3).

12. Now we will add some text to our navigation bar. I used Georgia 18 for the menu and Lobster 24 for Company Name. White color. Add the following blending options (all buttons except HOME button):

13. To show what our active link will look like we will duplicate the layer with a HOME button, change the color of the copy to the #785641 and add the copy with such blending options:

14. Shift the original layer with the HOME button 1px to the right and down.

15. Choose rounded rectangle tool. Set the radius to 15px and create a search form. Fill it with white color – the Basket Tool (G) – and repeat the same manipulations that we have already done to the Home button (steps 13-14).

16. Add a magnifier custom shape which you can find following the link. Change its color to white.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

How to Adapt to the Evolution of Marketing

The marketing world has been going through a period of rapid change over the last five years. What most business owners or marketers know about marketing has been completely flipped on its head. Marketing campaigns that worked 10 years ago are now falling flat with little to no results, leaving many frustrated.
In years past, marketing was a one way communicator. Companies would pay to have their message placed in front of consumers and a certain percentage of these consumers would convert into sales. It was a wonderful world where the more money you threw into advertising, the more sales you would get. For years this is how traditional media advertising (TV, radio, Magazines, etc.) worked and the world was a wonderful place.
Then along came the internet and everything changed. What had previously worked, was no longer working. Technology and the internet made a fundamental shift in power happen. Previously the power was held by the advertiser who would push their messages in front of people whether they wanted to see it or not. With the emergence of the internet and new technologies such as DVR, streaming video, satellite radio, etc. consumers now hold the power and can block out the disruptive marketing messages of traditional media. Social media moved marketing into a two way communication channel where both good and bad news can spread like wire fire in a drop of a hat.
So with so many traditional marketing mediums now showing little or no return on investment, many business owners and marketers are asking, “Now What?”. They are confused and frustrated with finding a new, effective way to engage and get in front of consumers. But there is no need to get frustrated, there is an answer, however, the answer requires a shift in what we think of marketing as we know it.

In Walks Inbound Marketing

Then about 6-8 years ago a new style of marketing emerged. Inbound Marketing has been proven extremely successful for thousands of businesses worldwide and is exploding in popularity. Businesses have been able to skyrocket website visitors, boost lead conversions and ultimately grow their businesses in ways they never through imaginable.

But What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound Marketing is all about earning your audience’s attention instead of traditional marketing methods of begging, buying or stealing your audience’s attention. People are curious and hungry for quality information about topics that interest them. So where do people go to look for information?

Well, answer me this question: When you are looking for information on a particular topic, where is the first place you go to find information? I would bet that you answered, “Google” or “The Internet” and that’s exactly where everyone goes.

So if your business can provide amazing informative content in the form of a blog, ebooks, webinars, checklists, etc. Then those individuals looking for information on the industry will be excited and happy to come to your website to learn more.
In addition to drawing in people on the web searching for great information, you can also drive traffic to your website by promoting that same content using targeted social media marketing, email marketing and other methods typically associated with Internet Marketing.

Step Two: Converting

Getting individuals interested in your industry to your website is only the first step to the Inbound Marketing process. Once on your website, you need to convert them into a lead by having them fill out some sort of form in exchange for more quality information.
In this stage we talk a great deal about conversion marketing such as designing effective call-to-actions, optimizing landing pages and UX/UI elements. A great deal of testing and measuring is done in order to maximize the conversion rate of every visitor coming to the website, no matter what stage in the buying lifecycle they are in.

Step Three: Nurturing Your Leads to Sales

With Inbound Marketing we have a funnel broken into different stages depending on where in the buying lifecycle each person is. As we start converting visitors into different lifecycles, we need a way to nurture those leads down the funnel, eventually getting them to the bottom where they want to talk business.
We can leverage custom tailored, automated lead nurturing campaigns to help future educate, engage and attract leads to our content. As we continuously educate them, we can move them down the funnel while answering common questions and objections.
By the time they get to the bottom of the funnel, they are an extremely qualified lead who is fully educated on your industry, products and company and already has many of their questions answered. This will help make your sales team’s lives easy and shorten buyer sales cycles.
With advances of technologies and new was to block out unwanted noise, the world is rapidly changing and so should your marketing. What we covered in today’s blog is a global introduction to Inbound Marketing. It is a very complex and integrated system that requires a great deal of work to get rolling, however, once started your business will see huge results and massive growth.

Guide: How to Adapt Website Themes to Blogs

Tastes differ…even though 80% of all blog owners claim that WordPress is the best ever blogging platform, we definitely know that there is much more beyound that. Those who consider WordPress to be some sort of a “child edition CMS” choose other content management monsters like Drupal or Joomla. Some make this choise intentionally others just to have a bite, and when starting to adapt a newly acquired template to the blog based on Drupal or Joomla experience some minor difficulties.
Most frequent question our support receives from the customers is “How to adapt TemplateMonster’s theme to a blog?” From a first glance this may seem pretty hard to do, but actually it’s dead simple.
In this blog post we are going to show you how to make things done on three most popular CMS. So let’s start from the number one blogging platform.
In this case the phrase “easy as a pie” takes entirely different meaning of easiness.
Log into your admin panel
Go to Settings > Reading > Reading Settings
Looks at the screenshot, here you can choose which of your website or newly installed template pages will be shown as the main.
Here you have several options you can choose Your latests posts for the front page displays or one of the static pages that also includes Blog.

Post Formats in WordPress
Now every WordPress template features functionality that allows to pick the Post Format. A Post Format is a piece of meta information that can be used by a theme to customize its presentation of a post. The Post Formats feature provides a standardized list of formats that are available to all themes that support the feature.
Standard – standard format;
Aside – a post-note;
Link – post a link to an external resource;
Quote – post-quote;
Image – a picture post;
Gallery – gallery of post;
Video – video post;
Audio – audio post.

Now let’s look how this works in Drupal. On the screenshots below we’ve marked the path you need to follow:
Configuration > Site Information > Front Page

After you’ve added blog into Default front page field the whole thing will work perfectly fine.

TemplateMonster’s inventory has lots of Joomla themes for every taste and purpose. As for the versions of templates Joomla templates 3.0 are best for informational websites(not blogs). Joomla templates 2.5 includes Gantry framework and a K2 that provide multiple extensions and post options.
What you need to do? Visit: Menu > Menu manager
You will see that same page as on the screenshot below. In order for you to turn the Blog page into a home one, you need to put a star it in the Home column in front of the Blog.

Additionally we’d like to say couple words about the search. TemplateMonster store has an extensive amount of carefully grouped categories, in order for you to find the template you need to follow some simple steps described in the guide Easy Way to Find a Template
That’s it, no big deal to make TemplateMonster theme work adequatly on your blog. Now let’s get back for a while and recollect a significant event of this week.

Cherry Framework Update
Since we’ve already started talking about WordPress we’d like to remind you of the recent Cherry framework update. If you own a Cherry WordPress Theme don’t forget to urgrade to version 1.1 through your admin panel.

Magento Mobile Commerce Apps for New Online Businesses

Do you want to plan your new online business differently? Well, you need to think out of the box. However the execution of such different thought process is important.  Let me get you a quick idea. How about integrating mobile commerce with your eCommerce store? This is undoubtedly a smart choice.
As we all know that eCommerce is a booming industry. Today, with the internet going mobile every Etailers are keen to formulate the mCommerce strategies. The infiltration of mobile internet in the eCommerce sector is changing the entire shopping culture. Mobile commerce or what is popularly known as mCommerce is rapidly evolving. The ‘want it now’ behaviour of the consumer has made every eCommerce store implement a mobile solution. The potential of mCommerce to cater to the needs of the vast mobile user consumers, no doubt, is driving incremental revenue and has proved to be the most effective business strategy.
Mobile commerce is the ability to conduct business through different mobile devices and tablets such as iPhone, Smartphones, tablets or Android. Magento enables every retailer to provide their customers with mobile multi-channel experience.  However, the most important concern is how your eCommerce website is designed on the mobile phones and how the different apps would allow your clients to buy products from you. You must be thinking well, (I have not thought about it). Do not worry, as you read through this blog post, it will help you to understand the importance of mCommerce Apps for your new online venture.
As the Apps enables you to deliver a mobile enhanced store for your mobile consumer, it allow them to enjoy shopping from your Magento store through their web powered phones at anytime and anywhere at the tip of their finger. Mobile Apps are an integral aspect of your eCommerce venture. However, by this time, you have the most obvious question in your mind, that is, how are the mobile Apps important? To help you with your question, let me first give you an insight to its important features.

Mobile Apps help you to get the updates and notification:
Isn’t it amazing to receive all the wish lists, notification, gifts from mCommerce Apps? Most importantly, it ensures that any modification made on the Magento website gets immediately reflected in the mobile commerce application on a real time basis.
Mobile Apps manage your customer’s account:
As an eCommerce owner you will be always keen to know your customer’s account information. Therefore, to provide you the customer’s account information automatically, mCommerce Apps plays a major role. Just like other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, your customer can login in your website by using their username and password.
Mobile Apps integrate payment gateway with mCommerce:
MCommerce application helps you to easily accept payment through gateways such as PayPal or Money Bookers. Like your website payment methods, making payment through mCommerce application is secured.
Mobile Apps help in customer order management:
MCommerce platform is all for your customer using functionality. Your client can put their shopping order through mobile applications. However, it also allows them to cancel or modify their order. Therefore, the customers can handle their shopping records using your mobile commerce Apps as well as your website.  Undoubtedly, mCommerce Apps provides the best order management.
Mobile Apps provide a user-friendly shopping cart:
With user-friendly shopping cart, mobile Apps allows the consumer to add or remove any product from the shopping cart, delete any cart items, view the subtotal or even edit the quantity of added products. Your customer has the liberty to shop the way they want.
As you get an insight into the importance of mCommerce Apps for your online store, would you not like to know the different types of mCommerce Apps that you can implement? You must be curious enough by now.
The famous five advanced Apps for your retail store:
EBay mobile
EBay mobile application is known to be the most interactive and user-friendly app. From any push notification to answering the queries of your customer, eBay app simply does everything for you.

Amazon application exceeds the mobile limitation. This application helps your customer in their account setting, order history and most importantly to manage their wish list. When your customer is ready for a purchase, Amazon mobile App redirects their payment through the secure server.

Best buy
The utility of Best Buy mobile application has proved to be extremely helpful. It allows the buyer to put their reward account number and avail discount on their purchases. The best buy application also knows the difficulty of shopping for gifts. Therefore, this app helps the customer with IdeaGiftr tools to choose gifts for their friends and family.

Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren iPhone application offers features like 360 degree item rotation, videos, or designer look books. This app even helps you to access your personal shopper at a shop nearby.

Conde Nast’s Lucky magazine
With another innovative app, Lucky Magazine mobile application assists your customer to shop by specific items. For instance, if the consumer wants to find some particular item, this app on the basis of their location help them to find the item.

Please note that the above mentioned give eCommerce websites are not powered by Magento, but Magento has been integrated into eBay, Amazon platform so as to facilitate mobile payment services. Here in this article we discussed about the popular mobile commerce applications for magento platform users.

Saturday, 27 April 2013


If you want your website to engage a user’s attention, you need to make it enjoyable. Web users have notoriously short attention spans and you have your work cut out for you, if you want users to interact with your site and spend enough time to increase chances of conversions.
Some people are of the belief that when ‘fun’ is mentioned in website design, it means packing the website with silly designs and jokes a dozen; but that’s just silly. A website that’s fun to use isn’t something that is unprofessional. In fact, it attempts to interest the viewers in the information on it by creating memorable experiences for them.
So, let’s find out how you can go about designing ‘fun’ websites:

It’s About Making Ordinary Different

A boring company bio page can be turned into an interesting read, by giving it some much needed personality. Adding a dash of humor to the content that you have on the page and making sure that the images used enhance the humor on the page, will improve the ordinariness of the page and make it more readable. But, at the same time you must make sure that the usual designing basics like relevance, color, texture, background, placement etc. have been take care of.
At times, the theme that you choose for your website determines the fun quotient. If you actually want your website to be fun, choose a vibrant theme that can energize the viewer.

The Fun Element in 404 Pages

If there is one page that you can go the whole hog and dose the page with humor and that too loads of it, is the 404 error page. I am sure you must have seen plenty of amazingly designed error pages; remember no user likes coming across an error page, so a page that diffuses the frustration is a great idea here. Humor is one element you can infuse in the page, by way of an image or content; something else you can do is take responsibility for the fact that the user is shown an error page, and crack a joke at your expense. This usually works big time.

Make Fun Unobtrusive

Design for fun, but remember that not everybody appreciates a non-serious page. So, make it as unobtrusive as possible. Fun elements do prop up the engagement quotient, but at times, if not implemented correctly they act as barriers to the message the website needs to deliver.
A good way to go about things here is to make people want to use the fun elements if they want to do so? Give them a choice; do they want to go to an internal web page the usual route, or would they like to take the ‘story’ route that you have also provided to them. Bake some gems right into your website, something like an interesting fact or figure about your business domain, some interactive experience that offers detailed information, maybe a video or two ; the options as can be seen are immense if you don’t want the ‘fun’ side of your website to not interfere with the overall features and functionalities of the website.

How Much is too Much?

You must know when to stop making the website “funny”. Not going overboard with the fun elements is part of the fun. You don’t want to be using too many elements that just go on to frustrate users. By filling your website with fun interactions and even images, you will be adding a dash of fun to your website, but keep an eye out for usability and website efficiency.
Sometimes, a user will just get tired of going through all the images, Flash animation, illustrations that you have on your website; and having spent enough time on it, they will just move on to some other site; and all the time they were on your site, they actually didn’t find any information worth their while.
That is something you need to avoid.

Fun for Enhancing Message

Don’t forget the purpose of your website. It’s there to provide information to your target customers; it’s also there to enhance your brand and market your products and services. This message shouldn’t get lost, and a successful website ensures that this message is presented in a memorable manner.
For this to happen, your website’s images and the textual content must work in sync with one another; something else that you mustn’t forget is the navigation of the site. It needs to be simple and easy-to-use. Every ‘fun’ element that you use on the site must just have one purpose – ensure that the website’s message is projected effectively and users don’t forget this message in a hurry.

End Words
Designing your website in a way such that it gets its message across in an enjoyable manner is one of surest ways of achieving website success. But, such designs don’t come easy; you need to work towards getting your design elements just right to ensure that the overall design comes across as fun and interesting.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Android Raises The Bar Ahead In App Development – Emerges Winner!

Android emerges a clear winner in the war of the smartphone app development. According to a recent report by ComScore, Android has emerged as a clear winner with 53% of the market share, with iOS at 36% leaving others far-behind. Another note-worthy survey by ABI Research predicts that, Android will be a winner in 2013 in terms of app downloads. According to the firm’s latest report, 58% of smartphone app downloads this year will be Android, followed by iOS coming in at 33%.
A similar study by ABI cropped up earlier this year which said that, Google’s Android paltform will take a 57% share of the global smartphone market this year with iOS standing at 21%. The figures precisely state that, Android is indeed an innovative market player and is expecting the trend of their success, stays ahead of its counterparts.

What’s In-Store For Android Developers?
Research from ABI further predicts that Android’s gains will motivate more developers to build apps for the welcoming Android platform. This is logically true with Android getting more app downloads this year, it is likely to grab the developer’s attention.
On the other side, Apple’s close-door policy of app development has led to multiple issues for developers. Android by no-means ignores its developer’s concerns and has offered a harmonious environment for smartphone app development.

Android Leads the Competition

A new report by Gartner predicts that, of all smartphones captured 44% of all mobile phone sales in the December 2012 quarter – Android leads with 31% of all mobile phone shipments followed by iOS at 9%.
Moreover, the rate at which Android phone market is expanding is at 88% year over year with iOS at 23%. The primary reason behind Android’s remarkable success is due its lower priced smartphones.

What’s In-Store For The Users?
The battle between the smartphone industry is being led by two smartphone giants – Android and Apple. Android is coming-up as a popular or most-deserved smartphone owing to a number of reasons. Let’s take a look at them:
Android lets you add on your choice of ROM for enhanced device-performance
Android offers a range of useful services in-sync with Google
Better pricing options with Android
Android allows more customization options compared to others
Multiple device support catering to a range of end users
Android gives its users access to a variety of custom launcher apps to choose from

To wrap it up
If that’s not all Android gets you access to a number of free apps and games for an enriching phone-experience. Android is a user centric platform that customizes itself to cater to your immediate needs. For instance, all three version of Angry birds are free on Android and much more.
Hence, it is no wrong to say that Android has challenged Apple devices is every way possible from hardware and software to its basic features such as notifications and apps. As put up by Ralf Rottmann, a mobile app developer, the new generation of Android has vitally better operating system than iOS and is more polished. Moreover, there a lot of possibilities with Android’s smartphones and it will be interesting to note how they change the future of mobile-interactivity in the future.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Metro Style. Website-Mimics: a Fresh Whiff in Design

What design styles do you prefer? Do you adhere to classical time-tested scenarios or maybe you start testing the hottest trends as soon as they appear? This entry will interest progressive design nerds at first turn because we are going to showcase some inspiring metro-style website designs at the end of this brief preamble.
First of all, let’s clear up what is covered under the term “metro-style design”. Actually it’s a typography-based design language developed by Microsoft on the principles of Swiss graphic design. Swiss style was created in Switzerland in 1950s. It is denoted by the hallmarks of cleanliness, readability and objectivity. Asymmetric layouts, grids, sans-serif typefaces, flush left, ragged right text and photos instead of illustrations are characteristic for Swiss style standards.
As you might have already noticed, fresh and sleek metro-style is focused on the content, emphasized with prominent typography and less graphics. Flat colored “live tiles” and laterally scrolling canvas can also be faultlessly reckoned among the recognizable metro-style features. Windows Phone, Microsoft’s website, Xbox 360 dashboard and Windows 8 are just few bright examples of the implemented metro-style principles.
By the way, did you know that some brilliant ideas for metro-style design have spawned in Microsoft’s developer minds owing to common language signs, which we come across every day at public transport systems and King County Metro transit system (Seattle area, not far from Microsoft’ headquarters) in particular? By parity of reasoning, awesome typography and large text inevitably catch our eyes, just like the above mentioned signs. In fact, avoiding the excessive graphics, collating regular tasks into groups and letting the content work as main UI were to make user experience simple, intuitive and prompt.
Speaking about metro-style design it’s impossible to miss the animation as according to Microsoft’s suggestions, the website should seem “alive” and respond all user actions.

Conversation between Alex and Arturo about Ui Designing

You don’t need to be an artist to create great UI – most of the principles of user interface design are the same as the basic design principles taught in any elementary art class. The elementary design principles of composition, color, and so forth apply equally well to a computer screen as they do to a sheet of paper or a canvas.
But other than that there are tons of other things every designer should keep in mind. The importance of User Interface Design is that you want to create a website or app that is easy to navigate, efficient to use, and gives your users a really pleasurable experience. It should also be as free from errors as possible. This is how you can more easily guarantee that they will continue using your products and will recommend it to others as well.
In terms of interface design we decided to ask a man who knows all the angles of this notion and that is Arturo Toledo.
Arturo Toledo is an Architect. He runs a boutique design studio attending clients in the United States, Europe and Asia. His work explores the convergence of human arts and science to give shape to an ever evolving design practice. With a particular commitment towards design education, Arturo is permanently engaged with the international design and development communities and often travels the world to exchange ideas about design with other designers and developers. Prior to his current venture, Arturo worked for Microsoft in Redmond for 7 years driving design evangelism.
Lilian: To begin with, tell us about your greatest achievement (regarding anything.)
Arturo: My greatest achievement? Hmm I hope I haven’t seen my greatest achievement in my life yet to be but so far I’d say it was probably making it to an ice hockey league as a right wing. You have to understand I am from Mexico. It’s like when Jamaica debuted in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics with a bobsled team! So, yeah, it felt pretty good being on the ice and driving the puck around and scoring a few goals.
Alex: We know that you worked at Microsoft for a while. Tell us please about your job interview there. They say applicants are asked some weird questions, what were they like?
Arturo: Before my interview I reviewed tons of sites that talked about the hiring interview in Microsoft. I read all the crazy questions would get. Why is a manhole round? How are M&Ms made? How many traffic lights exist in the U.S? – I was ready and prepared. Got to Redmond and for 8 hours and 8 interviews I never got such type of questions  I later realized those more strange questions were asked apparently to engineering candidates while I was applying for evangelism and marketing so I guess they didn’t care much about how M&Ms were made.
Lilian: You’ve been developing interfaces for Windows phones, but what’s your forecast, which mobile platform will finally take over the world: Android, iOS or Windows?
Arturo: Well, iOS already took over. It’s the number one choice for 99% of startups I know or have read about. Android usually comes in second place in terms of the need for a startup to have an app for. Then Windows Phone. How do I see the future? I see Windows Phone (or any future Microsoft mobile platform) reaching a competitive 20% within 5 years. This means that startups and companies will have one out of five users using a Windows Phone. That’s pretty significant. I think this is the right time to jump into Windows Phone as a developer or designer because the enterprise, businesses, agencies and startups will every day, more and more demand more Windows Phone apps, and who’s gonna build them? Lots of creative and business opportunities in this space. All this said, I also think that in 5 years, the concept of a smartphone will have already migrated to the next stage of technological evolution. The attention will shift from “smartphone” – to “the next thing”… what will that be? That’s what we have to keep track off. The smartphone will not be the star of the show in less than 5 years so I hope Microsoft is not playing catch up and instead is inventing the future. I’m sure Apple is.

Lilian: What do you think are some of the main UI differences in designing desktop apps for PC and Mac?
Arturo: I haven’t had the opportunity to design a desktop app for Mac OSX but given OSX has embraced many similar concepts to iOS then I’m thinking the design mindset is similar. It’s about skeuomorphism. Or it has been. As we know, Jonathan Ive from Apple now owns both hardware and software design. Ive is a modernist (Vignelli, Gropius, Meier, Rams) so there is a general expectation that he will sponsor a new era of UI design in Apple. Let’s see what happens. My personal expectation is that Apple is working on enabling iPhones, iPods and iPads to be plugged in to large screens (24”-30”) immediately turning all these devices into “PCs” or “over the desktop computers”. This would be a massive shift in the industry as it would mean the conversation won’t be anymore about phones or tablets or notebooks but about the experience than spans across them. To accomplish this Apple (or Google and Microsoft) will have to have a unified UI layer and application platform across devices so the tiny Instagram in iPhone can leverage the real state of a 27” screen when plugged in. I personally think Apple and Ive might be leveraging this next stage of evolution to propose a new UI metaphor that is modern and not cheesy like today’s leather or wood texture driven UIs.

Alex: Is this your job?:) Tell us about an interesting project that you have completed in your current job.
Arturo: My current job is leading a boutique design shop in Mexico City. We attend clients in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. I work as an experience architect and user interface designer. I also do account management, sales, marketing, evangelism, blogging and twitting  Basically between my brother and I we do it all right now. You know? For one or a couple years I wanna keep it small. No hiring. I want to enjoy the moment of calm after having worked for Microsoft for 7 years. As part of our job we have the opportunity to participate in the full range and spectrum of software development, we are helping startups around the world with architecting and designing their apps, we are helping larger companies that have strong backend needs but we do it all from the point of view of a designer. We’ve had the chance to travel and talk about design and we will continue to do so. We mostly work for developers (engineers) acting as an extension of their team, as their design team. This means we don’t really work or are looking to working for clients like Nike, or Starbucks, or Procter & Gamble. We work for the engineering shops that work for them helping them be successful with UX and design. So far it’s going great and we are having a lot of fun.

Alex: What software, besides Creative Suite, are you using to design UIs?
Arturo: My number one tool to design UI is actually a non Creative Suite tool called Microsoft Expression Design. It’s like a mini Illustrator. It does 20% of the things you need 80% of times in Illustrator. I particular love how spectacularly fast it is to sketch out or wireframe ideas. I produce high fidelity comps with it as well. The two key features I love in Expression Design is the color picker which is a big panel, always open and available (compared to PS or AI where you have double click on the color swatch to access it). This makes the process of selecting colors very fast and easy. The other thing I like in Expression Design is it exports nicely to XAML which, if you are creating apps for the Microsoft platform it becomes a blessing when collaborating with developers. It has a terrific one-click export feature for selected objects and the best image slicing in the industry. I also use Photoshop a lot for bitmap editing, composition and creation.
P.S. I hate Illustrator… it feels more like a tool for print design not for UI or digital design.
Alex: Some people say that much of your success depends on your workstation. Would you please describe your workplace or share some photos?
Arturo: I work with my brother in a spacious room, all painted in white. One of the walls is made out of glass so we get some nice AM and PM sunlight. We have a bar made out of white desks along one of the walls. We both sit down on one and the other end of this bar. I like facing a white wall as it is neutral and allows my screens to stand out. I have a SONY VAIO notebook plugged to a 27” screen. That gives me dual screen capabilities. I have a JAWBONE Jambox (black) where I play my favorite tunes. That’s it. I like to keep my desk clean. I like visual neutrality as I feel that helps me focus on what I’m creating much better. In our little studio my brother and I have a dozen different devices, from iPads of various generations, iPods/iPhones of various generations, a SAMSUNG 7 series tablet where have Windows 8 loaded (I still have Win7 in my PC, my bro has Win8 in his PC plus he has a Mac). We have a number of Windows Phones (Samsung and mainly Nokia 800 and 920). We use all these devices to test everything we design in various systems and resolutions. We will probably expand this collection to a couple dozen devices this year as we get closer to the Android ecosystem.
Lilian: What music do you listen to while you work, or you prefer quietness?
Arturo: Right now I’m only listening to Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience. Yeah that’s right JT for the win! But my repertoire is a bit more diverse. To me music is like food, sometimes you feel like getting a delicious greasy double cheese burger and other you feel like getting some nice fine sushi dinner. So you will hear me listening to pop, electronic (chill, trance, electro, dubstep), 70’s rock (i.e. Creedence Clearwater), as well as heavier stuff like Slipknot (this is when I have so much energy after a RedBull).
Lilian: What’s your best time-saving trick? Any other tools or methods UI designers use to increase their speed and efficiency?
Arturo: Music + Headphones. That’s what really takes me into my own world. I also like going outside now and then to take the sun. I feel like a solar energy cell, I recharge and come back inside where it’s cooler. I’m very involved with Twitter, Facebook et al, so I really have to pull myself back throughout the day to focus on work without any distractions. Music is the key. My brother and I are getting to the point of being so in sync that sometimes we both feel like we need a break. We go to our lounge area and chat about the projects we are working on for an hours. Great brainstorming sessions.
Alex: Question on an abstract topic, have you seen the “Fight Club”? There was one interesting question “If you could take a fight with anyone? Who would it be?”
Arturo: With Brad Pitt’s character. SPOILER ALERT! I like the idea of fighting against myself. I’m my number one competitor and always try to do better than myself did yesterday, whether in design, running, playing drums or other things I do. I also think it is myself that sometime trips me into trouble or worry. I pay a lot of attention to being calm and centered. This allows me to leave more bandwidth for other people I care about. This is all something I try doing but not always succeed. It’s a constant fight.
Lilian: How would you comment on the following phrase: “The focus will shift from designing individual interfaces for particular devices to creating a proactive UI framework for the environment…”
Arturo: Totally agree. I mentioned this in a previous question and yes, we will quickly move from doing design for a single use to creating design systems that many designers can use to produce many apps that millions of people can use. Apple, Google and Microsoft are already doing this with their respective design guidelines and resources but I think we will see more of this coming out of the community little by little – most possibly in the shape of open source or collaborative efforts.
Alex: Can you mention some of your favorite UI/UX case studies?
Arturo: I’ll mention two of them. The first is Windows Phone itself. It was a breakthrough for the industry. It attempted to adopt the modernism movement design principles (think Massimo Vignelli, Walter Gropius, Jonathan Ive, Richard Meier, Josef Muller-Brockmann) in a product that is accessible to millions of users (granted Microsoft would like it to be in the tens of millions). As an experience, Windows Phone has been awarded with numerous design prizes for its bold commitment towards a modernist approach to user interaction and user experience. Windows Phone changed not only Microsoft as a whole (all products now intend to follow the same design principles) but is recognized industry wide as a product that kicked off a design trend. I would just to take advantage of this opportunity to clarify something. Windows Phone and it’s Metro design language (or Microsoft design language) is not “minimalism” and it is not “flat” design. Both minimalism and especially “flat” are incorrect terms that unfortunately many authors and design have adopted. The right term to describe this design is Modernist (as in the Modernism design movement that started in the 20th century).
The second example is in the iOS field. The WTHR app for iPhone is absolutely gorgeous. I like it because it tried to break with the traditional iOS design guidelines and attempted a more Dieter Rams design principles. Other apps in this category are Path and Clear. I think all these apps illustrate a clear trend in the iOS world where designers are recognizing Modernism as a more reliable approach to UI design than the leather, wood, rusty metal like skeuomorphic approach we’ve seen coming out of Cupertino in the past. Luckily, today we have Jonathan Ive taking care of both software design and hardware design at Apple. He is a Modernist. No more leather stitches with him as the skip 

Lilian: “The UI should be there, but not begging for attention…The UI should almost blend into thebackground.” What do you think should rise to the top of the visual hierarchy – content, form or what?
Arturo: The best UI is the one that is not needed. Have users operate directly over content. Content, not chrome. Totally agree that the UI should not be the star of the show. The user is the star of the show, and the number one thing a user wants to manipulate, produce, edit, compose, share is content. Content is king. Users are not static entities; they move, talk, evolve and change so in order to successfully make content king, designers have to rely more and more on storytelling. If you are a design or work with a design who can’t tell stories – run away, run to the mountains, because you want a designer than can help you tell user stories that are fun, engaging, smooth. So in a nutshell, this whole UX/UI professional activity is more about story telling than UI design per see. In our design studio we spend way more time telling stories than designing UIs. UIs come naturally when you get the story straight. This in turn enables you to have the minimum set of UI elements on screen to accomplish a task.
Lilian: Do you feel a new tendency in UI towards a flatter and more graphic type of design? Away from skeuomorphic elements, mimicking some real-life things.
Arturo: As mentioned previously, it’s not about being “flat”. That’s an incorrect term. It’s about following Modernist design principles as established in the 20th century by lighthouse creative minds like Massimo Vignelli, Dieter Rams or Walter Gropius.
Lilian: What about this pinch thing? Do you think there is any future for a pinch interface?
Arturo: I personally consider pinch just another gesture. So no, I don’t think the pinch gesture will take over the world. What I think is our vocabulary of gestures is still quite limited and primitive and I think that throughout the years the world will be “trained” little by little to deal with more complex gestures. Think about it, Apple’s iOS is almost 100% about single taps to accomplish tasks. Some swipes and pinches here and there but most it’s taps. Very simple yet powerful. Then look at Windows 8… It is a “finger ballet” – you have all these gestures, you swipe from edges and each edge gives you something different, you slide, you tap, you pinch, you expand and contract… One of the reasons I think people have in general (not everyone) found Windows 8 more complex to use UI wise is that the gestures to accomplish success are more complex than in the iOS world. To be honest, Windows 8 gestures are not that hard but the little bit harder or more complex they are I think raise the instant gratification curve significantly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Jakob Nielsen or Don Norman who are fundamentalists IMO when it comes to dismissing the Windows 8 UI as something unusable but what I think is that the Windows 8 gestural metaphors might be a few years ahead of its time. I know it’s also cliché but have my mom learn to operate a Windows 8 tablet and then have her use her iPad where everything gets done with “a tap” (or at least it is perceived as if) and she will end going for an iPad. Imagine going back to the 1980’s and giving yourself an XBOX 360 control to play in your new Atari system which has one joystick and “one” button… same thing. You’d be puzzled with all the joysticks, pads, buttons and so on that this “ahead of time XBOX control device” has. It is incredible to think that we humans take so long to adopt technologies… On one side back in 2005 no one had smartphones. Today everyone does. 8 years. Not bad. But maturing on new UI paradigms is complex.
Lilian: What do you think is the next UI design trend?
Arturo: It’s almost a cliché but I would continue to embrace the concept of thinking in terms of experiences and not devices. Don’t think about the app for sailing, or the app for banking or the app for running… think of the experience of sailing, banking and running. This experience is by definition not restricted to a phone, a tablet or a desktop… it transcends all these devices. So as designers we have to think without constrains. I also think that Design as a profession will continue to evolve. The title of Architect (Experience Architect) will rise as part of the obvious need to understand and execute design from a more architectural view as design systems continue to grow. You call it trends but I think trends is not what it is about or will be in the future. I think Microsoft, Apple, Google, Samsung, Sony and hundreds of startups are all creating their own design languages. I think this is what will be big, not designing an app or two but creating a design system, a design language that enables that company or startup to build a consistent experience across screens. Look at Facebook and Twitter today. They are already after this – whether you are using an iPhone, Windows Phone, Android phone, a tablet or the desktop, what they are designing is “the Facebook experience”.