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#devjobs at Focus

This is Focus are one of Bristol's longest established and trusted digital studios, trading since 1996. We provide accessible, content managed web sites and bespoke web applications to a wide range of sectors including local government, commercial organisations and charities. Today we are working with Bristol City Council, London Boroughs of Richmond, Kingston and Camden, the NHS, Marks and Spencer, Scottish and Southern Energy and Hartlepool Borough Council amongst many others.

We have an order book full of new projects for 2016 and want to continue our innovation within the local government sector and so we are looking to expand our technical team who are responsible for creating and maintaining our products and systems. We have a number of opportunities for web developers with different levels of experience to join our friendly and enthusiastic company. We are keen to hear from people who might have several years of relevant programming experience including time spent in an agency, or experienced developers who might be looking to move into a supervisory / management role, or people who are looking to start their career in web development and digital.

Whatever your experience you must have a genuine passion for all things digital and a keenness to be part of an expanding and progressive agency who are increasing their market share within local government. We have a casual but professional office environment and you'll have access to the latest spec machines to work on. We run our projects using elements of agile and we are ISO9001:2008 certified.

We are delivering innovative and outstanding digital products and services to our customers; with the user experience and quality of our work at the heart of everything we do. The sort of things our tech team get stuck into include:

  • coding up complete projects from specification through to deployment.
  • new product design and development.
  • maintaining existing sites with updates, upgrades and fixes.
  • product design, including our own content management system and development of new / enhanced functionality.
  • working with business development teams on quotations and preparation of proposals, some liaison with key clients.
  • automated testing and web site optimisation.

Independent of your technical experience we're looking for people with:

  • a genuine interest in digital and a desire to join an enthusiastic, experienced team creating great products.
  • ongoing learning of new skills, techniques and technologies.
  • excellent communication skills and a demonstrable ability to manage your own schedule of work to meet deadlines and priorities.

We are interested in hearing from developers that cover any of these bases; so if you are experienced in a few of them, but have an interest in learning the others, we would be interested in talking to you - we don’t expect you to have experience in all the technologies we list:

  • we are exclusively Ruby on Rails for all back-end development.
  • we find ourselves doing more and more front-end scripting including Ionic / Angular (for hybrid app development), jQuery, vue.js, and others.
  • responsive site build in HTML5, CSS3 and Bootstrap and also some Sass.
  • MySQL.

We use Git and Gitlab to manage process and version control.

  • Servers are Linux, mainly RedHat / CentOS, running Passenger on Apache.
  • Development machines are either OSX-based, or Vagrant on Windows.
  • Elasticsearch for data searching / filtering.
  • CouchDB / PouchDB for data replication / offline applications

Benefits we can offer include:

  • generous starting salary dependent on skills and experience with regular salary reviews.
  • 23 days holiday, increasing 1 day with each full year of service, additional and extended Christmas and New Year holiday.
  • company pension scheme (from 2017).
  • based in new offices located in Temple Quay, three minute walk from Temple Meads train station.
  • subsidised restaurant on site and other facilities.
  • attendance at relevant events and conferences.
  • choice of PC / Mac platforms, latest kit.
  • some flexible / remote working for the right candidate (for more experienced roles)
  • everyone makes a contribution and can make a difference.

If you are interested in finding out more or would like to log your interest with us, then please email us (using this link) in the first instance, with some summary details about your background and level of experience, the sort of role you are looking for and what's important to your working life.

We are likely to be arranging informal Skypes / chats over the phone initially and we are looking to appoint several roles before the summer of 2016.

Agencies - please do not contact us about these or any roles. Please do not ignore this request to not contact us. Please do not cold-call or spam us about these roles, you will be wasting your valuable time.

Neil Smith
Neil

Created on Thursday April 21 2016 07:50 PM


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How Web Accessibility can help your business

How Web Accessibility can help your business

Time is money for you business folk so let's answer this quickly and efficently: What is accessibility?

It's designing and developing your website so that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, interact with and contribute to the web. It's providing the same functionality and experience to users with disabilities as those without.

Disabilities come in many forms, so to break it down for you, these are:

Visual

Blind or low vision users that are potentially using screen readers, screen magnification or even a braille display.

Auditory

Deaf or hard of hearing that may require closed or open captions or transcripts for all of the rich, multimedia content that exists such as audio files or video files.

Ambulatory / motor skills

People with difficulties or inability to use a mouse, that may only be using a keyboard to navigate the website. Or possibly even speech to text software.

Cognitive

People with learning disabilities or the inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information. They may rely on thoughtful layout. They may also be using an array of the previously mentioned technologies.

 

Web content needs to be made available to the senses, sight, hearing and/or touch. Get accessibility right and it can better your business by:

- Improving your brand reputation

- Helping to meet the needs of a constantly evolving market

- Increasing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

- Improving use across mobile devices and tablets

- Reducing your litigation risks

 

The most obvious financial benefit to building accessible websites and web apps comes from the increased market, the more people you can connect with through your website, the more of your content is being consumed. Resulting in more clients, customers, subscribers, and those seeking your services.

Also, who doesn't like to save money? Well that's what web accessibility may do for you too. Some companies have reported noticeable cost savings in the form of lower maintenance costs, a reduced requirement to provide web alternatives, and even in avoiding expensive legal fees and fines.

Financial benefits are of course a driver to make your site accessible but more importantly, we should all be working towards making the web a hospitable place for everyone, whatever their abilities.

Jordana Jeffrey
Jordana

Created on Friday April 15 2016 09:15 AM


Tags: accessibility disability business


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Top 10 accessibility mistakes

Top 10 accessibility mistakes

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web, he intended it to be an open platform for society to connect, improve communication and build knowledge. It was a way to provide everyone with vast amounts of information, not just some or a select privileged few. It is said that building accessibility was his vision for bettering the globe.

If you want to stay in Tim's good books, you might want to avoid these incredibly common accessibility mistakes: 

1. Alt text for images

Images are often not properly marked up with alternative text for those who can't see images, or separated so that only the relevant images are relayed to the user, or conveyed. 

2. Keyboard Accessibility

Users can find themselves 'trapped' inside of a page's content and be prevented from interacting unless they're using a mouse. 

3. Dynamic Content Focus

Content appears based on a users action without any indication to those who can't see it. This could be form errors or a date picker: Equally frustrating for those who can see it but can't use it. 

4. Focus indicators

No knowledge of where a user is on the page when they're only using a keyboard. Making it very difficult to navigate the site. 

5. Data tables

Tables that have corresponding column and row heading associations that cannot be deciphered with ease. 

6. Poor heading structures

Undetermined list content where it's conveyed like a list but not structured like one. 

7. Colour cues

Using colour alone to convey a part of the page, for example 'For further information select the red button below'. Those with a colour deficiency are going to struggle. 

8. Multimedia

Missing captions from instructional or informative web experiences. 

9. Skip to content

Someone who is unable to use a mouse is forced to repeat their steps if there is no skip to content option. This would be extremely tedious on pages containing unchanging content such as a content heavy main navigation. 

10. Page titles

It's a small but very important element that is the very first thing users hear on a page. It indicates what the user is about to discover. Without it, users don't know what to expect.

Get accessibility right and it can even better your business. We'll tell you how in our next blog - so watch this space!

Jordana Jeffrey
Jordana

Created on Tuesday March 22 2016 01:27 PM


Tags: accessibility userexperience top-tips


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Design and Development in Web Accessibility

Design and Development in Web Accessibility

It's that time of year again where I give up everything I consider to be fun food: crisps, chocolate, sweets and more.
So when I push down the red velvet seat to watch Deadpool on the big screen, without stifling my laughter with popcorn, the experience feels somewhat incomplete. Equally a rendition of Happy Birthday has a much flatter tone when I know I won't be getting cake at the end of it. The moral of the story here isn't 'don't be greedy' (wise words though!) I am pointing out the fact that I didn't involve everyhting I needed to, to make the experience a success. I denied myself what I felt was the ultimate experience.

If we as web professionals were to try to achieve web accessibility with either design or development, our users would suffer the same disappointment, well, worse in fact. These aspects are complementary. We need to consider both design and development in order for accessibility to succeed. The only way it will is if you make sure you’ve got accessibility taken care of as part of your process.
We follow a design and development cycle and hopefully we can integrate accessibility into several different phases: content planning, wireframing, visual design, development and so on. Your process may differ but what should remain the same is your goal to prevent accessibility issues in the first place rather than trying to fix them at a later stage.

Many concentrate mainly on just one aspect, either design or development. For accessibility to really work though, the two must go hand in hand. A flawed design coded perfectly is just as useless as a brilliant design coded poorly.

Accessibility is the responsibility of the developers and the designers. If you can find a team that work closely together and understand each other, the way we here at focus do, then that's the best start you could possibly have.

Yes, a lot of accessibility is totally development. People seem to believe that accessibility is something that is created programmatically, mostly in the domain of the web developer. They're close. There is indeed a lot that needs to be done programmatically to ensure that what you create is accessible to people with disabilities. But you can’t rely on programmatic accessibility alone. Yes it's what we need to provide for most screen reader users. But what about those with low-vision? They rely on the visual aspects of a design to be able to make sense of it and perceive the interface as intended. And there are cognitive difficulties to take in to consideration as well as language barriers. These need the visual aspects of a design to speak to them in a voice that they can connect with. There is a lot more to it than just programmatic accessibility.

And that’s where I come in, as the designer. Accessibility is super important in the design phase of a project. We can usually predict which areas will be a problem just by looking at wireframes (the 'skeleton' of the design layout). We look at the layouts, how design elements will harmonise together, hierarchy of information and all sorts like that. This provides us with insight into what is likely going to be a challenge for people with disabilities.
Accessibility issues should be pointed out and addressed as early as possible in the design process. The longer you wait, the more costly it will be to change or fix later.
 

Jordana Jeffrey
Jordana

Created on Friday February 26 2016 12:54 PM


Tags: design development web accessibility


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2016 Design Predictions

2016 Design Predictions

Whenever I stop by to see my parents, I am reminded of how far I've come (and I don't mean geographically). There is a framed school project piece of mine that hangs proudly on their wall. I remember feeling that was well deserved at the time. Now though, I'm convinced it gets worse with each visit but even that doesn't date as quickly as websites can. It's frightening how fast web design moves, but with that comes a continuos flow of new and exciting trends and techniques to take on.

There are many factors that can change in web design; technology, user behaviour and other creative fields that can influence the web such as graphic design and fashion.

- Responsive Web Design (RWD)
It is so popular right now and will no doubt continue to be throughout the year. It serves the same HTML code to all devices and uses CSS to alter how the page appears on the device. It is also what Google recommends to build mobile-friendly websites. Many of the trend predictions featured in this list are most suited to RWD.

- Increase in UI Patterns
We've seen a lot of similar looking websites lately which many blame on RWD and the rise of WordPress. Take the hamburger menu for example, it has been criticised for being everywhere but this is also why it is so easily recognised by users. UI patterns are there to guide users through the experience, making it easy to navigate and the hamburger menu does just that. I think we'll see designers working hard this year to be the one to come up with the next popular UI pattern. This will no doubt result in a lot of visually inspiring attempts.

- Memorable Typography
We are no longer limited to a few system fonts. Services like Google Fonts and Typekit make custom fonts readily available and easy to use on the web. Expect adventurous experimentation with type to make a strong statement in design.

- Material Design: dramatic alternative to Flat Design
Like flat design except it uses shadow effects and the concepts of movement and depth in order to create designs that appear more realistic to the user. Material Design creates clean, modernistic design that focuses on UX.


- Flat Design with a Twist
It has been around for a while now but it looks set to stay for 2016 with a few differences to keep things interesting. A little like material design long shadows will bring more depth to flat designs. Vibrant colour schemes. Simple typography and ghost buttons will allow for functionality without distracting from the UX. Minimalism will reduce the number of elements and create a raw, tidy UI.

- HD Visual Assets
HD background images and videos on websites could well grow even stronger in 2016 due to increased bandwidth, wide browser support of HTML5 video, and ways to serve high resolution graphical assets selectively to devices with retina screens.

- Striking Custom Iconography and Illustrations
.jpg and .png files can result in a pixelated look on retina displays, which spoils the aesthetics of a website. Now though, there is wider browser support for Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and easily implemented icon fonts. The outcome? more web designs showcasing colourful custom illustrations SVG icons that remain crisp and engaging at any screen resolution.


Thinking of it now, my 'work of art' has gradually been demoted from hallway masterpiece to bathroom backdrop. Perhaps even a mother's love isn't strong enough to ignore the fact that design moves on quickly and unless you don't mind your hard work being tucked away, it's best to keep up!

 

Jordana Jeffrey
Jordana

Created on Tuesday January 12 2016 11:02 AM


Tags: website technology new-year web-design designtrends 2016


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Designing for Mobile and Accessibility

Designing for Mobile and Accessibility

Making websites accessible for people with disabilities is an integral part of high quality websites (in some cases, it's a legal requirement!).

As a designer at Focus, that's a big responsibility. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the things to consider when designing for accessibility. I'm an active member of the web accessibility community in Bristol and often attend presentations that can get very technical and propel me far from the safety of my design knowledge. It's at this point that I call on a skill I've had my whole life: empathy. An important thing to remember is that accessibility is about understanding people and the barriers that they face.

Many of the barriers people with disabilities are faced with, also effect people using mobile devices when interacting with web content. Some examples of this include the fact that mobile phone users will struggle if a website's navigation requires the use of a mouse. Similarly, desktop computer users with a motor disability will have a hard time using a website if they can't use a mouse.

Some shared experiences are comparable to temporary disability; If you need to use your mobile to access a website when you're at a concert, the noise that surrounds you likely means you are experiencing the website similar to how a deaf person would. Equally you may struggle reading small text as those with low vision do with most text. The iPhone is less than 10% of a typical desktop screen. 'Fat fingers' denying you all accuracy could equate to difficulties faced by those with hand tremors. A 40 pixel finger is big on a small target! Mobile is disabling for everyone.

There are guidelines to help you keep accessibility in mind, such as the BBC's mobile accessibility guidelines http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/futuremedia/accessibility/mobile and of course Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/

Getting your own experience of accessibility helps you to put yourself in the shoes of others and keep accessibility in mind when building and testing your website.

So next time you wonder whether a design feature is accessible and immediately rely on tools such as a colour contrast checker, first consider disabilities of all levels and the struggles faced by others and maybe even yourself . Surely I'm not the only one who's complained of 'fat fingers'?

 

Jordana Jeffrey
Jordana

Created on Thursday December 24 2015 10:24 AM


Tags: accessibility webdesign


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Christmas 2015 Office Closure

After a record breaking year, the Focus team deserve a bit of time to put their feet up.....

So our office is closing from 12pm on Christmas Eve and will remain closed until 9am on Monday January 4th 2016.

We are running our emergency support email address:
rudolph@thisisfocus.co.uk

This email address should only be used for business critical emergencies and whilst we can't guarantee any response times, we'll do our best to monitor incoming emails.

All that's left is to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas from the entire Focus team, we look forward to catching up in the new year.

Neil Smith
Neil

Created on Wednesday December 23 2015 12:27 PM


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In focus: 2015 reviewed

Apart from Noddy Holder, nothing shouts "Christmas" like an end of year review; so when Jordana asked if I preferred the 'snowman' or 'reindeer' themed version of the Focus logo, I knew it was time to start looking back over the last twelve months.

The headlines make impressive reading. The Focus team has expanded; we have welcomed lots of new clients on board; our work for local authorities has gained significant national recognition; and our accountant is very happy, as 2015 has seen revenue up approximately 60% on the previous year. It's been a record breaking year for Focus in many ways; and by far our most successful trading year since we started in a small kitchen in Redland in 1996.

Success has come quickly and we are open and honest enough to admit there has been the odd hiccup. We have certainly learned some lessons along the way.

Jenny, Stefano and Jon have all joined the team during the year. Jenny has raised our profile within local government and led our presentations and workshops at the NAFIS 2015 Conference in London. With his years of web development experience, Stefano has bought a measured and calm presence to the studio and I'm sure Jon won't mind me describing him as akin to a Jack Russell - whipping through work and nipping at our heels for more.

It's been fantastic to welcome lots of new clients to Focus. We've built new software for Alive Activities, who do great work to improve the lives of older people in care. We've launched a new web site for KDVI - global suppliers of management and leadership coaching - and there's lots more work with the KDVI team lined up next year. We've been busy automating processes and improving communication 'behind the scenes' at Barriers Direct which has helped them achieve their most successful trading year in history. And with our good friends at the Watershed we launched Rife Guide - Bristol's newest guide to events and activities for young people.

We have also had the opportunity to see the impact that our work has had. In the summer we met parents and young people at the launch of the SEND Local Offer for the London Boroughs of Kingston and Richmond, where as well as chomping through several ice creams we met the SEND Champions, a group of young people who have been contributing videos, blogs and other content for the site. October saw Annette and Simon make the trip north to help Hartlepool Borough Council officially launch Hartlepool Now, a web site based around duties from The Care Act 2014. The Borough Council's Chief Executive Gill Alexander said the web site 'put Hartlepool far ahead of other local authorities' when it came to information and advice around social care.

October also saw the Department of Education note our work for the SEND Local Offer as a 'benchmark'. Cue lots of high fives in the office that day.

We passed our annual ISO audit with thumbs raised and flying colours. Our only 'area for improvement' noted centered around MD Simon's induction documentation - a week on the naughty step for him followed.

All in all it's been frantic, a little edge of seat at times, but great fun and the team at Focus should really grab a moment to step forward on the stage, and take a quick bow.

And so what's next? 2016 is going to be based around two key phrases for us: innovation and impact. It's going to be worth keeping an eye out for and we're looking forward to getting stuck in.

In the meantime, a massive thank you to all our clients for their continued support and custom, we hope you all have a restful break over the festive period and look forward to putting the world to rights in 2016.

Merry Christmas to everyone from the entire team at Focus.

Simon Newing
Simon

Created on Tuesday December 22 2015 03:24 PM


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Meet Jon, our newest team member

We are chuffed to shout a big, if slightly delayed, hello to Jon Wait, who joined the technical team at Focus in October.

Jon graduated from UWE with first class honours in Multimedia Computing and brings a solid background in a wide range of web technologies including HTML5, CSS3, SASS, JQuery and Responsive Design.

He's already got stuck into several projects including new sites for Bristol Balloons, BrunelCare and Hartlepool Borough Council.

Jon's interests away from the office include exploring the Far East and its language and culture.

Neil Smith
Neil

Created on Tuesday December 15 2015 12:54 PM


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Accessible blogging - Top tips

Accessible blogging - Top tips

I sit, staring at a screen more blank than my expression. Sometimes it can be so hard to write a blog, let alone write one that's accessible to people with disabilities. When doing so, there are many things to consider, for example Screenreader compatibility. Below is a list of things to keep in mind that may help you.

(So that you don't abandon my blog to instead watch a YouTube cat playing the piano, I've kept it brief, plus we all love a bullet point, right?)

Text

- Use real text not text within graphics.
- Choose simple, easy to read, sans serif fonts such as Arial.
- Limit number of fonts.
- Ensure sufficient contrast between the text and the background.
- Avoid small font sizes (less than 12pt).
- Limit the use of font variations such as bold, italics, and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
- Underlining is best kept for hyperlinks.
- Numbers: Use symbols (1,2,3), not words. 

Language

- Avoid jargon.
- Avoid too much information on one page/blog.
- Bullet points should be used to break up information (avoid numbered lists).
- Abbreviations and acronyms should be avoided if possible. If not possible, first refer to it in full with the acronym in brackets for example ‘Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)’
- Always check spelling and grammar before publishing. 

Punctuation

- Don’t use 'eg / ie', write ‘for example / specifically’. 
- Don’t use '&', write ‘and’.

And a few final points:

- Images should be used as much as possible.
- Blogs should have meaningful titles that help users identify the page in search results.
- Avoid using ‘click here’. Ideally the purpose of a link is clear, even when the link is viewed on its own.
 

For those of you who aren't by now listening to the sweet sound of paws on a piano. Here are some links to my other blogs about accessibility that may also be of help:

Accessible Colours and Web Design 

Designing for Accessibility

Screenreader Compatibility Tips

Making Information Accessible

Accessibility at the BBC

Accessibility and the Web

Jordana Jeffrey
Jordana

Created on Wednesday November 11 2015 10:53 AM


Tags: blog accessibility


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