Standards-Compliant Web Design

Standards-Compliant Web Design

What does Standards-compliant mean to you and your business? A lot. It means lower costs, reduced production time, and increased accessibility. Your site will work better, and reach more people—not only in today's browsers, screen readers, and wireless devices, but in tomorrow's, next year's, and beyond. Find out more…

Custom Web Applications

Custom Web Applications

Build a custom piece of software, in a sense, that we can continue to customize and add features to as their business changes and expands. Find out how a web application could benefit your business.

Graphic Design

Graphic Design

Our original expertise began with more traditional design for print graphics like brochures, business cards, corporate identity (logo design), signage, trade show graphics, and other forms of marketing collateral. Although today it's a much smaller part of our business, we still have many clients that rely on us for these services every day.

The 12 Do’s and Don’ts of Web Design

If you design websites, you know that making your designs useful and enjoyable is your top priority. Even with the best web design software at your fingertips it can be an overwhelming task for anyone who just recently started creating websites, so to simplify it, I’ve created a simple list of do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when designing your next web design project.

First, the do’s

1. Keep your interface consistent

One of the top principles of good UX is to keep the interface consistent throughout the entire product. The overall look and feel of your website should be consistent across all of your site’s pages. Consistency of navigation, color schemes, typefaces, and style of writing can have a positive impact on usability and UX.

 Do. Esquire’s design is consistent for all it’s pages.

Practical tip: Make design usable first. Consistency is a double-edged sword. If your website isn’t designed correctly at first, then to make other parts of it consistent will result in consistently poor design. Thus, make design usable first, then make it consistent.

2. Design easy-to-use navigation

Navigation is the cornerstone of usability. It’s the main interaction technique on the Internet. Having good website navigation is crucial for ensuring that visitors can find what they’re looking for.

Practical tips:

  • Keep top-level navigation for the essential navigation options. Limit your top-level navigation links to a maximum of seven choices ━ the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2 ━ and create sub-navigation with clear categorization.
  • Use clear labels for navigation options. Use familiar words for menu options to help visitors understand them better.
  • Reduce the amount of time required for users to get to the destination. Design your navigation in a way that gets visitors where they want to go with the least number of clicks possible. When designing a website, remember the three-click rule, which says that your viewers should never be more than three clicks away from what they are looking for.
  • Include navigation options in the footer of your site. A footer is a place where visitors expect to find navigation options and contact information.

3. Change the color of visited links

Links play a vital role in the navigation process. When visited links don’t change color, users could unintentionally revisit the same pages repeatedly. Knowing your past and present locations makes it easier to decide where to go next.

 Do. Visually differentiate visited links.
Do. Visually differentiate visited links.

4. Make it easy to scan your pages

When users visit your site they are more likely to quickly scan the page rather than read everything on it. For example, when visitors want to find specific content or complete a certain task, they will scan a website’s pages until they find what they are looking for. And you, as a designer, can help them with that by designing good visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy refers to the arrangement or presentation of elements in a way that implies importance ━ e.g. where they eyes should focus first, second, etc.

Practical tips:

  • Avoid walls of text. Chunk your information into groups to make it easier to digest visually. Breaking walls of text by headers or bullet points.
  • Put more visual weight on important elements. Make important elements such as call-to-action buttons or login forms focal points so visitors see them right away. You can emphasize elements using different sizes or colors.
 Mailchimp makes the most important information on a page ━ call-to-action buttons ━ stand out.
Do. Mailchimp makes the most important information on a page ━ call-to-action buttons ━ stand out.
  • Consider natural scanning patterns. People in the Western world usually read left to right and from top to bottom. A design that goes against this pattern will present a learning curve for your visitors. Well-designed websites typically lay out their content in a  “F” reading shape or “Z” reading shape.
  • Stick to a grid layout. A grid layout allows you to organize information in a way that makes it easier for visitors to read and comprehend information presented on the page.
 Use grid layout when designing web experiences.
Do. Use grid layout when designing web experiences.

5. Take content seriously

Copy is just as important as the design of your website. More than 95 percent of information on the web is in the form of written language. Even if your site is beautifully designed, it’s no more than an empty frame without good content; a good website has both great design and great content. A designer’s job is to make sure that the design aids and complements the content.

Practical tips:

  • Make sure the text on the website is relevant. Irrelevant text doesn’t bring any value for your visitors and might easily confuse them. Strive to create copy where each line of text will be valuable for your visitors.
  • Avoid jargon. The information written on your website should be as simple and as plain as possible for easy comprehension. A safe bet is to write for all levels of readers by picking words that are clearly and easily understandable to everybody.

6. Check your website for errors

A great piece of work can be easily tarnished by a small error. Here are a few common problems to be aware of:

  • Watch out for dead links. A user can easily become frustrated when they click a link on a site and receive a 404 error page in response.
  • Check your website for typos.
  • Make sure all media content is loading correctly ━ no broken images or videos.

7. Minimize the number of choices

The number of choices people have affects their decisions; the more choices they have, the less action they take. When you present your user with too many options, you make them think too much. To increase chances for interaction, it’s better to minimize the number of choices.

 Facebook uses a step-by-step process when asking personal information.
Do. Facebook uses a step-by-step process when asking personal information.

8. Engage users to scroll

Scrolling sends users deeper into the page and makes them invest more time in the experience, and this increases the chance that users will convert ━ e.g. buy something, sign up for a newsletter, or contact you. Despite that people usually start scrolling as soon as the page loads, content at the top of the page is still very important. What appears at the top sets the impression and expectation of quality for visitors. People do scroll, but only if what’s above the fold is promising enough.

Practical tip: Content at the top of the page sets initial expectations. If a page provides users with high-quality content, they are willing to browse for more content.

9. Label buttons according to what they do

The label on any actionable interface element should always tie back to what it will do for the user. Users will feel more comfortable if they understand what action a button triggers. Vague labels such as “Submit” or abstract labels like in the example below don’t provide enough information about the action.

 Don’t. Make people wonder what an interface element does. Credited to UXMatters
Don’t. Make people wonder what an interface element does. Credited to UXMatters
 Do. Make it clear what will happen when users click a UI element.
Do. Make it clear what will happen when users click a UI element. “Claim Your Free Trial” is a clear label for a sign up form. Credited to Treehouse

10. Make things look like they work

With buttons and other interactive elements, think about how the design communicates affordance. Remember the old adage “form follows function”: the way an object looks tells users how to use it. Visual elements that look like links or buttons, but aren’t clickable ━ such as underlined words that aren’t links, or elements that have a rectangular background but aren’t buttons ━ can easily confuse users.

 Don’t. Is the orange box in the top-left corner of the screen a button? No, but the shape and label make the element look like one.
Don’t. Is the orange box in the top-left corner of the screen a button? No, but the shape and label make the element look like one.

11. Make your website responsive

Today there are more than 5 billion devices running web browsers. This means that visitors can come to your site from various devices such as a desktop, tablet, phone, music player, or even a watch. A big part of UX design is ensuring that no matter how the visitor sees your site, all vital information will be displayed correctly on different screen sizes.

 Designers have to adapt their designs to various screen sizes. No matter how big a screen is — from a phone to a watch, or a tablet to a desktop — the site should present information in a clear way.
Do. Designers have to adapt their designs to various screen sizes. No matter how big a screen is — from a phone to a watch, or a tablet to a desktop — the site should present information in a clear way.

Practical tips:

  • Make essential information easily findable. Unlike desktop users, when browsing mobile, users are looking for something specific such as contact information or the cost of a product they want to buy. Make this info impossible to miss.
  • Size interactive elements according to the screen. Since mobile users scroll and tap with their fingers, you may need to increase the size of interactive elements, such as buttons.

12. Test your design

You may have a design that you think is fantastic, but without feedback from real users, you’ll never know how effective it is. You need to see how users react to it. Even if you can get one or two real unbiased users to interact with your website and share their thoughts with you, it will provide you with many helpful insights that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Practical tip:  Keep an eye on analytics. Web analytics are powerful tools that can help you find areas on your website that require additional attention.

Now, the don’ts

1. Don’t make users wait for content to load

Loading time is extremely important for user experience. As technology progresses, we get more impatient, and today, 47 percent of users expect a web page to load in two seconds or less. If a web page takes more time to load, visitors might become frustrated and leave the site. That’s why speed should be a priority when building a web application.

 The faster your site, the better experience is
The faster your site, the better experience is. Image by Google.

Practical tips:

  • Avoid blank pages during loading. When loading takes some time, consider displaying a part of the content together with some form of visual feedback ━ such as a loading indicator.
  • Optimize images. Images,  especially large background images, can take a lot of time to load. You can significantly reduce the loading time by optimizing your images.
  • Measure your website’s current performance. Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Think With Google tools not only help you identify performance problems on your website, but they will also propose solutions to certain problems.

2. Don’t open internal link in new tabs

Users expect different behavior from internal and external links. All internal links should open in the same tab; this way, you’ll allow users to use the “back” button. If you decide to open external links in a new window, you should provide an advanced warning before automatically opening a new window or tab. This might take the form of text added to the link text stating. “opens in a new window”.

3. Don’t use too many typefaces

When you start building a site, it’s always tempting to use a lot of different typefaces ━ five or six different fonts or even upload your own. But, it’s better to avoid that temptation. Too many variations in font types can be distracting, confusing, and borderline annoying.

 Don’t. Too many fonts can conflict with each other and overwhelm your visitors.
Don’t. Too many fonts can conflict with each other and overwhelm your visitors.

A common recommendation is to use a maximum of three different typefaces in a maximum of three different sizes. When designing a website think about how can you make the typography powerful by playing with weight, not different fonts.

4. Don’t use too many colors on your website

Similar to typefaces, it’s better to avoid using too many colors in design. Applying color to a design has a lot to do with balance, and, the more colors you use, the harder it is to achieve balance. Using too many colors in design is like trying to convey a million feelings and messages at once, which can confuse the person viewing your design.

 Don’t. Use too many colors in design.
Don’t. Use too many colors in design. Image by Pine-Sol.

It’s always better to keep the color scheme limited to a few colors and keep it consistent across your site, unless you want to highlight some important section using color.

Practical tip: Think about emotions you want to evoke from your visitors. Knowing what feelings you want to convey can help you choose the proper color scheme. For example, if you promote meditation products on your website, you won’t want a bright and loud color scheme.

5. Don’t show automatic pop-ups too early

A lot of websites show pop-up boxes with a request to subscribe as soon as you arrive on the page. As a designer, showing pop-up windows is probably one of the most annoying things you can do to someone visiting your website. Pop-ups are interruptive by nature, and, since they are typically used to show ads, users often close them even before reading the content.

 Don’t. The first thing people see when they visit The New York Times website is a popup with promo ad.
Don’t. The first thing people see when they visit The New York Times website is a popup with a promo ad.

Practical tip: Time your pop-ups. Before asking visitors to do something, you need to show how you can deliver value. Prevent the box from popping up until visitors reach the end of the page ━ i.e. read all content ━ or stay on the site for some time.

6. Don’t use generic photos of people

Images with human faces are a very effective way to get your users engaged. Our brains are predisposed to pay attention to faces. When we see faces of other humans it makes us feel like we are actually connecting with them, and not just using a product.

However, many corporate sites are notorious for their over-use of insincere photography, which is employed to “build trust.” Usability tests show that purely decorative photos rarely add value to the design and often harm the user experience.

 Don’t. Inauthentic images leave the user with a sense of shallow fakery.
Don’t. Inauthentic images leave the user with a sense of shallow fakery.

7. Don’t let promotion steal the show

Having too many promotions or ads on a page can easily overshadow the main content and make it harder for users to accomplish tasks. If you have too many ads on the page, they’ll all be competing to get your readers to look at them. This will result in a sensory overload that will ultimately increase your bounce rates. It’s also important to acknowledge that anything that looks like an advertisement is usually ignored by users ━ the phenomenon is known as banner blindness.

 Don’t. Ads can distract visitors from the main content and undermine a design.
Don’t. Ads can distract visitors from the main content and undermine a design.

8. Don’t play background music or autoplay videos with music

While background music might work in specific cases, as a promo website, it is simply a bad idea for most websites. Unexpected music or sound can annoy and potentially cause problems ━ people might be visiting your site at work, in a public place, or near someone who’s sleeping, and unexpected music could send such visitors away in an instant.

Similar to background music, autoplay videos incorporated into a block of content also irritate users. They should be used sparingly and only when appropriate and expected.

Practical tip: Put users in control. Set music to mute by default, but allow them to turn it on if they click ━ design play/pause buttons for your audio content.

 Facebook videos are set to autoplay, but no sound will play unless users show that they’re watching the video ━ i.e. by interacting with the video.
Do. Facebook videos are set to autoplay, but no sound will play unless users show that they’re watching the video ━ i.e. by interacting with the video.

9. Don’t hijack scrolling

Scroll hijacking is when designers manipulate the scrollbar to behave differently on their website. Hijacked scrolling is very annoying for many users since it takes control away from them and makes scrolling behavior completely unpredictable. When you design a website, it’s better to avoid scroll hijacking and let the user control their browsing and movement through the site.

 Tumblr’s signup page uses scroll hijacking.
Don’t. Tumblr’s signup page uses scroll hijacking.

10. Don’t use horizontal scroll

In order to stand out, some designers use horizontal scrolling on their sites. Unfortunately, horizontal scrolling is one of the few interactions that consistently generates negative responses from users. Users often have no idea they can discover content by scrolling horizontally — most of the users are accustomed to scrolling down on websites and don’t usually look left and right. As a result, they simply ignore content accessible through horizontal scrolling.

 Visitors will have no idea that they should scroll horizontally, especially when there are no visual cues.
Don’t. Visitors will have no idea that they should scroll horizontally, especially when there are no visual cues. Image by axelwyart.

11. Don’t sacrifice usability for the sake of beauty

No matter how beautiful a design is, it should never interfere with a user’s ability to consume the content or interact with a website. One typical example of design decisions that often create terrible UX for the sake of beauty is using light grey text on light backgrounds. This combination affects the content’s readability. It’s better to avoid having busy backgrounds behind content or insufficient color contrast, like in the example below.

 Low contrast text is always a bad idea.
Don’t. Low contrast text is always a bad idea.

Practical tipCheck the contrast ratioContrast ratios represent how different a color is from another color. Tools like Color Contrast Checker will help you check if you have a sufficient color contrast in just a few clicks.

12. Use blinking text and ads

When creating ads and animations, don’t even consider using flickering flashing effects. Content that flashes or flickers can trigger seizures in susceptible individuals, and is likely to be annoying or distracting for regular users.


When people interact with websites, they expect an excellent user experience. If you fail to satisfy their needs, they’ll simply move to your competition, which might be just a click away. That’s why with every design decision, you should think about what’s best for the visitor and try to make the experience as pleasant as possible.

Importance of Digital Marketing: 6 Reasons Why Digital Marketing Is Important

5 Fundamental Shifts That Are Shaping Search & Digital Marketing

As you look for new ways to market your business, you may hear people tell you about the importance of digital marketing.

Digital marketing is a valuable asset to your business’s growth and helps you establish an authoritative online presence. In fact, 89 percent of marketers say methods, like search engine optimization (SEO), are successful. Additionally, methods like pay-per-click (PPC) advertising increase brand awareness by as much as 80 percent.

So, why is digital marketing important? By investing in digital, you will help your business grow.

In this post, we’ll cover six reasons digital marketing is important to your business. Keep reading to learn more about why it’s time for your business to adopt an online marketing strategy!

1. You reach people where they spend their time

With the growth of the Internet, more people are spending their time online. Over 7.7 billion people use the Internet across the globe. It’s become an integral part of everyday life to conduct searches, check social media, and purchase products online.

Your customers are online, which highlights the importance of digital marketing. They’re browsing the web looking for your products or services. If they can’t find them because you don’t have an online presence, you risk losing those leads to your competitors.

To drive the best results for your business, you need to build your online presence. You will reach more leads that want your products or services.

2. Your competitors are already doing it

If you’re wondering why digital marketing is important, the answer is that your competitors are already using it. Many of your competitors have already taken advantage of all digital marketing has to offer. They’ve created social profiles, adapted their website for SEO, and run paid advertisements to reach new leads.

This reason in itself is one of the reasons why you should use digital marketing. If you want your business to compete with others, you have to do what your competitors are doing and more. By neglecting digital marketing, you’re already falling behind your competition.

Your competitors are gaining traffic that could be yours because you’re not investing in digital marketing. They won’t know that your business is an option and will automatically choose a competitor. You must invest in digital marketing to put your hat in the ring and get leads to consider your business as an option.

To keep up with your competitors, you must invest in digital marketing.

3. You can compete with larger corporations

Competition is the hardest part of running a business. When you’re in a market with bigger corporations, like Walmart, Target, and Amazon, it’s hard to compete with them. They have a big name for themselves, which automatically draws people to trust those corporations.

You have a fighting chance against bigger corporations, which is why digital marketing is important to your business. Your business can reach interested leads with the same methods as a larger corporation.

Methods like SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising level the playing field.

With SEO, your site ranks in the search results based on relevancy. A corporation can’t buy their way to the top of the ranks. They have to optimize their pages just the same as a small mom-and-pop shop.

When you use PPC, Google ranks ads based on relevancy, too. Even if a corporation bids twice as much as you per click for the same keyword as your business, it doesn’t guarantee them the top spot. They can’t buy a top-ranking ad spot because, again, the rank is based on the relevancy of your ad.

This creates the opportunity for smaller to mid-size businesses to compete with bigger corporations. If you can create content that is more relevant to the selected keywords than your corporate competitors, no amount of money will enable them to outrank you.

Digital marketing is a great opportunity for your business to compete with bigger companies to obtain more relevant leads.

4. You can target your ideal audience

The ability to target your audience better is one of the most obvious reasons why digital marketing is important.

Imagine being able to market directly to people who have an interest in your products or services. With digital marketing, you have the capability to directly reach leads interested in your business. You don’t have to hope that people will see your traditional marketing efforts and contact your business.

With digital marketing, you can target your audience more precisely than traditional methods. You can input important information about your audience and use that information to shape your digital marketing campaigns. It makes it easy for you to reach the right people.

Let’s say your ideal customers are African-American men between 23-35 years old who are single and make at least $35,000 a year. You’re trying to reach this ideal customer on social media to get them to follow your business.

If you wanted to precisely target those characteristics, you could easily set those perimeters for your social media ad campaign. This would ensure that only the relevant people specified would see your ad.

You can segment your audience, too. Let’s say you also wanted to target African-American women with the same characteristics. You could segment these two groups to deliver a customized ad experience that is relevant to them.

When you can better target people in your audience, you drive better results with your campaign. You’ll reach more leads that are interested in your products or services.

5. You can monitor your campaigns and optimize them for better results

The importance of digital marketing is that you can easily track and monitor your campaigns. When you invest time and money into your campaigns, you want to know that they are working. Digital marketing makes it easy for you to track your campaigns, which allows you to adapt and drive better results.

When you use traditional methods, it’s challenging to know the results of your campaign. If you run a TV ad, you may have to ask every person that comes into the store about what brought them to your business. It would be a very time-consuming effort that could annoy people who visit your business.

With digital marketing, you don’t need to worry about bothering your audience. Every campaign you run is trackable. You can easily track a campaign’s ROI and other indicators to see if it is driving valuable results for your business.

You can see metrics such as impressions, clicks, likes, shares, comments, conversions, and more. The type of metrics will depend upon the medium and what you want to measure. You can easily set up your tracking system to monitor specific metrics for your campaigns.

When you can track your campaign’s performance, it’s easier to fix it and adapt to changes. Whenever you run a traditional advertising campaign, you typically can’t make changes until the campaign is over. It only benefits the next campaign you run, which can feel like you wasted money on the previous campaign.

With digital marketing, you monitor your campaigns as you go. You can see if they are successful or need improvement. If your campaigns need improvement, you can make immediate changes and implement them at any point during your campaign.

You save money when you can make immediate changes. It allows you to get more out of your campaign and spend your budget more wisely.

6. You get an impressive return on your investment (ROI)

If you want to know the importance of digital media, look at the results it drives for businesses. Online marketing strategies have an awesome return on investment (ROI). When you invest in these methods, you’ll get more out of them.

Email marketing has one of the highest ROIs out of all methods. For every $1 spent, you have the potential to earn up to $44 in return — an ROI of 4400 percent! This is a great opportunity for you to grow and earn a profit from your marketing efforts.

So, why is there so much room for a great ROI with these methods?

It is very cost-effective to use online marketing methods. This leaves room for a great ROI because you don’t have to spend much money to run a campaign. It doesn’t cost much to run a PPC campaign or social media ad campaign, compared to some traditional methods, which allows your business to have an opportunity to grow.

Want to know more about the importance of digital marketing?

Digital Marketing - Growfuture Foundation

Digital marketing is a great opportunity for your business to grow and reach new heights. You’ll be able to run different digital marketing campaigns to drive valuable results for your business. WebFX is one of the best digital marketing agencies in the USA, and we’re proud to provide our clients with the best-of-the-best when it comes to digital marketing.

If you want to learn more about the importance of digital marketing, contact us online to speak with a strategist about why now is the right time to invest in digital marketing.

What Is Performance Marketing and Why It’s Important

Have you launched a digital advertising campaign in which you paid only when results were delivered? These results could have been in the form of clicks, leads or sales. If you said yes, chances are you’ve done or been doing performance marketing.

What is performance marketing? It is a strategy that allows you to pay affiliates, advertising publishers or performance media marketing agencies based on agreed-upon performance instead of a flat fee. Also called online performance marketing or performance media marketing, it combines advertising and brand marketing activities, focusing on measurable results to determine the payout. Putting out a branded post on a top-tier publisher or placing an ad on YouTube are a couple of examples of performance marketing channels.

Performance marketing spend in the United States has seen a steady rise, reaching $6.2 billion in 2018, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), in partnership with the Performance Marketing Association (PMA). Further, the choice to adopt a performance marketing strategy is mostly due to its “measurability, trackability, attribution and compelling return on investment (ROI).” Attribution is a major draw here because it shows you the direct link between investment and result, such as the exact ad dollars spent to enhance the sales of a product.

With a clear path to customer acquisition and conversion, brands can reduce ad spend while maximizing ROI. This article aims to provide you with a working performance marketing definition and an awareness of its importance. We also touch on:

 How does performance based marketing work?
 Performance marketing channels
 Performance marketing metrics
 The disadvantages of digital performance marketing
 What is the performance marketing definition in the context of holistic marketing?

Let’s dive in.

performance marketing

How Does Performance Based Marketing Work?

Before we delve into the dynamics of digital performance marketing, let’s look briefly at how traditional advertising works. For the last century or so, brands have pushed their marketing messages through traditional media like newspapers, magazines, television, radio and billboards. This form of advertising aims to reach as many people as possible and requires a fixed fee regardless of performance. Often, the cost of traditional advertising is expensive because you’re paying for the readership or viewership. But it’s hard to measure the real impact of a broadcast or print ad.

Nowadays, new forms of advertising occur online and offer objective-based, precise audience targeting. Here, you have the means to reach the right people at the right time so that your ads lead to customer acquisition or conversion. And you pay only when your ads perform.

As the competition gets tougher, it is important to concentrate your budget on marketing channels that bring tangible results. Opt for services that allow you to measure marketing performance and produce data that drives better business and marketing decisions. Practicing performance marketing is the way to go.

As such, it’s a good idea to get familiar with these roles:

 Advertisers: These are the merchants and retailers that want to promote their products or services through affiliates and publishers. Retail and eCommerce sectors benefit the most from this approach, especially those offering beauty and fashion products, food and beverages and other consumer goods.
 Publishers: Affiliates predate what is performance marketing now. They promoted brands according to set goals on their personal or business sites. These days, affiliates share the “publisher” label and the market with influencers, content creators and other marketing partners.
 Affiliate networks: Third-party entities or platforms connect brands and publishers, provide efficient tracking of key performance indicators (KPIs) and facilitate payments.
 Outsourced program managers (OPMs): This group comprises any full-service digital marketing agency offering performance marketing services or a performance marketing company. OPMs take charge of strategy, campaign execution, compliance with regulations and publisher outreach.

Performance Marketing Channels

Have you ever encountered and gotten confused by the performance marketing vs digital marketing comparison? Let’s clarify the difference for a moment.

Understand that digital marketing is the use of online channels to reach customers and bring products and services to them. It’s a broad field that includes search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, content marketing, social media marketing and video marketing. Now, imagine some channels falling under a smaller category in that broad field. They share similar features and fit the performance marketing definition: solutions you only pay for when desired actions occur.

If you go beyond classification and consider purpose, a performance marketing strategy is designed to achieve digital marketing goals. So instead of puzzling over the better option – performance marketing vs digital marketing – let’s find out which online performance marketing channels can enhance your marketing efforts.

Sponsored Content/Native Advertising

When done properly, branded content proves to be one of the most valuable examples of performance marketing services. Alignment with the right brand ambassador or influencer racks up qualified leads and sales on top of online visibility. While paid content can turn some people off, partnering with a content creator who can weave your brand into a story works wonders. Finding the right platform and format is also key. For instance, Instagram has been among the most popular and effective platforms, reporting 3.7 million sponsored posts in 2018 (Source: HubSpot).

Note: Sponsored content is also known as native advertising, which gives us many shapeshifting examples of performance marketing. That’s because this kind of content has to look, sound and feel like a part of the site or platform that publishes it. Here’s Hot Wheels collaborating with BuzzFeed and showing us how it’s done.


Social Media Advertising

Social media has powerful targeting and tracking capabilities, which you can leverage by advertising on your chosen platform. You can set up an ad campaign based on your business objectives. Depending on the platform, you can select from various ad formats and payment models. The brilliant thing about paid advertising on social media is that you have access to marketing performance data. You can trace the link between your investment and the results, with the opportunity to fine-tune your campaign to boost performance.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Comprising both search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search, this performance based marketing channel is focused mostly on the latter. Pay-per-click marketing, the most popular paid search model, places your ad above-the-fold to bolster your search results visibility. A 2017 study said PPC was the second most effective SEM channel to increase sales (with 0.884 correlation), next only to SEO.

Affiliate Marketing

While it is often mistaken as digital performance marketing, affiliate marketing is just one of the channels. This performance marketing strategy has a simple premise: Merchants pay commission to affiliates for every referral or transaction. It reduces the risk for brands because revenue is gained before the money is spent.

Programmatic Display Ads

An experienced performance marketer would recommend programmatic display with caution. In general, this type of ad requires advertisers to pay for impressions, or the number of times your creative was displayed on the web. Being seen is way different than garnering clicks or conversions. But if you find a performance marketing agency with the right skills and tools, you may be able to get your ad displayed on sites that are proven to drive marketing performance. And that’s still a rarity these days.

Performance Marketing Metrics

What does a brand, performance marketer or performance marketing company measure, then, to ensure growth goals are met?

The most common performance marketing metrics are qualified leadssalesmobile app downloadssite trafficrepeat site visits and engagement (e.g., likes, comments and shares).

Take note that some metrics may not lead directly to conversion or revenue, such as site traffic. If you’re not sure how to determine the appropriate target outcome, leverage the expertise of a performance marketing agency.

Meanwhile, familiarize yourself with these primary payment models, which can also serve as key performance indicators (KPIs):

 PPC (Pay Per Click): With this paid advertising model, you pay for ad clicks that lead to your site or landing page
 CPL (Cost Per Lead): The desired action here would be a completed signup form containing the lead’s name, email address and other contact information.
 CPA (Cost Per Action): The intended result is defined by the advertiser, e.g., a sale or a signup.
 CPI (Cost Per Install): As it sounds, payment occurs when an ad click results in an app install.
 ROAS (Return On Advertising Spend): This KPI tracks the revenue earned for each dollar spent on advertising. With this data, you can tweak the campaign if it’s not delivering your desired results.

Remember this: “Knowing KPIs and ensuring they are tracking correctly is key here,” said Shannon Thammasiene, Thrive’s director of SEO services. “This is why enlisting a professional to help you craft your strategy around your company goals is helpful. A good strategist should be able to hear what your goals are and translate them into actionable metrics to track – as well as make sure they are being tracked correctly.”

Disadvantages of Digital Performance Marketing

Performance media marketing is driving revenue and other significant results for brands in the digital age. It is easy to track and measure, effective in engaging hard-to-reach audiences and flexible to all budget sizes. However, it also has its downsides and limitations.

It is still possible to waste money if your performance marketer is new to the approach, failing to optimize campaigns and spending inefficiently. Misaligned marketing partners and fraudulent affiliate marketing activities may also threaten your strategy. Then there are also penalties that await those who overlook compliance with the rules set by the Federal Trade Commission.

Embracing Holistic Marketing

From not knowing anything or knowing just a little about online performance marketing, you’re now aware of its definition and importance, and its popular channels and payment models. You should no longer be confused about performance marketing vs digital marketing either. Getting down to business is a different story, though.

Performance marketing has plenty of advantages and benefits that align with the data-driven, results-oriented digital landscape. But it’s like those superheroes who do more good as a group than as individuals. What we’re saying is that performance marketing is a part of holistic marketing, and it fulfills its potential if practiced with fellow components: internal marketing, integrated marketing and relationship marketing.

The performance marketing services mentioned above also work hand-in-hand with other digital marketing channels like SEOconversion rate optimization and video marketing. So it’s crucial to bring everything together and achieve overall business success. If you prefer to enlist the expertise of an agency, consider a full-service digital marketing firm with a holistic marketing approach, which often trumps a performance marketing company in pricing and operation.


It’s easy today to create a beautiful website. Simply sign up to one of the many free website builders and in minutes you can have a sleek web design and attractive looking site.

You would be excused in thinking that this is an effective web design. But the fact is, although a website may look good, it can be far from functional and suited for the user’s needs.

Generic, non-tailored websites that aren’t designed with your particular end-user in mind are the antithesis of effective web design. Effective web design is determined by users and their experience of a website.

This brings many factors into website design that go way beyond mere aesthetics. Great web design is about the usability of a website, or in other words, the combination of form (how good it looks) with function (how easy is it to use).

Since your site is also the face of your business and the place many potential customers will visit first, you want it to give off a positive impression about who you are and what you value. What’s more, poorly-designed websites don’t tend to perform well on Google, not least because of high bounce rates and low conversions.

Ensure your website gives your customers the right impression and ranks high on the search pages with our top five principles of web design.

1. A clear purpose

Every well-designed website caters for the needs of its users. And the best way to make a website that caters for users is to have a very clear purpose.

Web designers ensure every site, page, and section they work on has a clear and definitive purpose that it aims to address. This could be anything from providing information and offering entertainment to allowing a type of interaction and completing a transaction.

Crowded and over-designed websites don’t work. When there are too many elements on one page, it only leads to distraction and confusion. Great web design, like this example from Helias Oils, is therefore not only clean and simple but purposeful and built to fit directly in line with what the user wants.

Web SEO Attributes of Web Design

2. Speedy load time

Even if every aspect of your site has a clear purpose, if it takes too long to load, then it’s all but useless to the user.

The problem is, in our culture of little time and an abundance of choice, if a website doesn’t load pretty much instantly, very few users stick around to wait.

Thankfully, to meet these user expectations, there’s no shortage of tools and tricks designers and website owners can use to improve the loading time of their sites.

Some of the best ways to improve page load times include optimising image sizes, combining code into a central CSS or JavaScript file, and minifying HTML, CSS, JavaScript. Improving speed and performance is an experimental and ongoing task, so make sure to track any of your changes using Google PageSpeed Checker.

Improving web design to increase web speed

3. Typography

Despite text taking up much of the space of a website and reading being one of the main activities users do online, typography is often overlooked for its impact on the overall success of a website.

If your website gets the basics of typography right, then it is well ahead of most. First, Sans Serif fonts—contemporary looking fonts without decorative finishes—like Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana, are easiest to read online.

The ideal font size is 16px. It’s also recommended to stick to a maximum of three-point sizes for a streamlined design. Similarly, it’s best to use no more than three typefaces across headings, body, and elements like buttons.

An excellent example of a clean and streamlined typography design is Channel 4’s website. The site sticks to just a few font families and colours, and in doing so, keeps the user’s focus directed to the video content for which they are there.

The web design to keep the style consistent

4. Communication

As well as following the basics of typography, an important principle of web design is clear and consistent communication.

Users want information quickly, and so no matter the medium, your message has to be straight forward and easy-to-digest. For instance, for menus and graphical elements, this involves organising information hierarchically, and for content, it means making good use of bullet points and subheadings.

As you can see, improving the communication of your website isn’t always about adding more information. The best websites get across what they need to in as few words and elements as possible.

The website of Headspace, the most popular guided meditation app, is a great example of effective communication. Through using mainly graphics and bold colour, its homepage manages to convey what the app does and who it is for without saying more than a handful of words.

5. Mobile friendly

Responsive design used to be optional for effective web design. Today, if your website is not available across multiple devices and multiple screen sizes, it’ll struggle to not only attract users but also rank well in Google.

To make your website mobile-friendly, the easiest place to start is from scratch by rebuilding it with a responsive layout. Otherwise, you can create a dedicated mobile site that is separate from your main site and specifically optimised for mobile users.

With the growing use of smartphones, tablets, and now phablets, making your website fit for mobile users is a must. From there, you can further enhance your design by following best UX and UI practices for mobile design.

Mobile & Web Accessibility

Web design is an ever-evolving field. But if you put these five web design principles into practice today, your website is sure to perform well through 2020 and beyond, so contact us today to see how these five principles can improve your website.

What Are the Main Areas of Development for Web Designers to Land Their Dream Job?

In this article, we provide an overview of tips and skills that every web designer should master in order to advance in her career.

Last update December 14, 2020 by Lorenzo Ermigiotti

web developer

Table Of Contents

Developing websites requires several skills. Most of these skills can be taught in a classroom setting or self-taught through online learning. A web designer should be able to deliver a website that satisfies the needs of the user. In this article, we will offer tips on the key areas, and necessary tools web designers need to develop and be conversant with to advance in their career.

Web Designers: which skills should you hone?

Web designers need to be equipped with comprehensive foundational skills to be able to deliver visually appealing websites. Web designers are required to create user personas, layout pages and content using a site map and figure out the path users take on your site in user flows. You need to understand what users are looking in your website and ensure you build wireframes to sketch out the critical parts of the webpage. To achieve this, there are skills needed, and web designers should work to be proficient in them.

Visual design

Visual design focus on digital products that determine how a website looks and feels. The design principles ranging from typography, web fonts and colour palettes applied also play a role.

Using Design software

Every web designer needs to know how to use the right tool in their work. They need to be familiar with the different design software such as Adobe PhotoshopSketch and Illustrator. Having skills in the design software will help you design a site that meets the industry standard and satisfy the needs of the user. They assist in helping you create mockups, design logos and images and modify images. Some design directly in a web browser, but being able to use these tools helps you to be miles ahead in the quality of your design.

web designer using photoshop


A web designer is also supposed to know how to code. He must be proficient with HyperText Markup Language to be able to put content on a web page and give it a structure. As a web designer, you should be able to put headlines, footers, paragraphs and graphics in a website. Therefore, having skills in HTML will go a long way in helping you complete your projects.


Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is the code that informs browsers how to style or format HTML for a web page. CSS enhances the look of the website and help you adjust colours, change fonts and background of the web page. It enables you to implement the creativity you have into the site you are designing.


Although web designers should not be pros in programming languages like JavaScript, being able to use such a program can help you create an interactive site. It also gives you a huge leg up against the competition. With a programming language like JavaScript, you can create a website that has very many unique features.

Soft Skills for web designers

In a developer career, web designers need the following soft skills to excel in their work.

Time management skills

Web developers are required to have excellent time management skills and be able to meet deadlines. Web designers work in a fast-paced environment, and they need to schedule their work well to meet the objectives of their clients. Besides, having excellent time management skills enables you to stay on top of your schedule and complete your projects on time. You also need to have a production schedule and have tools that help you in prioritising and tracking your work to succeed.

Communication skills

Being able to communicate clearly and get in touch with others is essential. You should be able to keep others updated on the progress of what is ongoing and clarify any issues that may arise. Communicating helps you to convey any information, whether technical or not in a way that is easily understood. Being able to communicate helps your design to be recognised by other team members who are a significant boost to your work.

Problem-solving skills

Web designers should possess functional problem-solving skills to enable them to create flawless sites.

Teamwork and research skills

Web designers work collaboratively as a team to accomplish their tasks. Web designers looking to advance in the developer career should be able to work in a team to complete projects successfully. They should also be skilled in carrying out research and coming up with useful findings.

Attention to detail

Web designers should have a keen eye on details and be able to offer solutions to clients challenges.

Also, a career in web design requires you to be skilled in technical expertise such as

  • Programming
  • Digital marketing
  • Graphics and design
  • Coding and Scripting
  • Multimedia production
  • Web application
  • User experience design

Basic designing tools

As a designer, you need to be conversant with necessary tools such as Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop to help you navigate through the designing canvas.

UX/UI and visual design

To be a good web designer, you need to master the craft of enhancing user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). You need to learn how to use colour psychology, grid systems, and web fonts to design websites that are visually appealing and which are responsive to all kinds of devices.

Web server management

It is a critical web designer skill, and it helps you to solve problems effectively. Also, it helps you to understand web server functions.

web developer and back-end

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

All web designers should be able to perform search engine optimisation effectively. You need to sharpen your skills in making sure the structure, speed, layout and performance of the website is SEO-friendly. Also, being able to gain familiarity with how search engines operate will ensure that they design websites that achieve the desired results.

Content management system (CMS)

Being familiar with the CMS software helps you design active websites. The software application integrates digital assets management of embedded graphics, web designs, video-audio files and programming codes.

Digital marketing

Web designers need to know how to do digital marketing and the various strategies employed. It helps you to know the latest market trends and enable you to test your website then identify areas that need improvement. It also lets you design a website with the latest working design.

What web designer careers are there?

There is a variety of careers in the web design industry, which include:

  • UX designer
  • Applications developer
  • Multimedia programmer
  • Web content manager
  • Multimedia specialist
  • SEO specialist
  • UX researcher
  • Web designer
  • Web developer

What new digital designer careers I should consider?

New careers for digital designers include:

  • Technical author
  • Software engineer
  • Artworker
  • Information systems manager
  • Database administrator
  • IT sales professional
  • Software tester
  • Systems analyst

How do I choose my career path as a designer?

To set the ball rolling in your career path as a designer, you need to start by knowing the necessary skills of web design. You can learn practical courses in web design and coding. It will equip you with essential skills on how to create a web from start to finish, wireframing, iterating through the sitemap until the final stage.

You need to build your professional portfolio by learning new skill sets such as UI and UX design. After creating your portfolio, you can choose a development specialisation where you learn various software programs such as JavaScript, CSS or version control tools. You can learn the different types of web development, mobile application development and front end development. It will help set your stage for entering the web design career.

You also need to have a background of mathematics and coding to help you effectively handle a web development project. Though you can start from scratch, having such knowledge puts you above the rest. Research by Robert Half Technology has shown that people with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or related subject excel in web design and advance quickly in their career.

You also need to sharpen your technical skills.

Web design requires concrete technical skills, and therefore if you are a prospective web design, you need to sharpen your skills in programming components such as JavaScript. To be able to build websites and mobile applications, you need to hone skills in CSS frameworks such as Backbone, Foundation and Bootstrap. Also, you need to be proficient in back-end languages like PHP, Ruby and DB tools like MySQL or Oracle technologies.

You also need to have excellent coding skills, and practising using platforms such as GitHub can help you excel in your web design career path. Coding enables you to develop functional problem-solving skills related to programming and how to manage a complex site.

You also need to be online and have a portfolio showcasing your skills where employers can see you. Having a portfolio helps you test new technologies and demonstrate your coding capabilities.

What is the best career in digital design?

UX/UI designer is the best career in digital design. It combines creative skills and technical capabilities to bring animations, graphic and visual effects into reality. Through UX/UI design, you can create the special effects seen in movies and video games as well as mobile applications that are user-friendly.

What kind of web designer makes the most money?

web designer money

UX designer makes the most money in the digital career industry. They even end up to be CTO of the company. It is a lucrative career in digital design with an average salary of $96, 500. UX designers are also in high demand in many industries, and therefore they need always to improve their skills to remain relevant. They develop user personas, conducts usability testing, creates prototypes, and sketch wireframes. They create everything that impacts how the user interacts and feels when using the product. User Experience (UX) designers are in charge of customer satisfaction, and therefore they have to meet customer needs. He/she ensures that any product, whether it is an app or website, it is user-friendly.

UX designers incorporate elements of visual design, interaction design, and user research and information architecture in developing their apps or websites. It requires him/her to have a diverse skillset.

What kind of digital designers are most in-demand?

Need for digital designers is growing exponentially, and here is a list of the in-demand digital designers.

Motion designer

Animation has become a critical skillset in the developer career, and therefore professionals skilled in this area are in-demand. Motion designers are highly skilled in animation and are needed in various sectors. Motion design is applied in almost all types of designs ranging from UI animations, web interactions and branding.


Nowadays, illustration is done digitally. This has led to the growth of illustration in product design and branding. Many businesses now understand the importance of value custom illustration brings to their business. They have now embraced art in their brands which is influencing the way people perceive their products.

UX Designer

UX designers are in demand and have become very competitive. They ensure the customer experience is at the top, and the product is easy to use. They are at the heart of customer satisfaction and their work either brings more business or reduces it. Therefore many organisations are investing in UX designers with the right skills and treating them as part of their assets.

Graphic designer

Graphic designers are in high demand, and therefore developers are needed to have Adobe Photoshop know-how and strong visual communication skills. Graphic design skills are applied in social media, print media and brand identity, and many organisations continue to look up for this talent.

Product designer

Many businesses today are looking forward to establishing their products as a unique brand, and this requires the skills of a product designer. Every product design has to be creative and powerfully resonate with the type of business.

Many product designers work in-house with other teams in every stage of production to ensure that the final product meets the set objectives. Product designers are required to have an eye for details, problem-solving skills and advanced communication skills.

Multimedia artists

Multimedia artists are skilled in graphics technology and computer animation. They create designs and effects used in digital media and come up with illustrations used in videos. They are mainly in demand in the entertainment industry, and developers looking to grow in their career can consider this field. They have a background in design-related subjects and computer technologies.

DevOps Engineer

DevOps engineers collaborate with other engineers in the organisation to come up with software or an application. Together with the CTO, they oversee the creation of codes and identify where the software developed is inefficient and come with solutions on how it can run efficiently. They perform their tasks through monitoring, troubleshooting, configuring and editing what needs to be done.

9 Skills Every Successful Web Designer Needs — And How To Learn Them

Web Design Trends Predictions 2021: Dark Mode, Motion & More

If you’re a beginner in tech, it can be tough to figure out where to start. There are so many paths available to you — from development to design to digital marketing, and every specialization under the sun. That’s where web design comes in. It’s often a great place to dive in if you’re new to the scene.

Like many roles in tech, being a web designer requires both the creative and analytical sides of your mind. And web design is a versatile career with lots of opportunities to niche down or course-correct once you discover exactly what you love.

But what skills do you need if you want to become a web designer? In this article, we’ll cover the essential skills you need to know to get hired as a web designer, plus the soft skills that will help set you apart.

How to Learn Web Design: The Tech Skills You Need to Know to Become a Web Designer

First, let’s go over the technical side of becoming a web designer. All those strange acronyms and terms can seem intimidating, but they’re actually pretty easy once you get to know them.


What is Visual Design And Why It is Important

It might seems obvious that you need design knowledge to be a web designer, but what exactly does that mean? Well, web design is actually a subset of the larger field of visual design, so it makes sense to start there.

At Skillcrush, we teach visual design because it focuses on digital products and sets you up to succeed across design careers. When you learn visual design, you learn the fundamental design principles you need to be a web designer.

Design principles are what determine the look and feel of a site. They can range from proportions, to typography, to grid systems, to color theory. Learning visual design means creating mood boards and type hierarchy and experimenting with web fonts and color palettes.

2. UX

UI UX Design Process : A Step by Step Guide to UI/UX Process

Here come those funny abbreviations! UX stands for user experience, or how people feel (calm, frustrated, etc.) when they use a website. Above all else, UX is about approaching your designs from a user-first perspective — how can you design a website that helps them get exactly what they need?

To do that, you’ll research your users and create “personas” (profiles of imaginary ideal users). You’ll lay out the pages and content with a site map. You’ll figure out the path users take on your site in user flows. (For example, do they always click straight through to social media? Or are they just looking for contact information?) And you’ll build wireframes to sketch out the key parts of each webpage. All of these components are essential to practicing user experience design.


Like any craftsperson, to do your work you need the right tools. Knowing your way around the industry standards will be helpful in every case and critical in many. While designing a website can be done right in a web browser, tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Sketch are ones that almost all designers use for important parts of their job like creating mockups, designing assets (think logos and images), and of course modifying and enhancing photos. You should learn how to use them (although, if you’re just getting started, consider trying out a few free photoshop alternatives instead).


You might not have imagined that a web designer would need to know how to code. But nowadays it’s an expected skill for most design jobs. HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language, which is the coding language used to put content on a web page and give it structure. That means it’s how you turn a bunch of words into headlines, paragraphs, and footers. And it’s also how you get the “cool” content like photos, videos, and graphics on a website.

5. CSS

CSS3 Tutorial - An Ultimate Guide for Beginners

And then there’s HTML’s partner, CSS or Cascading Style Sheets. CSS is the code that tells browsers how to format and style HTML for a web page. In other words, it’s what makes all the text and other content look good. With CSS, you can adjust the colors, change the fonts, or add a stunning background — and so much more! This is where your eye for design really shines and how you can put your creative stamp on every site you create.

Pro tip: If you want to start learning web design for free, HTML & CSS are great skills to start with. We’ve got our free 10-day coding bootcamp if you’re ready right here and now. Otherwise, take a look at our roundup of free resources for learning coding.


While you can code up your designs using just HTML and CSS, if you can also program using JavaScript, you’ll have a huge leg up against the competition. JavaScript allows you to take static elements on your site and make them interactive — think Twitter feeds that update automatically, websites that look different when you’re logged in, image sliders, and more!

Soft Skills Every Web Designer Needs

Now that you have the design and tech parts down, you only need to add some soft skills to keep yourself organized and effective in your web design work. These are the skills most web designers swear by, so save yourself some time by learning them now rather than later.


Whether you’re interested in learning web design to go freelance or to work for a company, you’ll need to stay on top of your schedule and your projects to be a standout web designer. This can mean getting to know productivity apps like task lists or calendars or, especially if you’re in a large organization, learning project tracking tools like Trello or JIRA. Whatever the tools, mastering the art of prioritizing and tracking your work will be essential for your success (and sanity!) in the busy world of web design.


Staying in touch and getting your point across are also must-have skills for a designer. You can’t make a living from building websites without great communication. You’ll need to keep clients up-to-date on the progress of their projects plus pitch ideas and explain your creations. You might even be called on to do some copywriting or editing for sites, especially if you’re running your own one person shop. So buckle down on your writing and your presentation skills, and you’ll be sure to get your point across with clients and coworkers.


The skill set of SEO (search engine optimization), digital marketing, and social media might seem like it’s meant more for a marketer or salesperson than a web designer. But, since the Internet is the way so many companies sell today, you should wrap your head around them, too. Even knowing the basics of each and keeping them in mind for both client and your own sites will get you a long way in your web designer journey.


And, as an employee or as a freelancer, understanding the bottom line will help you make sure you or your company is profitable and sustainable. You don’t have to go back for your MBA, but you should have an idea about the goals and finances of your employer or your own business so you can use them to guide your work. And, if you’re designing directly for clients, you should have a plan for making sure that your cash flow and project backlog are both healthy and doable in the short and long term.

How to Learn Web Design Online

As you can see, there’s nothing mysterious or mind-blowing about the skills you need to be a web designer, but then there is the question of where and how to learn them. A foundation in the tech side and a good handle on the organizational parts will both get you going and be there for you as you build your knowledge and your career in web design.

Skillcrush’s Break Into Tech program covers all the skills you need to become a web designer (or web developer). It includes fast tracks for getting you into your dream career quickly, over a dozen courses, plus optional course add-ons to help you niche down and find your path in tech. Our courses are fully online and include 24/7 access to materials, as well as lots of support from friendly instructors and your fellow budding web designers in the online student community. You’ll even learn how to find, land, and complete your first paying web design project within months.

If you already have some skills but are looking for a specific course in design, take a look at our Visual Designer Blueprint. It’s perfect for creative types obsessed with colors, fonts, and all things visual.

Pro tip: You don’t need any design or coding experience to get started for any of our courses. So, join us now to get that exciting and fascinating career in web design you’ve been dreaming of.

Experimental Design in Chemistry: A Review of Pitfalls (Guest Post)

his blog post is from James Cawse, Consultant and Principal at Cawse and Effect, LLC. Jim uses his unique blend of chemical knowledge, statistical skills, industrial process experience, and quality commitment to find solutions for his client’s difficult experimental and process problems. He received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Stanford University. On top of all that, he’s a great guy! Visit his website (link above) to find out more about Jim, his background, and his company.


Getting the best information from chemical experimentation using design of experiments (DOE) is a concept that has been around for decades, although it is still painfully underused in chemistry. In a recent article Leardi1 pointed this out with an excellent tutorial on basic DOE for chemistry. The classic DOE text Statistics for Experimenters2 also used many chemical illustrations of DOE methodology. In my consulting practice, however, I have encountered numerous situations where ’vanilla‘ DOE – whether from a book, software, or a Six Sigma course – struggles mightily because of the inherent complications of chemistry.

The basic rationale for using a statistically based DOE in any science are straightforward. The DOE method provides:

  • Points distributed in a rational fashion throughout “experimental space”.
  • Noise reduction by averaging and application of efficient statistical tools.
  • ‘Synergy’, typically the result of the interactions of two or more factors – easily determined in a DOE.
  • An equation (model) that can then be used to predict further results and optimize the system.

All of these are provided in a typical DOE, which generally starts simply with a factorial design.

DOE works so well in most scientific disciplines because Mother Nature is kind. In general:

  • Most experiments can be performed with small numbers of ’well behaved‘ factors, typically simple numeric or qualitative at 2-3 levels
  • Interactions typically involve only 2 factors. Three level and higher interactions are ignored.
  • The experimental space is relatively smooth; there are no cliffs (e.g. phase changes).

As a result, additive models are a good fit to the space and can be determined by straightforward regression.

Y = B0 + B1×1 + B2×2 + B12x1x2 + B11×12 +…

In contrast, chemistry offers unique challenges to the team of experimenter and statistician. Chemistry is a science replete with nonlinearities, complex interactions, and nonquantitative factors and responses. Chemical experiments require more forethought and better planning than most DOE’s. Chemistry-specific elements must be considered.


Above all, chemists make mixtures of ‘stuff’. These may be catalysts, drugs, personal care items, petrochemicals, or others. A beginner trying to apply DOE to a mixture system may think to start with a conventional cubic factorial design. It soon becomes clear, however, that there is an impossible situation when the (+1, +1, +1) corner requires 100% of A and B and C! The actual experimental space of a mixture is a triangular simplex. This can be rotated into the plane to show a simplex design, and it can easily be extended to high dimensions such as a tetrahedron.

It is rare that a real mixture experiment will actually use 100% of the components as points. A real experiment with be constrained by upper and lower bounds, or by proportionality requirements. The active ingredients may also be tiny amounts in a solvent. The response to a mixture may be a function of the amount used (fertilizers or insecticides, for example). And the conditions of the process which the mixture is used in may also be important, as in baking a cake – or optimizing a pharmaceutical reaction. All of these will require special designs.

Fortunately, all of these simple and complex mixture designs have been extensively studied and are covered by Cornell3, Anderson et al4, and Design-Expert® software.


The goal of a kinetics study is an equation which describes the progress of the reaction. The fundamental reality of chemical kinetics is

Rate = f(concentrations, temperature).

However, the form of the equation is highly dependent on the details of the reaction mechanism! The very simplest reaction has the first-order form

Rate = k*C1

which is easily treated by regression. The next most complex reaction has the form

Rate = k*C1*C2

in which the critical factors are multiplied – no longer the additive form of a typical linear model. The complexity continues to increase with multistep reactions.

Catalysis studies are chemical kinetics taken to the highest degree of complication! In industry, catalysts are often improved over years or decades. This process frequently results in increasingly complex catalyst formulations with components which interact in increasingly complex ways. A basic catalyst may have as many as five active co-catalysts. We now find multiple 2-factor interactions pointing to 3-factor interactions. As the catalyst is further refined, the Law of Diminishing Returns sets in. As you get closer to the theoretical limit – any improvement disappears in the noise!

Chemicals are not Numbers

As we look at the actual chemicals which may appear as factors in our experiments, we often find numbers appearing as part of their names. Often the only difference among these molecules is the length of the chain (C-12, 14, 16, 18) and it is tempting to incorporate this as numeric levels of the factor. Actually, this is a qualitative factor; calling it numeric invites serious error! The correct description, now available in Design-Expert, is ’Discrete Numeric’.

The real message, however, is that the experimenters must never take off their ’chemist hat‘ when putting on a ’statistics hat’!

Reference Materials:

  1. Leardi, R., “Experimental design in chemistry: A tutorial.” Anal Chim Acta 2009, 652 (1-2), 161-72.
  2. Box, G. E. P.; Hunter, J. S.; Hunter, W. G., Statistics for Experimenters. 2nd ed.; Wiley-Interscience: Hoboken, NJ, 2005.
  3. Cornell, J. A., Experiments with Mixtures. 3rd ed.; John Wiley and Sons: New York, 2002.
  4. Anderson, M.J.; Whitcomb, P.J.; Bezener, M.A.; Formulation Simplified; Routledge: New York, 2018.

Experimental Design in Chemistry

There is a continuous and growing demand for new and existing organic and inorganic chemical products. Chemical products encompass things like pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, polymers, and other functional materials, flavors/fragrances, food supplements, cosmetics, fuels, cleaning products, personal care products, and many more products.

Chemistry Experiment

Chemistry Experiment.

The identification, extraction, and synthesis of new products require chemists and biochemists to continually re-design experiments for specified outcomes. Experimental procedures are often required to carry out quality control and to identify why unwanted bi-products are produced in existing manufacturing processes. Experiments take up valuable time and resources and seldom give instantaneous results.

Research and industrial chemists, biochemists, and chemical engineers are often called upon to devise experiments to optimize chemical processes to give greater yields and greater product purity. This requires scientists and engineers to regularly design and redesign experiments. As the chemistry involved becomes more complex so does the design of the experiment and Experimental Design in Chemistry is almost a science on its own.

Traditional Experiment Design

Traditionally the process of experimental design may have started with a hypothesis or a defined research target. The chemist would then make a prediction and work out a way to test the prediction. To design the experiment the chemist would:-

  • Identify the variables
  • Arrange the conditions
  • Decide on the variables and what would variable could be manipulated
  • Carry out a Risk assessment
  • Experiment and make observations
  • Change one or more variable and repeat

The team would then repeat the process of making observations and adjustments until the required solution has been achieved or eliminated. This process was often run on an OVAT (One Variable A Time) basis which is a simple but laborious and effective way of determining the results.

Design Of Experiments

Design of Experiments is a phrase introduced by Statistician and Geneticist Ronald Fisher in 1935. Using Design of Experiments (DOE) the relationship between the factors can be varied and the relationship between the various factors can be systematically investigated using statistical analysis. This process increases the manpower required as you now need at least one mathematician and probably a statistician when designing an experiment in addition to a chemist.

Using the enhanced team and specialist software and computing power the parameters required can be designed within an hour or two rather than many days or weeks offsetting the increased personnel costs.

Artificial Intelligence  (AI) or machine learning can also help as it can be used to predict molecule properties, molecular structure, and reaction outcomes as well as optimum experimental conditions. The use of AI will potentially add an “it” specialist to the team but will reduce the time required to design the experiment. Using computers allows many iterations of any design to be carried out very quickly.

AI can also be used for “retrosynthesis”. This is the process of working backward from a target molecule to a commercially available material that can be used in the manufacture of the target molecule. Performing this manually would be time-consuming but ai makes the process quick so that the design of the experiment can begin in a short time.

Control and Monitoring

The ability to identify and isolate products is an area that is continually improving and developing. The use of chromatography, mass spectrometry, spectrography, chromatography, microscopy, and many other sophisticated techniques mean that more and complicated products can be identified.

The process of identifying them can be more and more complicated but the development of instrument and control technology opens up the opportunity to design more sophisticated experiments. Digital data capture allows for more data to be captured more accurately which allows the scientist designing the experiment to acquire and analyze more data more quickly and reach more precise conclusions.

New equipment and techniques also allow for a smaller and smaller sample to be analyzed down to picoliters or one trillionth of a liter of sample. Improved manufacturing techniques allow for very precisely built equipment operating under harsh conditions to be manufactured increasing the scope of experimental designs. Enhanced control and monitoring capability allows for a greater range of experimental conditions to be considered but also allows closer control of conditions within the experiment.


In 1971 Svante Wold invented the term Chemometrics which is the science of extracting data from chemical systems using applied mathematics and computer science data. There are now at least three peer-reviewed journals published about chemometrics.

Chemometrics is a multidisciplinary approach to experimental design which allows the chemist to design experiments that get closer to the solution before even starting the experimental process.


There are dozens of open source, free, and proprietory software packages listed on the internet for statistical analysis and chemical reaction prediction. Many of the software suppliers will have existing templates as well as the facility to custom design experiments to fit any particular set of experimental conditions or a specified outcome.


Experimental design in chemistry now opens new horizons for chemists to imagine and produce all kinds of new products. The use of modern techniques and technologies not only allows an experimental chemist to design more sophisticated experiments but also allows the chemist to start from a position where many of the unproductive options have been eliminated and a likely outcome has been predicted. DOE can also be used to optimize and improve existing chemical processes for the benefit of all concerned. The science of designing experiments will continue to develop and offer opportunities in the future.