A few moments spent with Google will reveal that a myriad of frameworks exist for content management systems (CMSs) available for use in web development. A lot of which are free to use, open source and highly hackable to specific requirements. Indeed, it would be easy to think that for every plausible project a neatly packaged solution already exists and is merely a search away.
Here at eSterling, we often find ourselves facing a unique project that doesn’t fit neatly in to any of these pre-packaged solutions. Data structures cannot always be altered due to compatibility with client software or procedure, design often doesn’t lend itself to the required templating brief, technologies are not always realistically compatible, and many other underlying requirements can be present which mean we have to start from the ground up.
However, even the most bespoke of web development projects requires a solid foundation, a way to structure growth and distribute key features whist ensuring maintainability. The vast majority of projects, no matter how niche, will require basic features such as page generation, form submission and basic database manipulation. Furthermore, these features need to be implemented in a secure and robust way to ensure the integrity of each project whilst simultaneously minimising loading times, bandwidth usage and other strains on resources.
Enter CodeIgniter. CodeIgniter is an open source, application development framework, designed to kick-start projects with a well-designed core of those basic features most sites require. Due to the fundamental nature of the tools provided it will happily exist on a variety of server configurations and requires virtually no configuration out of the box, saving headaches and that most precious of all assets, time. It is lean, modular and essentially, unlike many CMSs, it provides no front-end templates or theme (aside from an easily-deleted example welcome page) ensuring that the “default install” look is avoided.
Over the next few posts we will have a closer look at the feature-set provided by CodeIgniter, focusing on how it fulfils our needs in terms of functionality and security. There are also some areas, whilst by design, where CodeIgniter fails to address reasonably fundamental features that crop up time and again, namely user authentication and site administration, and we will see how to plug those gaps.
Last week a few of the web industry’s movers and shakers got together at a quickly arranged meet-up under the rather grandiose title of the Responsive Summit. They talked about how, in the post-PC world, web agencies can deliver websites for the reality of a multitude of web enabled devices. Aside from minor moaning on Twitter about the perceived elitism of the internet Illuminanti deciding upon the direction we all need to take, the response to the Summit has been positive. And the information I have taken from it is proving very interesting.
The hard truth that agencies like ours are facing is that mobile is not only on the rise, but will become the primary internet platform. This was recognised years ago and people boarded the responsive bandwagon thanks to such now legendary articles as Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design. In tandem with this a small number of people started doing all web design in the browser. The latest movement to pick up steam is Mobile First, whereby sites are designed for phones first and desktops second.
The Responsive Summit was an attempt to view all these developments in light of business realities and offer ideas of how agencies should move forward. So far, one of the major issues discussed is the applicability of the old print design method that has been passed down to the web. In this set-up Photoshop ‘proofs’ are produced for sign-off by clients before being constructed into a website, pixel for pixel. The argument is that this is ridiculous in light of the fact that these sites will now be viewed on screens of massively varying dimensions and resolutions.
Is the answer to produce proofs for a variety of screen widths? This would prove to be exhaustive and expensive work. The suggestion then is to follow what at first glance appears to be a process more in line with that old favourite of developers: agile. This brings the new philosophies together within an iterative development framework with designers working closely with developers to produce working responsive mock-ups for delivery to the client. Using a mobile first mindset and developing primarily in the browser the hope is that we can deliver sites that meet the clients requirements that are workable across the vast swathe of devices on the market.
This would be a large change to the established waterfall development pattern that agencies and clients are used to. Can agencies change their methods so completely? And will the client buy into this?
More information is still coming out of the Responsive Summit and there is a lot to digest, but this is the start of the conversation we all need to have. The future is both exciting and daunting for web developers…
If you’re thinking of giving your website some TLC, you can rely on eSterling to help. Whether you are looking for a simple upgrade such as adding a page, or you are looking to completely re-design your site, eSterling has the solution at a competitive price.
Our experienced web designers and developers are always willing to listen to your special requirements and help you get the best out of your project, whilst our dedicated project manager will ensure that the job will be carried out to schedule.
If you are an existing eMarketing customer, our SEO team will be able to advise you of the best solutions to maintain your current rankings. This minimises disruption to your site and keeps the traffic following even when changes are being made.
Contact us today if you need to:
- Add a new page to your website
- Get a blog for your website
- Re-design your homepage
- Re-brand your site
- Add a video upload page
- Upgrade your CMS (content management system)
Call eSterling today on 0121 766 4080 or email email@example.com to get things started.
As each new year arrives we seem to be subjected to a barrage of pressure to change something, to improve some aspect of our lives by torturous or expensive means.
Stop having so much fun and come and buy a sofa!
This year the January sales have been on since November and there are still Quality Streets left in the tin so as far as I’m concerned they can keep their new leaf, I’m staying as I am. And as January continues, so does my penny-pinching. I’m settling down to wait out the winter (with my chocolates) and to see what happens before I make any major purchases.
January is always a tough time for business, we’re all reeling from the pocket-washing that Christmas brings, but it can also be a time to take stock and get those little jobs sorted that you’ve put off all year. While business is quiet get your web site updated, take those photos you’ve been meaning to, write those three pages of content you need refreshing. Get yourself prepared for when the chocolate-huggers like me come out to play and to spend money again.
eSterling are offering a 10% discount on Web Site orders placed before the end of January 2012. If you’d like to refresh a couple of pages, update stock lists or just give your site an early spring clean, get in touch.
Pass the tin, mine are the purple ones…
If you’ve decided it’s time to have a new web site but don’t really know what to do about it, here’s an insight into how we operate and how we deliver your brand new web site.
One of our Web Specialists will come out to you and talk about your requirements over a coffee. As we’re the specialists, we will also offer up alternatives and other idea’s which you may have not thought about. Once the initial Web Site Spec (site navigation, functionality requirements etc) is in place we are then able to give a fair an competitive price. The choice is then yours to go with us or to seek alternative quotes.
If you choose us, we will send you out a Welcome pack which features your Web Site Spec, Contact Information, Terms & Conditions and an introduction to your team. We also normally require a deposit of around 30% with all new web site orders.
Our Project Coordinator will then get in touch to discuss, in more detail, your design requirements, functionality and any other requirements you may have. At this point we also request any content and imagery you might want on the web site. We appreciate that the day to day running of your company must be your priority but without content a web site is simply an empty shell so if you need help writing content about your company and what services/products you offer simply give us a call or read our How to write content for your web site article. If needs be we can source images from iStock Photos on your behalf.
When the above is done, we then commence designing your brand new web site.
Web Site Production
Depending on your requirements we will offer two different types of initial proofing.
We will either show you an initial working version of your new site or we will show you a static version of your newly designed home page. You then have the opportunity to fine tweak it until you are happy with the new look. Once the visuals are agreed we then continue with the development of the web site and insert your content and imagery.
Once the web site is packed with all your new features, content and imagery, we then show you a functioning proof which is basically a finished version of your web site for you to check over and approve. At this point the onus is on functionality rather than anything visual. Once you are happy with the web site, we request that you sign our Web Site Acceptance Form which confirms that you are happy for the new web site to go live. Then we make steps to put the site live, add any SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) that maybe required, double check all contact forms and general functionality.
Once the web site is put live we double check everything to make sure your new web site is perfect!
If you have any questions about the above simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0121 766 8087
Start 2012 the right way with a new website from eSterling and get 10% off! We are offering new and existing customers this great discount when they order a new website before 31st January 2012.
Whether you are looking to launch a new product or service, or you just want to upgrade your old site, eSterling can help. We offer professional web design and web development services to provide you with a website that is tailored to suit your business.
To take advantage of this limited period Special Offer, simply email email@example.com or call 0121 766 4080 and quote the code WEB10.
Terms and Conditions
- 10% discount is redeemable on new websites ordered before 31st January 2012.
- One discount is available per client, per website.
Currently one of the hottest buzz words in the web development space, Gamification, is beginning to supplant old favourites like social media in mindshare. Gamification, as its name implies, typically involves bringing the mechanics and innovations of game design into web design. The purpose of this is to improve the users’ experience and increase their engagement – to make a website have the enveloping effect of the latest gaming hit. Gamifying a website doesn’t necessarily mean to create a game but to apply the ideas games have of dynamics, mechanics and design in an appropriate way.
Seeds were planted for Gamification to become one of the next big things when social media websites like Facebook partnered with companies such as Zynga – famous for Farmville – who sought ways to increase the engagement of users with the use of points, levels, badges and more to capture interest. The benefit for Facebook was users kept coming back to the site for more, each looking for gratification by increasing their scores and piles of virtual goods. Other companies have boarded the bandwagon early and introduced their own game elements. Foursquare, for instance, challenges people to earn badges and status amongst their peers by ‘checking in’ at locations and events.
While a relatively new term the concepts behind Gamification have been around for a long time in the e-commerce space. Auctions websites such as eBay use a form of Gamification wherein goods are placed for sale and customers ‘compete’ to win the offer. Amazon has extended this thinking to ‘Black Friday’ deals whereby the first set number of customers will win the offer and gives hints and clues as to what the potential deal may be so you can be first in line.
The success of social gaming lies not with avatars or virtual goods and farms, but with the communication between users. This is where a positive feedback loop can be introduced. By personalising the site to the needs of the customer you can create relevance and interest. By giving your customers choices you can improve the chances of them taking positive action – adding items to their basket or purchasing those items – which leads to further collection of data to better improve the personalisation. By providing a great feedback loop you can improve the chances of successful interaction between the customer and website.
Of course it is clear that there has to be a reason for your customers to be playing, beyond just handing out an achievement badge or adding points for the sake of it. These are elements that cannot just be introduced because it is the hot new thing. It may well be that your customer base is not appropriate and more sober approaches should be taken.
In this case a more appropriate response may be the introduction of personalised elements to the site. The idea that the homepage and layout of the site should be the same for every visitor is archaic. If you think of Amazon you will note that when you return and are identified by the site you are directed to items that may be of interest to you rather than the standard ‘our selected items’ that are presented to each visitor.
In addition further recommendations and related products can be tailored to the behaviour of the customer. Why be showing samples of everything you stock when the customer only sticks to one particular category of item? The potential for improvement in conversion and user engagement by targeting customer behaviour is huge. In an increasingly crowded marketplace of e-commerce stores, the ideas Gamification brings to the table can help distinguish you from the competition and make your website hugely enjoyable for your customers.
eSterling is looking for a self-motivated, focused and passionate PHP Developer to join our busy Development Department.
The role is ideally suited to a Computer Science graduate (or similar) with a few years experience in developing content managed websites. You should have a keen attention to detail and the ability to uphold your work to the highest standards.
The ideal candidate will be able to slipstream into the team with a minimum of training, bringing their experience into the mix to deliver high quality coding work.
You’ll be working directly with our clients, so being confident in presenting your work and talking in a non-technical manner is a must.
If you’re someone who isn’t deterred by a challenge and has a passion for new web technologies, you’ll fit right in.
We’re looking for someone with the following skills, experience and interest:
• Must be adept at coding PHP to a high standard
• Experience of working with version control systems
• Interest in ‘programming the web’ and web services
• Degree or equivalent in Computer Science (or a related field)
• Experience with ASP.NET/ASP is advantageous but not essential
Call 0121 766 8087 today or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to grab this exciting opportunity!
CMS stands for Content Management System and is a way of editing your website without the assistance of a web developer.
The key benefit of a CMS is the separation of design, content and structure which allows advantages throughout the lifecycle of your website. Each section can be amended independently, which allows you to change content without jeopardising the front-end design. This separation creates the flexibility of a CMS, allowing the editor to safely create content, add images, multimedia files and much more….
- Consistency of design is preserved.
Because content is stored separate from design, the content from all authors is presented with the same, consistent design.
- Designed with non-technical content authors in mind.
If you can write an email, you can add content to your site! Absolutely no specialist knowledge required.
- Decentralized maintenance.
You can edit anytime, from anywhere with an internet connection
- Configurable access restrictions.
Users can be given certain permissions that prevent them from editing content which they are not authorized to change.
- Navigation is automatically generated and adjusted.
Menus are generated automatically based on the database content meaning links would not point to non-existing pages.
- Content is stored in a database.
Central storage means that content can be reused in many places on the website
Encourages efficient and effective updates.
If you think you would benefit from having a CMS for your website please get in touch for a competitive quote.
In our quest for constructive feedback from our clients, we often come across requests to scale a website down so that the whole page fits within the screen size. When a client asks for their site to appear ‘above the fold’, we always explain that this isn’t such a great idea and I’ll explain why…
New viewing mediums
With the web now extremely prominent on mobile phones and tablets and even HDTVs, the way the site can be viewed will be different on each platform. Users will also have a variety of different resolutions on their monitor and each browsers visible screen size will be different depending on the size of the toolbars. This means there isn’t a specific ‘above the fold’ point where all of the content must be.
Negative impact upon the design
If you scale down a website by around 300 pixels then the design of the site will significantly suffer. The original design will no doubt include plenty of white space around the design so the user can ‘breathe’ when looking through the site and everything is clear and easy to manoeuvre around. However, once that is removed and many of the elements are bunched up, the site will be a lot more difficult to scan and will probably result in the user either not noticing key information or not bothering to explore the site further.
Users are willing to scroll
Research has suggested that although the user will naturally spend more time looking at the top of your website, they are more than happy to scroll down to view more, especially if the site is designed to be scannable. In research carried out by ClickTale.com it found that 76% of users scrolled and that a good portion of them scrolled all the way to the bottom.