articles tagged with: web-development
We often get asked what language we use to build our sites, and as first point of contact with the client, I chirpily rattle off the reply: 'Ruby on Rails!' It sounds nice, comes with gems and I'm pretty proud of myself (as a non-tecchie) for even knowing that much!
But what does it mean? Why do we use Ruby over any other more widely used programming language? I realised I wasn't entirely sure, so set myself the task of finding out.
Rails is the framework that grew out of the development of the popular project management tool Basecamp
Open source, it enables people to use it and deploy 'commits' to it (contribute to its growth) and is increasing in popularity all the time. Some sites you may have used that are built in Ruby on Rails (apart from ours!) are:
So why do we use it? One reason, really: It's so much less complicated than some other programming languages.
Ruby on Rails is designed to use less code than other programming methods, meaning less repetition, quicker development times and less margin for error.
Its two main principles, Convention over Configuration and Don't Repeat Yourself, mean that it's more intuitive for programmers and enables them to programe more quickly and with A LOT less code. In short, we think it's better than anything else out there.
Drop us a line if you would like to know more!
Created on Tuesday May 24 2011 02:32 PM
A browser can be like that comfy pair of old slippers, it’s your friend, to take your walks around the internet in. It can be hard to break the habit of those old comfy slippers though, and try a new pair of slippers, even if they may allow you to walk a bit faster and trip you up less. You might not know your way round in them so well at first, they might not be the right fit for what you need or they could be a great improvement; maybe those old slippers are holding you back? With the launch of Internet Explorer 9 last week it’s time for us all to consider if our current browser really is the best fit.
For those less technical savvy amongst you, you may be shocked to know that there is more than one way to view the internet. You may still be using Internet Explorer thinking that that is as good as the internet can get, but let me introduce you to my friends, Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari. These different browsers offer different functionality some are better for macs (Safari) some are faster (Chrome) and some are safer (Firefox).
Internet Explorer has dominated the browser market for many years; in 2002 95% of web users were browsing through it, now that’s more like 45-50%. This is because the browser market has revolutionised in the last couple of years with the invention of browsers like Chrome and Firefox which offer faster web browsing, better functionality and a more intuitive web browsing experience. Internet Explorer 9 is Microsoft’s latest offering that is trying to win back its market share. It offers integration with Windows 7 to make browsing your favourite sites easier, and gives larger screen space to site contents by reducing the tool bars.
It’s free to download any of these browsers, so why not find out which is the right fit for you?
Created on Friday March 25 2011 02:03 PM
Puzzled Out, a tool for surveying young people about their experiences with mental health services is now up and running.
The site's main aim is to give young people an accessible platform to share their opinions about the services they have received and to feed back on what they would like to see changed. It's a first for us and will hopefully play a pivotal role in the way that mental health services are delivered to young people, by asking them what they need. We worked hard with CERNIS to ensure that these young people were involved at every stage of the design process and to make sure that the site was as easy to use as possible, whether you're 8 or 80!
Part of the challenge involved the building of a bespoke surveying tool, that would not only look attractive to those using it, but also deliver measurable results and reporting that could be segmented and interpreted by CERNIS. It's a fantastic tool that we're really proud of, and it looks pretty good too!
Created on Wednesday March 09 2011 04:50 PM
If you follow us on Twitter you may have seen our tweet stream go a little crazy last week. I was at Future of Web Apps - a 2 day conference for web developers (that’s me) featuring talks from the people behind some of the biggest companies on the web (Google, Opera, Mozilla, Flickr & TweetMeMe to name a few).
As the title implies, it’s all about web apps - web sites that deliver a product or service online and where the technologies behind them are going.
Here are a few highlights of the day.
The Future of HTML5, SVG and CSS3 (Brad Neuberg)
This talk was all about of future technologies of the web. I’ll try not to go all techie on this one, but basically the core technologies used to build websites are evolving. These progressions are allowing developers to build sites than run faster, look better and are more accessible. More features can be handled be your web browser without having to relay on third-party plugins (like flash). These features can include watching online video, easier to understand web pages for people using assistive technologies and amazing interactive animations in your web pages.
The 37signals way: A look into the design process of 37signals (Ryan Singer)
My favourite talk of the day, Ryan Singer is a product manager at 37 signals (the people behind Basecamp). This talk challenged the traditional wireframe, photoshop, code approach to the design process by almost turning whole thing on it’s head! The key points to take away were to focus on the business logic at the center first and get something running in the browser. Team members spend less time waiting on each other and your end design fits the content (rather than the other way round).
Location, Location, Location (Joe Stump)
There’s no doubt the future of web is mobile. The iPhone started the smart-phone revolution in 2007 and in the next couple of years mobile web browsing is expected to surpass browsing from the desktop. Whereas with the desktop web content was king, with the mobile web context is the new king. This is because the amount of data we’re producing is growing exponentially (side note: Joe claimed that every two days 2.6 million terabytes of data - which is the same amount we produced up until 2003). Without providing context to all the data we’re producing it’s useless.
The title is a little cryptic, but this talk introduced a very powerful tool for developing the latest generation of mobile web apps. The jQueryMobile project aims to provide a set of tools for creating great looking user interfaces across a plethora of mobile devices. The idea being developers can spend more time focused on implementing great features and less time debugging different devices. The ‘alpha’ release is due next week with the finished ‘1.0’ release in January.
Created on Monday October 18 2010 10:00 AM
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.
Created on Wednesday July 21 2010 12:25 PM
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
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!
Created on Tuesday March 09 2010 05:50 PM
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.
Created on Tuesday March 02 2010 08:58 AM
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
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
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