3 Design Elements You Can’t Afford to Ignore in Testing

written by Georgia Schumacher 13 November 2014

Do your web design choices compel users to take further action or cause them to swiftly click away? Once you have great written content, your design must be carefully crafted. Sometimes, A/B testing will reveal the most effective design, while other times, asking directly for feedback offers a wealth of information. Here are just a few graphic design and web elements that should be tested.

1. CTA Position

The call-to-action, or CTA, tells the user what you want him to do next. Maybe you want him to sign up for a webinar, or perhaps the CTA will help a user navigate to a video. The CTA is usually a clickable button that should be placed near the top of the page. Users may scroll down to the bottom of the screen, but only if your content and design compel them to read that far. In many cases, placing the CTA at the top of the screen where the user can't miss it is the best choice. Remember that web users read in an F-shaped pattern. Testing CTA position lets you see where it is most likely to be clicked.

CTA buttons2. CTA Color

The color of your CTA button is another important element of any interactive design. Some colors will jump out from the page better than others, and, when your background is white, many options exist. The color of the CTA should stand out on your design -- but not like a sore thumb. Finding the right CTA color can be a fine line; it should typically be consistent with the overall design scheme, but the CTA may be ignored if it blends in with the background or neighboring design elements. The only way to know what CTA colors work best is testing!

3. Photo Selection

A powerful image may keep people on a web page or email screen and increase user engagement. Using images of real customers, versus stock photography, generally adds more value to the design. However, product photos may also be more appropriate in certain situations. The placement and size of the photo will also affect its impact. Users may ignore an image placed off to the side without a clear relationship to the text. Knowing which image will connect best with the end user may be a bit of a guessing game. Testing enables designers to determine which photos elicit the best response from users.

Testing Methods

TestingOne popular means of testing your web or interactive design is A/B testing. When utilizing this method, you will create two versions of your email, landing page, website, or other design to implement simultaneously. In most cases, each version is exactly the same, minus one difference--that could be copy, CTA color, CTA position, or any other element you are testing. Sometimes, you may need to test two entirely different designs, but when you begin changing multiple pieces on your design it becomes hard to know to which design elements you can attribute success. Whichever version produces the most interactions can be used moving forward--and you can always continue testing other elements over time. Remember, testing your web design stands to greatly increase the success of your efforts. Don't be afraid to learn by trial and error!

Learn more about web design best practices in our Web Design & Interactive Media Programs.

A Thank You to Veterans

written by Georgia Schumacher 11 November 2014

US flag

This Veterans Day, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division extends our gratitude to all those who have served in the U.S. military—including our many brave military students, faculty, and staff—for their courage, commitment, and patriotism. We remember and honor these individuals for the numerous ways they have made our world a better place throughout history.

Today and every day, our faculty and staff are committed to supporting each of our military-affiliated students as they prepare to pursue rewarding creative careers. Last month, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division was honored to be named a 2015 Military Friendly® School, and we remain dedicated to offering flexible degree programs, scholarship opportunities, academic support, and transfer of credit policies that can help make education more affordable and attainable for all students.

At The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division, military students are encouraged to join our chapter of the Student Veterans of America in Connections (under the Organizations tab), a network where peers can provide academic and personal support, share helpful information, and discuss a wide range of topics and common interests. We also encourage military students to explore the resources and organizations available via the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Thank you again for the sacrifices you have made and all that you have done for this country!

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division Named a 2015 Military Friendly® School

written by Georgia Schumacher 15 October 2014

LogoThe Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division is honored to have been named a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, the publisher of G.I. Jobs, Military Spouse, and Vetrepreneur® magazines.

The Military Friendly® Schools designation is awarded to the top 15% of colleges, universities, and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace military students, and to dedicate resources to ensure their success in the classroom and after graduation. In total, the survey captures over 50 leading practices in supporting military students. Now in its sixth year, the Military Friendly® Schools designation and list provides service members transparent, data-driven ratings about post-military education.

At The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division, we strongly value the commitment to our country made by military members and veterans. As part of our efforts to recognize the commitment and service of these students, we are proud to offer qualifying students numerous military education benefits, including a military scholarship. We also offer all military students a comprehensive review of their military experience and training to determine eligibility for transfer of credit toward our programs.

“The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division is proud to announce that we have been awarded Military Friendly® status once again for 2014-2015,” said Brandon Corley, Director of Student Financial Services. “We are honored to service the millions of active and veteran service members along with their families. We are committed to dedicating resources and staff to serve as military experts and to ensure that these service members receive the highest level of personalized customer service.”

For more information about our commitment to educating and supporting military students, visit http://www.aionline.edu/tuition/military-aid/.

The Ideal Client: How and Why to Create Personas

written by Georgia Schumacher 9 October 2014

If you want to launch a career in a creative field such as web design, fashion design, or video game development, you should understand the vital role of personas. Personas, which should be used throughout the creative and development process, are in-depth profiles of potential clients. Those make-believe individuals will represent precisely the kinds of customers that you're trying to reach.

By creating personas, you help yourself and your colleagues to analyze andunderstand your customers, audience, or users. Once you’ve built personas, all of your decisions should rely on these imaginary people and what would—or would not—resonate with them or move them to action. Ask yourself about their wants, their needs, and their goals. Think about their prior knowledge and background and how that will influence the way they interact with what you create.

Be aware, however, that you should only rely on three or four personas for one project or campaign; have more than that and it starts to get confusing. Therefore, those personas you select must accurately represent your largest groups of potential customers. Of course, you won't be able to capture every potential user in those personas; the key is to cover as many as you can.

How to create a persona

To create effective personas, you'll first have to do some investigating. That is, you must learn about the backgrounds and needs of the people who are most likely to seek your services. This kind of inquiry is called market research.

Step 1: Market research

There are several ways in which to conduct market research. For starters, you can interview past and current customers over the phone or in person, and you can direct them to online surveys. To ensure that enough people complete such interrogations, you could offer them discounts in exchange for participating. You may also be able to conduct research about those who purchase products from your closest competitors. You could even contact trade associations, major industry publications, and even friends who are in the same business as you; ask them to send you some of the customer data that they've collected over time. Even if you don’t have customers yet, you can create personas based on information you find about your target customers or the people most likely to purchase your product or service.

Step 2: Find patterns

Once your market research is complete, it's time to turn those statistics into personas. To get started, identify recurring patterns in the customer information that you've gathered in order to settle on three or four archetypes. For example, if teachers and women between the ages of 50 and 60 are among the people who appear the most often, one of your personas could describe a female, 55-year-old high school teacher. 

Step 3: Templatize

Your next step is to create a template for your personas so that they'll have a uniform layout. It's wise to search the Internet for personas and to study as many as you can; borrow the elements that most appeal to you. Your final product should be clean, attractive, and easy to read; you’ll probably be sharing this document a lot! Each entry should also include a photo of the person's face: You can purchase the rights to stock photos, or include of friends and family members.

Step 4: Fill in the details

When it comes to the text of a persona, provide the person's first name next to the photo. Below the name, supply information in several categories. The first grouping should be a demographic outline, which might include:

- age
- ethnicity
- place of residence
- educational history
- marital status
- any other relevant factors

Other categories could be employment details, technical knowledge, and relevant interests. Finally, set up a section that describes what the person would need and expect from you and your business. Note that you should use short phrases and bullet points to present these facts, rather than complete sentences.

Step 5: Distribute your personas

Once, you’ve assembled personas, make sure to share them with other designers, your stakeholders, manager, and anyone else on the project team. Remember, your persona will help you focus on your audience and ensure that your design is functional and relevant for your customers—making you more likely to succeed!

5 Places to Find Creative Inspiration

written by Georgia Schumacher 7 October 2014

When asked about his creative process, author Kurt Vonnegut advised that, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.

Luckily, creativity never demands perfection. Instead, your success at a creative arts school and in your creative career relies heavily on bravery and the ability to color outside of the lines. Yet sometimes, creative thought can start to flounder amid expectations of the tried and true. When you need a creative boost, try these 5 things to resuscitate your imagination and lead you toward your most inspired creations.

Fall nature scene

1. Nature

There's a reason people talk about the importance of "getting back to nature." The simplicity of the living world lies in stark opposition to fast-paced city life and 9-to-5 stuffiness. Fresh air, chirping birds, and rustling leaves serve as more than just a scenic backdrop — they summon primal instincts that take humans back to their roots, which can help resolve common barriers like overthinking and nitpicking.

2. Art

Artist Marc Chagall once said, "Great art picks up where nature ends." Whether through art galleries, showings, museums, or books, studying other artists' interpretations of the world around them is an ideal way to awaken your own inner curiosity and creativity. Trying new mediums can also help you and learning new techniques in your art school classes can also provide wonderful ways of connecting to untapped ideas.

3. Silence

Silence is known to be golden, but it's a state too many people avoid. Sitting in solitude without the distractions of conversation and television is a powerful experience that lends itself to deep thinking. With only your mind to guide you, your inner thoughts will surface without outside influences. Getting comfortable with silence through meditation or simple bouts of quiet time summons the creative energy that's often overshadowed by everyday noise.

4. Music

Music

Aldous Huxley stated, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” Whether it's the melody or lyrics that move you, listening to music allows you to connect to the medium while simultaneously looking inward. The reflective ability of music is both powerfully inspiring and unifying. When coupled with other artistic endeavors like drawing or writing, its creative impact is readily achieved.

5. Journals

Many people who swear by journaling note its ability to get to the bottom of what's really inside your heart and mind. If you feel stuck or confused in your creative process, allowing yourself to write freely is a wonderful way to unlock inner feelings that can shed light on issues you didn't consciously know were affecting your work. As author Christina Baldwin says, "Journal writing is a voyage to the interior," and we think it's a voyage worth taking—during art school and beyond—for its creative merits.