Optimal Web Design: a Delicate Balance Between Aesthetics, Usability, and Accessibility

Having designed and developed websites for over 25 years, I must confess the biggest gripe I have when it comes to dealing with clients: their obsession with aesthetics. Hold on – what’s wrong with that? Surely I’m forgetting the “design” part of web design by complaining that clients focus too intently on how the site actually…looks? No, I’ve not forgotten – it’s just that aesthetics need to be balanced with usability and accessibility considerations too, and that if a client becomes too focused on aesthetics, their site can concede too many usability and accessibility features in the process.

The advantage aesthetics have over usability and accessibility is that it’s visual, whereas the latter two are often “invisible”: they’re not obvious, yet they can severely affect the level of success a website can hope to achieve.

Before we go too far, let’s get definitions of two words that are already popping up a lot in this article.

Usability
This term is fairly self-explanatory: usability concerns itself with how easy a website is to use. A website with strong usability is easy to navigate while making it easy for the visitor to do stuff (e.g. buy something, find out certain key information).

Accessibility
This term has two chief aspects to it: 1) how accessible a site is to people, particularly people with disabilities. 2) how accessible a site is to all devices.

On point 1), a site might be inaccessible if you can only navigate it by mouse, or if images do not have alt text, so blind people can’t have the images described to them via a screen reader.

On point 2), a website might be considered inaccessible if it doesn’t provide small-screen devices with a single column layout (therefore the text is very small, and you have to pinch-and-zoom to read it).

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So what kind of problems can too much focus on aesthetics cause?
Some common problems that come to mind:-

custom fonts that are hard to read
imagery in the header area that pushes the actual content of the page way below the fold (“below the fold” is the part of the page you have to scroll to see).
“mystery meat navigation” – navigation that’s hidden away, and you only know something is a link when you hover over it with your finger or mouse (usually these are images)
layouts that require horizontal scrolling
These are just some examples. They are usually part of a concept that the client has in their head. For example, a client might say “I’m imagining my site where each page looks like lined paper, and all the text will be displayed as a handwritten font”. There’s nothing wrong with such an idea per se, but problems can arise when the content of the site doesn’t match the design. For example, text as scrawled hand-writing can work very well with short-form content, but people will struggle to read it if it’s long-form.

There’s certainly a time and a place for conceptual ideas to be developed as web pages, but the typical client of mine is a small business that needs their site to perform specific tasks: to make it as easy as possible for someone to buy something, sign up to a service, sign up to a newsletter. Achieving these goals means balancing aesthetics with usability and accessibility so that they can create an optimum experience for the visitor.

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Established websites focus a lot on usability and accessibility
You only have to look at the big platforms like Google, eBay, and Amazon to know how much time and money Big Tech throw at making their own websites as accessible and usable as possible. These sites aren’t using conceptual designs or trying to “wow” the visitor with eye candy. I often cite these examples to prospective new clients.

Hold on – most sites use templates now – isn’t usability and accessibility baked in?
For sure, there’s a lot of issues that are ironed out by the underlying website template. For example, HTML structure (headline tags et al), and responsive design are included in most templates these days. However, the content itself can cause issues. A client adding large images to the top of the page can push text down the page – even the title of the page can end up below the fold. Their navigation titles are vague or outright misleading. Moreover, not all design templates practice good usability and accessibility. Many layouts flagrantly ignore good web design practices. This is the issue where clients say “I really love the look and feel of this design template…”, and you know you’d have to turn it inside out to make it a useable and accessible website. I’ve put many a design template through an ahrefs.com audit only to see it get a very low score, and realize the amount of work I’d need to get a score of 95%+ isn’t worth the trouble. In summary, not all templates are the same. Some are very considerate toward usability and accessibility, others don’t even know these concepts exist.

Making it clear to clients
Of course, I don’t get in a war of words with clients. I explain what I can do for them, and what they need to look out for when it comes to maximizing their website’s potential. Actually, it’s more often the case that as soon as their website goes live, they then start to focus heavily on site performance – which is like the lightbulb moment for them: they’re reeling off their basket abandonment stats, their page bounce percentages, their conversion rates. And thus, often without knowing it, they start to optimize their site’s content to further help their visitors achieve the aims they are trying to achieve.

How Good Are Free Ransomware Decryptors?

In the light of recent months, with the cases continuously climbing high during the current pandemic, many companies and their customers have been facing numerous ransomware and hijacking attempts – from robotext messages, robocalls, and virus injections. Hackers are really leaning hard on ransomware because it gives them an edge over the customers – lock their data, and if you pay the ransom, we’ll give you a solution, and you can decrypt your files! One such ransomware virus that took the world by storm was the ThiefQuest (a.k.a. EvilQuest) ransomware virus. But one company decided to break that cycle by offering a way that people can decrypt their data for free: the one and only SentinelOne.

Recommended article: SentinelOne is #1 at Crushing Viruses and Keeping You Safe

Mac Users Are the Targets
Unlike the other numerous viruses that target Windows users, the specific EvilQuest ransomware targets Mac operators. However, the downside to this is that many businesses are the primary users of Mac computers, laptops, and products. As a matter of fact, there are more iPhone users in the world that use the MacOS on their mobile platforms and office computers than Windows users. Either way, the virus is meant to decrypt files, and it does not tell infected users how to contact the company. It does provide a Bitcoin wallet and where to deposit your ransom to. And they only give you 72 hours to get your ransom to them.

The Free Decryptor
There are many other ransomware programs out there, and SentinelOne is one of those companies who have been able to say they’re coming to the call. Most users who get infected with ransomware don’t get their files restored with this virus, and they are permanently locked out of them. The decryption process that SentinelOne provides is that their researchers basically recreated the virus and then reverse-engineered it. They were able to analyze the code pattern and decipher the malicious code that’s injected into the files so they can remove it. Fortunately, it’s because the ransomware itself is rather new (meaning that it was very recently created – so it has some bugs). Other ransomware viruses are a bit harder to crack. But does it work?

Recommended article: How Quickly a Ransomware Attack Can Happen In 2020

According to SentinelOne, it does. And so, do many others. Of course, they do have disclaimers in case they can’t decrypt literally every single file. That’s because there is no guarantee that every virus is different. One virus, though, that’s being used a lot is the WannaCry ransomware on PC’s ranging from small businesses all the way up to government officials (and one of the most common during these times). Having a good product such as SentinelOne, or even getting the Trend Micro tool can help. There is a good chance that you may not actually need to pay the fee to get your files unlocked. However, some of the more advanced viruses may have numerous variants in code, so it may not be easy to pinpoint which one it is and the code (which may sometimes be randomly inserted into a file) itself. Therefore, you need to have a good protection plan in place.

What Should I Do?
If you get ahold of your local IT support team, they’ll be able to help you get some of the best security tools and can even provide local and cloud-based backups of your precious data in case of a ransomware attack. Many companies have been able to say that their ransomware hiccups have cost them, but most of them are paying their hackers not to leak their customers’ data. Don’t be that person, and keep your data safe, and you’ll be much better off in the long run!

S&P 500 Rallies As U.S. Dollar Pulls Back Towards Weekly Lows

Key Insights
The strong pullback in the U.S. dollar provided significant support to stocks.
Treasury yields have pulled back after touching new highs, which served as an additional positive catalyst for S&P 500.
A move above 3730 will push S&P 500 towards the resistance level at 3760.
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Pfizer Rallies After Announcing A Huge Price Hike For Its COVID-19 Vaccines
S&P 500 is currently trying to settle above 3730 as traders’ appetite for risk is growing. The U.S. dollar has recently gained strong downside momentum as the BoJ intervened to stop the rally in USD/JPY. Weaker U.S. dollar is bullish for stocks as it increases profits of multinational companies and makes U.S. equities cheaper for foreign investors.

The leading oil services company Schlumberger is up by 9% after beating analyst estimates on both earnings and revenue. Schlumberger’s peers Baker Hughes and Halliburton have also enjoyed strong support today.

Vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna gained strong upside momentum after Pfizer announced that it will raise the price of its coronavirus vaccine to $110 – $130 per shot.

Biggest losers today include Verizon and Twitter. Verizon is down by 5% despite beating analyst estimates on both earnings and revenue. Subscriber numbers missed estimates, and traders pushed the stock to multi-year lows.

Twitter stock moved towards the $50 level as the U.S. may conduct a security review of Musk’s purchase of the company.

From a big picture point of view, today’s rebound is broad, and most market segments are moving higher. Treasury yields have started to move lower after testing new highs, providing additional support to S&P 500. It looks that some traders are ready to bet that Fed will be less hawkish than previously expected.

S&P 500 Tests Resistance At 3730

S&P 500 has recently managed to get above the 20 EMA and is trying to settle above the resistance at 3730. RSI is in the moderate territory, and there is plenty of room to gain additional upside momentum in case the right catalysts emerge.

If S&P 500 manages to settle above 3730, it will head towards the next resistance level at 3760. A successful test of this level will push S&P 500 towards the next resistance at October highs at 3805. The 50 EMA is located in the nearby, so S&P 500 will likely face strong resistance above the 3800 level.

On the support side, the previous resistance at 3700 will likely serve as the first support level for S&P 500. In case S&P 500 declines below this level, it will move towards the next support level at 3675. A move below 3675 will push S&P 500 towards the support at 3640.