New website for childrens' book illustrator

Emily Bolam blog entry
We've just finished a new website for children' book illustrator Emily Bolam and it was a treat from start to finish. Emily came to us with a clear idea of what she wanted from the site and some references from other websites so we could get a good visual feel of what she was looking for.

As with any website where the visuals are the star attraction, we felt it was the job of the design to get out of the way, so decided to keep things as simple as possible - nice tidy sans serif body and navigation and a hand-drawn Google font for the main title. The rollovers on the front page disappear on tablets and smartphones, but the galleries work well across all devices - visitors can use a mouse or trackpad on their computer and simply swipe from side to side if they're using a touchscreen device.

Thanks to Emily's organisation and enthusiasm, the whole thing was completed within a week of her first getting in touch. This is a great example of how you can save money on a website if you're organised and prepared to respond quickly as new versions of the site are uploaded.

Cheap hosting - always check first

cheap hosting
When we build a new website for a client, we insist that they register the domain - that's the 'www' bit - themselves; that way not only do they retain control over the domain for as long as they continue to renew it, but it's also their responsibility to make sure it's renewed in a timely fashion.

We do offer hosting and support however, using fast SSD-based servers located in the US that include the increasingly important (and Google-friendly) SSL certificate as standard, as well as the latest compression techniques to ensure that your site performs snappily when visitors come calling.

That's why our heart sinks when a client tells us that they've purchased hosting along with their domain name "because it was a good deal." Often, these "good deals" are based on using the domain registration company's own website builder - a glass half-full way of building a website yourself in a browser using a limited palette of templates and design tools. This kind of hosting is useless for the kind of website that we build - where we require full access to all the nuts and bolts in order the get the site humming along nicely; which means you've wasted your money.

There are good, inexpensive hosts out there and we're always happy to work with them. Just bear in mind that whatever hosting you choose, the chances are you'll need support of some description over the 12 months that follow, so take some time to make sure that the good deal you think you're getting is actually a good deal.

And if in doubt, always check with us first. We have a list of hosts we've worked with before that meet the minimum requirements for hosting a professional website - better to be safe than sorry.

When Flickr, Blogger, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook turn evil...

flickr-logo copy
Quite often when we build a website for a client, they'll already be locked into using another service. Some might have a Facebook page, others are in love with Instagram, a few are Twitter addicts, while some have their entire photo library stored on Flickr. (Note the absence of Pinterest - this is because none of our clients are 16 year old girls. Yet.)

We love services like Flickr and YouTube and Vimeo because they take the heavy lifting away from our own websites - handling both the storage of stuff that takes up a lot of space and the bandwidth required to serve it up to visitors.

But you can come a cropper when titans like Twitter or even mini-behemoths like Tumblr change the way they allow third parties like us to access their information. This is why Twitter widgets suddenly stop working, or blogs hosted on Tumblr refuse to show up without warning.

Putting your precious eggs into someone else's basket has advantages - usually in terms of cost because you save on hosting - but there are disadvantages too, mainly because you're no longer in charge of looking after your own data. And whether that data is pixels in a photo, frames in a video, words on a blog or zeroes and ones on an MP3 track, you may want to think about balancing the cost savings against retaining control over the content that you've created so lovingly.

More WordPress Woes

Earlier this week we received an email from a potential client who'd taken out a WordPress deal. They were working with a company that provided WordPress hosting for a monthly fee, a basic installation, a bit of tutoring and then, they'd been left to their own devices.

The result was weeks of frustration and a chaotic one page website. It wasn't their fault. It probably wasn't the WordPress company's fault. The two just weren't a good fit. The client works exclusively in Word - it's what his profession uses all day every day - and this, coupled with a meagre understanding of picture file sizes and WordPress' 'distinctive' back end had taken its toll. And the more time the client spent trying to fix the site - and get the value for money he'd been hoping for - the worse it got.

We're going to try and convince him to move away from this unsuitable - for him at least - platform and build something straightforward using Rapidweaver. We'll include a self-hosted blog and leave the build open for adding more CMS-style features going forward. These will be customised to fit in with his way of working.

We'll let you know how it goes.

WordPress? No thanks...

Just over a year ago, we announced that we'd be offering WordPress as a platform for clients who wanted to be able to manage their own websites. With such a huge installed base and so many excellent themes, it seemed like a logical choice and despite our reservations - about security of neglected WordPress installations, mainly - we embarked on this new path with enthusiasm.

But no matter how much we wanted to like WordPress and no matter how pervasive its influence and adoption, we just can't bring ourselves to build sites using it. This is in part because WordPress increasingly feels like a behemoth on spindly legs, massive torso always in danger of over-balancing (a bit like something from a Dali painting) and in part because the program we use to build sites - Rapidweaver - has come on in leaps and bounds in the last 12 months.

The deciding factor however, has been the arrival of technology which allows us to build custom content management pages with instructions specific to each page, element and person who's doing the updating, that is streets ahead of anything that's possible using WordPress. The result? The easiest, most customisable content management system imaginable which makes updating the content on your websites a doddle, especially when compared with the cack-handed way that WordPress tries to implement this.

So farewell WordPress. You tried, we tried, but some things are just not meant to be.