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Basic CakePHP markup for designers

This article assumes you practice semantic markup and have a fairly good understanding of CSS.

CakePHP does a number of things automatically that designers might not expect, which can cause confusion for designers and difficulty for developers in implementing markup. I hope to provide some general purpose information and guidelines to designing for a CakePHP site. I would like to make a couple quick notes first however. CakePHP is a very flexible platform where markup can be re-used very easily. The more you as a designer try to make reusable markup, the easier your developers life will be. One of the most important things that you can do is to avoid id's other than for top level wrappers such as columns. This allows the developer to change content to address shifting specifications without having to rewrite chunks of CSS in order to avoid Id conflicts in the generated markup.

CakePHP has a flexible output system that lets developers easily specify how output is generated. Unlike some applications such as older CMS systems which have a specified header and footer that are called before and after the content, Cake applications render their (x)html into a layout. Two main types of output are rendered into a layout, Views and Elements. Views are the page specific content, such as a blog post, or an entry form. Elements are blocks of markup that can be used across multiple pages, and can be used in the layout, in the view, or even from inside another element.

Form related tags can appear in any of the output region types, but it is helpful if you as a designer try to avoid having forms span multiple elements or different sections. Doing so makes it much easier to ensure that the form will work correctly every time it appears. By default most form elements are wrapped in a div with descriptor classes such as “input text” for a text field. Check boxes, and radio buttons are wrapped in a fieldset instead of a div. Also by default the form helper automatically generates id's for the form input widget, and a label that matches it. This is another situation where it is easier to avoid an id attribute and use a class name as a designer. If you specify and ID, your developer has to check that it has not been used in CSS to specify a style, or choose to override it with your specified value and loose flexibility in the future.

Examples of form widgets:
Select box:
Text field:
Check Boxes:
Status

 

The other CakePHP core utility that generates a fair amount of HTML is the paginator helper. While the helper itself has been covered on the bakery before and is worthy of several blog posts itself, I'd at least like to touch on the default markup generated by the helper.

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1 2 3 next>>

You can easily specify a string that will appear in between the spans, and each of the other elements are called separately, so they can be in other spots on the page, or have markup between. Unfortunately it is not easily possible to remove the span from the markup, but it would be fairly easy to change the pagination output to something similar to this:

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Learn more about UX tracking metrics that can help you

With UX being a subjective, human and ever changing experience, it can be seen as difficult to track. However, there are some key tell-tale signs that you should be tracking in order to assess the overall user experience of your website.   Common metrics to use when tracking UX   1. Tracking how long it takes visitors to fill out your forms If your contact forms take too much time to fill in, your visitors or potential clients may get frustrated and fail to complete the form. Forms need to be simple, short and easy. Some tips to keeping forms user friendly and easy to fill in include:

  • keeping the number of fields as simple as possible,
  • Keeping the number of fields to as few as possible, there will be opportunity to ask for more information later on in the customer journey.
  • Testing your form yourself, if you struggle to fill out the fields during testing then you definitely need to relook it!
  • Add a confirmation page or message to let your user know that they have submitted successfully
  2. How many fields are skipped in submitted forms? Do you allow for optional fields in your forms? If you do, do you find a trend on certain fields not being submitted? These fields may be too much trouble for your users to fill in - remember, most visitors are lazy when needing to contact you. Make it as easy as possible but also, its important to ensure that you aren’t being too intrusive when requiring information in your forms. If it’s not ‘need to know’ information, then cut it from your form. These skipped fields give you a good idea as to what your user is thinking and feeling. Make sure to keep an eye on how your forms are submitted and what your users are subconsciously telling you.   3. Analyse your user experience with the use of heat maps Heatmaps give you the best view of the journey your visitors take when visiting your page. From where they are clicking to the amount of engagement a page gets and where. Simple things from users clicking your logo top of page to which links they view as engaging and click through to, these insights help you better optimise your page.      4. Collect feedback from customers and your customer service department Your customer service department is front facing - these are the people that will know what users are saying about your website and they are able to provide insights into where your UX issues. If you haven’t already - this is a great place to start your UX measurement and feedback journey.   If you need an expert to help you with your website, then give CakeDC a call. CakeDC - the experts behind CakePHP.  

Does your website suffer from these challenges? Some tips to fix them!

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Redesigning your website? Do not do this!

From increasing engagement through to increasing overall website performance, there may be aspects of your site that you are currently unhappy with or are looking to improve. Redesigning your website may be necessary due to lack of performance or a brand overhaul, but there are certain things that you should avoid at all costs when redesigning your website.   1. Not considering risk mitigation Most creative or marketing agencies offer web redesigns are part of their packages, however, often fail to outline the different risks that you may face. Such risks include loss of data, server failures, loss of website functionality, bugs and QA testing timelines. To fully understand your risk exposure, it is ideal to consider all individual changes or updates being made and then multiply by the depth of change for each element.   2. An overcrowded home page We understand, when given the opportunity to redesign your website, the first goal is to get all of your messaging across to your potential clients. However, the biggest mistake when doing this, is to inundate the user with too much information and overcrowd your homepage. This leaves visitors confused, overwhelmed - Users make a decision on whether or not to continue browsing after 3 seconds. It is important to ensure that all information is presented in a concise manner. Perhaps investigate infographics to reduce word dense designs.   3. It’s difficult to contact you Leaving out essential contact information or links to your social sites may discourage potential clients from trying to contact you. Keep your information handy in the footer of each page, as well as on its on contact page. The contact page gives you the opportunity to include a contact form as well as other relevant information that may be useful to your visitors.   4. Not having responsive web design and cross device QA testing Your website visitors will become frustrated if they are viewing your site on a device that has not been optimised for - leaving the page lacking user friendliness. Make sure to test a variety of devices and ensure your website has responsive web design.   5. Slow site speed and lack of optimisation Having a slow site can take away any favorable first impressions - make sure to optimise thoroughly when developing your site and ensure site speed is up to scratch.   6. Avoid poor or pixelated imagery Make sure to give proper image files to your development team. Including pixelated or poor imagery onto your site displays lack of professionalism to your visitors or potential clients.   Are you struggling with any of the above website redesign issues? Contact the CakeDC team today and speak to the experts behind CakePHP

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