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Find out how Luno gave cryptocurrency a friendly face.
Cryptocurrency isn't typically the most accessible of industries. Those in the know are happy to get involved, but for the general public, the likes of Bitcoin and Etherium still seem futuristic and mysterious. As their popularity continues to skyrocket, more and more companies – including Luno – have started to move into the space.
Last night, Luno scooped the UK local prize at the Tech5 awards in Amsterdam (part of The Next Web conference) for its remarkable growth, and came second overall. We caught up with head of product design Lana Glass to find out how they went about designing an app that appealed to the masses.
In basic terms, what is Luno?
Luno makes it safe and easy for people to buy, store, use and learn about digital currencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. Users download the Luno app or go to the website, create an account, deposit money from their bank account into their Luno Wallet and buy some Bitcoin or Ethereum. Luno also allows you to send and receive digital currencies, monitor the price, set price alerts and place orders on our Exchange. In the long run, our vision is to upgrade the world to a better financial system.
What are your main aims with the design of the product?
In early 2017 we underwent a rebrand from BitX to Luno. Most Bitcoin companies have very technical names and BitX was no different. The price of Bitcoin was increasing, our customer base was growing and changing, and our app and website needed to reflect the changes we made in our brand.
We wanted to create a friendly, trustworthy, engaging app. One of the first steps was to unify our three platforms - web, Android and iOS - as we needed to make sure that the user experience and offering were the same on each platform. By creating a design system we were able to stay as close to native patterns and elements as possible, while still making each platform look and feel like Luno.
Tell us a bit about your UX aims...
As digital currencies are still so new, and a little scary to most people, our main focus is to convey familiarity and build trust with our customers. As we grow across markets we are focusing on localising our products so that customers have the easiest journey possible into this new financial system. This includes translating our apps into multiple European languages, testing how different demographics and regions respond to the illustrations we use and conducting usability tests with potential customers on the ground.
Digital currencies are still seen as quite a futuristic, techy thing by the general public. How did you tackle this in your design?
This is definitely a concern for us. There is still a lot of negativity around digital currencies and a lot of speculation and untruths. Our challenge is to separate the facts from the fiction. There are a few things we can do to build trust with our customers, including using familiar UX patterns, our choice of colour palette, and the illustrations we use and where we use them.
We also understand that we have a social responsibility to educate our customers about this new financial landscape, as well as stakeholders, investors, banks and regulators, and bring this understanding with us when designing product changes or new features.
What web technologies Luno is based on…
Our mobile-first, responsive web platform uses mostly AngularJS, Typescript and some jQuery for coding the web frontend. We use Grunt as a build tool and Sass for our stylesheet, with Git for version control and Lighthouse for performance.
We also have two native apps. On iOS we prefer not to use external libraries, meaning the base tech is all Apple. We migrated to Swift at the end of 2016 as the rebrand allowed us to review parts of our app that hadn’t had some love in a while. We have a few fans of Material Design in the office and we try to stay as close as possible to the great design system that Google has built for Android, without losing our brand voice.
We are quite excited about the recent updates to Material Design that were announced at this years I/O and look forward to seeing how Material Theming can help us balance familiarity with personality.
Luno came second in the Tech5 awards, in recognition of how fast the company has grown. Did such rapid growth raise any design problems?
The redesign from BitX to Luno happened in three months from the first announcement to the company to the day the apps went live on the app stores. That includes CI, branding, marketing, website changes and updates to the mobile applications. With such a short turnaround time we were less focused on systems and processes and just wanted to get the best product shipped as soon as possible.
This means that when we had time to catch our breath, the design team had a bit of work to do to collate libraries, clean up UI elements, make sure that the user experience was consistent and appealing, and create a design system that we can rely on for years to come.
What do the GBBO, lightning vodka and breast biopsies have in common?
Food was the theme of the latest edition of thread, a series of creative events in Bristol curated by Fiasco Design. Over the course of the evening, in between trips to the pizza van and making tortillas in mini kitchens, there were three talks about food, design, and how they can work together.
Australian food stylist Peta O'Brien, aka POB, talked of how long it takes to soft-boil an ostrich egg (47 minutes), Tom Hovey revealed why he always draws in red and blue when illustrating for the Great British Bake Off ("‘cos it makes me feel like I’m a fancy architect and not just someone drawing cakes all day,”) and Sam Bompas from sensory experience curators Bompas and Parr showed the audience how gherkins can make “really rubbish lightbulbs,” before passing round ‘lightning vodka’, which he described – quite accurately – as “horrible.”
But we weren’t just stuffing our faces. What did we learn from the night? Here are our favourite tips from the evening:
01. Don't be afraid of seeming 'weird'
When you’re a food stylist, and you have to do things such as demand 300 identical mackerel from your local fishmonger, you can't worry about being different. “Everybody whose anybody is vegan, I’m not, I really like meat,” said O'Brien, as her slides jumped between offal and liver. “This liver is 7.3 kilos in weight,” she said animatedly. “I took it out of its vac packed bag and it was like holding a baby.” O'Brien attributed this passion for flesh to her days as an oral surgeon's assistant. “I love flesh. And I love stitching things back up,” she revealed.
When Bompas was starting out, “food wasn’t cool.” People used to ask him why he didn’t get a ‘real job’, but he pursued a career in using food to make experiences that people will love. This has led to projects such as an ‘architectural jelly banquet’, cooking steak with lightning, and exploding wedding cakes (as bad as it sounds, apparently).
02. Stay focused
Hovey has created over 2,000 illustrated bakes for the Great British Bake Off. Perfecting this art has enabled him to move on to his own personal projects. “If you do one thing over and over again you get better and then you can do other stuff,” he said.
Bompas agreed that focusing on one task or element of design is the answer: “If you really focus on one small thing you can really take it quite far,” he said, before demonstrating his gherkin lightbulb for the crowd (see below).
In the world of food styling, it’s especially important to be precise, focus on details. and be patient while in bizarre situations. “For this shoot (above), I had to tweezer sweets into the model’s mouth one by one, and tell her not to swallow," said O'Brien. "She held it for so long she had a mouth full of saliva, which is what the photographer wanted because he wanted it to be wet. And just before she drowned...we got it.”
03. Take opportunities
“Within a month of being in London I got my first illustration gig,” says Hovey, who had moved to the capital after spending more and more time there doing street art murals. He soon landed a non-illustrating job on a new TV show called the Great British Bake Off, but the producers realised “it was hard for viewers to visualise what was going on." He was asked to come up with a new way to help viewers see what was going on, and has been the show's illustrator ever since.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” he said, quoting Seneca.
04. Know when to readjust work-life balance
That luck and opportunity doesn’t stop work being hard or life getting in the way, though. “My girlfriend would wake up pretty often and I’d be face down in biscuits,” said Hovey.
On going digital he said: “I felt like I’d drawn with pens and pencils for my whole life and by removing them, I was removing part of my soul. But with my daughter being born, I knew that I had to get rid of wasted time.”
He also added that there’s no point stressing too much about your own work: “No one’s really paying as much attention to your work as you are. They’re on screen for like six secs even though they might take three days to draw. Basically, no one cares.”
After 35 years in the industry, O'Brien is also choosing her projects wisely: “I just don't have any sense of fun if I’m doing something ghastly,” she said. “So I don’t do anything ghastly anymore.”
05. Pursue side projects
Hovey admitted he’s become much happier since pursuing his own projects. “Self-initiated work is really important and if you put yourself out there hopefully people will ask you to do more of it, and then you’ll make money, which is the most important thing,” he grinned.
For O'Brien, personal projects have helped her work through personal issues. After having a breast biopsy, she had to create something: “The only way I can process shit like that is to turn it into a project. It really put it to bed for me,” she said.
“Now, I found that I’ve just got this whole creative surge going on. And I’m kind of thinking it’s ‘cos I’m at the end of my career and I want to get out everything out there. I’m doing shitloads of personal projects. So watch this space.”
For Bompas, bizarre experiments with food and design are part and parcel of his everyday job. “We’re lucky as we live in a time where we’re getting food for pleasure. What we try to create is another form of entertainment,” he said.
We chat to CTO Chris Stowe about the perils of redesigning Reddit.
Around a year and a half ago, Reddit embarked on the first major redesign the site had seen in a decade. With a dated and convoluted codebase and a reputation of being overwhelming to new users, the decision seemed unavoidable, but with a 330 million-strong, highly opinionated and vocal user base, the new look was both highly anticipated and a big risk.
Reddit decided to open up the process, and build the new look based on feedback from moderators, long-term users, and other redditors. 18 months later, the redesign is being rolled out.
At The Next Web, CTO Christopher Stowe spoke to a packed audience (many of them 'Redditors' themselves, an early show of hands revealed) about taking the high-stakes project. We caught up with him afterwards to find out more.
With such a big userbase with a huge variety of interests, it seems like there is no 'typical' Reddit user. Did this make it difficult to know who to design for?
It definitely makes it more complicated. Part of the point of the redesign was to start addressing the concerns of users we don't necessarily even have yet. That was where having the dedicated UX team helped a lot. We did user interviews with people who are much more casual users. 'Lookers' - who just read - are actually a very large fraction of the community.
The nice thing is, voting is a core competency of comments. So we generally addressed concerns in order of the number of votes they got, which is a pretty good way of determining who feels passionate about what. In those threads we do dive pretty deep into the deep, dark nether regions at the bottom.
You spent a lot of time getting users' opinions. How did you choose which views to listen to? Was it literally based on the ones that got the votes?
No. It's complicated. We're trying to balance addressing concerns that we can fix quickly and basically trying to assuage everyone else that 'no, we hear you, were working on this, it's a moving target. It's going to take us months to get this straight.'
We've launched this current product and it's mostly done, it's pretty far along. But mostly done is the first 90 per cent and the remaining 10 per cent is everything else that you don't expect. When it comes to things like user requests, there's that old joke that users don't actually know what they want. Well, they do, sometimes! But they don't know what they need.
Reddit is necessarily quite text-heavy. How do you go about making that volume of text appear welcoming?
One of the things we wanted to build into the redesign was a card view that actually made sense with our aesthetic. It was one of the first things we launched on our mobile apps: we had not just the text view but a card view.
For the web, we've found that over the years there's been a drift towards more images and videos, kind of unsurprisingly because there's more of it available. In the last couple of years we've launched our own video hosting and image hosting, which also fits a lot more cleanly with the experience.
You launched a redesigned mobile app in 2016, which introduced a new look to the website people were used to. Did you have the web redesign in mind when you were working on designing the mobile app?
It was something we'd talked about a lot, for sure. If anything we knew it was going to be much more of a beast than doing the mobile app. The first thing we did was to launch a mobile app we actually liked and wasn't something we'd just cobbled together. Then we went in and attacked our mobile web experience next.
We rebuilt that stack and it gave us an opportunity to test out new redesigns on the web stack and also to test out new technology. Those two things together gave us enough confidence to say: Okay! Let's do this. Rip the band aid off... over the course of 18 months!
So the mobile app wasn't a strategic way to get users used to a different look?
I think what happens is users break into these relatively clean cohorts. There is a lot of overlap between our core engaged user base and the mobile apps, but we also have a rather large group of people who mostly engage with the web. Still.
Where there's been some tension is in addressing the concerns of that group, who don't care about aesthetics and they don't like the apps. The way I've heard it described is almost like ... the most powerful way to use a computer is the terminal. And its also the most user-unfriendly part. But if you know how to use it, you're a super power user. Reddit has a tendency to lean towards that. A very steep learning curve, but if you've made it over the top you're sorted.
You spoke in your talk about 'structured styles' - tell us a bit about that.
Community moderators have permission to create style sheets for their community that users can opt out of using. It gives an opportunity to have a very customised aesthetic for your community, and it also meant that the community independently developed things - like when hero images became a thing, they started plopping them on the top bar.
Structured Styles was a response to that. CSS is still a very tricky tool for a non-expert to use. It's a tricky tool for an expert to use! We found there was basically a set of about 10 distinct, almost like CSS packs that had been generated by the community over the years by a handful of users, and these were just being copy-pasted across the site.
So we built out a styling system in React where you can make copy edits and styling changes with colour pickers, and see live updates. And that's Structured Styles. We covered what we thought was the majority of features required to make it complete.
But there's no real way to test whether or not we hit everything until we launch it, and find out all the places that it breaks. Or the cases that some intrepid community has gone and made something either really beautiful or terribly horrible. There's some really awful layouts that people actually like. Like R/ooer. They optimise for aesthetically offensive I think.
It's interesting that you let users change their styling so much. Is having a coherent brand identity important to you?
We have two main guiding principles. One of them is 'let the humans do the hard part'. So we have moderators, we have people involved in the interaction. The other one is 'Reddit should always feel small'. And that necessitates a certain ability to carve off a chunk and have your community feel like a small piece of the pie.
We're still going to take the best across the communities and surface it on the front page because the font page to us is a major product surface by itself, and it accounts for a good chunk of our pageviews. And it's where people can start to engage and see the styles of the communities and feel the different flavours that are available.
Handy advice and inspiring examples from the best fan artists around.
Have you ever wanted to recreate your favourite characters from books, television series, or movies? What about reimagining Chucky the possessed doll as the new spokesperson for off-brand cereals? Or maybe you just want to pay homage to your heroes.
With all of the fan art out there, how do you compete? How do you come up with something original? Where do you find inspiration? What art techniques and tools will bring your vision to life?
To find out, we contacted a range of artists who create fan art and asked them for their tips for creating original work that looks great.
01. Learn the basics first
Jamie R. Stone is a T-shirt artist operating under the handle Punksthetic Art. "It's OK to be inspired by your favourite movies and borrow certain elements to create your own visual style,” she advises. “But start with the basics of making art first."
Once you have the basics down, then you can start to mix and match different concepts to come up with new ideas.
02. Play around
Don't overthink your design or get locked into an idea. By doing so, you may be cutting off a potential masterpiece. Christopher Pierre, a digital artist from the Caribbean Islands, likes to keep all of his options open. He says that everything has an impact on the shape and scope of his artwork because he takes a wide-eyed approach to everyday life.
"One of the best pieces of advice I received was a quote: 'Look at life through the eyes of a child'," says Pierre. "I definitely use that philosophy in sketching, drawing... any and everything."
03. Adapt your tools to your lifestyle
Time to create is limited these days, and if you're raising little ones like Jody Parmann, time to create can seem non-existent. Parmann was a painter before she had children, but now she does most of her art digitally, using Adobe Draw.
"Pulling out my paints and spending an afternoon being messy in the studio is a thing of the past,” she says. “The iPad and Apple Pencil is easy to pick up when I have a few spare moments and put way when my children need my attention."
Her advice to anyone trying a new tool is to be patient. "Have purpose for what you're trying to make, but don't immediately expect to be at the same level as you are with more familiar tools,” she smiles.
04. Build depth with layers
Flat images can be great, but if it’s a 3D look you’re going for, you need to add some layers of colour. Adding highlights, shadows, and blended colours and tones will help bring things to life.
Rebecca Marshall, a storyteller and graduate of Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, uses multiple layers to create depth in her work – much like a painter might start with an underpainting. "It can be a tedious process," she explains. "It never looks like much at first, but everything comes together with the more layers that you apply."
05. Be true to yourself and your style
Being true to your style is key for John M. Tatulli. He firmly believes that when you draw enough, your style will begin to rise to the top; you just need to trust it and allow it to be what it is.
While it's OK to be inspired by your biggest influences – which for Tatulli are Jake Parker and Will Terry – you don't have to make your work look like theirs. "Trust your style and shine,” he says. “You were designed to be different."
06. Use a lighter touch
Don't over-grip your pencil or stylus; if you're using a Wacom or other touch-sensitive tablet, adjust its settings to suit your style – for instance, a reduced sensitivity helped with the airbrushing of these wings.
It may sound trivial, but Oliver Harbour says it can make all the difference. "You don’t realise how much pressure and strain it's putting on your wrists and fingers,” he says, “and how much more control you'd have with a tighter touch."
07. Take your time
When Virginia Kakava sits down to start a piece, preparation is key. The first thing she does is to study the subject and learn more about the character. She uses her initial sketch to figure out the style, clothes, and environment, before getting started on the final artwork.
Kakava's fan art combines photo manipulation and digital painting. "The final rendering is very important," she emphasises. "It’s the last chance to decide the feel you want your artwork to have, either by changing the brightness etc. or by adding filters to make a more unified result."
08. Keep practicing
It's been said that to become a master at anything, all you need to do is work on it for 10,000 hours. For US-based artist, Vincent Turner this advice is spot on. Turner has been experimenting with different techniques for a long time. "The more you do it, the better you get," he smiles. So if you haven’t quite mastered a particular technique or approach, don’t shy away and try and avoid it in your work – work at it, and you’ll improve.
Brian Allen of Flyland Designs reminds us not to lose sight of the reason we create fan art in the first place. "The best artwork materialises when you're having a lot of fun creating it," he says. So relax, and don't take yourself so seriously!
10. Be original
Adam W Rodriguez was first inspired by cartoons and comic books but avoided fan art because he felt it wasn’t "original art". To which his six year-old niece argued, "Then make your fan art original."
The lesson Rodriguez learned was that exploring different genres will only help you grow as a creative. Understanding different types of art can, in turn, help make your own art more unique. "Don't limit yourself by hating certain styles of art; instead challenge yourself and make your contribution to that style,” he says. “So, hate less and explore more."
Make your site more accessible with these handy tools.
The W3C has a comprehensive list of requirements that can be completed to achieve web accessibility, be that at AA or the stricter AAA level. However these are not enforced and, as a result, often overlooked. They're also not exactly up to date, as the last full version of the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) was released nearly a decade ago.
But don't worry, there are many simple ways to make your sites more accessible, and ensure that as many people as possible can enjoy your content. Here are seven tools that will help you on your way to a website layout and site that works for all...
01. Sim Daltonism
If you’re using a Mac or iOS, this great app by Michael Fortin enables you to overlay a window directly over any web page or application you’re viewing and see a live preview of what it looks like with each form of colour blindness. You can resize it to any size and you aren’t restricted like you are with the web page. It also has an iOS version where you can use the device’s camera.
02. A11Y checklist
The A11Y project work tirelessly on providing clear advice and tips on web accessibility. It contains its own list of resources, an accessible widget and pattern library, and is worth visiting for its blog on new approaches.
03. Contrast Ratio
Want to test a combination of two colours before using them in a design? Lea Verou has made a neat online checker that will show you an example of how it looks, and displays the contrast ratio level and what level it passes.
Lighthouse is a tool that audits the accessibility performance, best practices, and PWA standards of any web page. It’s built into Chrome’s audit panel in the web inspector, is brilliantly detailed, and can be run instantly.
The HeadingsMap extension generates a tree, based on the headings on a page and highlights any that are out of place in terms of hierarchy, or have been skipped entirely. It’s important for both screen readers and SEO.
A nice and easy Chrome extension to perform inline HTML validation checks on your pages, with the results being outputted to the browser console (yellow for warning, red for error). This extension is also available in Firefox.
The most comprehensive of the screen reading software mentioned, VoiceOver is built into every major Apple operating system and gives you a great insight into your web page’s performance for those with blindness or low vision.
Create typography for all
Every day millions and millions of people look at text on the web. We’re reading email, newspapers, magazines, blog posts, reviews, reports, gossip, weather forecasts, bank statements, social network updates, and much more besides. As designers, we should be striving to make those reading experiences as good as possible.
Some brands succeeding in annoying us, but which ones nailed it?
Is anyone else going to scream if another GDPR re-permission campaign email lands in their inbox? If you didn't know (from the hundreds of emails you've already had), today is the day companies have to make sure they're compliant with GDPR.
What is GDPR?
A good question. GDPR stands for the General Data Protection Regulation, and is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for everyone within the European Union. In short, it's a big deal, and so companies want to make sure they're compliant. The repermissioning campaigns filling up your inbox are an attempt by each company to ensure they are up to standard with the law, which is being enforced today.
So we get it, they're only doing what they have to with these emails. But, jeez, you'd think they could come up with a few ways to make them more interesting.
That said, we can't knock them all. Some organisations have recognised that GDPR isn't exactly the most exciting subject and used their creative prowess to deliver a campaign that won't immediately make your eyes glaze over.
Here are the best examples we've seen, and a few of the worst...
We'd like to start by thanking the guys at Glug events for giving us a laugh with their opt-in email this morning. It immediately caught our attention with the subject line 'We decided not to', quickly followed by a series of highly appropriate and hilarious GIFs.
The team go on to report their own stats for amount of GDPR or what they call the *what-shall-not-be-named*-regulation emails they've received, with co-founder Nick Clement joking (we hope) with one million.
Any email that has an N-Sync GIF in gets our vote. Nicely done, guys.
Fashion brand ASOS stayed true to its demographic, sending out this trendy infographic-style opt-in campaign to its consumers. The subject line was simple and clear: 'The law is changing. Are you set to get your ASOS emails?', followed by a very obvious 'Opt in' call to action and simple graphics detailing exactly what that means. Simple, but very effective.
03. Cancer research
The team at Cancer Research were way ahead of the game when it comes to GDPR, choosing to go opt-in only back in July 2017.
The company backed up its move with an engaging 'Just A Tick' campaign, which included this informative yet creative video, which makes it very clear to its supporters how vital consent is in the fight against cancer.
The video ends with the tagline 'A tick doesn't sound like much, but it has the power to do great things'. Bravo Cancer Reasearch, bravo.
One of the most powerful tools in the marketing arsenal is FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. So we wonder why more GDPR emails haven’t exploited this technique? Fashion brand Dune knows all about this psychological principle, and has put it into full effect with this striking call to action. Be honest: who wouldn’t want to press the yes button in these email, as quickly as possible? (Thanks to Mel @MZ_Creative for passing this on).
While Dune’s newsletter (above) wields a scary stick, NailsInc instead offers a juicy carrot. While the easy option is to ignore these emails, or just snarkily click ‘Opt Out’, Nails Inc offers us an incredible inducement to do so. All we have to do is opt in and we become ‘A VIP for free’ which includes ‘Free standard delivery’ and ‘Amazing gifts’. We’re not sure how amazing these gifts will actually be, but the glitzy graphics suggest they’ll be pretty amazing indeed – and all you need to do is click? Well, who wouldn’t?
06. Good Design
Have you noticed how nice, polite and often fussily formal these GDPR emails have been? Well, here’s a palate refresher from the good people at Good Fucking Design Advice. By cleverly subverting the standard wording with more down-to-earth language, it shows the power of humour to win round even the most recalcitrant newsletter-receiver. (Thanks to @AlexandraDavy for passing this on).
07. Yorkshire Wildlife Park
Awwwwww. Well, if you don’t respond to this little Lemur baby’s pleas, then you’ve got to have a heart made of stone. Yorkshire Wildlife Park not only found a way to pull on the heart strings with their GDPR campaign, but they made an event of it, cheekily building up expectations on Twitter with the following quote:
08. Matt Richards Illustration
We couldn’t complete this list without hearing from one of our own… With his GDPR email, illustrator Matt Richards has shown the way: treating the eye with a lovely image and using humour and plain speaking to make you feel like you’re being addressed by an actual human. In fact, just reading the opening sentence (“One day you’re on top of the world, and the next some secretary’s running you over with a GDPR lawnmower”) gives you an immediate sense that you want to click yes to this man.
But as we all know to our cost, not everyone has got it right. Here are some of the worst examples of GDPR emails, as called out by the people of Twitter…
01. Sometimes the humour just doesn't quite land...
02. Layout, hierarchy, wording... what isn't wrong with this?
03. Someone needs to hire a copywriter
04. Just. Not. Appropriate
05. Worst or best subject line ever?
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