Month: November 2020

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Mobile-first, mobile-last, mobile everything

By Dave Haygarth   November 12, 2020  

You don't need me to tell you that smartphones are becoming a bigger part of daily life for us all with almost every breath, Users of mobile phones reached 3 billion users worldwide back in 2019, with the figure - fairly predictably - set to climb over the next few years, with nearly 4 billion by the end of 2021. [source: Newzoo]

But your traditional perception of a web user interface designer  - sitting behind a very large Mac screen is probably pretty much bang on. The nature of user interface design is visually intensive and if someone's going to site 'pushing pixels around' all day, then they need a decent workstation.

But that leads to a problem.  And it extends far beyond the designer. Right down the chain of people involved in commissioning, prototyping, testing, designing, tweaking, coding ... we're pretty much all sat with comfortable large screens and that's why the idea of designing a website (or even just small parts of the user interface) has tended to err towards a desktop experience, and mobile experience - when it came along in the first part of the last decade - was 'bolted on'.  People had got into bad habits that with the growth of mobile usage, were on a course towards disaster.
The big G.
The course we're being steered on here, inevitably, is being spearheaded by Google.  They have numbers, algorithm, and what basically amounts to a bit of common sense. THEY know the deal.  THEY know that people use mobiles. So they introduced the 'mobile-first' concept - firstly as a ranking signal in 2015, then rolled out more publicly back in 2016.
So what does 'mobile-first' mean?
To us, it's a culture. We started to use different tools back in 2016.  We started to 'release' bespoke designs to some clients as 'mobile' but, soon had to back-pedal on that, as it confused the heck of some people who were checking the design - sat in their office - on that comfy chair and big screen!  Still, however, the concept rules. Our design team use tools that are based around mobile - and frameworks in the templating systems that stem from mobile.  (Think: big thumbs on small buttons, and all those kind of no-no things)

We proudly switched to Invision for user interface prototyping and concepts. At the time, it was a relative gamble, but worldwide, it proved a good horse to back, and is pretty much indispensable now.
Mobile-first: Not just about mobile
It's so much more about whether your site looks and feels good at people's fingertips. By making a site work well on small screens, the side-effect is to force us to make sites more accessibility-friendly. If a site works well on mobile, it is likely to work well on all devices.

Smaller screens also have a tendency to make you think about pushing important things to the top of a screen.  [Think: "sidebar"] - with limited display space, you have to really work out what is important and what is less so.

Your branding also had to evolve as we got onto smaller screens. Logos that move out of the way once you've seen them. Menus that only appear when you need them. Space is of a premium.

Take a look at the image below.

Mobile-first best practice design
Mmmm... burgers
One final thought. The good old burger menu. Contrary to popular belief, the hamburger menu actually originated way, way before smart phones. If any of you are old enough (like me!) to remember those state-of-the-art Xerox Star, the 'system' menu actually came from those.

... but there is something just so "right" about how some things just work on limited space. And the burger is one of them.

McDonald's even got one designed for them

On that note, I'm off for lunch.
Dave.

Covid retrospective – what does it mean for recruitment?

By Steve Riley   November 2, 2020  

We're in recession now, that's official. This has happened for the first time in the UK since 2008. The definition of recession is when the economy shrinks for two quarters in a row. And that was bound to happen when large portions of the economy shut down almost overnight in March, so we shouldn't be too surprised. The question for job seekers and those more widely in the recruitment sector is more about how deep and how long lasting that recession is.

Of course, it's too early to say anything at all definitive about the future state of the job market.

Search engine Indeed recently updated its periodic review of vacancies and the graph so far is looking like it may be 'u-shaped' – a sharp slump, bumping along the bottom, followed hopefully by recovery.

But there are other possibilities - a long drawn out recession with a sustained dip, a double-dip 'w' shaped recession, with a false recovery and more trouble ahead, to name two.
Service sector slump
The UK economy has been hardest hit of the G7 Economies and this is largely because of our reliance on the service sector. These have been the first jobs to go. The service sector – retail, hospitality, financial services, etc – makes up around 80% of our GDP. Whilst the cliff edge in activity in some areas has led to a deep slump, there are also cautious grounds for optimism. The latest retail figures show month on month recovery levels and we're now 6% above February levels, pre-lockdown, in a mix of online and high street sales. It would be ironic (and not a little un-British) if we were able to shop our way out of trouble.

Indeed's data is already showing signs of an improvement in vacancy activity within food preparation and service jobs, following pubs and restaurants reopening. The Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been a massive boost to this sector (for a recent family birthday we struggled to book somewhere on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday).

In fact, many of our blue collar recruiters have not been too badly affected. Some showing a mini-boom, for example those in the healthcare sector, busy recruiting the vital staff that run our nursing homes.

Others too, like the recruiter that provides all the security staff for a major supermarket, are finding it less tough than others.

Some recruiters have shown an agile and flexible turn of hand and shifted focus, for example one of our clients now doing large volumes of work in the 'cleaning operative' sector, as a result of our new reliance on rigorous cleaning regimes.
Statistics and startups
Our own monitoring shows a distinct uptick in both the number of email alerts being sent out (made up of a combination of new jobs posted and those candidates registered to receive them) and general website traffic. Some of this is simply more candidates registering after they've been let go but we have noticed an improvement in job postings.

For example, this recruiter saw a 180% increase in website traffic in the months between February and July 2020, the most recent month for which we have data.

There are difficult times ahead for all of us, awkward decisions to be made, perhaps a shift of focus ...but also opportunities.

It's often been said that the best time to launch a business is in a recession. General Motors, Burger King, CNN, Uber and Airbnb all launched in recession and are amongst the dominant players in their sectors. If you can survive the hard times, the good times will be considerably easier.

In our own little world of recruitment website design and build, we see enquiries from recruiters with a few years' experience, ready to start their own operation.

This is a market well suited to our low cost, rapid design and build offering. Our SaaS model (software as a service) gives the advantage of a centrally hosted solution with access to periodic upgrades. All of the power of a full custom build, with a rapid rollout and quicker opportunity for return on investment.

Let us know if we can help.