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Kusuma Trust header

September 8th, 2016 by Edward

Recent clients, the Kusuma Trust have some really beautiful photography that draws the viewer in and helps to tell their story. From the outset it was decided to place different pictures across the top to act as the Kusuma Trust header, upon which various menu items would go. They were keen however, not to have a background strip for the menu text to sit on – which clearly creates potential usability issues regarding textual contrast.

The brief suggested that the image was to be :

  • full width
  • fixed depth
  • look good on all screen widths
  • possibly have some headline text fixed to its bottom on a semi-transparent background
  • and… easily maintained by the user

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Naming Images for Websites

July 6th, 2016 by Edward

At ee-web I get questions about naming images from clients a lot – so here’s a quick guide to help us get things done more quickly.

Naming Images for Websites

Why is it important?

Short answer – you have to balance technical requirements and the dreaded search engines.

All images on websites have to have an ‘alt’ tag. This is a short description of what the image shows and is part of the requirement for accessibility (for visually impaired users). Search engines use this as well so its REALLY important.

I create these alt tags based on the file names you give your images. So if you want me to create good alt tags for you, and you do, you must give the images good file names as per below. File names like ‘birthday cake 6.jpg’ or ‘img9918230.jpg’ just don’t describe your image.

Remember too that I am not an expert on your business – and sadly its hard for me to see what the really important part in an image often is – so your file names need to guide me.

Browsers are changing all the time but to be safe your files names should:

  • Have no spaces in them
  • Contain no special characters like %, @, #, < but you can use – and _
  • Start with a small letter not a capitol (this is less important now)
  • Contain information about the image
  • Be short

The last two are a little bit ‘subjective’ to some extent of course.

Suppose you had an image of a soft toy puppy with the file name 12316124.jpg – you know that’s no good course so you change it to puppy.jpg – that better but not great. puppytoy.jpg is a little better but something like labradortoypuppy.jpg is even better. You could also have labrador-toy-puppy.jpg – you can use the – or even a _ in file names. From this I come up with the alt tag alt=”labrador toy puppy” – which is pretty good – you could even squeeze a little more juice from it as in blacklabradortoypuppy.jpg.

Some clients like to provide me with a separate document listing out very specific alt tags – this is fine too.

And of course the great thing about systems like joomla and wordpress is that you can always edit your alt tags later if you want to.

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How Much for a new Website?

June 15th, 2016 by Edward

I have been making websites now for 15 years. This post is about one of the hardest questions that I am asked in  my work as a web designer. Can you work out what it is from these images?

bell curve of string length

 

If that’s too hard what about this one?

rular with string on it

of course, it’s ‘How long is a piece of string?‘ or rather

How Much for a new Website? 

I get several inquiries every month directly from google – if you want that too ….

The conversation usually goes something like this. Let’s call the caller ‘Bob’:

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Heather MacRae’s Testimonial for ee-web design

April 21st, 2016 by Edward

Heather MacRae, Director of Venture Thinking wrote this testimonail for me – which sites on LinkedIn -if you want to see the real thing!

Edward has been a pleasure to work with. He was recommended to me by Lydia Thornley, a recommendation in itself! Edward has been hugely enthusiastic about the stellar task of putting together a website for the Space to Earth Challenge project. He has been patient, professional and good humoured as the project has gone through various launch phases. He is willing to share his knowledge with real generosity and without lots of scary jargon. His focus is on helping to achieve the stellar results that we have all been working towards.

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Website Problem Solving – VST

April 21st, 2016 by Edward

About 50% of my time is spent in what you might call ‘website problem solving.’ When I started making websites, well over 15 years ago I thought I’d be spending my time …. creating websites. But everyday, for every project new or old there are problems to solve.

So here’s the first of what might (who knows) become a regular post – ‘Website Problem Solving’  – the VST booking form stops working.

‘Our booking form has died’ – time for Website Problem Solving

Having built their website about 2 years now I have continued supporting this client who provides training course which the SELL via their website. One day this email arrived:

” Someone phoned me to say made a booking and got funny message.   The booking came through but she did not get a confirmation email.   I did a test booking and also got funny page and no email confirmation.”

Since VST main role is training, this is a serious error. Panic Stations! Claxons blaring. Time for a dose of ‘Website Problem Solving.’

error  message - website problem solving needed

I want to point out at this point that the plugin used for booking is first rate and in no way is this to be seen as a knock on them.

A few minutes investigation revealed that the user was being taken to this url. It didn’t look right to me – just felt wrong. I suppose somehow you get a knack for these things.

...email=&amp;option=com_registrationpro&amp;...processor=payoffline&amp;user_id=...details=VST%20will%20invoice%20you%20to%20the%20address%20on%20your%20booking%20form.%20Please%20pay%20promptly%20and%20before%20the%20course%20date.

So, I posted on the forum of the plugin – this is where paid support comes into its own, and is one reason why I recommend buying it to my clients.  This time the reply came back very soon – ‘we have found a bug and here’s a patch.’  Couple of days later a new version is released.

Result – booking forms back on line.

I didn’t solve the problem, but I was able to look into it enough to work out that it wasn’t anything the good people at VST were doing, or a hosting issue.

I got these emails from VST

Phew yes it works now! Thank you. Please invoice us for your time.
Maddy 😊😊😊

Excellent  news. 
Thanks
Linda 
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Beginner SEO Training

February 11th, 2016 by Edward

I have recently started delivering ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ (SEO) training for busy website owners. For now its called ‘Beginner SEO Training’ and is aimed at those pressurised small businesses who don’t have the time or the money to employ an SEO specialist on a monthly retainer.
beginner seo training - one bite at a time

 

The course provides an insight into what google does (that shouldn’t take too long then….), how to get into the minds of the intended visitors and how to develop more useful key terms/phrases. We cover some simple text hierarchy (h1, h2 etc), the use of the key-words/phrases and how we use our media (alt tags, load size etc). WordPress users get an introduction to the marvelous ‘Yoast seo’ plugin.

Varied Beginner SEO Training to meet your needs

I like to make my courses as responsive to the needs of my students as possible. I recently delivered a morning’s training to the owner of ‘Complete Calm Massage therapy’ in Enfield and a much simpler version to the More Business Network meeting of around 20 individuals.  One thing I always try to do is to take away the fear that many people seems to feel about ranking in search engines. Of course ‘of the writing of words about seo there is no end’ – so I aim to provide tiny ‘bites of the elephant’ that lead to some quick wins and confidence building. Complete Clam Massage are already reporting that their hits are going up and certainly appear considerably more informed and hence confident than they did before. They now have the tools to create the infamous ‘long-tailed keywords’ that should bring more relevant users to their site.
Maybe you’d like some personalised Beginner SEO Training?

Why not contact ee-web design?

Bonus Material  – download the Basic SEO slides from the MBN meeting’s talk.

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A Developer’s Perspective – S2E Challenge @ the Houses of Parliament

December 14th, 2015 by Edward

cupola view

View through the ISS Cupola of Big Ben

On Wednesday 9th December I went to the Houses of Parliament for the very first time to witness an event planned to showcase some of the work that’s gone on for the ‘Space to Earth Challenge.’ Here’s a short article about a web developer’s perspective on this space project.

First a little background. I was approached to become the projects web developer – this means my main role is to build the website, based on the teams designs. So, if you like I am they techy geek. What is really exciting for me, is that often the developer is locked in a cupboard, and fed ‘pop tarts and coffee’ until the work is finished (only kidding). In this case I have been involved as part of a large, multidisciplinary team, got the chance to visit the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, and even (deep breath) had the best part of a day teaching a small group of yr10/12 pupils who helped us gather some of the excellent resources on the website.

Visiting the Houses of Parliament was fun; being surrounded by all that history can’t be anything else really. But in a way that paled into relative insignificance.

group with space suit

Pupils, a cardboard Tim Peake, the real Lauren Steadmen and a Christmas Tree

There were too many adult speakers to mention – but highlights for me were:

  • David Morris MP, Chair of the All-Parliamentary Space Committee who hosted the special event,
  • Dr Jon Scott who spoke about the importance of exercise on the ISS to reduce bone loss and muscle atrophy.
  • Lauren Steadman, a Team GB Paralympic athlete, describe her triathlon training and how children could take up the Space to Earth Challenge.

For me though the young people stole the show. School children spoke with great enthusiasm about elements of the challenge, ranging from the different sports they had done to cover the distance to the ISS, through to working with some of the exotic materials used in space research. Their smiles and fascination shone through. Several students got to wear a space suit – how cool is that – and why do adults never get asked eh?

pupils demonstrating

Great presentations

It’s been really exciting seeing the project take shape. I have seen it go from an idea sketched out in a piece of A3,  though multiple stages of development and now we’re just 1 day away from Tim’s launch (as I write). Best of all those was seeing how the pupils and their teachers were using the work done by the S2E team, and being really  inspired about it. And I had a part, along with the team, in making that happen.

Makes all those hours in the cupboard worthwhile!

maths challenge

Maths Challenge in action

what's this then?

Wow – what’s going on here then?

graphics work

Graphics students present the designs for S2E posters

Image credit: Max Alexander/UK Space Agency

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A WordPress ‘Google dog’s dinner’

November 30th, 2015 by Edward

dog eating dinner

Recently, there was a bit of a discussion on a local social network forum. Somebody had been using one of those ‘build your own site whilst mowing the garden’ type of services (now these can be good, but that’s another blog post). Getting back to this post the person in question was asking if they should move over to wordpress. Amongst the well thought out and well meaning contributions was something along the lines of ‘google loves wordpress‘.

On one, somewhat misleading level this is right. On several others of course it’s just that. Misleading.

  • It gives the impression that if you use wordpress you’ll rank high in google. This is wrong.
  • It gives the idea that using wordpress is the best bet for your website. This can be wrong too.
  • It suggests that wordpress and google have ‘something going on’ which is also wrong.
  • It suggests that wordpress might have some ‘magic formula’ that will ‘take care of your search engine needs for you.’ Guess what, this is wrong. Probably!

So, what’s right then

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Pupil Achievement Data Analysis System

November 24th, 2015 by Edward

This is SUCH a cool job, and so EXACTLY up my street. It ticks so many of my boxes  – so when I am working on this project i am a happy little programmer.

middleton assessment login

Middleton is a small school offering specialist care. They have been using a great program, based around Excel to store all their assessment data, and produce a variety of specialist reports for a range of audience – teachers, parents, governors, Ofsted and so on. However, support for this program is no longer available, and whilst it still works its becoming less and less future proof.

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Pagination and Removing Categories in WordPress

October 13th, 2015 by Edward

Quite often I need to create a new WordPress query – but this can mess up the pagination – so that if you press to go to previous posts it shows the same darn posts again.

Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to solve.

I find that I nearly always need to exclude categories from my query so I am adding that in as well.

Here’s the standard code from index.php file int he 2013 template:

<?php if ( have_posts() ) : ?>
<?php /* The loop */ ?>
<?php while ( have_posts() ) : the_post(); ?>
<?php get_template_part( 'content', get_post_format() ); ?>
<?php endwhile; ?>

Nothing out of the ordinary there of course.

Firstly we need to add this line:

$paged = (get_query_var('paged')) ? get_query_var('paged') : 1;

$paged is set to the current page that we are looking at – so for example if you are display post 11-20 then its likely that this is page 2 if you have the number of posts per page set to 10.

Next we create a new wordpress query in array format:

$query = new WP_Query( array( 
    'posts_per_page' => 10, 
    'cat'=>-145, 
    'paged'=>$paged 
) ); 
?>

we create a new WP_Query object called $query

  • set the number of posts_per_page to 10 in this case
  • set the categories variable to not show cat id =145 – done by setting the minus sign
  • and set the paged variable to the $paged we set up before
  • And hopefully that’s it.

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