Category Archives: Web Design

General content relating to web design

adding CSS, Javascript and images in Code Igniter

Last week I started learning Code Igniter. This has come about because I have been working with a great team building websites over the last year or so in Expression Engine, a CMS built on Code Igniter. There are a lot of things that frustrate me about Expression Engine and I am sure that knowing a bit about how the Code Igniter framework operates will help me in resolving some of those pesky EE issues.

After losing half a day trying to mess around with routes.php because I couldn’t seem to pull in my CSS files I discovered a reference to placing these directories in the root. Now I thought this would be the application root; everything under one roof. It turns out that when guides reference root in Code Igniter they are in fact talking about the root of the site. I think this is a bit sloppy. It means that I now have an uploads folder, images, css and js folders in the same places as system and application. I’d much prefer to have them in application and perhaps there is a way of doing that but I haven’t found it yet.

I’m going to be putting up videos on how I am getting along and the settings in Code Igniter on my new vimeo account. The first of these videos is here http://vimeo.com/57220196

Paperless Gig Technology is STILL practical

In a report on BBC Newsbeat this week, Amelia Butterly claims that “Paperless tickets could help combat touts but many venues still do not have the capabilities to support them, say independent music promoters.”

The argument from Anton Lockwood, Director of DHP Group which owns a number of UK venues including Rock City, and Rescue Rooms in Nottingham states that “It only works where the cost of introducing the system can be spread over high ticket prices.”

in the last year I have been to plenty of shows at larger venues the majority of which are using barcode scanning terminals for checking tickets on the door. I can imagine that these custom built handheld ticket readers are indeed expensive to implement  but that’s because these handhelds are being produced and manufactured by the large ticket companies namely, SEE, and TIcket Master. So who is to blame for this high cost to entry for paperless tickets, well to no surprise the companies who make money from printing physical tickets because they charge the client more for printing which has to be factored into the overheads for the promoter and thus ticket prices are higher. This is why I get so annoyed by these same companies because they have the balls to charge you extra for postage (it is not averaging £2.50 per ticket to be posted), and if you do pay for e-tickets when they’re available they find another means of increasing the cost of the ticket when of course in theory the overhead has reduced.

Well let’s just take a small (very small) step back here and think about that last claim. Is there a reduction in cost just because it is online? No not really, there still needs to be a system to produce your e-ticket, it still needs to be maintained, supported and tested. But Surely, a reliable system ensures a reduced risk of error and still should be considerably smaller. One of the positives for paperless billing and paperless tickets has been the fact that the cost of printing is passed onto the client.

There are several payment services and banks right now developing and testing alternative payment techonologies to reduce the cost of entry for small business to accept card payments and to do away with the card terminal. This is being met with huge success rates. How is it being done? By building web apps that are capable of running on any mobile device with a connection to the internet. What does that mean? It means whatever you have in your hand if you’re working on the door could be checking, those tickets and getting people into the venues, infront of the bands and having a great time.

In another section of the article a nameless Spokesperson from Ticketmaster said that paperless tickets are an artist led and it’s up to the musician and then cites Robbie Williams show at the O2. This is a great example of ignorance in the industry. If this clown from Ticketmaster honestly believes Robbie Williams himself has ever said to his manager ‘oh are we doing paper tickets this tour’ then Mr Ticketmaster Employee has no idea how the business works.

Yes there are exceptions. The holier than thou’s of the industry, the Radiohead’s and Trent Reznor’s who are trying to take control of what happens to fans at shows, but anyone who has read any of the reports from either camp will know the problems they faced in doing so, mainly by cutting out the Ticket Operator they were faced with disgruntled venues and also had to buy the tickets back and resell them, all to avoid touts. Trent Reznor on NIN Summer Tour 2009

But it is a double edged sword for venues and promoters. I know first hand how hard it is to sell out a show when you’re reliant on telephone bookings, and physical tickets being available in independent retail shops in your local area. The Forum in Tunbridge Wells celebrates 20 years of live music in 2013. From 1999-2002 I worked as a booker at the venue, we had good shows and bad shows like any other and were very much reliant then on a message board on the website to generate interest and ticket sales from the shops. We printed our own tickets, had 3 shops that you could buy from and would over subscribe our telephone reservations list (we couldn’t take payment by phone) because we would have an average drop off of 60% people not turning up. Every Friday and Saturday night was a gamble. We could never afford to use a service like SEE, Ticketmaster, or Wayahead back then because their rates would mean our average ticket price of £4/5 would have to double and we knew people wouldn’t pay that.

Now, the Forum uses MusicGlue, a service which has been created to do away with the big players in ticketing. These smaller services are what will change the face of paperless ticketing. As soon as they start to think about mobile application development seriously, venues around the country could be beeping you at the door.

If you could learn anything what would it be?

Last month, Jenn Lukas of Happy Cog presented at dConstruct. She conducted a bit of audience participation and asked everyone to tell the person to their left what they would learn if they could learn anything.

I attended with my colleagues at Lightmaker, Paul Swain and Andy Brough. It was quite interesting to hear their responses along with my own and wanted to share with you what those were.

Andy Parker = Backflip off a wall (something I have wanted to do since the first time I saw Bruce Lee do it when I was about 9)
Paul Swain = CSS
Andy Brough = Household electrical so he can rewire his new house.

UX in Digital Agencies is Fucked

In Ross Popoff-Walker’s post he said that UX design at digital agencies is fucked. This is a statement that has been made by quite a lot of people of late and I have to say I don’t agree. User Experience Design is not fucked within digital agencies. Digital agencies themselves are fucked. Now, it would be wrong to tar every agency with the same brush there are some who are successfully covering all aspects of digital development for their clients including applying the focus on users first into the clients services.

But here’s the thing. The problem is not that digital agencies are fucking up UX because they stack the front of every project with a period blocked out for UXD only to roll into the same waterfall method that has served them well in the past, regularly ignoring all the research and planning that has come from it. It is because they never changed their own business model to focus on user experience. A digital agency is a service model, one which means different things to different people, for me a digital agency constitutes any organisation who is capable of managing and leading projects across the digital spectrum. I’m not just talking about a websites, or a new web/native app. I am talking about end to end of the life cycle of your clients service or product. The agencies that perform this and do it well have staff numbers in the 100s, have departments that specialise in SEO, social media, Marketing, revenue, design, development, R&D, animation and 3D modelling to name probably only a smidgen of what these giant corps contain. Because of this they are able to offer a complete service, something that the lazy sales team will tell you as a client is ’360 service’. They are capable of completing development cycles that have a start an end and a loop. This is where user experience as with all development excels. The learning from doing, observing and refining. Lisa Reichelt produced one of my favourite presentations of recent years which centred on why most UX is shite. It’s a great example of this failing but from the focus point of the client, something which I will touch upon later.

This is why some agencies are failing to deliver the expectations of their clients and their clients users when it comes to developments, because UX is not about deciding how many pages you’re going to wireframe, neither is it about what the sitemap is going to look like, or that content must come first, it’s not even about user testing. User experience is about taking a look at a business as a whole and highlighting the parts which are fucked up and how they can be made more appealing to the intended audience. Yes we start it by looking at a website, but how many times have you visited a site that wasn’t bad or used a product that you liked only to be spoken to like an ass hole on the telephone or receive a letter that made you see red? The website you have needs to show your heart on your sleeve, people want transparency, honesty and integrity even if it is just for buying a book for five bucks on Amazon.

There are hundreds of people in the industry who will disagree with me, but I have always believed that if you want to have a great user experience then be prepared to scrap your business model and start again. Digital Agencies have spent the last decade expanding by tacking services on the sides. Pretty much every digital agency started off as a design company, whether web design or print design. At some point they got a developer, then Google started getting bigger and people wanted to be at the top of search rankings so then the agencies started hiring marketing teams to work on keywords and the like, then Flash boomed and it was animators, people with skills in this new action script language and so on and so on and so on, forever expanding by shoe-horning other bits into a space where the people at the top only ever knew one thing; design.

Now we reach today. 2012 and one of the largest buzz words for the last two years has been UX. I have spent the last few years listening to clients continually say ‘we want to have a good ux’ only to feel underwhelmed or disappointed in projects when they don’t get the ideal solution I have suggested because their business model doesn’t allow for the best possible experience. The agencies themselves suffer from the same fate and they will continue to do so until they accept that everything they knew when they started is today, wrong.

example of the Basecampe Everything page

Welcome to the new Basecamp, now with less features

example of the Basecampe Everything page

Congratulations to 37 Signals for completing nerfing one of the industries beloved tools Basecamp. I guess there was a real itch to do something over at 37 Signals and attention drew in on the project management tool of choice for many.

I’ve used Basecamp for many years as a freelancer, and with companies I have worked for to great effect. Certain key features made it an excellent collaboration tool for managing projects, particularly the calendar and messaging tools.

This morning we created a new account for Basecamp Projects (as it is known after July 30th), which no longer setsup a Basecamp:Classic, what we’ve known to love over the years. Here are my gripes with it. Continue reading