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articles tagged with: web-development


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BCC and Focus join forces for the ENGAGE_YOUTH workshop

BCC and Focus join forces for the ENGAGE_YOUTH workshop

I have had the pleasure this morning to support Les Compton of Bristol City Council with presenting our website Go Places Do Things at the Engage event at the Watershed.

The workshop was arranged to discuss digital tools for participation and active citizenship with participants from the UK, Germany and Denmark.

ENGAGE is a continuing professional development programme for European youth workers who wish to understand the new ICT-enabled culture and explore how web 2.0 and social media tools can help to extend and enhance their practice.

Les and I went along to talk about our participation with young people while developing and evolving the GPDT site, as well as discussing the challenges that we have faced and the plans for the future. We discussed the access we have given to youth workers and other activity providers for adding their own events and direct feeds that have been set up from the BCC events online and 1 Big Database.

After Bristol the programme will move to Aarhus, Denmark and then on to Hannover in Germany where participants will continue to develop their understanding of how developments in ICT and online technologies can amplify and extend the voice of young people in European society.

The session was really interesting and we had the opportunity to discuss the other online solutions that people have set up, as well as talking about how to get young people to participate and engage as young editors on website content.

I will certainly be following the progress of the programme via the Engage website and will be looking to keep in touch with some of the participants at the workshop.




Michael Cooper (W3C WAI) on Usability and Accessibility

Michael Cooper (W3C WAI) on Usability and Accessibility

I've just come back from a very interesting lunchtime lecture entitled: WCAG 2.0 for usability specialists by Michael Cooper (from W3C WAI).  It is the second of two events I've attended this year advertised on the 'Bristol Usability Group' network, and it was extremely informative.  Having attended the RNIB WCAG 2.0 one day course last year, I was interested in polishing up some knowledge on building accessible websites, but also in posing a few questions from the perspective of the buzz term 'User Experience'. The talk was really well organised and informative so thank you to Stuart Church from CX Partners for adding it to the Bristol Usability forum.

In his talk, Michael Cooper went through some of the beginnings of accessibility, as well as confronting a few common perceptions as to notions of what is usable, and what is not. 

For example he illustrated that whilst an image online might seem visible and helpful to the average user, without the magic [alt=""] attribute not visible to the average browser user,  it suddenly becomes unhelpful and positively annoying for the screen-reading user, as the random image url is read out loud in an effort to inform the user of it's presence. Whilst information like this is available at the W3C WCAG 2.0 Guidelines site, even Michael Cooper admits that the guidelines are 'carefully crafted to be precise, rather than to be easily read'.  Slightly ironic bearing in mind that one of the 4 key principles of accessibility is for content to be 'Understandable!'

One area of particular interest for me was the notion of a 'A', 'AA' or 'AAA' site. As with everything now, whilst definable in a court of law, what is black and white on paper is often grey in the light of day. 

As I had an official W3C WAI representative right there in front of me, I asked Michael if it was really possible to have a 'AAA' site, as some of the strictest 'AAA' guidelines seem to contradict each other. His response was interesting, and seemed to sum up the best-practise attitudes that are helpfully gaining some momentum in the web world today.

He said (paraphrased):  Yes, there can be 'AAA' standard websites, 'as long as you chose appropriate content for the specific user group, and don't use a conflicting combination of content'. 

User groups and users are ultimately who we're working for, even though we love our clients.  Whilst a bit simplistic, if we can help a user to use a site, then we are doing our job, and Michael Cooper's position on aiming to broaden the possible types and numbers of those users is a cause worth fighting for...even if that means trawling daily through the 'book-length' documentation that accompanies the WCAG 2.0 guidelines!

We look forward to this years release of PDF and Flash specific additional guidelines.

You can view the Talk notes here.

Created on Thursday April 08 2010 04:00 PM


Tags: web-development accessibility userexperience ux usability


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Helping to shape Bristol City Council's website strategy

Helping to shape Bristol City Council's website strategy

I attended an event this morning, organised by Bristol Media in partnership with Bristol City Council, to discuss the plans for the complete redevelopment of the Bristol City Council website and content management system.

Primarily the event was organised as an informal discussion surrounding the future of the website and the council’s wider digital offer.

The need to consult with the local digital community on their plans at an early stage was highlighted by Peter Holt (BCC’s Service Director of Communications) who recited a story about the disaster that Birmingham City Council faced when they unveiled their new website to a group of external web developers who proceeded to pull it to pieces and then create something better in the space of 48 hours!

After an overview of some of the issues with the existing platform, the vision for the new site and the plans for some data portals for public access to information, we were split into three separate discussion groups.

The sessions were set up to discuss “What ideas do we have for quick wins, and how best can we create an open environment where the local digital community can contribute to the site’s longer-term utilisation and exploitation?”.

Although in the introduction BCC highlighted that they required feedback on things such as the navigation for the site; social media and an enhanced user experience. The feeling within our group was generally that we needed more information from BCC, about who the site is for; the objectives for the site; the results from their usability audits and their findings from Google Analytics, so that we can begin to discuss and define how things such as blogs and widgets will be beneficial.

There were also many questions raised about the ‘open environment’ and how this will work if the platform BCC decide to use isn’t Open Source?

Obviously for us, we want to continue working on sites such as Go Places Do Things and 1 Big Database, where members of the council can be creative and have (almost) free reign over the content on the site, but with far more integration and information sharing between other BCC digital projects, including the new website.

I feel that the event was a step in the right direction for the council and by bringing the digital community together for a common cause they will have access not only to the best digital agencies in Bristol but access to a wealth of ideas and experience. The key now is how they use this information to move forward!




RVoice: A new website for Bristol's young people in care.

RVoice: A new website for Bristol's young people in care.

The Children in Care Council’s (CiCC) RVoice website went live today, after a year’s hard work and collaboration between the CiCC members and Reconstruct, Bristol City Council and Focus.

We carried out a workshop with the CiCC members to establish what was liked & disliked for the look and feel of the site as well as the functionality and information to be included. They were a really pro-active group of young people and very easy to work with, which is why I think we've ended up with such a great looking site.

The CiCC members, including 16 year old Becca, who is the chair of the council, have been actively involved in contributing content to the site and the administrators have been busy adding and tweaking the text, images and files via their new administration system.

Here's what Becca has to say about the new site:

The website is amazing! Its got a really good design which we children helped design. It's got everything you could need to know about being in care on there, and most important of all - it's got My Blog! I'm very excited about having my own blog and it means that other young people can read all about what me and the Children in Care Council are getting up to on their behalf and what changes we're making in Bristol.

The site's live now, so please go and have a look - it will be launched officially at the end of March.




1 Big Database - Ahead of the game!

1 Big Database - Ahead of the game!

The new Family Information Direct  programme (until 20 January 2010 the Parent Know How programme) has been set up to provide information, advice and support to all parents, carers and families on issues they may face with bringing up children.

All Local Authorities are required to submit their family information and childcare data to the national directory which can then be searched via a number of sources such as Direct Gov and now
1 Big Database.

The programme was officially launched in London on Tuesday 19th January where the DCSF recognised 1 Big Database as being ‘ahead of the game’ as it can already accommodate a search of the national information via the local system.

The Family Information services at Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council all keep their local information up to date via the 1 Big Database system, which has an automated feed to the national directory.

We’re dead chuffed that the hard work has paid off and been recognised on behalf of us and the whole 1BD team.

Created on Wednesday January 20 2010 04:04 PM


Tags: public-access web-development youth


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eCommerce Expo

I went along to the eCommerce Expo at London's Earls Court, to have a little sneaky peak at what's going on in the industry. I found the seminars interesting but always find it a little uncomfortable walking around and being 'pitched' at from every angle!

I went to the Google University Analytics Master Class where they took it back to basics and highlighted the main principles of getting the most out of your analytics including:

  • Set clear goals - understand what your website is for
  • Use the reports from your Google Analytics to drive the website forward - don't just use them to show your boss a nice report.
  • Ensure that many people in the organisation are aware of the analytics, what they show and what the objectives for the site are.

But over all make sure that you have a great web development team who can work with you, using the results from the analytics to put in changes for driving the site and retaining customers!

If you're interested you can view the seminars from the expo online at Seminar Stream

 

Created on Thursday October 22 2009 10:23 AM


Tags: google web-development e-commerce conference


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Working through WCAG 2.0

Last month I was privileged enough to have the opportunity to spend a day with the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) super-accessibility-squad, or SAS for short, and blown away by how much information can be picked up in just a day.

I was in the "Working through WCAG 2.0" day-long workshop, and I would recommend it to anyone who would like to work out some of the differences between the old and new Website Accessibility Guidelines, and/or learn some up-to-date best practises on attempting to meet these guidelines.

My experience was made even better because I was able to sit next to someone who only coded using screen-reading technology, and was therefore able to gain an insight into a level of accessibility know-how that I could not have gained any other way.

I was interested in the realistic approach taken by the RNIB. Whilst they have every right to scream and shout about the unbelievable amount of inaccessible material out there on and off the web, they instead pointed out the small things that you can quickly change to make a big difference to all of your users. This was the least that a user should expect from a website, allowing us all to progress into more complex issues with a good understanding of the standards expected by the RNIB.

Another interesting idea was that by trying to meet all AAA Priority guidelines in WCAG 2.0 could in fact exclude more users than aiming to meet the AA Priority guidelines and only a few but well chosen guidelines from AAA Priority! Obviously this is determined by the user group, but it was an interesting point that could only be really made by the experts!

Hopefully I've sung their praises enough, so please have a look for yourself as I would recommend this course to small and big companies alike, because this is the way web best-practise is definitely taking us.

Course details: http://www.rnib.org.uk/..../work_through_WCAG_2.0.aspx
Related article: http://www.rnib.org.uk/professionals/..../uk_law.aspx

Created on Wednesday October 14 2009 03:16 PM


Tags: website internet web-development wcag-20 accessibility training


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Brands and Young People

An interesting article this morning from NMA about how brands are failing to connect with young people.

The research, from Youthnet, shows that young people want to interact with the brand rather than be broadcast at about it - a concept that most marketing people are struggling to come to terms with. Our own work with young people through projects such as Go Places Do Things has always been interesting and when consulting with them they've always favoured functional elements such as forums, polls and news articles that allow them to leave their comments.

The article also mentions that 39% of teenagers go to a web site on the recommendation of a friend - only 1% behing Google - indicating how effective a viral campaign could be.

Simon Newing
Simon

Created on Wednesday October 14 2009 10:32 AM


Tags: website web-development social-networking youth


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Google Chrome OS

Following on from their successful launch of their open source browser, Chrome, Google have announced plans to launch their integrated operating system - Chrome OS - in a year's time.

"Speed, simplicity and security" are the key buzz words surrounding Chrome OS, with the initial launch geared towards netbooks (the small laptops used to perform simple web surfing/ email checking functions while out and about).

I've been using Google Chrome for the past six months and have been surprised at how quick and user friendly it is in terms of intuitive design.  I have also spoken to accountants who moved over to Chrome for after the major security issues with IE7 at the end of 2008.  If Chrome OS is built on the same principles of intuitive use and fast access, I'll be one of the first to try it out!

Created on Wednesday July 08 2009 10:49 AM


Tags: google operating-systems web-development


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Google Wave: worth the hype

Google WaveRather impressed by the Google Wave demo, launched just before the weekend.  The product promises to revolutionise communication, and it very well may prove to do just that!

Elements we like:

  • Real-time typing, together with the contextual spellcheck.  No more enigmatic pen shuffling nonsense - participants will see the message appear in the wave as soon as it is created. 
  • Drag and drop features - where anything on your desktop, file or previous wave can be dragged into a new one, and edited by anyone connected to the wave.  
  • The potential for collaboration.  This just takes Google Docs to an entirely different level! 
  • Playback allows you to catch up on how the wave developed, following sequential additions from the whole group, or individual participants. This also facilitates accountability as each wave can be audited (inspired by version control).

Mashable have written a decent review of the initial presentation, and have even managed to gain developer access to the alpha version.  Both pieces make good reading.

Wave looks like a gigantic leap forward in terms of web development, with the race to create the first apps already well under way.  

Google Wave

Created on Monday June 01 2009 07:06 AM


Tags: freedom-of-information google google-wave technology web-development


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