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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!


Problems, Problems, Problems

July 17th, 2017 by Edward

Every website project that I have ever worked on has problems. Some years back I used to think that this was because of me. Now I have decided that it is just the ‘nature of the beast’ that brings with it little snares set deceptively along the path that leads to website perfection.

Where do these problems come from? Here are a few examples of problems I have had to deal with recently, most of which are nobodies fault particularly, they are just ‘how it is.’

Its stopped working… 

After a couple of years of gentle persuasion this client decided that at last, it was time to make her site responsive, and to update to the latest versions of joomla/wordpress. No biggie – until the image gallery stopped working. To be fair, this wasn’t a surprise – old versions of plugins often fail when software is updated. This time though, the new version was SO FLIPPING different that it meant some fiddling around to get it to look the close to the earlier versions. ‘Can we fix it’ – what do you think?

Can we just…

This is one my favourite sayings, along with ‘I want to make a small change’ or ‘It’s just a little thing’. In my experience clients (but especially designers!!!!) often do not appreciate what makes a small change. This client wanted a responsive image rotator – wait for it – that swapped out images and used different ones on mobiles screens – not different ‘squashes and squeezes’ of the one image, but real, genuine different images. After some more fiddling around we came up with a jQuery solution that ‘sniffs’ for the screen size, and then re-writes the code as appropriate to drop in the new images. I was pleased with how well this worked! If only all ‘can we justs….’ were really as ‘just’ as this one turned out to be.

I already have hosting…

Ugh. Shiver, shiver. This can be a biggie…  This client wanted me to build a pretty complex site on my dev space and then move it onto their buddies server. (ok – should have built it on his buddies server… there was some reason we didn’t, but I can’t remember…) And all seemed well when the site went live… then I began to notice that one of the pages we had made a fix for had stopped working as well as it had been, and just for fun, only on mobile screens. Here was an issue I could do nothing about – a feed from another site (in php) was not being rendered the same way on the ‘buddy’ server as it was on my development server. It took some time and careful inspection of the code to see this. Thankfully there was a solution…


So there you have it – three problems int he last couple of weeks.

If you’re a web designer – developer why not tell me that you have no problems like these at all! Go on – make my day.




Wordpess handouts

October 26th, 2016 by Edward

Here are pdfs of a recent teaching session that I ran in October 2016.

Session 1 – introducing wordpress

Session 2 – quick tour round the backend, themes, plugins and a health warning

Session 3 – creating and populating pages, menus and joining them all up

Session 4 – widgets, posts, images

Session 5 – some basic Search Engine Optimisation



Kusuma Trust header

September 8th, 2016 by Edward

Recent clients, the Kusuma Trust have some really beautiful photography that draws the viewer in and helps to tell their story. From the outset it was decided to place different pictures across the top to act as the Kusuma Trust header, upon which various menu items would go. They were keen however, not to have a background strip for the menu text to sit on – which clearly creates potential usability issues regarding textual contrast.

The brief suggested that the image was to be :

  • full width
  • fixed depth
  • look good on all screen widths
  • possibly have some headline text fixed to its bottom on a semi-transparent background
  • and… easily maintained by the user

read more Read more…


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…


Heather MacRae’s Testimonial for ee-web design

April 21st, 2016 by Edward

Heather MacRae, Director of Venture Thinking wrote this testimonail for me – which sites on LinkedIn -if you want to see the real thing!

Edward has been a pleasure to work with. He was recommended to me by Lydia Thornley, a recommendation in itself! Edward has been hugely enthusiastic about the stellar task of putting together a website for the Space to Earth Challenge project. He has been patient, professional and good humoured as the project has gone through various launch phases. He is willing to share his knowledge with real generosity and without lots of scary jargon. His focus is on helping to achieve the stellar results that we have all been working towards.


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. 

Beginner SEO Training

February 11th, 2016 by Edward

I have recently started delivering ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ (SEO) training for busy website owners. For now its called ‘Beginner SEO Training’ and is aimed at those pressurised small businesses who don’t have the time or the money to employ an SEO specialist on a monthly retainer.
beginner seo training - one bite at a time


The course provides an insight into what google does (that shouldn’t take too long then….), how to get into the minds of the intended visitors and how to develop more useful key terms/phrases. We cover some simple text hierarchy (h1, h2 etc), the use of the key-words/phrases and how we use our media (alt tags, load size etc). WordPress users get an introduction to the marvelous ‘Yoast seo’ plugin.

Varied Beginner SEO Training to meet your needs

I like to make my courses as responsive to the needs of my students as possible. I recently delivered a morning’s training to the owner of ‘Complete Calm Massage therapy’ in Enfield and a much simpler version to the More Business Network meeting of around 20 individuals.  One thing I always try to do is to take away the fear that many people seems to feel about ranking in search engines. Of course ‘of the writing of words about seo there is no end’ – so I aim to provide tiny ‘bites of the elephant’ that lead to some quick wins and confidence building. Complete Clam Massage are already reporting that their hits are going up and certainly appear considerably more informed and hence confident than they did before. They now have the tools to create the infamous ‘long-tailed keywords’ that should bring more relevant users to their site.
Maybe you’d like some personalised Beginner SEO Training?

I was SEO phobic

Why not contact ee-web design?

Bonus Material  – download the Basic SEO slides from the MBN meeting’s talk.


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