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Unusually honest and charming

April 26th, 2018 by Edward


This is not a ‘make me look wonderful’ post  …

I used to regularly read a website called ‘Clients from hell’. Some of the stories there made me laugh out loud. Many of them I could relate to having had clients like those myself.

Recently though I had something of a new one. I was approached to help with a potential new client who told me that they had had some ‘competent’ but ‘uninspiring designs’ and that they had ‘tried a could a couple of developers too’ and been let down badly. As it happens it was a really interesting job, with possibilities.

Alert on standby

After a few minutes chat it was decided that the potential would send me an email – and here’s the kicker!

The email started off ok. After a couple of lines they wrote ‘we found a developer in a funny way. But he seems quite unusually honest and competent (and charming).’

‘Unusually honest’???? And competent too???? How kind of you to say so.

As I read this I knew that I did not want this job. No way. Was this potential really saying that most web developers are not honest, or indeed competent? It certainly read that way.

Alert On Full

Perhaps this potential had experienced a really bad run. However, it takes a certain something to voice your criticism of people like this when you don’t know your audience. And it was that which worried me.

Sometimes business gurus will tell us that if you can win over a client like this they can become one of your best. Sometimes though it just makes more sense to run to the hills.

Shame, interesting project!


Oakwood Kennels and Cattery enters ee-web’s Museum of the Internet

December 1st, 2016 by Edward

Clients come and clients go. Often they leave because they sell their business and the new owners decide to go elsewhere. So, Oakwood Kennels and Cattery enters ee-web’s Museum of the Internet. This is the little corner of cyber-space where my old sites are retired to – and I wish I’d thought of the idea years ago because, well, you develop a sort of affection for your own work.

This site sometimes caused strong reactions – partly I think this was because of the colour scheme that was developed based on the logo which i was supplied with, so didn’t have much control over. 

Whatever you think of the visual elements, the site did show all the information you might need and did generate enquiries for the owner – which is the point. It would have generated more if the content had been keep up-to-date and the site pushed a little bit. Sad when clients don’t make the most of the foundation that ee-web can provide.

about page from Oakwood

There were some design elements that I was really pleased with though, like the menu:

oakwood menu

oakwood mobile

The mobile layout was good too. I also like the use of animal silhouettes throughout the site.

Now the site is entered into ee-web’s museum of the internet. Which is a little sad. There is can continue to gather dust, which is the lonely fate of so many small business websites.

You can see the exhibit here – but don’t try to get in touch with them!!!!


Writing a reference for ee-web

December 1st, 2016 by Edward

Thank you for saying you’d do a testimonial for ee-web!

You can write as much or as little as you like. I use the testimonial on various social media platforms and on my website.

Here are some starting off points – use as many or as few as you like, and feel free to add extra things.

  • How has the work done by ee-web helped your business/charity etc – eg more sales, more clients, keeping in touch, more enquiries etc
  • How have your clients/suppliers reacted to the new site
  • How did you hear about ee-web design?
  • Why did you decide to use ee-web rather than some other company?
  • How did you find working with me – speed, reliability, listening, reacting to your needs and so on
  • Are you happy with the service provided? Are there any aspects that you found particularly helpful?
  • Would you recommend ee-web and why?
  • What is your experience of the ongoing support offered?

If possible could I ask you to put it onto headed paper and email it over to me? If you don’t have headed paper just put your logo onto a word document if possible.

Some Examples
Kusuma Trust
Bermondsey Street Bees

Enfield Carpentry
Azman Architects

And there are loads more at my Clients Page
Many thanks!


Naming Images for Websites

July 6th, 2016 by Edward

At ee-web I get questions about naming images from clients a lot – so here’s a quick guide to help us get things done more quickly.

Naming Images for Websites

Why is it important?

Short answer – you have to balance technical requirements and the dreaded search engines.

All images on websites have to have an ‘alt’ tag. This is a short description of what the image shows and is part of the requirement for accessibility (for visually impaired users). Search engines use this as well so its REALLY important.

I create these alt tags based on the file names you give your images. So if you want me to create good alt tags for you, and you do, you must give the images good file names as per below. File names like ‘birthday cake 6.jpg’ or ‘img9918230.jpg’ just don’t describe your image.

Remember too that I am not an expert on your business – and sadly its hard for me to see what the really important part in an image often is – so your file names need to guide me.

Browsers are changing all the time but to be safe your files names should:

  • Have no spaces in them
  • Contain no special characters like %, @, #, < but you can use – and _
  • Start with a small letter not a capitol (this is less important now)
  • Contain information about the image
  • Be short

The last two are a little bit ‘subjective’ to some extent of course.

Suppose you had an image of a soft toy puppy with the file name 12316124.jpg – you know that’s no good course so you change it to puppy.jpg – that better but not great. puppytoy.jpg is a little better but something like labradortoypuppy.jpg is even better. You could also have labrador-toy-puppy.jpg – you can use the – or even a _ in file names. From this I come up with the alt tag alt=”labrador toy puppy” – which is pretty good – you could even squeeze a little more juice from it as in blacklabradortoypuppy.jpg.

Some clients like to provide me with a separate document listing out very specific alt tags – this is fine too.

And of course the great thing about systems like joomla and wordpress is that you can always edit your alt tags later if you want to.


How Much for a new Website?

June 15th, 2016 by Edward

I have been making websites now for 15 years. This post is about one of the hardest questions that I am asked in  my work as a web designer. Can you work out what it is from these images?

bell curve of string length


If that’s too hard what about this one?

rular with string on it

of course, it’s ‘How long is a piece of string?‘ or rather

How Much for a new Website? 

I get several inquiries every month directly from google – if you want that too ….

The conversation usually goes something like this. Let’s call the caller ‘Bob’:

read more Read more…


Website Problem Solving – VST

April 21st, 2016 by Edward

About 50% of my time is spent in what you might call ‘website problem solving.’ When I started making websites, well over 15 years ago I thought I’d be spending my time …. creating websites. But everyday, for every project new or old there are problems to solve.

So here’s the first of what might (who knows) become a regular post – ‘Website Problem Solving’  – the VST booking form stops working.

‘Our booking form has died’ – time for Website Problem Solving

Having built their website about 2 years now I have continued supporting this client who provides training course which the SELL via their website. One day this email arrived:

” Someone phoned me to say made a booking and got funny message.   The booking came through but she did not get a confirmation email.   I did a test booking and also got funny page and no email confirmation.”

Since VST main role is training, this is a serious error. Panic Stations! Claxons blaring. Time for a dose of ‘Website Problem Solving.’

error  message - website problem solving needed

I want to point out at this point that the plugin used for booking is first rate and in no way is this to be seen as a knock on them.

A few minutes investigation revealed that the user was being taken to this url. It didn’t look right to me – just felt wrong. I suppose somehow you get a knack for these things.;option=com_registrationpro&amp;...processor=payoffline&amp;user_id=...details=VST%20will%20invoice%20you%20to%20the%20address%20on%20your%20booking%20form.%20Please%20pay%20promptly%20and%20before%20the%20course%20date.

So, I posted on the forum of the plugin – this is where paid support comes into its own, and is one reason why I recommend buying it to my clients.  This time the reply came back very soon – ‘we have found a bug and here’s a patch.’  Couple of days later a new version is released.

Result – booking forms back on line.

I didn’t solve the problem, but I was able to look into it enough to work out that it wasn’t anything the good people at VST were doing, or a hosting issue.

I got these emails from VST

Phew yes it works now! Thank you. Please invoice us for your time.
Maddy ???

Excellent  news. 

A Developer’s Perspective – S2E Challenge @ the Houses of Parliament

December 14th, 2015 by Edward

cupola view

View through the ISS Cupola of Big Ben

On Wednesday 9th December I went to the Houses of Parliament for the very first time to witness an event planned to showcase some of the work that’s gone on for the ‘Space to Earth Challenge.’ Here’s a short article about a web developer’s perspective on this space project.

First a little background. I was approached to become the projects web developer – this means my main role is to build the website, based on the teams designs. So, if you like I am they techy geek. What is really exciting for me, is that often the developer is locked in a cupboard, and fed ‘pop tarts and coffee’ until the work is finished (only kidding). In this case I have been involved as part of a large, multidisciplinary team, got the chance to visit the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, and even (deep breath) had the best part of a day teaching a small group of yr10/12 pupils who helped us gather some of the excellent resources on the website.

Visiting the Houses of Parliament was fun; being surrounded by all that history can’t be anything else really. But in a way that paled into relative insignificance.

group with space suit

Pupils, a cardboard Tim Peake, the real Lauren Steadmen and a Christmas Tree

There were too many adult speakers to mention – but highlights for me were:

  • David Morris MP, Chair of the All-Parliamentary Space Committee who hosted the special event,
  • Dr Jon Scott who spoke about the importance of exercise on the ISS to reduce bone loss and muscle atrophy.
  • Lauren Steadman, a Team GB Paralympic athlete, describe her triathlon training and how children could take up the Space to Earth Challenge.

For me though the young people stole the show. School children spoke with great enthusiasm about elements of the challenge, ranging from the different sports they had done to cover the distance to the ISS, through to working with some of the exotic materials used in space research. Their smiles and fascination shone through. Several students got to wear a space suit – how cool is that – and why do adults never get asked eh?

pupils demonstrating

Great presentations

It’s been really exciting seeing the project take shape. I have seen it go from an idea sketched out in a piece of A3,  though multiple stages of development and now we’re just 1 day away from Tim’s launch (as I write). Best of all those was seeing how the pupils and their teachers were using the work done by the S2E team, and being really  inspired about it. And I had a part, along with the team, in making that happen.

Makes all those hours in the cupboard worthwhile!

maths challenge

Maths Challenge in action

what's this then?

Wow – what’s going on here then?

graphics work

Graphics students present the designs for S2E posters

Image credit: Max Alexander/UK Space Agency


What Are Web Designers Like?

October 15th, 2015 by Edward

old lady in wheel chair projects ballerina shadow

Sometimes, how we see things is different to how they really are…

A few days ago I was reflecting on the number of people with whom I have had the same conversation with in the space of about two weeks. These were people who had all approached me in one form or another to help with their existing websites.

All were complaining about the same thing, though with slightly different emphasis.

  • Two said – ‘its been going on for months, I don’t know why we aren’t getting nearer to it being finished. What’s going on’
  • Another complained that ‘I am forking out over £150 a month and I don’t know why.’
  • The last of the four said ‘I have no idea how to do even the simplest updates on my wordpress site’

read more Read more…


Pagination and Removing Categories in WordPress

October 13th, 2015 by Edward

Quite often I need to create a new WordPress query – but this can mess up the pagination – so that if you press to go to previous posts it shows the same darn posts again.

Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to solve.

I find that I nearly always need to exclude categories from my query so I am adding that in as well.

Here’s the standard code from index.php file int he 2013 template:

<?php if ( have_posts() ) : ?>
<?php /* The loop */ ?>
<?php while ( have_posts() ) : the_post(); ?>
<?php get_template_part( 'content', get_post_format() ); ?>
<?php endwhile; ?>

Nothing out of the ordinary there of course.

Firstly we need to add this line:

$paged = (get_query_var('paged')) ? get_query_var('paged') : 1;

$paged is set to the current page that we are looking at – so for example if you are display post 11-20 then its likely that this is page 2 if you have the number of posts per page set to 10.

Next we create a new wordpress query in array format:

$query = new WP_Query( array( 
    'posts_per_page' => 10, 
) ); 

we create a new WP_Query object called $query

  • set the number of posts_per_page to 10 in this case
  • set the categories variable to not show cat id =145 – done by setting the minus sign
  • and set the paged variable to the $paged we set up before
  • And hopefully that’s it.


Buzzing Bees make a …

October 3rd, 2015 by Edward

Recently I have been working with the hugely talented Lydia Thornley on a new website for Sarah and Dale at Bermondsey Street Bees.
dale at Bermondsey Street Bees

One of the great things about this project was the sense of intricate planning that went into the site. Not that I don’t always plan, but for this job NO deadline or project milestone was moved, let alone missed. It was such a pleasure to have all the content when I asked for it. You know how it is with some clients – ‘Please create a timeline’ and within the first week things are slipping… To quote Douglas Adams –

I love deadlines. I love the sound the make as they go whooshing past

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