We can't contain our excitement, we simply have to share with you what's bubbling away in the studio!
Improvements are being made to our current online park finder "Go Places To Play" - a website that forms a part of Bristol City Council's campaign to encourage children to play outdoors.
We don't want to give the game away but here are a few snippets of what to expect.
Mobile friendly - We've added more functionality that is based on your current location i.e. your closest park is. It is also a mobile first build; usually mobile sites are designed as a result of a desktop design that is scaled down. Not this site. We've started with the mobile design and scaled up! The build is responsive; meaning you get an optimised view on desktop, tablet and mobile.
User friendly - Much easier to navigate the site. You're guided through it and it is clear to see all it can do and how it can benefit you.
Age appeal - Adults often view the site with their children in mind. The site is much less childlike and now appeals to a wider age range so that it is great for parents to navigate, but still has a family, child-related feel.
Search to suit you - We want people to be able to find personalised information based on where they are and what they like to do rather than just general information.
We've put some serious effort in to not only making the site look good but in making it a useful tool that you feel you can go to and rely on. It's not yet a finished product but we can't wait until it is and you'll be the first to know about it!
If you would like to see the online park finder as it is now, please go to http://goplacestoplay.org.uk/
Created on Monday June 16 2014 09:00 AM
Each year our friends at MS Ireland take part in World MS Day, an international event to raise awareness about Multiple Sclerosis.
We get excited about creating microsites or campaign pages for MSI - there are a few throughout the year, which are always something different and fun to develop! World MS Day this year is no exception and you can view the landing page here.
Making your wish sends MS Ireland a notification, where they can approve the wish for publish. All approved wishes are then published on the 'Wall of Wishes', complete with an automatic #OneDayMS hashtag.
Make a wish and get involved!
Created on Wednesday May 21 2014 03:20 PM
For a good while now at Focus we've been talking around our need to shout more about the work we do for local authorities - as frankly, we do great work for them, and we have been since 2004.
Local authorities have said all sorts of nice things about our work: "revolutionary", "game-changing"; and in 2010 the then Department for Children, Schools and Families (now the Department for Education) said our Family Information solution should be considered 'best practice'. So in late 2013 a plan started to form in our collective minds for taking our solutions to local authorities, and giving them a damn good marketing thrashing.
The result of this is "focusgov" - our new sister brand, with a dedicated web site and new approach - but featuring long tested and tried solutions that have specifically found their place amongst Family Information and Adult Services teams. Our solutions have, and continue to, help local authorities communicate effectively with families and young people, they help meet government legislation, they save money, resource and they reduce administration. They are built on the latest web technologies and are driven by engaging and usable interfaces. We're very proud of them and we can't wait to get shouting about them.
We're starting that shouting at the NAFIS Conference in London on Friday 16th May, where we'll be bumping into some friends we've been working with for many years, and hopefully meeting some new friends. Our main focus will be an innovative and unique way to publish the Local Offer - we'll be on hand with demonstrations of our exciting software and applications that have already received really positive feedback from SEND reform groups and parent / carer forums that have been involved throughout the project.
Coming very soon will be the launch of the focusgov web site, and of course we will let you all know how we got on shouting at everyone at the conference.
Created on Wednesday May 14 2014 09:37 AM
Team Focus are very excited to announce our imminent office move!
After three happy years on Clifton Triangle, we are relocating to Temple Quay - next to Bristol Temple Meads station - and will be moving in on Tuesday 6th May 2014. We aren't anticipating anything other than the minimum of disruption during that day, and will be available to answer emails and calls as usual - please note that our phone number is not changing.
We'll send formal details out to our customers and suppliers very soon. Meanwhile, you're welcome to have a peek at our building here.
We're up on the fifth floor so looking forward to some cracking views across the waterfront!
Created on Tuesday April 29 2014 03:44 PM
By now, you may have heard of "Heartbleed", a security issue that was announced earlier this week in OpenSSL, which provides the https/SSL security to a significant percentage of the internet's websites (and email services etc.)
It's estimated that Heartbleed affected about 17% of all secure websites at the time of its announcement, and it's a bad issue - it theoretically means that someone can read secure SSL-protected data.
First of all, from a This Is Focus viewpoint, we can confirm that only a very small number of sites we host were ever affected, and those were upgraded within a few hours of the fix's availability - meaning that they're no longer vulnerable. Remember, this issue only affects you if you're running an https:// (SSL) website.
So what does Heartbleed mean? Without going into too much technical detail, it effectively means secure websites were potentially only as secure as non-secure websites - an attacker could see details passing between you and the website whilst they were "in transit" between them.
That's still fairly secure, to be honest - an attacker couldn't see your password unless they were either on the same network as you, your website, or somewhere in between. If you're on your own network (and not, say, on public WiFi), it's still difficult to achieve for a casual attacker - it's only practical for serious, large-scale attackers.
Having said that, the problem has affected a lot of very popular websites - including, but not limited to, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Dropbox and Pinterest - so it's theoretically possible that someone could have grabbed your passwords for those sites. All those sites have swiftly applied fixes, however. So it's not a bad idea (it's never a BAD idea!) to change your password on those sites, as well as any other sites where you use the same password. (Which ideally, you shouldn't!)
So in summary, everyone should have applied these fixes by now - we have, and all the sites mentioned above have - but it's worth asking/checking if you rely on the security of any other sites.
And this could be a good reminder to change your passwords!
Created on Friday April 11 2014 10:10 AM
Trawl the web for long enough and you'll begin to notice patterns occurring, it becomes clear what is growing popular in the world of web design. Here are 10 design trends that I spotted and have a sneaky feeling we'll be seeing much more of in the coming year…
1. Flat design - OK, so this has been popular for much of 2013 but it's still going strong! Flat design removes all unnecessary elements so the content is the main focus - providing the best user experience. Initially, flat design developed as a solution to simplify Web layouts so that they were optimised across different devices but it's not just popular for practical reasons anymore. I can't get enough of this simple, clean style.
2. Grid-Style Layouts - Page elements are scattered to look like a grid. One familiar example of this would be the Facebook timeline. The grid-style provides a solid visual and structural balance. This sophisticated layout structure gives more flexibility and improves the visual experience of visitors as they can follow the consistency of the page much more easily.
3. Endless scrolling - The good thing is, browsing on our mobiles has gotten us used to it. Scrolling through a website is faster and easier than having to click through links upon links to get where we need to be. It's not content-cluttered either as new design techniques means all information is organised and formatted in such a way that it’s easy to digest. The layout often changes as you scroll, creating sections resulting in the user forgetting they're looking at one long page.
4. Simple Colour Schemes - I have a feeling there will be a lot more websites using only one or two colours. A new trend seems to be to use one bright and clean background colour, such as red, orange or teal, and to include images or black or white text over it. This creates a seriously minimalist and user-friendly effect.
5. Video - Instead of the usual written piece about what the company do, businesses are beginning to opt for short videos. This is most likely due to the fact that videos are easy to produce and share on your site as well as on social media. They also appeal to the short attention span many of us have adopted these days, we want everything now! Videos are an effective way of communicating with an audience and having an impact.
6. Fun with fonts - Designers are once again enjoying 'playing' with typography. Fonts seem to be getting bigger (and in my humble opinion, better!) and siting amongst a variety of others. Also, responsive typography should become a bigger part of responsive web design.
7. Mobile-First Design - Here, a higher priority is placed on the mobile experience which then becomes the foundation of the entire layout. The idea is to first mock-up how the website should look as a responsive layout on smaller screens. To make this work 'fancy' design considered unnecessary excess is removed and we are left with the bare essentials.
8. Mega-Navigation Menus - These menus that expand to hold large blocks of content and links, and can often contain product images seem to be particularly popular with e-commerce or news websites. If done well, this type of navigation can be extremely effective, they allow the user fast access to information located deep within the site.
9. Expanding search bars - Building semi-hidden or expanding search bars into your layout is definitely growing in popularity. When the user clicks a magnifying glass icon or clicks into the bar itself, the search bar expands wider allowing for more text input. This can be seen in a lot of responsive layouts.
10. Parallax Scrolling - That nifty technique that lets background images move slower than foreground images to make visuals appear more dynamic certainly makes for an interesting browsing experience. Handle with care though as too much of it can have quite the opposite effect!
As a designer here at Focus I am super excited about applying some of these trends to our work. Throughout the year I'll be looking out for emerging trends so that I can see you back here in 2015 with a whole new list!
Created on Thursday January 16 2014 11:04 AM
Working with our friends at Pace, we've got a new responsive site live in super-quick time for the friendly folk at Woodland Court.
Part of BrunelCare, Woodland Court is a new retirement living choice, situated in a quiet area of Downend. The Woodland Court team needed a website that they could keep up to date, particularly with apartments that come up for sale.
Already having an established relationship with Pace meant that when they suggested we work in partnership to develop the website, Woodland Court were only to happy to go ahead. The new site features a Content Management System, so the Woodland team can update the majority of their pages themselves. There are also lightbox features, enabling users to view lots of (professionally-taken) photos of the apartments and surroundings. An editable slideshow means promotions and events can be shown quickly and easily.
More specifically, a customised 'Apartments' module means the team can list new apartments, add downloads and images, and mark them as 'sold'.
With accessibility features and fully responsive build, the site is ready to roll for 2014! Take a look here.
Fancy knowing more about mobile, responsive or any other features in this article? Then please do get in touch!
Created on Wednesday December 18 2013 09:31 AM
World Usability Day 2013 at the M Shed this year had a host of great talks from usability professionals and enthusiasts from around the world. One talk really caught my attention and that was "BBC Olympics: An Accessibility Study" by Alistair Duggin the lead front-end developer at Money Advice Service. The talk looked back on the BBC Olympics website and the huge task taken on by the BBC to cover the Olympics in the digital age They wanted to make 24 HD live streams, over 2500 hours worth of video coverage as well as huge amounts of stats and data available world wide to a massive audience across mobile, tablet, PC and connected TV.
By the end of the project there had been 37 million UK browses, 66% of the adult population had visited the website as well as having 57 million global browses with 111 million video requests across all available platforms. These numbers were not the only difficulties of the project, the team at the BBC had an immovable deadline of a huge profile event and were working with teams of mixed knowledge in terms of accessibility. On top of this for added pressure the Australian olympics had been sued for being inaccessible.
So the team had one page for each of the 10,000 athletes, 205 countries, 36 sports, 304 medal winning events and 30 venues that they had to make usable and accessible for people with a range of visual, auditory, motor and cognitive abilities. This is where I was really surprised by the talk, I was expecting a full range of teams running huge usability studies and endless testing to make sure everything was perfect deploying more resources than is possible in a normal sized project. In reality the methodology and practices followed by Alistair and his team were reusable on any scale and in fact should be used on all web projects. It is not spending a lot of time changing designs and code to make it accessible, if you have accessibility in the back of your head when creating websites then you should only have to do it one time.
These are all the kind of coding practices that we can all follow on our websites but not necessarily something we check as often as how a page looks in IE7 or displays on a mobile device. I learned a lot from Alistair's talk, especially coming from the view point of a front end developer it showed me how important accessibility is for users, we should not be thinking about making it better for a minority of users but instead creating universal accessibility. He also talked about having a website that is one hundred percent accessible as not being realistic and that we need to prioritise in real world projects but that accessibility does not have to compromise design or ingenuity in websites.
Created on Monday December 09 2013 10:00 AM
Last week I took part in the first webinar of the #TwitterAcademy series "How to grow your business with Twitter". This was a short session which I was able to fit into my day, at 30mins tops. Keeping it short also meant keeping focused!
I thought it was a good, easy to digest session. Yes, it was a bit 'back to basics', but even so there was some really useful pointers to take to get you back to having a strategy, however simple, and sticking to it.
In summary, these are the key points which I'm taking away and aiming to refine not just our Tweeting, but also our clients approach to Twitter. It's simplistic stuff, but I think we can all agree we can make some improvements to the way we use social media.
- Look at what the big boys are doing - the example in the Webinar was Pret, showing their timely Tweets over the lunchtime period, and answering questions and Tweets quickly and in good humour.
- Follow your competitors. That's obvious!
- Retweeting other accounts tweets can be a simple but effective strategic move - mentioning their @ handle in your tweet suddenly has the potential to reach many more recipients.
- Reply to followers questions and comments - again, this helps to reach new recipients, but also gives an opportunity to show some personality and character to your brand on Twitter.
- Use #hashtags - see what's trending, or what's topical in your market, and use that hashtag. Anyone researching or looking at that subject matter might just come across your Tweet.
- Use the Advanced Search https://twitter.com/search-advanced feature on Twitter. Search for keywords and look at conversations that relate to your product or service, or as importantly your customer base - then tailor your Tweets accordingly.
- Use links, pictures, proverbs, news... something other than just your 140 characters!
- Providing value + achieving your Business goals + entertaining = the ideal Tweet. Remember why you're doing this, but have some fun at the same time..
If you'd like an informal chat about Social Media, or need some help planning your activity, please get in touch!
Created on Wednesday November 27 2013 04:18 PM
Last month saw us launch a new web site on behalf of the Parent Partnership team at Bath and North East Somerset Council.
Connecting Families is a new programme designed to help families with multiple complex needs in the BathNES region - and is part of the Government's Troubled Families Initiative, which aims to change the lives of 120,000 families by 2015.
The web site provides users with access to a database of support groups and organisations who offer help, guidance and advice. The database is categorised into easy-to-follow scenarios and topics that are relevant to individual family members - so it's clear where everyone can find the information most appropriate to them.
Additionally the site has built using underlying responsive tech - with the layout of each page changing based on the device being used to view it; whether it's a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile smartphone. We include a responsive layout with all our new web site projects - helping provide engaging user experiences across all devices.
To see the new web site please see:
Created on Friday November 22 2013 10:00 PM
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