# Thursday, July 19, 2007

Well, we're back from Croatia (I'll post all about that later I'm sure) but I was just wondering if anyone else has seen this weather icon before? While we were over in Croatia, it would have been a bright sun and a number around 40C so it's somewhat of a shock...

Nice graphic though!

Thursday, July 19, 2007 11:31:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

After a number of months of hearing how great Microsoft's latest web development environment is -Microsoft Expression Web- I thought I would install it in place of Dreamweaver on my new laptop. I was -until today- pretty impressed with some of it's features, how well it handles CSS within the IDE and had no reason to complain.

That was until today. As I write this, I'm sitting in our apartment in Croatia with the sun beating down on me, generally enjoying life. As it's incredibly hot outside around noon, I thought it would be a good idea to crack on with some work on the new The Site Doctor design -which I hope to have online shortly after I return. So I load up Microsoft Expression Web and the various pages of the new site and crack on.

I've already sorted the CSS for the site so there was no need to open any of the files or make alterations to them however I like to have them open so I can check class names and ids as I work. When I switched over at one point, I noticed that my nice, neat and tidy CSS file of around 190 lines was suddenly closer to 300. I couldn't work it out until I noticed that Microsoft Expression Web had separated out all my group declarations into separate declarations such i.e.:

a, a:link, a:visited, a:active{
text-underline: none;


text-underline: none;
text-underline: none;
text-underline: none;
text-underline: none;

Well done Microsoft, I thought you would have learnt your lesson after the fiasco that was Visual Studio 2003's HTML editing, what on earth were you thinking? I'm sure this is a simple setting I need to change (and I can understand why they've done it) but not having Internet access here there's no easy way of finding out (I've searched the help files) which means hours of careful CSS architecture have been completely trashed.

So, as soon as I realised, I spent about 20 minutes meticulously working through the bunch of CSS files open reversing the mess Microsoft had made of them and promptly closed them, safe in the knowledge Microsoft Expression Web can't mess with them again. Or so I thought.

A short while ago I needed to open one of the CSS files again to alter a few declarations and to my horror I found that the declarations had been ungrouped. I can't believe it, not content with simply altering the CSS files that are open, Microsoft Expression Web actually alters the CSS files on the FSO without you knowing.

If you're ever thinking about using Microsoft Expression Web for CSS development then don't expect your files to be neat and tidy, in my case I would say the files were increased in size by almost 5x which ok may be 1Kb --> 5Kb but if you're getting tens of thousands of hits a day, that's a serious bandwidth increase.

Not a happy bunny.

Thursday, July 19, 2007 11:02:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [6]  | 
# Monday, July 02, 2007

“Ow ow ow how I ache!” I know that’s what you wanted to hear but sadly for you I feel strangely fine after completing The Cheshire Ring Race (for those of you who have been living on the moon for the past few months this was a 96 mile canoe race my brothers, canoe coach and I were doing for charity –if you’ve not yet donated and would like to, please do this at www.paddlathon.co.uk).

So how was The Cheshire Ring Race?

The race went particularly well despite various navigational and kit issues we completed The Cheshire Ring Race course in just over 22 hours (22 hours 57 seconds to be exact) without any injuries or drop outs. We came home with a gold medal –which I think was because we won our division but part of me says they’re all gold for just making it around!

We were also all awarded a certificate and mug to prove we were there (see photos below) and our time so check it out all you doubting Thomas’ ;)

The race

I don’t know if it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done what with completing things like my gold DOE and climbing Ben Nevis to mention a few but it was certainly one of the most challenging events I’ve competed in.

We had a fairly good first leg, holding between 6-7mph and overtaking the guys that started a few minutes ahead of us, but then we had a few issues with getting to the next checkpoint in time and ended up not swapping over with Pat and Paul and instead chasing them around the next few checkpoints playing catch up. We finally met them at Relay Point #5 Ducie Street.

The first mile or so of the next leg through central Manchester was pretty much just portaging lock after lock. I didn’t count them all but there must have been a good 8 or 9 locks and a few tunnels too (complete with dodgy locals of course). Before the next relay point we passed another boat with a broken rudder which has to be a massive PITA as you don’t want anything like that going wrong on a long distance race like The Cheshire Ring Race.

Due to mega traffic in Manchester, the support crew decided to skip the relay point and continue onto the next checkpoint (7. Lymn (Burford Lane Underbridge)) which would have been ok if we had taken our water with us and had more to eat before setting off –neither of which we did as we thought it was only a quick 6.75 mile leg. I think this slowed us down somewhat as both Sam and I ran out of steam half way through the next leg and ended up drinking the canal water to ensure we could continue (not a good thing to do really but it was that or fall in).

By the time we got to the next relay point we were pretty tired and I was seriously hypoglycaemic –to the point I was feeling faint but our super support team had food and drink already prepared for our arrival.

Again, with somewhat sketchy directions, the support team managed to battle onto the next relay point just in time to meet Paul and Pat. The next leg included our first tunnel –and film crew! Had they not been there we would have ended up paddling through the tunnel and missing our next relay point! I would have loved to paddle the tunnels but it’s instant disqualification if you do...

Somehow Pat and Paul wangled a short leg which was a PITA as I wanted to sleep and no sooner than we had got into the car we were off again!

The next few legs were pretty uneventful, just a lot of water and canal boats, but waiting for Paul and Pat at relay point 11. Broken Cross, we were greeted with your typical Saturday night brawl –great entertainment I can tell you! No idea what it was about mind you however I know it involved Michelle and a lot of shouting. Sadly we had to set off before the police were able to get there and sort it out.

Things got a little more interesting as the dark came in. Just as it had got real dark we were doing leg 12. Middlewich Big Lock which included a “make or break” portage –basically if we got it wrong we would either: Go the wrong way and head off to Sheffield, go in a loop back to a checkpoint a few miles back or continue on the right way. Wanting to get it right, I made a point of memorising the directions but when we got there things didn’t make as much sense as they perhaps should have and we ended up wandering into a housing estate before thinking “sod it, let’s try and work it out ourselves”. Shortly afterwards we saw the support crew drive past so we knew we’d gone the right way for once!

Although I’ve paddled early in the morning and late at night in the past, until this race I don’t think I’ve paddled in the pitch dark, due to the rain the moon was covered by cloud which meant when we got out of the urban areas it was seriously dark which made navigation very hard. Sam did a sterling job and managed to get us around without any major incidents (though we did come close to crashing into a lock! –it’s amazing how something so large can be so hidden by darkness...!)

By about 4am however dawn was starting to break and paddling became a lot easier, we had a couple of very nice legs however leg 16. Bridge 77 Congleton was nasty as there were 12 locks to run up right at the end! On the plus side however we did see a couple of kingfishers.

Sam and I then paddled leg 18. Bridge 44 Bullocks Lane to the finish, meeting Paul and Pat at 19. Bridge 29, Clarke Lane to paddle the last 3.75 miles before finishing together at Bridge 18 (also the start).

A breakdown of the relay points:

  1. Bridge 18 (Start/Finish)
    Distance to next point: 5 miles
    Locks: 0
    Paddlers: Tim/Sam
  2. Marple
    Distance to next point: 5 miles
    Locks: 16
    Tunnels: 2
    Paddlers: Paul/Pat
  3. Apethorn Lane
    Distance to next point: 3.25 miles
    Locks: 0
    Paddlers: Paul/Pat
  4. Dunkinfield Junction
    Distance to next point: 6.25 miles
    Locks: 18
    Paddlers: Paul/Pat
  5. Ducie Street
    Distance to next point: 8 miles
    Locks: 9
    Paddlers: Tim/Sam
  6. Marsland Road
    Distance to next point: 6.75 miles
    Locks: 0
    Paddlers: Tim/Sam
  7. Lymn (Burford Lane Underbridge)
    Distance to next point: 6 miles
    Locks: 0
    Paddlers: Paul/Pat
  8. London Road Bridge
    Distance to next point: 6 miles
    Locks: 0
    Tunnels: ½ (relay point on top of the tunnel)
    Paddlers: Tim/Sam
  9. Preston Brook Tunnel
    Distance to next point: 3.5 miles
    Locks: 1
    Tunnels: ½ (relay point on top of the tunnel)
    Paddlers: Paul/Pat
  10. Valley Farm, Little Leigh
    Distance to next point: 7.25 miles
    Locks: 0
    Tunnels: 2
    Paddlers: Tim/Sam
  11. Broken Cross, Bridge 184
    Distance to next point: 5.5 miles
    Locks: 0
    Paddlers: Paul/Pat
  12. Middlewich Big Lock
    Distance to next point: 6.75 miles
    Locks: 9
    Paddlers: Tim/Sam
  13. Wheelock
    Distance to next point: 4 miles
    Locks: 14
    Paddlers: Paul/Pat
  14. Rode Heath
    Distance to next point: 2.25 miles
    Locks: 10
    Paddlers: Tim/Sam
  15. Red Bull
    Distance to next point: 5 miles
    Locks: 3
    Paddlers: Paul/Pat
  16. Bridge 77 Congleton
    Distance to next point: 5.75 miles
    Locks: 12
    Paddlers: Tim/Sam
  17. Bosley Top Lock
    Distance to next point: 4 miles
    Locks: 0
    Paddlers: Paul/Pat
  18. Bridge 44 Bullocks Lane
    Distance to next point: 3.25 miles
    Locks: 0
    Paddlers: Tim/Sam
  19. Bridge 29, Clarke Lane
    Distance to next point: 3.75 miles
    Locks: 0
    Paddlers: Tim/Sam/Paul/Pat

The weather

The weather was pretty poor throughout, it seemed to start raining every time we were about to start a new leg of the race. I don’t mind paddling when it’s wet but it certainly makes it hard to get out of the toasty warm support vehicle!

Although it rained for a lot of the way around I feel we were pretty lucky on the whole as there was a severe weather warning around Manchester on the weekend. The weather was pretty mild which meant the rain wasn’t too much of a hindrance –if anything it helped you cool down from the paddling!

The team

We had a fantastic team both on and off the water. I can’t begin to explain how crucial the support team is in an event like this and ours was fantastic. Our support team for The Cheshire Ring Race consisted of:

They all went above and beyond the call of duty and made sure the change over paddlers were in the right place at the right time (most of the time) and also that food/drink was readily available for the paddlers who had just got off the water.

The training

My recent training routine has clearly paid off, I did mean to blog more about how I was improving in the run up to the race however time simply got the better of me. The long and short of it however is that I felt great during the race, ok I was tired at the end of the legs but by the time we had got to the next relay point I was ready to go.

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the running, according to one of the marshals, the race involves nearly 10miles of portaging (getting out of the water with your boat and running until you get to the next part of the water i.e. around locks), that was particularly tough however I have been including running in my recent training routine so was able to manage it –I’ll be doing more now though!

I’m very pleased with Sam’s training too as that has clearly paid off which makes my job easier! I can’t really comment on Paul or Pat’s training as we never ended up paddling together which is a shame in many ways but they were both looking good –all be it a little tired on the last leg.

What have I learnt?

Those of you who spoke to me before the race know I was aiming to beat the previous relay record (around 16 hours) and after doing that race I’m sure it can be done –and we’re already fit enough to do it. However having completed the race it’s evident that you need far better directions for the support crew and probably included a couple more drivers (which was the plan but sadly a couple had to drop out) to ensure they were able to rest between legs too.

I also think from the POV of the paddlers, it’s important that you drink and eat a lot more than we did. Due to the navigational issues Sam and I didn’t refuel correctly on a couple of our legs which really affected our paddling the next time. Sam and I recon we burnt off in the region of 12,500 calories over the duration of the marathon –I’m going to weigh myself shortly to see how much weight I’ve lost but I recon it’s a couple of pounds.

It’s imperative that each team member concentrates and concerns themselves with only their area –i.e. paddlers on refuelling and resting, drivers on driving, navigators on navigating etc. As soon as you start mixing them up you run into issues.

The last thing I think I’ve learnt is to always go with your gut feeling –it may be a couple of extra kilos but always take your water pack, dehydration of even just 2% can massively affect your performance.

So what’s next?

Replace the 12,500 calories I burnt off!

I would love to do another long distance race at some point, longer term I’d like to take part in the Devises to Westminster race but short term we’ve got the Hasler Finals (national canoe finals) in September to train for. Sam and I are aiming for a medal so I’ll keep you posted.

Will we be doing the race next year? That’s a hard one, at the moment I’m doubtful but if we can get the support crew together again and the rest of the team are up for it I wouldn’t mind taking that record :D

How much did you raise?

We’re still not sure at the moment as there were four of us raising and the website –that and a few people are still promising to make their pledges but I think we’re going to be close to (if not over) our £2,000 target. As soon as I have tallied up the totals I’ll update www.paddlathon.co.uk

In closing

I’d like a moment to thank all those involved with supporting us during the event –without you all we wouldn’t have made it around. That also goes for the event organisers, co-ordinators and marshals, I’m sure there was a phenomenal amount of work involved to host the event –it was well worth it!

The photos

I’m going to get some more off Sam, Pat and Paul shortly but here is a selection of mine...

  • My 'small' pre-race drink
  • So how do I make this thing go?
  • Do we REALLY have to go?
  • I've got an itch
  • Zoom zoom! Forget timing and go fast!
  • No stopping us
  • The back was sliding out we were going that fast
  • Steady on
  • Finally after an hour in the car, we're off again
  • We have cross over!
  • What's that attached to our heads?
  • Should we have told Paul and Pat it was a canoeing race not a walking race?
  • ZOOM! So fast the photo's a blur -and check out the timing!
  • Far, far, far away already
  • Sam wondering where his dinner is
  • First sight
  • And across the finish line we go
  • Our well deserved prizes while eating our even more deserved dinner!
  • Paul: 'They're all mine!'
  • A winners breakfast
  • Cheshire Ring Race Certificate
Monday, July 02, 2007 8:07:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, June 18, 2007

In a somewhat random chat with Chris Anderson today I decided that I wanted to obtain the IP address (IP6) or even better (both timeout atm). It got me wondering whether you can you purchase a specific IP like that and whether that could be the new trend...

Chris wants felt was more appropriate for our American comrades but I think that’s a little boring...

For those of you who didn't make it to school, type it into your calculator without the periods and see what you get (note my primary school calculator example -I'm returning it to it's roots)...


See it yet?

No? Turn it the other way up:


How about now?
Monday, June 18, 2007 4:49:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

Since getting our own dedicated server a couple of years ago we’ve had a fairly step learning curve which a lot of the time has been a tad hit-and-miss (never at the detriment of our customers I might add). Luckily we’ve had the superb support of Rackspace behind us but as others may not be so lucky, I thought I would post up a few nuggets we’ve received over the years. As I remember more, I’ll add additional posts.

Domain/Folder organisation

One of the first issues we came across (and I’m sure many people have already got into this position) was the structure of the folders on both the server and development machines. The solution we came up with was to have a common folder –for argument’s sake lets call it “WebsitesFolder”. Within “WebsitesFolder” you then create a new directory for each domain name and finally within that, a folder for each subdirectory i.e. www, blogs etc.

By creating a new folder for each subdomain, you are able to quickly find the correct folder for the domain. Then locally you are able to store the source files outside of the site’s root which will (or should) speed up your FTP transfer process as you won’t need to select which files to upload1. The structures might then look like this:
Development server

  • /domain.com
    • /www/
    • /subdomain/
    • /Source Imagery/
    • /Some Irrelevant Folder/
  • /domain2.com
    • /www/

Production server

  • /domain.com
    • /www/
    • /subdomain/
  • /domain2.com
    • /www/

1It might also be worth you checking out SyncBackSE which is an excellent FTP client that only uploads files you have changed since the last transfer. It also has the added advantage that it has customisable filters allowing you to ignore source files and folders as _notes, .cs, .vb etc. http://www.2brightsparks.com/syncback/sbse.html

Finding large directories

The other day I noticed that one of our server’s disk space was running a little low but as far as I was aware there was plenty of space left. As we tend to store all client data within set folders I was able to quickly identify that it wasn’t the client folders that was taking all the room so what was?

When you don’t know which folders are taking the space, there are a couple of tools you may find useful. The first I was told about was TreeSize (http://www.jam-software.com/freeware/index.shtml) -a free program that gives you a graphical representation of each folder’s usage:

It then allows you to quickly traverse the directory structure and identify the offending directory. There’s a load more information available through the easy-to-use interface but if all you want is a number it’s a little overkill.

The alternative to TreeSize

A heading? Just for this? Yes –this little tool is the Mac Daddy of directory size info as far as I’m concerned as it’s a free (we like free ;)) command line tool found on Microsoft’s site called “Directory Disk Usage” –DIRUSE.

DIRUSE is really easy to use, simply load up CMD and type in:
diruse /m /* c:\
and you’ll get a report of your chosen folder’s sub folders, related sizes and a count of the files within it. Ok it’s iteration can be a little slow but it gives you all the information you need quickly and easily.

The syntax is as follows:
DIRUSE [/S | /V] [/M | /K | /B] [/C] [/,] [/Q:# [/L] [/A] [/D] [/O]] [/*] DIRS

Specifies whether subdirectories are included in the output.
Output progress reports while scanning subdirectories.  Ignored if /S is specified.
Displays disk usage in megabytes.
Displays disk usage in kilobytes.
Displays disk usage in bytes (default).
Use Compressed size instead of apparent size.
Use thousand separator when displaying sizes.
Output overflows to logfile .\DIRUSE.LOG.
Uses the top-level directories residing in the specified DIRS
Mark directories that exceed the specified size (#) with a "!".
(If /M or /K is not specified, then bytes is assumed.)
Specifies that an alert is generated if specified sizes are exceeded. (The Alerter service must be running.)
Displays only directories that exceed specified sizes.
Specifies that subdirectories are not checked for specified size overflow.
Specifies a list of the paths to check –you can use semicolons, commas, or spaces to separate multiple directories if required.

Note: Parameters can be typed in any order. And the '-' symbol can be used in place of the '/' symbol.

Also, if /Q is specified, then return code is ONE if any directories are found that exceed the specified sizes. Otherwise the return code is ZERO.

Example: diruse /s /m /q:1.5 /l /* c:\websitesfolder

Monday, June 18, 2007 10:24:35 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, June 14, 2007

I’ve been meaning to post about the use of AccessKeys on websites now for some time (I wrote the post but never completed the list at the end). Then, this morning I saw a post from Tony Crockford on the WAUK list along similar lines so thought it was time I got the post online :)

Just before Christmas, we were looking for a new house so I was spending an increased amount of time on Rightmove and it really started to bug me. I’m really pleased by the fact that they tried to make their site simpler to navigate by introducing AccessKeys to their pages but in my view they’re defeating the purpose of them by overriding browser shortcuts. In this case, the one I’m referring to is the use of Ctrl+K which I use a lot to access Firefox’s search bar.

Why oh why have they chosen to override this key combination, in IE it’s not too irritating as it doesn’t activate the link, in Firefox however it automatically loads the link, so I’m forever being sent back to the buying homepage.

I can understand that they want to make the key relevant, but what does “K” have to do with buying? I could understand if they were overriding “B” –and it wouldn’t bother me as it’s related, but K? I realise that it’s unpractical to avoid all shortcuts in all browsers but I would have thought they’d look into the main shortcuts first.

I had planned to compile a list of common shortcuts but I’ve not had time yet –another thing on the list ;). What’s interesting however is that since I wrote this post in January, they’ve replaced a couple of the shortcuts already –Buying is now “B”.

So what’s Tony Crockford got to do with this all? Well he referred the list to the WCAG Samurai’s point on AccessKeys which I think is a valid one:

So there you have it, just don’t ;) -I think that now there are so many different browsers out there it’s impossible to account for them all so it’s probably the best methodology.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 8:02:59 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, June 11, 2007

I've been somewhat quiet on the blogging front recently as I have been training hard for the mammoth canoe race we're competing in at the end of this month. The Cheshire Ring Race for those of you who haven't been keeping up with the little news I've been posting recently is a 96 mile canoe race we're doing this year in aid of charity (if you've not already made your pledge, why not pop over to www.paddlathon.co.uk now and make a donation -we've got a fair way to go to our £2,000 target).

Last night I decided it was time I sat down and started planning the route for the drivers, which first meant plotting the route for the paddlers and oh my god is it a long way! Until now I've thought "100 miles, yeah that's not too bad, we'll do that in a few hours..." (ok the few was around 20 but still). Plotting it on the map however shows just how far this thing is!

Instead of feeling daunted by the distance, I'm now even more psyched than before -and have even more reason to hit the gym hard! If you're interested, I've uploaded the route plotted on Google Earth. Currently it only holds the point data but in time I'm going to expand it so it includes information about each route (for the paddlers and drivers) and perhaps once we've done the race, pictures of each point.

For those of you interested in how my canoe training routine is going -it's good. I'm holding a steady 12st 6lb at the moment -sometimes dropping to 122st 4lb and I've blown my previous routine out of the water. Sam and I -despite some misfortune with our kit- have been kicking ass on the past couple of races -taking around 10-15minutes off our times from last year. I'm hoping to complete The Cheshire Ring Race in less than 18 hours at this rate...

Monday, June 11, 2007 10:35:26 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, June 08, 2007

This has to be my laziest post yet, it's just a paste of the press release but I'm to excited at the thought of free beer to re-write it ;) -Hope to see you there, shout if you're going.

Chinwag Joins Forces With Top Software And Media Brands For Supersized Digital Networking Party

The UK digital media industry is gearing up for a soiree of grand proportions in July at Chinwag's Big Summer 07 networking party (http://bigsummer07.chinwag.com).

Giving the bash an extra boost - and supporting the inventive and fun entertainment programme, plus the lavish refreshments on site - are Chinwag's three party partners: Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/), Channel 4 (http://www.channel4.com/), and Purple (http://www.purple-consultancy.com/).

The free event, to be held at the historic Imperial College Union in Kensington, London, will be the largest-scale bash of its kind for people working in the digital sector, with the party encompassing 5 large rooms and the enclosed quadrangle, allowing a total capacity of 2,000 revellers at any one point in time.

Hosted by new media community Chinwag, it will to bring together professionals in web, mobile and other interactive media to make useful connections, celebrate the return of the new media sector as a sustainable growth industry, and mingle in style in the sunshine of a London summer's evening.

Dominic Eames, editor, Online, at Channel 4 New Media said: "Channel 4 is always open to new ideas from the New Media community and is delighted to support Chinwag in this event.

Toby Thwaites, managing director of Purple said: "Having worked with the team at Chinwag for a number of years I am delighted that Purple are able to support what will undoubtedly be the Digital event of the Summer"

Sam Michel, Chinwag MD and founder said: "This is a great opportunity for the new media industry to do some "First Life" networking. The UK scene is buzzing with life, and it's great to bring everyone together en masse."

"The party takes place on July 5. More details will be released in the forthcoming weeks with promotional activities, partnership with brands, and innovative use of social networking tools and technologies such as Facebook and Twitter included in the mix."

More information & registration: http://bigsummer07.chinwag.com

About Chinwag

Chinwag aims to be a connecting rod for ideas and talent across the new media industries. Having provided Internet-based community forums, websites, email newsletters and consultancy for the new media sector since 1996, its website (http://www.chinwag.com) will be re-launched in July, aggregating information for the digital industries and updating its community focus. In February 2007 the Chinwag Live events series (http://live.chinwag.com) was launched. Topical panel discussions founded to cast light on issues and trends affecting the new media industries, the monthly sessions have also gone on tour to Internet World and Ad:Tech.

In addition, Chinwag publishes Chinwag Jobs (http://jobs.chinwag.com), the leading recruitment website for online marketing, digital media, web, design and technical positions. It is used by the BBC, MySpace.com, Yahoo!, Amazon, Vodafone and the majority of recruitment agencies who place staff in the sector.

Chinwag - Connecting New Media People

Site: http://bigsummer07.chinwag.com

Friday, June 08, 2007 12:39:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Wednesday, May 16, 2007

We’ve gone around in circles at The Site Doctor trying to decide the best method to calculate project costs and timings, historically I would look at the project brief, have a think about how much I wanted to work for a client and then I would –in effect- pluck a figure out of the air.

As your company grows however you will need to think about a more scalable, resilient solution that reduces the chance of under quoting and I think we have a fairly nice solution so I thought I would share it :)

Firstly, read up on how to set your base rate (see: Pricing your work). Once you have calculated your base rate, you will need to download this spreadsheet when offering the client various options, each option is given its own row on the summary table which is calculated off a dedicated sheet of times.

The formatting is fairly simple and mainly for your own use but basically the main areas of development (i.e. the front end, my account or admin areas) use a grey background. The sub sections of these (i.e. Product management) use a yellow background and all other items have a white background, the main reason for this was when you have a large project it made it a lot easier to identify where you were. The top columns are not set but they’re just what we most commonly use, you can alter these as needed on the summary sheet.

How to use it

  1. Add all your site elements (usually based on your sitemap) into the first column, separating each one out onto its own line.
  2. Go through each item, estimating the time required to complete the task. Remember that the spreadsheet is using decimal hours:
    • 0.02 = 1 minute
    • 0.08 = 5 minutes
    • 0.17 = 10 minutes
    • 0.25 = 15 minutes
    • 0.33 = 20 minutes
    • 0.42 = 25 minutes
    • 0.50 = 30 minutes
    • 0.58 = 35 minutes
    • 0.67 = 40 minutes
    • 0.75 = 45 minutes
    • 0.83 = 50 minutes
    • 0.92 = 55 minutes
    • 1.00 = 60 minutes (1 hour)
  3. Switch over to the summary page and update the hourly rates to your rates
  4. Et voila you have your project’s estimated cost :)

You’ll be surprised how quickly project costs mount up when you use this method but it does ensure that you don’t get caught out, if it is still too costly for the client, why not show them the breakdown as it quantifies your efforts nearly. If that doesn’t work see how tweaking your hourly rate or removing the timings works out but don’t be a busy fool ;)

Project time estimate spreadsheet

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 2:42:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Tuesday, May 08, 2007

After a somewhat hectic week last week, with most of it being spent on the phone (which is becoming a more regular occurrence) I asked myself “has all this time on the phone been wasted time?” Well, I spent time talking to clients, developers, friends and family and this is important. Although it may cost you a little development time, talk is cheap (that’s what the telecom’s companies want to tell you isn’t it?)

Rather than looking at it negatively I think it’s best to look at it from another point of view, I could have spent developing some weird and wonderful new creation for a client however, this phone time was doing something else –it was promoting my business. Admittedly the business couldn’t survive if we all spent all the time with the phone glued to our ear, but once in a while I believe is a good thing.

Why am I looking at it like that? That’s simple, if you make time for your clients, friends and family in any context it shows that you care for them beyond a pay check and at the end of the day, if they need some development they’re more likely to think of you in a good light.

What do you think? Do you feel time spent on the phone is wasted time or a business investment?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 6:13:32 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  |