articles tagged with: web-development
Heard of Rails? Heard of Girls? What about RailsGirls?!
(Ruby on) Rails is, and I quote Wikipedia: "an open source web application framework written in Ruby". In layman's terms, it's what our clever web developers use to make our websites.
Girls are... well, insert your own answer here.............. (try wonderful, clever etc). But for me as a Girl, I didn't know much about Rails, or Ruby - and in fairness, I don't need to - but I was starting to want to.
Over the three years I've been here at Focus, I've seen and heard lot of code-y, tech-y stuff, like 'Gems', 'Frameworks', 'Scaffolds' and the like. I see black screens with white text on that looks like something out of the Matrix, and I am DEAD impressed. So when I heard about the latest Rails Girls event in Bristol, I signed myself up to find out more.
So a couple of Saturdays ago I headed over to At-Bristol (where loads of cool stuff was going on with kids flying drones and all sorts!), and got stuck in to a really informative, interesting and empowering day. The guys running the sessions all had different experiences with Ruby and Rails. We learnt some basic information, terminologies and the like, did some tutorials, had a yummy lunch, and then onto the highlight - building our own web application. With the assistance of several experienced helpers, I managed to set myself up a server and make myself an 'ideas application'. I made CSS styling changes, created new 'ideas' (headlines with text), I even made buttons that facilitated an image upload.
Back at work on the Monday after the event I proudly showed off my work. I think the developers sniggered into their sleeves a bit :-) but everyone was interested in what I'd done and how I'd done it.
Moreover, I now feel better informed; when talking to our developers and also hearing them talk, and seeing what's happening on their screen when I ask for changes to a website. I know what a Gem is, and what it means to create a new scaffold. And it helps talking to clients about their website work, I can better picture what might be involved with what sounds like a simple change...
So huge thanks to @RailsGirlsBriz - I enjoyed the day and learned lots of new stuff. And the fact they run these events for free I think is marvellous. Can I go to the next one?
Created on Wednesday December 10 2014 09:43 AM
There are so many ways a website can be rendered on screen. Not only is there a huge variety of phone shapes and sizes but all of these can have multiple browsers (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer). Then there's the fact that they can display in landscape or portrait mode. Users aren’t using a mouse but are instead using their fingers (some with 'digits' a little less delicate than others!).
It’s difficult for us developers and designers at web design agencies to predict just how our latest website might look online. There are of course websites that are meant to emulate how it will look but they're not always accurate.
This is where Open Device Lab steps in to make life that little bit easier. We headed over to their offices at Aardman to test one of the responsive website designs we're currently working on. We were able to test it on multiple popular devices from the iPad to a Blackberry. In doing this we could avoid the on-line emulators, we didn't have to pester friends with a different phone to ours to "borrow it for a second".
At ODL we could use a pretty handy piece of kit called 'Ghostlab'. Ghostlab synchronises browser testing. It scrolls, clicks, reloads and form inputs across all connected clients. So what you're testing is not the simple page load, but the full user experience. We also had the option to abandon that and fiddle with each device individually which is good for spotting usability issues that could possibly go unnoticed otherwise.
ODL Bristol are sponsored by the digital marketing agency 'Noisy Little Monkey', these guys made us feel super welcome and we were comfortable knowing we had coffee and support at hand (if required). More importantly, we left feeling we had done a thorough job of testing for our client.
So what did this cost us?... absolutely nothing. We're not sure if that's ever due to change but at the moment so long as you book ahead, you're welcome to pay them a visit. A the moment this gem feels like our little secret but you know what we're like at Focus, we promise to keep you guys updated with all things digital and this is definitely worth 'whispering' about.
Created on Monday December 01 2014 04:42 PM
We're looking to increase the technical team at Focus with the addition of an experienced front-end web developer, who will work on projects and campaigns big and small across a range of sectors for the likes of Bristol City Council, The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland, Scottish and Southern Energy and the Department of Health.
As well as technical excellence we're looking for bags of enthusiasm and a genuine passion for digital and for creating usable and innovative web sites and applications. The right person will have real input into the technology we use and the solutions that we create.
Candidates should have a good few years commercial experience in building accessible and responsive web sites, with an impressive portfolio of work. This is a technical position rather than design-based, so skills and experience should include:
- solid HTML5 / CSS3.
- Bootstrap and full knowledge of building responsive web sites using semantic HTML and CSS.
- experience of integration with back-end code – ideally any MVC database backed framework (we use Ruby on Rails).
- full understanding of cross-browser and cross-device testing and fixes.
- excellent communication skills: you’ll be meeting clients and talking them through projects.
Nice to haves:
- SASS and SCSS.
- UX / wireframing experience and the ability to create a clean, functional interface.
- SVN / Git.
- knowledge of W3C-WAI Accessibility guidelines.
Salary will be between £24k and £30k dependent on experience and skills.
Other benefits include great location in modern office facilities, subsidised restaurant, flexible working including work from home, minimum 23 days holiday and Christmas shutdown.
Applications should be sent by email to include your background and lots of information about yourself! Any work you can point to as your own would be appreciated as well.
Strictly no agencies please - we operate a 'name and shame' policy on those agencies that can't take 'no' as an answer :-)
Closing date for applications: 26th Sept 2014.
Created on Tuesday September 09 2014 01:13 PM
The BIG launch! The new-look "Go Places to Play" is here - an online park finder that makes it easy for you and your family to enjoy fun and exciting play opportunities in and around Bristol.
We've recently redesigned goplacestoplay.org.uk for Bristol City Council so that it not only looks better than before but it works better. "Go Places to Play" is now even more intelligent so that you can find parks and play areas far more quickly and efficiently. We understand that you live busy lives and need information at your fingertips - wherever you may be. The site is now responsive so it is easy to use on smartphones, tablets and laptops. This means you can quickly find your nearest park when you're out and about. You can click on map points to get further information about the park or site you are interested in, or you can use the postcode search to bring up sites in your area.
The online calendar means you can search for local events that suit your requirements and interests. You'll be provided with results if you search using a relevant keyword, or you can find something more specific using the handy advanced search which allows you to search by event type, location and distance from your chosen postcode.
There are also some great ideas for play featuring tips and suggestions from our Play friends and partners - a particularly good resource for the school holidays. Plus, our brand new FAQs section answers many of the common questions we get asked.
As before the option is there to register as an event organiser which means you can upload your own events to feature on the events calendar. Once approved you will see them published.
People like to feel as though they are a part of a website and the 'community' that use it. Interaction is key so if you find something you like on Go Places to Play you can "Share with a friend". Regular news updates also ensure that everybody is on top of all that's going on. It's a site that seems to have people talking, if you want to be a part of the excitement please like the Go Places to Play Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/goplacestoplaybristol or better still, go and check out the site to see for yourself!
Created on Tuesday August 05 2014 04:16 PM
'Big Wecil' has been the affectionate name throughout the summer for one of our larger and more complex projects - which gets it's first serious airing tomorrow (Wednesday 11th September) at Disability Somerset - the south west's leading independent living exhibition.
We're not going to give too much away at this stage, but it's a hugely exciting and innovative way for adults who require social care to plan their care and manage their personal budgets - all in line with the ongoing requirements from government for more personal choice and decision making.
'Big Wecil' has been designed from scratch to work across all platforms and devices, such as iPads and iPhones, includes lots of features to enhance accessibility, and throughout the project there's been a real focus on system usability. The software looks set to provide a truly collaborative environment for professionals such as GPs, social workers and health visitors.
With the BBC and other news outlets at tomorrow's exhibition, we're looking forward to revealing a little more about the project - meanwhile as we might be on telly, we need to go and check our hair.....
Created on Tuesday September 10 2013 11:36 AM
Retail analysis from Capgemini has revealed that online retail has got off to a fast start in 2013 - with 16% growth on the same period last year. This against a background of traditional retail and the high street continuing to struggle in tough economic times.
The same report is predicting overall growth in online sales of 12%.
So what are the big trends and changes that online shop owners should be keeping an eye on for the coming year, to ensure they take advantage of this growing sector?
1. Mobile / Responsive Design
2012 was the year of responsive web design - and the stats show that retailers need to stay on top of their mobile offering during 2013. The same Capgemini report states sales through mobile devices were up 193% in January 2013 compared to same period 2012. "Mobile commerce is here to stay", it states. "No longer are customers shopping from their sofas at home, but instead spotting products in store and choosing to purchase online instead on the grounds of cost or convenience."
The goal of responsive design is to give shoppers the same user experience independent on what device they are using to access online stores: a desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone or 55 inch TV screen. A responsive eCommerce store adapts itself to be viewed in an ideal manner on any screen size. Combined with Google's new Enhanced AdWords, targeting users with specific devices with pay-per-click ads has never been easier.
There's so much that goes into mobile commerce (M-Commerce) that it deserves a blog post of it's own - so that'll be coming soon.
2. Product Images and Videos
Customers are faced with massive choice; a store that can show them clear, fast loading images of their desired products stands better chance of conversion than using small, ineffective product photographs that reveal no detail.
Videos are increasingly important in helping customers decide that a product and a shop are for them. This is especially relevant where complex products are being sold, or products where it's difficult for a customer to view it 'in situ'. A demonstration video of a product working can be very useful. Videos also lend themselves for use in social media campaigns and platforms such as YouTube and Twitter - helping drive more genuinely interested traffic to your store.
3. Content, Content, Content
Keep it short - attention spans seem to be getting less and less all the time. Content should be benefit led, highly readable, SEO friendly - yet concise so that it appeals to visitors - tricky stuff!
But an effective content strategy that's followed throughout the entire store can really make the difference in conversion rates. Don't forgot to apply these principles to information pages - such as delivery details and how customers return items.
Collecting personal information has always been a sensitive topic - never more than during the rather strange implementation of new cookie laws in 2012 - but I'm not sure the average user is too worried about giving personal data in return for a more enjoyable and personalised online experience.
2013 will see agencies like Focus continue to see how personalised content can be implemented and presented - using the wealth of information gained from analytics, browsing and order history, user behavior and user preferences. Today, users have 'Amazon like' expectations from eCommerce stores, and advances in technology mean this functionality no longer out of reach for online retailers.
5. Conversion Rate Optimisation
CRO is nothing new - but in 2013 with competition never more intense, it's crucial that store owners don't waste traffic once it's arrived.
Made up of trends already mentioned - such as content strategy, mobile and personalisation - CRO adds the need to stay on top of technical developments and user expectations. For example: isolated checkouts have shown to have beneficial effects on conversion rate. Simple changes can make dramatic differences.
A/B testing and external user testing are more accessible as ever - store owners need to make an ongoing commitment to CRO, too much money is spent on acquiring new customers, only to lose them when they arrive at a store that doesn't work for them.
Created on Monday February 25 2013 11:13 AM
We've recently launched a new ticketing system for our friends at Barriers Direct (http://www.barriersdirect.co.uk), and it contains some interesting features, and some close integration with the rest of the back office systems, that I'll briefly outline here.
For those that don't know, a ticketing system is a little like a to-do list that can be shared amongst people, and records status as things change. For instance, if a client enquiry comes in, we can assign it to the most relevant person to deal with it. Perhaps they have to query something with accounts before responding to the client, so they can assign the query there. Accounts respond, and assign it back again -- and so on until the ticket is finally completed and marked as closed.
Every action is time stamped with who said what and when. Unlike email, the entire thread of activity is available to all relevant people at all times - it's not hidden away in people's Inboxes and Sent Items. For instance, there's no more thinking that you sent this task to Bob yesterday, but he's off today, and wondering if he did anything with it - you can check the ticket, and see that Bob forwarded it to accounts. Now, someone else can follow up in his absence.
As people do tend to check email very regularly, however, the ticketing system sends various emails to let them know there are things waiting for them - it emails people when tickets are assigned to them, and emails daily summaries of outstanding tickets, for instance.
The team at Barriers Direct use extensive reporting facilities within Quantum to keep track of their business, and tickets mean they can produce reports of how many requests come in, what the different types of requests are, and how long it takes to respond to them -- and how that all changes over time.
The ticket system is integrated right into Focus's Quantum website administration system, which manages the order system too, and that allows us some tight integration that wouldn't be possible with a 3rd party ticketing solution; lists of orders highlight those with tickets associated with them, for instance, and vice versa, from the ticket you can get to the full details of the order in just one click.
If you're interested in knowing more about a ticketing system, either for an existing or new website - please do give us a ring, or drop us an email and we'd be very happy to talk to you!
Photo copyright Andres Rueda, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
Created on Thursday January 31 2013 10:18 AM
We're very excited to have launched a charity microsite for MS Ireland and it's been seriously good fun! The site is vibrant and energetic which perfectly reflects the excitement of MS Ireland's upcoming READaTHON.
The month long event kicks off on October 12th 2012 and is their biggest fundraising event. It was 25 years ago that the late, great Roald Dahl launched the first campaign. Ever since then the MS READaTHON has been encouraging young people to read while raising much needed funds for services to those living with Multiple Sclerosis in Ireland. The concept is straightforward; Children are sponsored by family and friends to read as many books as they can in one month, it's simple but extremely effective.
With the design theme focusing on monsters that eat books we've gone back to our childhoods here at Focus and let our imaginations run wild! We threw in scratches, claws and bite marks, adding character and a sense of chaos. We have also emphasized the fun factor and encouraged interaction by embedding videos and games.
The site, just like the event, appeals not only to kids and teenagers but adults too. So, why not enjoy yourself and do a great thing for charity by getting involved? You’ll be glad you did!
Created on Wednesday September 12 2012 09:06 AM
The next in a series of projects we've completed over the summer - and it's a big well done to Annette, Steve and Jordana from Team Focus for their work on the new Pace web site, launched in mid August.
Pace are a design consultancy based in Clevedon - managing creative projects for Lloyds TSB, the NHS, Clevedon School and Merlin Housing Society, amongst others.
The new site shows off Pace's refreshed brand and range of design services and also includes a blog that is regularly updated by the entire Pace team. We've also integrated the site with their Twitter profile so that it features latest updates - a nice touch in helping to send traffic both to their social media account and web site.
Nick Cleeve, MD at Pace says:
"We've found Focus to be so easy to work with right through our web site development. They had a professional approach,understanding our business and exactly the direction we wanted to take it forward in. As the business owner I'm not used to being managed, but Annette managed us well, keeping us focused on the end goal and working together as a partnership to achieve the final result.
We've had nothing but positive feedback on our new site since go-live, and I look forward to an ongoing relationship with the team at Focus."
See the new Pace web site at:
Created on Friday August 24 2012 11:15 AM
Last week we had the pleasure of launching (no pun intended) a new web site for our friends at Bristol Balloons. We manage 3 sites for the Balloons team and this year we were approached about providing an updated and refreshed design to the flagship of these 3 sites, Bristol Balloons.
It wasn't just the front end that required an update; we have to undertake a complete bespoke development upgrade of the entire back-end system as well.
We've been working long and hard over the last couple of months on developing a back-end system which will prove to be much more flexible and productive for the team at Bristol Balloons.
Design wise we've used the space available in terms of the width and also made key elements available 'above the fold'. The design is centred around striking images that really sell the experience of a balloon flight to users. The new clearer language, navigation and 'call to actions' will have a real positive effect on the conversion rates of the site.
We've also ensured that the new checkout process follows best practice techniques in order to reduce the number of drop-offs and ensure purchases are completed both quickly and easily.
In the limited time that the site has been live we've seen a reduction in both Exit and Bounce rates, which is extremely encouraging. Over the next few months we'll be monitoring the key analytics of the site with a view to updating the other two sites; Bath Balloons and Ballooning Network.
So if you're looking for a special treat, that once in a life time experience or just want to see our handy work, why not take a look at what Bristol Balloons has to offer....
Created on Wednesday June 20 2012 03:30 PM
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