# Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I don't mind when I get told I've made a mistake -or there's a problem with the system but this error message kinda takes the P! Quite what the developers were thinking when they wrote this one I'm not sure!

What do I do? celebrate that it went through ok or commiserate because it failed?

The "Ok." relates to the transaction completing without an issue, the "Stop" actually says that it failed so it's not even "Part A was ok, but Part B failed". Really odd, someone needs to look into testing their system.

Looks pretty though!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 11:37:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Thursday, June 12, 2008

After months of  painstaking work I can FINALLY reveal what we've been beavering away on -our new brochure with a twist. If you're involved in marketing at all you're probably already aware how hard it is to print interactive designs. Regardless of that, we needed some way of advertising so we got our thinking caps on.

The brief was simple: we needed to come up with a way of marketing our bespoke design and development services. Being a creative company we also wanted something that stood out from the other 1,001 West Midlands based web design companies. It should also reflect the attention to detail and quality that goes into our web design and development.

Our target audience was to be high end management so the brochure had to be quick and easy to navigate, have clear calls to actions and require minimum effort to read (unlike my blog!!).

As all "good" ideas* start with a pen, napkin and one too many coffees, we trotted off to our favourite Costa for a brain storming session and here's what we came up with:

* not all good ideas do but some do but it's a good excuse for a coffee.

We went through all sorts of ideas ranging from having themed TicTacs produced, to sending out branded bottles of wine, most of the ideas were dismissed because they had either already been done or would just be binned/eaten and forgotten. We needed something that stood out.

For those of you who can't understand our scribbling's, we decided upon a brochure with a twist (or two).

The First idea was to make the brochure quick and simple to navigate -like the websites we develop so we decided to go a little Avant Garde (off the wall/pushing the boundaries) and opted for a coloured tabbed navigation system, the idea was taken in part from an Argos catalogue which uses colours to separate the sections. I felt combining the tabs and colours would ensure the brochure was quick and easy to use.

The next issue we addressed was how to get the reader to open the brochure, it sounds silly but getting someone to open the brochure (let alone reading it) is pretty hard to do so we decided to offer the reader an incentive and what was better than our new stressball? Why not put one on the front of the brochure?

I've jumped a few stages in our thinking but here's the final product -a brochure with a stressball attached to the front, mimicking a pill packet (complete with foil on the inside to get the pill out), coloured tab page navigation and loads more.

Thursday, June 12, 2008 9:59:50 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, May 09, 2008

Perhaps not a big thing to shout about for some but our new company site has been featured on CSS Mania!

Check the site out and leave your rating :)

http://cssmania.com/galleries/2008/05/08/the-site-doctor.php

And if you've not already seen it, check out the updated website design process full of jQuery loveliness: http://www.thesitedoctor.co.uk/services/website-design-and-development

Friday, May 09, 2008 5:10:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thanks to Gareth and The Register for this one, it had me laughing for a good long while.

After the last design debacle (the London Olympics 2012) logo, you would have thought someone would have thought carefully before making the image public but here's the latest logo for the UK's Office of Government Commerce (OGC):

Other than being just plain boring it's ok right? Yeah, I thought so too until I was told to rotate it 90 degrees clockwise...

Brilliant! I'm still laughing!

Just goes to show (once again) that going with a large digital agency to create your brand identity isn't necessarily a good idea...

Having just rebranded Avant Garde hair salons (see the new logo here), I'm now checking our design. Nope all looks good so it's "Big Guys" 2 - "Little Guys" 0

Can't wait to see what the next government logo is...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 6:31:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Monday, March 10, 2008

Multipack's new logo - based on Birmingham's Bull So Saturday was another chance to meet up with all the Multipack guys in a recently restructured Multipack -same place (The Old Joint Stock in Birmingham), same time (second Saturday of the month). Personally I think it's a good move as the numbers were well up on normal with lots of lovely new Multipackers (I'm no longer the n00bie ;)) from all sorts of interesting backgrounds.

It's great that Multipack is slowly becoming more recognised; at Saturday's meet for example Underscore veteran Darren Beale trekked up from Worcester which was nice as I could finally put a face to the name. Hopefully over the next few months, with a little more self-publication and this easy to remember location/date we'll get more new members.

If you're not sure about coming along just yet, check out the website www.multipack.co.uk and get to know a few of the guys, alternatively there's a mailing list -http://groups.google.com/group/multipack and IRC channel: IRC: irc.freenode.net, 6667, #multipack so plenty of ways to join in.

Monday, March 10, 2008 12:58:05 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, September 21, 2007

It's been rather quiet on my blog recently, if you're wondering why (and don't chat to me on/off-line) I thought I would share with you what we've been working on recently.

For the past month or so The Site Doctor has been developing a new web site (www.wineandhampergifts.co.uk) for Porter and Woodman Gifts Ltd - a local company that produces personalised corporate hampers and gifts. It's been quite a challenge as they have a rather unusual ordering system that allows multiple recipients/addresses multiple items. Looking at it now, it's not so complicated but the delivery charge calculations and initial specs took a while to fully grasp. It's been really enjoyable.

I'll probably cover aspects of the site over the forthcoming months but there are a few really nice features to the Wine and Hamper Gifts site (or at least I think so), some of which the end user will never know about such as the use of generics to calculate the address/recipient/gift variations) and those that they may -for instance the use of the JavaScript1 Zoom function on the product details page (courtesy of LuckyZoom), also the design created by our excellent designer Gareth Brown all adds up to what has to be one of the best sites I've developed to date.

1 Yes, I did just say I've integrated some JavaScript into the site ;)

I doubt most of my readers are interested on the in's and out's of the project itself but from an SEO perspective, I for one am expecting pretty decent results. We opted to use the URL Rewriting ISAPI from Helicon this time round over our usual IISMods URL Rewriting ISAPI as for some reason the IISMods site has been offline for a while (and checking now has been converted into a very weird site).

Another aspect that some people may be unaware of is that the majority of the Wine and Hamper Gifts site operates the same without JavaScript as it does with JavaScript, this is important not only for screen readers but also search engines. There is only one area of the Wine and Hamper Gifts site that I'm aware of that doesn't operate without JavaScript and that is the "Personalise this gift" link on the cart page that allows the user to either edit the existing message or add one that doesn't already exist, that's because it uses a LinkButton, but I may find a way around that later.

Other features that I really like are little things like the way the drop down lists on the left hand menu are created -they're not actually drop down lists but unordered lists that are then manipulated using JavaScript, I think the JavaScript could do with a little tweaking but the result is superb. The Wine and Hamper Gifts site also creates a PDF receipt for the user which is emailed to them, this is something I've been meaning to look into for some time but haven't had the chance, luckily while I was developing the site, Sean Ronan posted to the MsWebDev list about an ASP.Net PDF library iTextSharp (a port from a Java library) which, despite a few oddities from the POV of the Java port does exactly what I wanted. The library is pretty easy to use once you get your head around it and certainly produces some nice results.

There's still more work that's needed to finalise the content and various aspects of the Wine and Hamper Gifts website but if you have a chance, check out the new Porter and Woodman Gifts Ltd Wine and Hamper Gifts website and leave a comment here letting me know what you think :D

Oh, and they've given us a pretty high target to get before Christmas so if you're thinking about treating your customers to a personalised corporate hamper or gift give a little thought to using www.wineandhampergifts.co.uk

AJAX | ASP.Net | C# | CSS | Design | SEO | The Site Doctor | Web Development
Friday, September 21, 2007 11:20:01 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What an awesome event, I was originally in two minds about going to the latest conference installment from Phil Winstanley, Dave Sussman (and all the other dedicated people involved with the other DDD events) but boy am I glad I went.

This time I decided to take it to the next level and rather than driving down and back on the day I’d drive down the night before with Stacey and stay over in a local hotel. This worked really well, not only did it mean I was awake for all of the seminars but I could get some work down the next day too ;)

Anyhow, back to the day, for once I had the foresight to choose the seminars I was going to attend before I arrived and decided not to attend all of Scott Guthrie’s talks mainly because of the following I knew he’d have but also because of the great alternatives available so here’s my breakdown of who I went to see and what I thought of their talk:

Microformats - HTML to API (Glenn Jones)

Read Glenn Jones' blog post about the day

GlenN Jones (not Glen Jones as was listed in the schedule ;)) presented a very interesting talk on microformats, it’s not quite what I first thought it was (for some reason I thought it was some form of HTML applets but lets not go there!). Microformats are certainly something I’m going to look into in the future but as Julian Voelcker has pointed out quite how practical they are to use in a CMS situation I’m not sure.

I think from an SEO point of view and also from an information sharing POV they’re very interesting and I’ll certainly be integrating them into various sites for testing purposes sooner rather than later (in fact if you check out my about me page they’ll be there with the new update coming soon … now I just need to re-work my tag output* using IISMods' URLRewrite).

*Glenn pointed out that  when using the rel=”tag” attribute the last “word” in the associated URL should be the tag itself -something I didn’t know but will be sorted as atm it’s along the lines of “CategoryView,category,Business,Business%20Start-up%20Advice.aspx” etc which isn’t very useful.

I think in principle microformats are a good idea for something like a blog or a semi-static site where the developer (or someone with knowledge of microformats) has control over the content but how you could role them out in a client managed site is a little more complicated and something that will need some more thought -do you offer buttons to insert the code markup for them? Can you offer nested content easily etc.

The other thing about them I’m not too sure about is (miss)use of the abbr tag -again that was only something I picked up in the talk so may have missed the point, I’ll need to look into it further.

Either way it was an interesting insight into a new concept that I’m going to support if I can :). Check out the main microformats site at: www.microformats.org

Glenn Jones is also the developer behind the back network site that was used to link all the delegates together, it’s an interesting concept that once again promotes a social network on the internet which is all the rage at the moment but also allows you to interact with other delegates before the event -this is something I’d have done had I had more time before the event!

Download the slides to the Microformats - HTML to API talk by Glenn Jones

Web Accessibility: What, Why, How, and Who Cares? (Bruce Lawson)

Read Bruce Lawson's blog post about the day

Making web sites accessible is something I’ve been interested in pretty much since I got involved with ASP.Net 1.1 and I get endlessly tired of hearing fellow ASP.Net developers complain that you can’t make web sites accessible using the ASP.Net platform -balls can’t you, ok it’s not something that comes out of the box and at times is a little awkward but a lot of it is just common sense and consideration.

Bruce Lawson’s talk was a breath of fresh air, it was great to see someone having the courage that I’m yet to muster (well, more the time but hey) to convince my fellow developers to make their sites accessible.

Why the hell shouldn’t your site be accessible to all? It’s not all about money, in my mind it’s just about being fair to others -following (as ever) Google’s moto of don’t be evil. I liked Bruce’s method of presentation as it was far more personal than the usual “you should care because it’s the law” or “you should care because you’re missing out on a ton of money”, when asking the question “who cares?” -using his words not mine- he said “rather than quoting facts and figures at you trying to convince you, -my mate Theresa does”. I think this in itself was a different method of engaging the audience and I certainly felt it worked.

The talk wasn’t particularly in depth (which baring in mind the audience I expected) but I felt it was enough to plant the seed of interest with those that weren’t otherwise that aware or interested about accessibility. I hope that they’ll now actively encourage fellow developers to take action -not necessarily by redeveloping their past sites as many clients can’t afford this, but by giving some consideration to accessibility in future designs -i.e. DON’T use buttons for menu systems!

I can’t hand on heart say all our sites are overly accessible but I’m learning and I feel each new site we’re involved in is that little bit more accessible. Bruce did share a very useful site called “Blind Webbers” where you can get in contact with screen reader users -I’ll certainly be checking that out with the new design for The Site Doctor, for others interested Bruce sent me the link: http://www.webaim.org/discussion/mail_message.php?id=9019. I’m thinking I’ll see what they think of Miss Mays adult store -could be a good introduction!!

The point that made me laugh the most was his demonstration of using “Click Here” as link text, his demo was simple but effective -you can check it out on his site: http://www.brucelawson.co.uk/index.php/2007/webdd-conference-slides-and-questions

One thing I do need to think about is the order of elements on the page, i.e. at present this blog layout has the menu appearing before the content -mainly because that was the quickest way I could get the layout sorted, but I think I need to re-order it so the menu comes last -that said I do have a “Skip to content” link at the top -how effective it is I’ll let you know. Another thing I also want to pass by Bruce is image replacement techniques as I’ve tried a few now and I’d be interested to see how they perform on screen readers and the like.

Download the slides for the Web Accessibility: What, Why, How, and Who Cares? talk by Bruce Lawson

Quick and dirty Usability tests - one week, no budget, and no usability facility (Zhivko Dimitrov)

Read Zhivko Dimitrov's blog post about the day

Again, interested in making my sites as user friendly as possible I thought that this would be an interesting talk but it wasn’t quite as it was portrayed -instead he went into how they perform remote usability tests with a budget. None the less it was a fairly interesting talk.

Zhivko is from Telerik and clearly has a fair amount of experience in usability testing, I was hoping he’d have some good ideas on how to offer usability testing on no budget but sadly he didn’t. There were a couple of interesting points raised however that I don’t think I would have thought of -firstly the re-use of testers, if you use a tester more than twice within a year they’ll start to know what you want them to say rather than what’s there. The other point raised was if you’re using remote testing, you loose the non-vocal indicators of frustration such as a furrowed brow or someone scratching their head.

Zhivko’s opening demo however was a recording of a guy trying to find a grid component on their competitors site, despite the fact they spent a fair amount of time laughing at the guy in the background I thought this was a great example of a poorly designed site and how important it is to highlight your site’s calls-to-action which is something that I’ll have to remember while optimizing our newest SEO client for online poker The Rivercard -one of the issues we have already highlighted is that many of their download links are below the fold of the screen which reduces the chance the user will click the link.

Download the slides from the Quick and dirty Usability tests - one week, no budget, and no usability facility talk by Zhivko Dimitrov

Connecting Design to Real Business Value (Brandon Schauer)

Visit Brandon Schauer's blog

As with Zhivko’s talk, this was another talk that wasn’t quite as it was portrayed by the title, but I was pleasantly surprised by the content. Brandon Schauer’s talk was more about business modeling and how analyzing the current business method can be improved with a little thinking (and design) -ok that’s obvious ;) but his methods were nice.

I found the talk incredibly interesting -especially following my mini-series on business start-up advice, I thought this was a really well timed and interesting talk. Some of the ideas he offered were simple and to the point so you can apply them to any business, the issue I have with it though is whether I can apply it to any of my clients -I’d love to take the time to go through Miss Mays adult store and help them improve some of their business processes but they don’t have the money to invest and sadly neither do I.

I do however think that I can apply some of the concepts he was talking about to an example business which in turn could then be a starting point to discuss business improvement with clients. This however will take a little time and I think Stacey will need to be involved as this is what she’s primarily trained in. Although I love developing and I don’t think I’ll ever get away from it (certainly not in the foreseeable future anyways) I am getting more and more interested in business analysis, it’s not something that I’ve really got any experience in yet (having only been in business for a few years) but perhaps one day it’s an alternative career path I can choose…

Either way, Brandon’s talk was well worth seeing and if he’s ever at a future conference I attend I’ll certainly make the effort to see him talk.

Download the slids from the Connecting Design to Real Business Value talk by Brandon Schauer

WPF/E (Scott Guthrie)

Visit Scott Guthrie's blog

For the final talk I decided to watch Scott Guthrie’s talk about WPF/E and boy what a talk it was! I almost didn’t get in as we were hearded in like cows (which was most amusing I have to be honest), the woman stopped me right on the entrance -I think much to Julian Voelcker’s delight as he’d managed to get a seat. Luckily though the women on the doors (yes women -not burly bouncers!) took pity on us poor, desperate geeks in admiration of some Yank they didn’t know and let us line the sides of the auditorium -which meant I ended up getting a front row (floor) seat.

The talk was one of those “look at what’s coming” type talks but with a twist, it was something that I can see being of real use -and more than that gave you the urge to try it out. WPF/E looks like a really exciting new technology -even if Julian does think it’s just the same as Flash. As I don’t particularly like flash I think this will be a nice introduction to our development arsenal. That and the possibilities are far greater than those offered by Flash -especially where data interaction is involved.

Scott Guthrie did show an impressive demo of WPF/E which can be seen at www.vista.si -it’s one of those “wow, I can’t believe I’m seeing what I’m seeing” moments, the site is basically a replica (working replica) of Windows Vista -but on the web. It even works with Firefox!

The interesting point that I picked up on is their method of rolling out the WPF/E platform to users, rather than offering the usual Windows Update installer, it sounds as though it’s all going to be done in the same way the flash play is -a small (1.1MB IIRC) file will be downloaded the first time you visit a site that requires WPF/E and that’s it!

I do have concerns over the accessibility of WPF/E but Scott Guthrie did assure us that later versions of WPF/E will be made more accessible. At the end of the day however, I guess it’s just the same situation as entirely flash sites -those that want to offer them, have to offer an accessible alternative (and as Bruce Lawson pointed out -NO, IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE UGLY!).

It was also nice to see Scott Guthrie talk as there are so many blog posts around the net talking about how they saw him, now I can say that I’ve seen him talk -somewhat sad but hey!

The slides aren’t yet online but I’m sure Scott Guthrie will upload them to the Scott Guthrie's presentations page soon enough!

In summary

I always take a conference as a whole -there’s always going to be at least one talk which isn’t quite what you expected, if you can come away with at least one nugget of information that you didn’t have before -or- with a little of that zest for doing what you do back again it was well worth attending. In this case I got a real buzz out of most of the talks and have plenty of things to try out -now I just need to find the time!

And if all that wasn’t enough to get your juices going and wanting to do some more development, I (I think for the first time ever) won something in the raffle -I was in the queue hoping for the book on accessibility by Bruce Lawson but actually won a years subscription to ComponentArt’s Web.UI component set -I’m well chuffed at that, now I just need to find somewhere to use them!! Oh, I shouldn't forget the free copy of Microsoft Expression Web we were given, and the T-Shirts and, and... :D

I did get to meet up with a few people off the MsWebDev list but sadly not all -Mickey, I’ll have to say hi next time. The one thing that did amaze me was how long the lunch was, I don’t recall any of the DDD events being that long.

If you went and you’ve not already done so, you should go and leave feedback on the event -it’s the only way they can improve it ;) so go leave your feedback on WebDD (http://webdd.co.uk/Feedback.aspx). Apparently you can also review it on the back network site (http://webdd.backnetwork.com/reviews/editreview.aspx

If you missed out on WebDD 1, hopefully there’ll be a WebDD 2, I’ll post any news I have as soon as I have it -for my one blog reader that is :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007 12:00:26 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Before Christmas we pitched to develop a web site for a friends new idea, we didn't get the project sadly. However last night I got a mailer stating that it was launched so in an effort to help the site get into the rankings a little more and to show no hard feelings (GRRR) I thought I'd post a link here :)

Good luck Filip and Kon! I hope it works out for you.

The mailer he sent out is too wide to fit on here sadly but here's the spiel (typos and all :P)!

We are proud to announce the launch of Allmightys.com and would like to welcome you to our homepage
We at Allmightys.com want YOUR ideas and designs!
We want to print them on high quality, comfortable and sweat-shop free T-shirts and we want
YOU to take credit for them and make some money too!
Did you ever want that special T-shirt but could never find anything similar to buy?
Do you ever look at other T-shirts and think that you could do so much better?
Do you want to see other people wearing your design as they walk past you?
YES?
Then..
Enter our Launch Competition 2007



Please sign up, send us your design and we will get the public to decide how great it truly is!

Deadline for submissions is 15th February 2007 (11pm GMT)
Thats only a month away, so get on it!

Once we have collected all the designs we will launch our online voting process
where you and your friends can vote for your favourites. The top three designs win and get sold...
You will recieve € 2 (gold), € 1 (silver) or € 0.50 (bronze) for every t-shirt we sell with your design on it!

Once we have collected all the designs we will launch our online voting process
where you and your friends can vote for your favourites. The top three designs win and get sold...
You will recieve € 2 (gold), € 1 (silver) or € 0.50 (bronze) for every t-shirt we sell with your design on it!

So dont waste any time and visit Allmightys.com NOW!
If you want to see how it works, click here...
If you want to know more about us, click here...
If you want to comment, click here..

Allmightys.com is brought to you by:

Filip Visnjic is a qualified architect currently working on some physical internet installations for a bar and art gallery in Hackney Central, London. He is also involved in a number of other web based projects. He is a director at WAG and also teaches architecture at the University of Westminster on degree, diploma and MA courses as well as on the BA Art and Design course at Central St. Martins School of Art and Design.
He is married, lives in North London and loves everything electronic that goes beep.

Konstantin von Berg is a qualified architect and works for a number of different practices. He is currently involved in the design of a small hotel in Berlin. He also freelances as a graphic designer, working all aspects of corporate identity development, layout and print stuff. He travels frequently between Berlin and London thanks to low cost airlines.
He lives in Berlin and loves contemporary art and comic books.

Dimitri Raab is the one who takes care of the finances. He also works as an accountant for an art gallery and a designer furniture store in Berlin besides being a fan of Hertha BSC, the local heroes.
He is married, lives in Berlin and loves Ska and punk rock.

The designs are printed in Berlin on T-Shirts made by American Apparel.

All rights reserved Allmightys.com 2007

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 6:01:33 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Friday, January 12, 2007

After a few months of intensive swapping, I've finally completed something -my collection of free deliveries from Icon Buffet. If you need any let me know, I may have some deliveries to spare. Now I just need to find somewhere to use them!

Here are the 57 icon sets I've got:

  • alexandria_arch
  • alexandria_atmos
  • alexandria_cosmo
  • anaheim_alert
  • ashbury_menagerie
  • ashbury_welcome
  • blinksale
  • dresden_atmosphere
  • dresden_tournament
  • durango_research
  • farewell_snow
  • gingerbread-suite
  • groom_lake_invasio
  • helsinki_hi-fi
  • kyoto_auto
  • kyoto_geometry
  • mallow_buzz_1
  • mallow_buzz_2
  • mallow_symbol
  • manhattan_finance
  • manhattan_metroplex
  • manhattan_night_life
  • manhattan_smilies1
  • manhattan_smilies2
  • Manhattan_symbol
  • mnhttn-tech-toys
  • manhattan_veggie
  • marseilles_breakfa
  • marseilles_cafe
  • modena_alfa_cold
  • modena_alfa_cool
  • modena_alfa_molten
  • modena_simbolo
Friday, January 12, 2007 6:39:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  |