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Fab new site for Findability Bristol

Fab new site for Findability Bristol

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!

Annette Ryske

Created on Tuesday March 13 2012 10:10 AM

Tags: website accessibility bristol disability

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Pinterest? What is it?

Pinterest? What is it?

I’ve been reading about Pinterest for a while now, but hadn’t really taken too much notice, a bit like FourSquare it seemed to mainly attract the US audience.

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

Tags: pinterest bookmarking

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Accessibility and Captcha

Accessibility and Captcha

At Focus we always try to adhere to the 'latest accessibility standards', a phrase which is often easy to say but requires some practical investigation when developing new projects. Recently I was required to research the possibility of using javascript on a text only version of a website and the possible problems this might cause. Without the ability to ask screen readers users, a survey of 1245 people at was the next best thing. I was surprised to find that as high as 98% of users had javascript enabled, an increase from 75% - 90% in the 2009 screen reader survey. This gave the indication that javascript would be a viable option.

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. 

Steve Fenn

Created on Friday February 17 2012 02:41 PM

Tags: web-development accessibility captcha logicpuzzles

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The Future of Facebook

The Future of Facebook

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

Tags: facebook social ipo future

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When Design is Irrelevant

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

Tags: website open-source twitter web-design

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So many choices, so little time

So many choices, so little time

So recently I've started thinking about our first camping trip of the year, maybe we'll be brave and go early Spring time. But before we can go we really need some new sleeping mats, one of ours has an undetectable leak and frankly they are horribly uncomfortable anyway.

We paid a visit to a couple of Outdoors shops after Christmas, and had a look at what was available in their sales. But this wasn't enough choice. So we've gone online and looked at their full range, plus some other high street retailers' websites. And then some other, online-only retailers. We now have a lot of choice, too much in fact.

So we've started reading reviews and feedback and scores-out-of-ten from users of various mats, which has been really interesting and informative, and given us ideas for other sleeping mats that we hadn't yet considered. We're checking Amazon and eBay for their best deals, and pricing comparison sites too. Just when we think we've made a decision, along comes a bad review, or a price discount on another mat that was originally out of our budget, and off we go again on the rollercoaster of indecision.

I love the internet, don't get me wrong. It never ceases to amaze me, it gives me options and solutions and endless knowledge. I'm empowered by facts, figures and statistics at my fingertips… plus the bargains can be incredible. And I know how lucky I am to have all this choice and be in a position to purchase. BUT. And it is a BUT. It's almost spoiled my shopping experience for these flipping sleeping mats. I'm now stuck in an endless cycle of reviews and best prices, and can't go camping until we get it sorted!

I'm sure we'll give ourselves a deadline, and the decision we make will be all the more rounded and satisfactory, knowing we know all we can possibly know about the mats' thickness, durability, weight, inside leg measurement… And then we'll be onto choosing a campsite. Uh-oh. Here we go again…

Annette Ryske

Created on Monday January 23 2012 01:21 PM

Tags: shopping travelling search reviews comments

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5 year old vs Hackers

I spend a large part of my evening juggling jobs, making tea, helping with homework and finding swimming goggles - amongst other things - so when my 5 year old daughter wanted to play some games on my laptop that she had played at school that day, I was glad of the brief sit down to look at them with her.
After 5 minutess of realising these games were just on the school computers, up popped a Barbie game which immediately took her interest away from "educational" games! With only 10 mins 'till dinner I left her happily sitting at the table, dressing Barbie in different outfits and thinking that I had found something else to occupy her in those few minutes in between other activities.
This morning whilst looking at the news I came across an article on the BBC website about hackers targeting children’s websites; the example they use was a Dora the Explorer cooking game (which I would say is aimed at 4 to 6 year olds). The article was basically saying we need to teach our younger kids about hackers - but at what age do they think children understand this? My 8 year old already has a list at home from school, which we have to fill in every time he learns a "responsibility" about the internet. I am not convinced he totally understands but at least he has an idea - a 5 year old is something else!

So now as well as learning to read and write, does she need to learn about hackers too? Or can that go on my ever increasing list of things to do...

Kirsty White

Created on Tuesday January 17 2012 01:32 PM

Tags: website youth

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The future of online in mobile and TV?

The future of online in mobile and TV?

I like most people have read the countless amounts of predictions for 2012, most, if not all, mention how mobile is going to make a large impact on the future of online. I wrote a blog article last year saying that sites should consider mobile to complement desktop development. This year companies will see that they need to evolve their web presence to incorporate mobile or be missed by a large number of visitors. Visitors will spend less time, visit fewer pages and bounce more from sites they cannot view through mobile devices.

Smartphone and iPhone use in the UK is growing at a huge rate almost on a daily basis – I saw a figure this week that over 6m iOS devices were registered on Christmas Day, imagine the figure for Android devices!

People are also coming round to the idea of tablets; many were sceptical if there was a marketplace for such a device. I was one of these…until I got my iPad. I hardly use my laptop now.

Another big change, maybe not to web development, but to the way people interact with online is going to be smart TV’s. They’ve been around for a while, but this year it’s going to enter the mainstream. With the Olympics, Euro 2012 and the Diamond Jubilee retailers are going to be slashing prices and pushing us all to buy that new 50” TV. There have been some interesting developments this week from the CES of a Google TV, Apple TV set and an Angry Birds app! I have a TiVo box from Virgin and I can now watch YouTube videos, catch up on missed programs or radio shows through the iPlayer, I could even view photos on Facebook or post updates to Twitter – all through my TV.

Online is being integrated into our lives on a daily basis and 2012 will bring with it many changes – some of which could be game changers whether we are users, web developers or designers……interesting times ahead for us all!

Created on Wednesday January 11 2012 10:37 AM

Tags: mobile-internet online-tv internet digital 2012 video web iphone ipad apps smartphones

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Welcome to 2012

Welcome to 2012

So it’s here 2012, the year that promises much. The Olympics comes to Britain, the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, and the nation’s expectations will once again be on the national football team in Poland and Ukraine during the summer months.

2012 also represents a significant year in Focus’s long history, we are going to be launching a new of services during the year and have some very exciting things lined up! We’ll be spreading the word on this throughout the year. We also think that 2012 is going to be a BIG year for digital – the internet is maturing, social media is heading into its teenage years and mobile is growing and growing.

We hope 2012 is a great year for you all! 

Created on Tuesday January 03 2012 02:33 PM

Tags: focus

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A Yummy Christmas

A massive thank you to Barriers Direct for our Christmas present which arrived this morning!

Our Xmas Pressie!

Annette Ryske

Created on Tuesday December 20 2011 01:17 PM


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