We blogged a while ago about our use of Twitter's Bootstrap project on some of out internal sites. We're in the middle of a redesign for Bristol Balloons and we've been using Twitter Bootstrap as the CSS foundation for the design of the site. We've found that the process of styling internal pages has sped up considerably whilst still producing excellent results (if we do say so ourselves). We get good looking styling from the get go which can then be customised to fit the design rather than starting with a blank slate. We've also found that we're producing CSS/HTML builds which are rock solid in IE (7 and above) without the need for time consuming debugging and CSS hacks.
Twitter Bootstrap seems to be to internal styling what a grid system is to page scaffolding.
We're still in the process of deciding when we use this approach but it's certainly an interesting one. There is still much for us to explore here, particularly the responsive design elements it provides, so watch this space.
Created on Thursday April 19 2012 12:00 AM
In the Autumn of 2011 we had a review of the first six months of 2011/12 regarding the performance of the web sites and from this put together a plan for the next six months. The main aim was increasing traffic and user engagement of the sites.
Over the last 6 months we've been working closely with the BCC team and introduced a monthly update schedule that is used to create new content for the site; this includes news articles and polls along with updates to the video content on the site.
In Q1 and Q2 of 2011/12 10 news articles were created for Go Places Do Things with the news page achieving an average of 15 views per month. In Q3 & Q4 we produced 35 news articles and achieved an average of 40 views per month, not bad considering that Q2 is the busiest period for the site and Q3 is the quietest.
The additional news articles and regular updates made to the Go Places To Play web site meant that we have DOUBLED the traffic between 2010/11 and 2011/12. Our news articles have also ensured that we were ranking for specific keywords in organic search rankings. The figures really do show that content is a brilliant way of engaging and increasing users whilst ensuring that your site is refreshed. A news / blog page is a very simple way of achieving this.
Another really interesting statistic which can up was the increase in mobile traffic. We had a jump from 4% average in 2010/11 to 14% average in 2011/12 for Go Places To Play (including a massive 20% in Q4). We know mobile traffic is increasing on a weekly if not daily basis, but the 1 in 5 visitors statistic for Q4 was one which really did surprise me.
We'll be working closely with BCC to ensure that mobile visitors are as engaged as our desktop visitors.
Created on Thursday April 12 2012 08:36 AM
I was living in Hamburg, painting, when it suddenly came to me; I'm going to be a Graphic Designer. So, I boarded the plane to Bristol and began a degree in the subject. Circumstances meant I did freelance graphics by the side of unrelated jobs for a few years including a role at a law firm in Abu Dhabi. I never gave up though and finally nabbed that dream job, so here I am at Focus.
As my start date crept ever closer, excitement turned to nerves and I wasted a week worrying about the week to come. As it turns out nobody here breathes fire and I haven't fallen flat on my face... yet.
On my first day there was a casual mention of an upcoming hot air balloon ride which I foolishly took as a harmless prank on the new girl. My mistake, I should have known really. I'm surrounded by creatives with over-active minds, of course a pleasant lunch wouldn't be their idea of a team building exercise, unless the buffet is 3,000 feet high.
This, like my time here so far is quirky, surprising, exciting and definitely keeps me on my toes, the only difference is nobody here is full of hot air. I couldn't ask for a nicer bunch to be 'stuck' in a basket with. I can honestly say that I look forward to going in to work each day and getting stuck in. The intelligence behind web design is fascinating and I am fortunate enough to be involved in both the marketing and the design side of things. These guys really know their stuff and I intend to soak it up up like a sponge. An irritating sponge that eavesdrops on their conversations, but that demonstrates a willingness to learn, right?
I'm sure there are plenty more surprises in store for me here and I can't wait. I want to thank everybody at Focus for being so welcoming and of course for all the cups of tea!
Created on Thursday April 05 2012 09:58 AM
Change Tracker is a new web tool that we’ve launched this week with South Gloucestershire Council . The Change Tracker tool has been developed to help parents, professionals, children and young people assess how support plans are meeting their needs.
Change Tracker has been developed as a tool for practitioners to use within their own settings and services in South Gloucestershire. It aims to support planning to improve outcomes for children and young people, and also to measure the progress that each plan achieves.
It is hoped that children, young people and their families will be involved in using Change Tracker as a means of engaging them in being a part of every support plan, and also to support them in objectively defining their own needs and desired outcomes. The tool has been designed to be used by a range of partners in a variety of settings and this website is just one representation of the information.
The functionality that we’ve developed for this site includes providing users with the ability to ‘browse’ the main question headings or use a ‘search’ function to create an assessment, with the added ability to re-order questions through a simple drag and drop facility. During an assessment if there are any responses given that may cause concern, a non-intrusive message appears with links to additional pages for where to get help.
The design of the website needed to be a clean, fresh and modern design that reflects professionalism and is also engaging for any young people using the tool. The final design is based around providing positive change and we think the cartoon sunrise captures this perfectly.
It's been a pleasure to be involved in such a worthwhile and fulfilling project, you can check out the site HERE!
Created on Wednesday March 28 2012 08:18 AM
So by now you’ve probably seen that your profile and your friends have changed to the new Timeline feature on Facebook…do you like it? Not many people seem to…I however, am a fan.
When I saw that Facebook was rolling out to the brand pages I was looking forward to seeing the results. We look after a few Facebook pages for our clients, so I was keen to see what the difference would be.
First impression was that this format is better – key thing for me is that it looks more modern, easier to promote specific posts, and I’m happy the page gating is gone…too many pages have far too many gates for my liking and some pages you came across had a 20 strong list of gates for each campaign they were running.
So what’s changed? Well quite a bit..I’ve detailed below the main changes that I see:
Cover Photo – this is the first thing people will see...there are some new guidelines from Facebook on this, which focus on removing the promotional element of page gates.
Tabs – these have replaced the links on the left hand side of the old layout and you have the ability to choose 3 of the 4 featured tabs.
About – the ‘About’ section has been given prominence underneath the profile picture.
Messages – users have the ability to message brand pages.
Admin Panel – the new admin panel provides page owners with insights and notifications all in one place.
History – users can easily and quickly go through your status updates, photos, posts quick and easily with the history panel.
Pinning and Highlighting – page owners have the ability to pin and highlight posts to give more prominence to important updates.
With the rollout happening on 30th March…next week is your last chance to make amends to your page before it’s released to the public
Created on Friday March 23 2012 10:40 AM
Last week we proudly launched a great new site for Findability Bristol. It’s an online directory for disabled children and their families, offering information about services, organisations and events in Bristol.
We’ve loved working on the site with the Findability team, and especially enjoyed developing some of its more engaging features, including:
• Changing home page image every time you visit
• Advanced search, enabling postcode and category filters
• Scrolling events calendar
• Site accessibility features such as Text Resize and Text Only
• Blog – enabling the Findability team to keep in touch with users.
Findability is a Bristol-based portal site for 1Big Database, an online community database we set up for Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire back in 2004. Findability filters data from 1BD for it’s relevance to disability, and reflects this in the results it shows to the user. It’s an ongoing project, relying on the listees’ details being updated regularly and accurately, therefore providing better and more relevant results for users as time goes on.
We’re delighted to have been a part of such a worthwhile project, and would thank the partnership involved:
• 1Big Database (Bristol City Council, Bath & North East Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council)
• Bristol Parent Carers
• BCC Disability Communications Group.
Check out the site here!
Created on Tuesday March 13 2012 10:10 AM
It was one article in particular I read a few weeks back regarding Pinterest that really caught my attention. It was an infographic displaying the difference between US and UK users. In the US over 80% of users are female and the top categories are weddings and interior design. In the UK it’s a more even split with just over 55% of users being male and the top categories are things like SEO and technology.
Not surprisingly this caught my attention…so I signed up for my invite which duly arrived within a few hours. I signed up through my Facebook account and started to browse through the many categories. Now I like browsing on sites, I like clicking links from Facebook to something my friends have read or watched or a piece posted by a journalist on Twitter. So Pinterest is right up my street.
Some people may think this is just another Digg or StumbleUpon – which to be fair, it kind of is. To me this is a site where all my bookmarks can be kept in one place with a nice image from that page… which is easier to remember than the text bookmarks in folders on a browser.
You can also create boards, so let’s say like the majority of US users you’re organising a wedding, you can create a board specifically for this and pin your links to it – and the great part is that you can also get your friends to pin stuff to it!
From the initial nose around and some subsequent visits I’m finding myself spending more and more time on Pinterest – and as I’ve read it could be a traffic source that could become as large as Google, Facebook and Twitter. Why not check it out for yourself and let us know your thoughts…Pinterest
Created on Tuesday February 28 2012 10:00 AM
I started to look into other features that we had implemented to help with accessibility and just to update my knowledge on the biggest problems for users with reduced access. There were several issues that you would expect to see high up the list, such as; missing alt tags, poor keyboard accessibility and inaccessible flash. The most problematic item however was captcha. Captcha is Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, you will often see it when trying to complete forms.
Captcha has the issue of needing to provide security against bots whilst allowing users to still gain access. On some websites I will get the captcha wrong several times so I can imagine a user with poor eyesight would find it impossible. W3 suggests logic puzzles, sound output and non-interactive checks such as heuristic checks (detecting bots using the volume of data the user requests and other background methods) as good possible solutions to solve adding security to websites without reducing access.
We have been implementing a logic captcha gem which produces questions such as "In the following list how many animals are there: cat, blue, red, lion, yellow?" This gives the user the chance to prove they are not a bot but does not need any extra features for text only or high contrast versions. reCAPTCHA also has improved accessibility from previous versions, adding better keyboard support and sound output. There are several other implementations with positives and negatives as well.
The accessibility and usability of the websites we create will always be a high priority however we can only keep up these standards if our knowledge of what users need is up to date. Our 'next text captcha' is an example of how we try to implement accessibility best practices across our websites.
Created on Friday February 17 2012 02:41 PM
A lot of people are talking about the Facebook IPO and the changes that it may bring; THE social network will no longer be answerable to only themselves but will have opened up to the pressure of shareholders. I’ve worked for a public listed company – share price matters! If the share price drops someone has to take responsibility.
I’ve also noticed the last few weeks bring up some interesting articles on the new Timeline feature (I’m a huge fan, I have to say), but quite a few are slating the new profile style. It’s very Marmite.
2012 is going to be a huge turning point for Facebook. I’ve noticed a number of friends on Facebook saying that they are leaving and to contact them through email or phone. I myself went through a massive Facebook cull of old school friends or people I met years ago that I don’t speak to. I used the analogy of I was walking down the street would I stop and speak to these people or look the other and pray they didn’t notice me. I cut my friends list by over 100 people!
I’m not saying Facebook is going to nosedive like MySpace did, but I was on MySpace – I used it religiously for new music, talking with friends, etc. Now I use Facebook. A lot. I have the iPhone app, the iPad app, I log in on my laptop – I share news, photos, videos, I chat with friends in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. I recently posted the 20 week scan picture of my new baby before I had told most people my partner was even expecting – it’s easier than multiple calls or texts.
It will be interesting to see the changes that happen this year and also next – will the pressure of shareholders drive visitor numbers away (which will change the landscape for businesses advertising on Facebook) or will the billion dollar revenues mean the company consistently innovates as it has been the last 6 years? Only time will tell.
Created on Friday February 10 2012 10:03 AM
No-one is going to argue that the better a site's design the easier it is to use. Understanding content, features and functionality on a badly designed website is hard. Getting excited about it is impossible. The mental hurdles your brain needs to go through to look beyond the way a site looks is too high for users to form an objective view. The same site with and without good design simply isn't the same. You can't expect people to be able to look beyond the difference.
So what to do when building a site where the branding requirement is near zero and the message is all important? We'd recommend a solution such as Twitter's Bootstrap project. It provides clean and professional styles for all the common elements a site needs. As well as this the styling is restrained enough that your message can shine through. Built to work in all major browsers to a very high standard it allows you to keep the time required to style a site to a minimum on projects for which the requirement for design is at a minimum!
Faced with this issue when building internal and demonstration sites we use Twitter's Bootstrap project.
Just because the design is irrelevant doesn't mean it's not important.
Created on Thursday February 02 2012 03:24 PM
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