The Next Web has identified 10 web design trends we are likely to see over the next 12 months:

  1. Longer scrolling sites – as mobile devices become more important there is a switch to longer scrolling pages rather than lots of links
  2. Story telling and interaction – content has always been important but telling a story through that content is a big plus
  3. Absence of large background header images – large header images with text over the top have become the norm. How to stand out? Get rid of the image and just use text
  4. Removing non-essential design elements in favour of simplicity – There is an idea in design that a design is complete when all of the non-essential elements have been removed (#3 could be seen as part of this move)
  5. Fixed width centred site layout – how we always used to do it in the old days, seems to be making a come back, but with modern derivatives
  6. Professional high quality custom photography – that really makes your site unique. We always say that when we take on a web client we like to see that they have a good image library – it makes for a great site (Birmingham Royal Ballet and Sightsavers are great examples)
  7. Flyout/slideout app-like menus – Responsive web design has done this for mobile browsing but it is catching on for desktops. But, while it simplifies the desgn process does it improve user experience?
  8. Hidden main menus – pretty much the same as #7, but maybe not as obvious
  9. Very large typography – needed because of #3?
  10. Performance and speed – for us old hands we have always panicked about this. In our book it isn’t a trend but an essential. It’s probably really needed if you do #1. #3, 4 and 5 are probably the result of this.

what do you think we’ll see over the next 12 months?

See the full TNW article here.


heartbleed logo

Heartbleed imageThe last few days have seen a particular internet issue, “The Heartbleed Bug”, hit the mainstream media. Terms you may not have heard before are being bandied about as if they are common parlance – OpenSSL, TLS, X.509, RFC, CVE…. So what do you need to know?

How serious is this really?

Let’s just say that “switching off the internet for a while sounds like a fantastic idea” has been said.

Has anyone suffered an attack?

As far as we know at the moment, there have been no real world exploits of this vulnerability, but they might not have been detected. So better safe than sorry.

What is the Heartbleed Bug?

This is a serious vulnerability that allows information, which normally would be protected,  to be stolen.

Communications on the internet use protocols called Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) to protect information sent to and from your web browser and other applications. This is what is used when you use a web address that starts https:// and you see a padlock or something similar displayed in your browser. These protocols encrypt the information you are sending/receiving and when the encrypted message is received it is decrypted.

What the Heartbleed bug does is enable anyone on the internet to read the memory of systems protected by the vulnerable security software – which is particular versions of OpenSSL. This information compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.

What is OpenSSL?

OpenSSL is commonly used software tool kit used to implement the SSL/TLS security. While it is used on a large number of sites it is not used everywhere – the estimate though is that maybe 60% of internet services use it. That is not to say all sites that do use OpenSSL are affected since not all versions have the vulnerability.

Are all versions compromised?

No, the vulnerability was introduced in version 1.0.1 which was released in March 2012 and has been present in all versions up until 1.0.1f. The latest version 1.0.1g had the vulnerability removed and versions before 1.0.1 (most commonly used 1.0.0 and 0.9.8 and 0.9.7) did not have the vulnerability at all.

Are sites and software from Systematic Marketing affected?

No.  None of the sites we manage use OpenSSL so have not been affected by this vulnerability. In our software we do use OpenSSL for communicating with other services but the versions we use are not compromised.

What do I need to do now?

If you have login details for affected sites you should change your passwords, but don’t do it until the site has said that the patched update has been installed. Have a look at the Mashable link below to see sites reporting on the issue.

Where can I find more information?

There are several sites with information:

The official Heartbleed site

The Mashable hit list – a list of major sites that have reported whether you should change your password or not.

The OpenSSL site

A more technical explanation at The Register.

Can I buy the T-Shirt?

Yes you can! Visit heart bleed t shirt at teespring.

Working with CMS: Content Management System

In today’s web world any kind of design, which is going to be continually updated with content, needs a CMS. This database stores your site content and allows the site admin to work with an interface which means you can then add, modify and remove content at your will.

Although a CMS can be designed and programmed specifically for a site it is necessary for you to first consider the type of CMS you are looking to work with. Free website platforms such and Drupal, Joomla and WordPress are available. Although a cheaper option maybe attractive you must match the best CMS available according your requirements – just because it looks cheaper in the short run doesn’t mean it will be over time.

The Relationship Between CMS and Design Brief

A problem we often come across when designing and working with clients is the relationship between the CMS and your design brief. I have begun to think why you shouldn’t specify your CMS as part of your design brief. With some potential clients we can sometimes find the first problem we come across is that the amalgamation of the brief for the technical side (content management system [CMS] and the customer relationship management [CRM]) with the design itself. To solve this problem you should assess these as two separate items and each should be approached separately.

A good CMS will support just about any design that it is thrown into the mix and any designer should conversely also be able to work with most CMS. In regards to implementation, we would always carry out all of the associated work anyway and it should be our main job to make sure the CMS templates correctly implement the design.

Of course it is also possible that over time we can see multiple designers working on a project, even on different parts of a sites design. So by having the technical infrastructure independent to the design company itself can give you much more flexibility. If you are attempting a much larger revamp of the site, why switch your CMS?

Keep the CMS at the Top of the Design Process

We should always put the CMS at the top of the design process; it is imperative that this is done first, before any of the design work. Lay the groundwork of the project with your CMS from this the rest of the design should flow. This is so that the CMS forms the foundation of any website allowing the website process to be much more productive.