24 Jun 2016

New Prospect website

One of the latest projects I’ve been involved with has recently gone live: Prospect, the professional’s union, has just launched their new website. I’ve been helping with the website's new mobile and tablet friendly design, but also with some major changes to the information architecture. The new design is responsive, a design approach that allows the template to change depending on the screen size being used to view the website. This means that users viewing on tablets or browsers see a slightly different layout than those on desktops, avoiding the need to zoom in and out to read the content
10 Jun 2016

What is link baiting?

If you want to attract more visitors to your website, then one effective approach is “link baiting”. This is where a website features content that is so compelling that people want to link to it through their own websites or social media accounts. This not only increases your visitor potential, but also boosts your website's overall performance in search engines, as sites receiving more links are ranked higher in search engines like Google. Blogging is a great platform for this. I've recently been working on the new FBU and Prospect websites, and we've made blogging far more prominent in both
24 Feb 2016

PHP 7 and the improvements to PHP 5

PHP is a website programming language. It’s the World Wide Web's most popular code, estimated to power over 80% of websites, including the likes of Facebook and Wikipedia. In December 2015, a major new version of PHP was released: PHP 7. PHP 7 is the first major upgrade to the language for more than decade. The main improvement is speed. PHP 7 is estimated to be around twice as quick as the previous version. It's also more memory efficient, using as little as half the amount of memory as before. There are also other benefits that programmers can use to enhance websites. However, there's one
31 Jan 2016

A look at Drupal 8

Drupal 8 was released at the end of 2015. This is a major new version of Drupal, the second most popular website CMS (Content Management System). WordPress is the most popular CMS, and is a great solution for smaller websites and blogs. I use WordPress regularly to build these types of sites. However, for larger sites that need more complex solutions, I find that Drupal is usually the best option. While many CMS systems release major updates frequently, Drupal tends to be more stable. The last major release was Drupal 7 in January 2011. This new version (Drupal 8) was released almost 5 years
27 Aug 2015

Should your website be encrypted?

When Google announced in August 2014 that it is now favouring sites that are entirely encrypted in search results, websites started switching, using the secure HTTPS protocol as default. Many sites already use encryption for key pages such as login or online purchases, but the new trend is to encrypt everything. Is this something your website should be doing? On 1st August 2014, HTTP Archive, a website which tracks trends in the World Wide Web, showed that 9% of web pages were encrypted. This figure jumped after Google’s announcement, and currently stands at 20%. One big reason behind this
16 Jul 2015

How big is your union website (2015)?

Recently, I’ve been looking at the sizes of union websites as a benchmarking exercise to inform a union website redesign project. I thought I’d share the results of the analysis, as it provides some interesting insights, in particular the huge variation in size. It’s difficult to say how much content a website should have. Having too much or too little content both have their pitfalls. A good range of high quality content is a positive, but too much content can bloat a website, making navigation and searching difficult and slow. Similarly, too little content will be of limited use to members
09 Jun 2015

How to improve your website navigation

As well as designing and building websites, I'm often asked to review existing sites to help improve them. One common problem I come across is poor navigation. Navigation can make or break your website. If visitors can’t find what they are looking for, they become frustrated and leave. This is especially the case for websites with lots of information, and many of the websites I've worked on fit into this category. While website navigation is a wide subject, there are some key principles that should be adhered to when designing a navigation structure. The navigation should take into account the
24 Mar 2015

What is responsive design?

Every website I've built over the last few years have been developed using a technique called ‘Responsive Design’. I'm often asked what this is and why it’s needed, so I’d thought I’d explain this approach to website design. Before the rise of devices like smartphones and tablets, almost every visit to a website was made on a desktop or laptop computer. This made designing websites quite straightforward. You knew what kind of screen width most of your visitors would be using, and you could design a website around these fixed dimensions. Now people access websites through a plethora of gadgets
26 Feb 2015

Extra security and speed with CloudFlare

Anyone running a website will be aware of a growing threat from malicious software, usually powered by networks of infected computers known as botnets. Vulnerabilities in software are increasingly targeted, and the numbers of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on websites are estimated to have increased tenfold since 2009. I’ve been running websites for over 15 years, and I’ve seen first-hand how much growth there has been in this type of traffic. Checking the logs for most websites will reveal that a botnet has been testing for a vulnerability. Website security has never been so
14 Jul 2014

Our UCATT website wins the TUC's Best Trade Union Website Award

Every year the TUC holds an awards ceremony to recognise the achievements of affiliate unions in their communication efforts. The awards for 2014 have just been held, on Wednesday 9th July. The award categories include traditional media, like best magazine and best illustration, but I always keep an eye on the two technology categories: best use of e-communications and best website. UCATT nominated their new smartphone, widescreen and tablet friendly responsive website, which I'm proud to say I recently built with them, in the best website category. The judges chose it as the winner