As a healthcare marketer you probably lack a few things. Resources. Time. Money. But what you don’t lack are goals. You need to promote your physicians. And your service lines. And your events. So when you’re charged with filling schedules or signing up new patients for an upcoming course, where do you start?
We’ve been reading a lot about “flat design” lately, a seemingly new approach to Web design that is making the Web pundits predict that “This is the future of Web design – the next big thing!” Is flat design really as new and revolutionary as the pundits claim? Or is it just a return to good design fundamentals?
A Visit with Dieter Rams, Circa 1970
Recently, I stumbled across an old article about German industrial designer Dieter Rams that brought the current buzz about “flat design” into perspective. Now, I know what you’re thinking – “There was no Internet in the 1970s. How is this dusty old article relevant to Web design today?” Let’s take a look.
Back in the ’70s, Rams was concerned with the visual state of the world around him which he called “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colors, and noises.” Aware that he was a contributor to that world, he asked himself, “Is my design good design?”
I recently returned from the 2013 SHSMD annual conference in Chicago. And let’s just say I am a new man. I have a new found pep in my step.
As a creative director interested in the current state of healthcare marketing, the SHSMD annual conference offered me a Cliffs Notes overview — packing a lot of learning and face-to-face interactions into a short span of time.
Thankfully, I returned from SHSMD13 with confidence that Geonetric is doing things right. Here are a few observations:
There’s so much change happening right now in Web design that I have visions of designers in therapy sessions.
“You’ve got to let things go, Bill! You have baggage and it’s holding you back,” the therapist quacks. “It’s time – move on. Responsive Web is here. It’s not Y2K anymore.”
“But, what about control?” I question. “I’m used to being in control. Isn’t responsive design trying to strip this from me?”
“It’s not about control, Bill. You need to revisit your Web design past,” he croons. “Remember, the Web is fluid and does not like to be contained.”
This is the mantra we all must embrace. The Web is fluid. It does not like to be contained.
Let’s Shed Some Baggage Together – Don’t Fear the Scroll
For years we thought all good content must be above the fold – anything of importance should be at the top of the page, visible on the monitor.
I am a unique healthcare institution but my market sees me as garden-variety.
In a sea of consumer healthcare choices, I blend in.
I struggle to keep up with my competitors.
Status quo is my middle name.
Hello 2013 – I Resolve to be Original
I will express my uniqueness in everything I do.
I will make it easy on healthcare consumers to understand that I am different – that I am the one.
I will no longer be content in presenting myself in the same way that my competitors present themselves.
I am the better choice.
Assuming a blank page is “un-designed,” then a page with lots of stuff must be “designed,” right? After all, how can something be well-designed if it is not filled with aesthetic bits?
Here’s where things get tricky. In any design composition, the balance between what is present and what is absent is an important, yet misunderstood relationship. We’ve all been a part of these, “make it bigger, make it bolder, make it brighter” discussions. Unfortunately, when everything screams for attention, the net result is noise.
When everything stands out, nothing stands out.
One thing is certain about the Web – change is imminent and constant. As Web strategists, writers, designers, and developers, we’re used to this reality. That’s why when the Web throws yet another curveball, we’re prepared to react. The latest curveball has come with a shift in how people interact with online content – their migration to mobile devices.
Back in 2009, Morgan Stanley published a 424-page diatribe titled, The Mobile Internet Report, which declared, “More users may connect to the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs within five years.” Smart people, those Morgan Stanley folks. Midway through 2012, we’ve already seen an explosion in the adoption of mobile devices.
Studies indicate that some users are leaving their desktop machines for a mobile device and not turning back. For those users, it appears their mobile device may be the only computer they need. Other users strike a balance between their mobile and desktop devices.
As designers, we have been watching this trend for several years, and it’s clear we’re no longer designing for one on-screen experience. Instead we have to be responsive to the needs of all users, across all devices, ranging from extra-large to small – from vertical to horizontal. And websites need to adapt to these varying screen resolutions, aspect ratios and user inputs.
The uncontrollable nature of mobile computing has challenges that go along with it. Imagine you are a painter. You take many things into consideration as you approach your latest work – design principles and elements. Color. Emphasis. Contrast. Line. And perhaps most important, composition.
“Web safe fonts.” We have all heard the term, but what does it mean exactly? The short answer is that “Web safe fonts” are a small group of fonts common to most popular operating systems. Historically, pages needed to use one of these common fonts to display correctly across the online universe.
The answer gets a bit more confusing as we frame the term within a specific time period. In the earlier years of the Web — with less sophisticated browsers and operating systems—there were just a few “Web safe” fonts such as Times/Times New Roman, Courier/Courier New, and Helvetica or Arial. These were the core fonts available on all major computer operating systems from Windows 95 to Mac System 7 to Solaris.
More recent operating systems from Microsoft and Apple included an expanded set of pre-installed font choices including Georgia, Verdana, Trebuchet MS, Impact, Arial Black, Century Gothic and Comic Sans MS. This expanded set of fonts meant Web designers had ten — count ’em — ten type fonts to choose from.
Designers have been trying to sidestep the Web safe font limitation for years by using a few tricks such as replacing HTML text with graphics, replacing entire Web pages with Flash and using CSS font family selectors to inform the browser of a series of font choices. But none of these workarounds solved the problem of safely rendering live HTML text in a font other than the expanded Web safe set of ten.
Web typography is finally hitting its stride with a relatively new technology: server-based fonts. Currently offered by companies such as TypeKit, Google and traditional font foundries such as Monotype, server-based fonts load to the browser in milliseconds from remote font servers that are licensed to serve thousands of fonts.
It’s not that branding is bad. Branding is good – it helps your customers understand who you are and what you stand for. It’s just that branding has often been presented as a mystical concept – hard to quantify, yet able to heal all of an organization’s problems.
If you have been a part of branding discussions, you have probably heard more than one expert say, “a brand is not just a logo.” Well, OK. But if a brand is not a logo, then what is it? Is it colors? Is it type fonts? Is it language?
Definitely yes, sort of.
One of the easiest ways to understand branding is to think about your family. Mom has wild red hair and a rather prominent nose. Dad has a gap between his two front teeth and his ears stick out a bit. When Mom laughs, she snorts. Dad is almost always smiling, but when he gets mad, he gets quiet and leaves the room with a gait that is all his own. You are a product of your family’s brand – a brand that was started hundreds of years ago.
Some of your family’s brand attributes are physical – such as red hair and gapped-teeth. Other brand attributes, like laughter, are personality traits. Many attributes are behavioral – learned and passed down from generation to generation.