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What's Next? The Half Marathon?

What's Next? The Half Marathon?

"The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win" (Sir Roger Bannister)

Well thanks Roger, we weren't in it to win it but it certainly was painful. The Focus team have succesfully completed the much anticipated Bristol 10km race. Paul and Duncan have been pounding the streets for the last 2 months in preparation for the big race and it was well worth it. The guys were joined by almost 9000 other runners dressed in an array of outfits from Scooby Doo to flamingos and even a man dressed in a suit smoking a pipe.

The event was brilliant, well organised and great fun. Well done Bristol!! I think there may be talk in the office of a half Marathon next!

Created on Monday May 10 2010 12:00 PM


Tags: bristol training fundraising


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Play in Portsmouth launches!

Play in Portsmouth launches!

Today sees the launch of Portsmouth City Council's Play in Portsmouth website, to showcase play areas and adventure playgrounds across the city, funded through the Government’s Play Pathfinder project.

It was a great project to work on, and the site really reflects the principles of ‘play’; that it should be bright, fun and inclusive. Having worked on similar projects for Bristol City Council (Go Places To Play), we were in a really good position to understand their requirements and use our experience to deliver a site that not only looks great, but does everything it needs to.

One of the tenets throughout the project has been that: “Play is one of the defining characteristics of a good childhood and all children and young people have a right to play.” Judging by some of the big kids we have in our office, I’m not sure I’d limit it to just children and young people! Web developers like to play, too... 

Created on Friday May 07 2010 01:09 PM


Tags: website new-web-site youth fun games web-design play portsmouth playpathfinder


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The Election according to W3C

The Election according to W3C

In case you hadn't noticed, today (6th May) is polling day in the UK and we decided to do our own exit poll in another random attempt to see who will be in number 10 tomorrow.

However, we decided not to use the usual method of asking people who they will vote for, we decided to base our poll on whether the home page (ignoring any 'vote today' splash pages) of each party's web site validated against W3C standards. Yes, probably truly geeky. But relevant in a twisted sort of way, seeing as new media and such is seen as the new way to shout politics.

So, how did the big parties fare? Well.....
 - Lib Dems: failed with 1 error. (although they are the only ones to have declared against XHTML Strict - obviously.....)
 - UKIP: another failure, 10 errors and 2 warnings. Bad news for Mr Farage.
 - Green Party: 39 errors. Environmentally friendly, but not particularly accessible.
 - Conservatives: passed! Although there was one warning.
 - Labour. Oh dear. It looks like Gordon is in for a tough night - an incredible 286 errors and 45 warnings.   

So rounding up in true Paxman style, looks like Labour need to give us a call about getting their web site sorted.

Happy voting.

Simon Newing
Simon

Created on Thursday May 06 2010 08:27 AM


Tags: campaigns


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RVoice website launch event

RVoice website launch event

On Tuesday evening Emily and I attended the launch event of the Bristol City Council Pledge to Children in Care, which is supported by their new RVoice website – designed and developed by Focus.

We had lots of positive feedback from people at the event including Annie Hudson, Strategic Director for Children, Young People and Skills, who gave us a special thank you in her ceremonial cake cutting speech – which was much appreciated.

The site and The Pledge document have all been created with the same graphics and style – created by Simon Mosse our designer.

Now that the site is up and running we’ll continue to work closely with the Children in Care Council, Bristol City Council and Reconstruct to ensure that the content is kept up to date and interesting, as well as reviewing the usage, stats and goals for the site to keep it moving forward.

Created on Wednesday April 21 2010 03:01 PM


Tags: website youth web-design rvoice bristolcitycouncil


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New name, new website and whole new brand

New name, new website and whole new brand

Connexions West of England will now be known as Learning Partnership West. New name but same great service - committed to the participation, progression and achievement of all young people and adults in the West of England.

We have been working with Connexions since 1999 on various web development projects including five versions of their existing website, an intranet and campaign microsites and we are very happy to be involved in this latest venture.

Two new websites will be created - one for the Learning Partnership West, which will include the new corporate identity with information to support their key services – Education Business Partnership, Adult Careers and the additional Shared Commissioning Services. The second is a new interactive site for delivering the Connexions service direct to people aged between 13 – 19 years old (up to 25 for those with a learning difficulty or disability) to help with decisions and choices in life, education and work.

The Learning Partnership West site will be live at the beginning of June – you can have a sneaky peak at the new brand here http://www.lpw.org.uk/ and the new Connexions West site will follow in the summer.

Created on Thursday April 15 2010 09:52 AM


Tags: connexions intranet learning-partnership careers-advice


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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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Focus goes mobile!

Focus goes mobile!

Today sees the launch of our mobile site – a pared down version of the main website with all the essentials on there, including contact details, how to find us and our latest blog articles.

Of course, you’ll still be able to view the full site through your handset if you need to, but will have the option of mobile optimised browsing for when you’re out and about.

We’ve noticed the number of people accessing our site through their mobile has been steadily increasing over the last 6 months or so, and with many of our clients using iPhones, Blackberrys and other PDAs, we thought it was about time we tailored the site to their needs.

Morgan Stanley have predicted that mobile browsing will overtake browsing from a desktop as soon as 2013, with mobiles already overtaking desktops for gaining access to social networking sites. 91% of mobile internet users socialise online(!) compared with only 79% desktop users, according to the ecommerce journal.

Gone are the days when it was reasonable to assume that people would be viewing your site in 1024 x 768 resolution. With an estimated 16 million users in the UK alone using their mobiles to gain access to the internet, we wanted to ensure people could view the site in a format that’s most suitable for them.

We don’t think it’ll be long before everybody else is doing the same...

So, please take a look, and as always, let us know what you think!

Created on Tuesday April 06 2010 10:25 AM


Tags: website new-web-site mobile-internet focus


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'Listening' to the web with Addictomatic

'Listening' to the web with Addictomatic

Everybody knows the value of social networking these days, right? Any commercial organisation worth its salt will have a social media strategy in place, and be falling over themselves to implement and update it. (There's nothing sadder than a neglected Twitter feed or blog).

But how do you keep track of all your followers? How can you measure the effect - the buzz - created by all your hard efforts and updates? Simple. Addictomatic.

Branded with the strapline 'inhale the web', Addictomatic does just that. Whether for ego searches or general interest, Addictomatic 'listens' to the web, seeking out your search term, and delivers you real time results from Twitter, blog posts, YouTube and news articles. You're left with a snapshot profile of exactly what the web thinks of any given topic at any given time.

Now Addictomatic is not the only provider to offer this service. Google has recently launched its real time search, and while it is largely limited to search results returned from news sites currently, in theory it has the ability to monitor social networking sites too.

The beauty of Addictomatic is that you can personalise your page, moving, editing and deleting areas as necessary. Save it to your favourites and there you have it - a real time snapshot of what everyone on the web has to say about any given topic. With the season of Easter upon us, I searched for 'master chocolatiers' Lindt, and came up with all sorts, from recommended outlets to stories of those who'd been 'saved' by the chocolate.

Fun stuff, if a little addictive!




A digital budget?

A digital budget?

With the announcement of the launch of the Institute of Web Science (headed up by king of the internet himself - Tim Berners-Lee) and confirmation of the 50p 'Broadband Tax', many are hailing Alistair Darling's latest effort as a truly digitally minded budget.

Not that this is without its controversies - the desire to roll out 'superfast' broadband across 90% of the UK by 2017 may be a noble one, but not everyone wants to pay the 50p per month it's going to cost them to do it.

I guess the real question is whether broadband's a luxury or a utility? We think nothing of paying taxes to maintain our gas pipes - is there a great deal of difference between these and fibre optic cables? I'm not so sure.

The success of the Institute of Web Science remains to be seen, but with a promise to invest £30 million in it, you'd hope it would be worthwhile! It's going to be a collaborative project, based out of Oxford & Southampton Universities, designed to 'bridge the gap between businesses and commercialise web technologies' and put the UK at the forefront of the digital revolution.

It's a bold mission statement, but having Berners-Lee at the helm can only help!

 

Created on Thursday March 25 2010 11:57 AM


Tags: website budget-2008 investment broadband budget digital webscience berners-lee


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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!