Button and link usability

I find myself often telling designers and front-end engineers that “buttons should feel like buttons and links should look like links.” It occurs to me, that after a few years of the flat design trend, I should explain what that means.

Buttons should feel like buttons

When you press a physical button in the real world — any key on a physical keyboard, for example — you can tactically feel it depressing. You’ll also see its form shrink away from you and the way the light falls on it will cause it to look slightly different.
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Blocked: An In-Depth Special Report on iOS 9 Content Blockers

Editor’s Note: This summary and report was co-authored by Lead Audience & Revenue Strategist Ben Ilfeld and President & Founder Jake Goldman.

iOS 9 Content Blocking

On September 16, Apple launched iOS 9 with a suite of enhancements. One buried feature has the web content industry talking: content blocking. The immediate and obvious use case being blocking of ads and third-party scripts often used for site metrics. Less than one week in, a $0.99 ad blocker is atop the iOS App Store’s paid app charts, and a $3.99 ad blocker trails right behind it.

Much has been said about the ethical implications and hypothetical impact. Clients who look to 10up for web and online revenue strategies were, naturally, less interested in debating whether content blocking is fair, and more interested in modeling their potential impact and adapting. While we couldn’t help touching on the ethics – an open web is core to 10up’s DNA – we focused on analyzing technical realities, data informed predictions, practical industry implications, and potential strategies publishers can apply to face a changing landscape.

Read on to review highlights from the report, or skip ahead and download our free eBook in PDF or ePub format.

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Microcopy can make a macro impression

A newly hired UX Designer once quipped, “I could spend all day obsessing about word choices.” It’s true, we could! Those small fragments of text—a phrase, a sentence fragment, or even a word—can make an interface really work. We call it microcopy.

Microcopy sits unobtrusively alongside user interface, ready to provide contextual information for a user that needs that extra bit of help or information. It makes visitors feel confident and can help reinforce a client’s brand through tone and style. Typically you see microcopy near interactive elements. Here are some prototypical examples of microcopy found online:

“Microcopy is small yet powerful copy. It’s fast, light, and deadly. It’s a short sentence, a phrase, a few words. A single word… Don’t be deceived by the size of microcopy. It can make or break an interface.”

— Joshua Porter, 2009

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Sliders, Rotators, and Carousels — Oh no!

There is evidence to indicate that sliders (or rotators or carousels) are generally ineffective. Engagement with the second slide is precipitously low and engagement with the third slide is near negligible. Assuming visitors see it at all.

As an adaptation to information overload, web users have trained themselves to divert their attention away from areas that seem unimportant or look like advertising.
—Hoa Loranger, NNGroup

Although Loranger was summarizing a study about right-rail blindness, NNGroup has done previous examinations of sliders and found a similar effect. Notre Dame university also studied sliders on their home page and found only 1% of visitors interacted with it at all.

Finally, these interfaces often have usability concerns: microscopic control buttons, odd mobile/touch behavior, and the removal of visitors’ control.

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2015 Annual Summit: Boulder


Every year, around this time, our distributed team gets together for a few days to focus on developing our soft and technical skills, to celebrate our past and plan for our future. The 2015 summit is next week at a beautiful hotel in downtown Boulder, Colorado. It begins Monday afternoon with an optional tour of the Celestial Tea Factory and a mouth-watering prefixed dinner catering to myriad 10up diets. Our summit ends on Thursday night, with most 10uppers traveling home on Friday.

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Scaling and the WP JSON API

We had the privilege of working with StoryCorps to help them engineer a reliable, scalable WordPress implementation for their new, TED prize winning project. enables anyone to record and share powerful stories using an iOS and Android app; the app’s infrastructure is built on WordPress, and leverages the WP REST API.

We built a custom, elastic infrastructure on Amazon Web Services, provided strategic consulting and direction for the WordPress JSON API integration with the app, and comprehensive code review and auditing for the custom theme and plugins built by StoryCorps’s internal developers.

Even as the app was unveiled at TED, and picked up in subsequent press coverage from NPRFast CompanyRecodethe Globe and MailForbes, to name a few, the site and its deep app integrations have scaled and performed like a champ.

PostStatus published a detailed, insightful write up that describes the project and technical implementation, including kind words from their program manager:

Dean noted, “You have to be willing to completely submit to the process.” He says it wouldn’t have succeeded if 10up and [app developer] Maya weren’t committed as StoryCorps to the success of the project.

Be sure to check out their coverage, and try out You can find the app that relies on their WordPress build on the iOS app store and Android Play.

10up turns four

Four years ago, 10up came to life with a couple of clients, and a centrally located team of one. Today, our 100+ team of engineers, designers, and strategists span the globe,  privileged to serve Fortune 500 (and 50… and 1…) clients, as well as an array of well respected startups and lesser known brands invested in first class technology solutions. Here are a few highlights since our last birthday:

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Drew Jaynes selected as WordPress 4.2 release lead

Drew Jaynes at Write the Docs10up Web Engineer Drew Jaynes will be leading the WordPress 4.2 development cycle, slated for release in April 2015. WordPress’s releases come a few times a year and involve hundreds of people and thousands of lines of code. A release lead coordinates all of these contributors and contributions, while also managing schedules, priorities, and announcements. As a committer for the past year (with direct access to change the source code) and a driving force behind WordPress documentation, Drew has proven that he’s well-suited to the task, and we’re looking forward to this next release.

As a part of our commitment to the WordPress and open source community, roughly half of Drew’s time is donated to working on core and community initiatives. Building on my own experience as the WordPress 4.0 release lead and fellow committer, I’ll also be close at hand as a ready and willing mentor. We were really excited to be the first agency to sponsor a release lead, and we’re even more excited to do it again so soon. Please join us in congratulating Drew!

Gif the Halls: Holiday Cards Gone Wild

When WP Engine came to us to help engineer Gif the Halls – part digital holiday greeting, part holiday art exhibition – we were more than a little intrigued.

The WP Engine Labs team commissioned six digital artists to create holiday themed animations, to be projected onto buildings in San Francisco – and they needed a way to collect holiday messages from the masses. Enabling visitors, directed from the exhibit, to build digital holiday cards on the (WP Engine hosted) website was the easy part.

Gif the Halls

First, we had to build an output system to project cards onto the buildings in San Francisco, and that output system needed a queue manager, so that only approved cards would appear. Still doesn’t sound too hard?

We also had to engineer remote controlled video capture. Collecting and displaying cards wasn’t enough: we wanted to capture reactions to the exhibit right on the street. Our set-up would determine when a camera should record, transcode that video recording, and share the reaction with the original card creator, who would in turn share the video with friends and family. Without getting too technical, we created a bridge between WordPress and a digital SLR so that when cards are presented, the camera in San Francisco begins recording.

You can check out the result of our partnership with WPEngine, featuring art curated by Grey Area and presented in partnership with YBCBD, by heading over to and visiting the Humboldt Bank Building or Monadnock Building on Market Street between the hours of 6pm and 6am, December 20-22.