Monday, 2 March 2009

Portfolio: Competitive Analysis [Student]
I feel that the colours chosen work well together. The reflections don't work for me
on this project; they give an amateurish feel. The 'flowers' also offer nothing to the design other than to act as an obstacle when then text size is increased.

Accessibility & Validation
Disappointing, the students XHTML doesn't validate; not that a doc-type has been specified.

W3C screen shot showing that the XHTML doesn't validateAlarmingly, it is much of the same for the CSS. From examining the source code (both XHTML & CSS) I get the impression that it is generated by a WYSIWYG editor. These facts would concern me as a potential employer.

W3C screen shot showing that the CSS doesn't validate
Increasing the size of the type creates issues with the design. This could have been solved with a little work & testing

The internal navigation is consistent and reliable but is on the small side. The external navigation is unreliable with some links broken and others purposefully removed. Along side this is the 'blinking text' for all hyper-links in when in the hovered state. All things considered, the site does not provide a good user experience.

As a student project, the site serves it's purpose of holding a corner of the web with the students name on it. I feel that the delivery could & should have been much better considering that this is a final year university student. From this analysis I can see just how important the impression is that the portfolio delivers. [

Jeff's portfolio gives the impression that it is flash based, although it isn't. When compared and contrasted the student created project, there is a clear divide in the level of professionalism, experience and skill in favour of Jeff. There are still some issues as detailed below but overall a much more aesthetically pleasing build.

Accessibility & Validation
As is to be expected the site has compliant XHTML [transitional] & CSS [2.1]. All of the content is in one XHTML document which could be arduous for screen reader users. Design breaks when type size is increased.

The navigation is consistent, reliable as well as being aesthetically pleasing with a subtle JavaScript based animation to move from one area to another. Regrettably, the site doesn't degrade well for browsers with JavaScript disabled as there is no easy alternative method of navigation.

The site looks great, it shows off his skills as a designer & a developer. The project doesn't consider accessibility as much as it should but otherwise is a project to be proud of.

Considerable difference between this and the student project.

Portfolio: Delivery Requirements

XHTML 1.0 Strict
Used to define the sites structure and mark-up the content. I will be using Komodo Edit to build the code to W3C Standards.

CSS 2.1

The Cascading Style sheets will be used to control the aesthetics of the site as well as improving site load times and accessibility. I will be using Komodo Edit to build the code to W3C Standards.

CMS - Content management driven

The content management system will provide me a flexible platform for my portfolio. Allowing me to tailor the site to the requirements of each interview / situation is essential. Following on from the 'Content is King' assignment, I will be using TextPattern as my CMS. TextPattern requires PHP and MySQL on the hosting server.

Photoshop & Illustrator CS3
Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator will be used to deliver the web-optimised imagery for my portfolio.

Mail technologies (including IMAP & SMTP) will be used to send & receive emails.

Portfolio: Target Audience

Primary Target Audience [Employer]
Rachel is the co-owner of a 4 year old local design company and despite the talks of a recession, her business is growing at consistent rate. As a result she is looking for a new web designer & developer to bring join the team and introduce fresh ideas and new technologies into the business.

Rachel deals more with the running of the business rather than the delivery of the products but still has an eye for design. During her working day she spends around 4+ hours browsing the internet on her MacBook which is running the latest version of FireFox through a high speed broadband connection.

Secondary Target Audience [Client]
Andrew is a self employed building contractor working in the Barnsley area. He uses his existing web site as a medium to generate leads but he has noticed a recent sharp decline in enquires. Andrew understands the value of a strong and consistent corporate identity and as a result, he is investing time and money in a redesign of the now aged web site.

Andrew is looking for a individual to establish a long term working relationship with. Ideally, the person should have knowledge of modern design, development and usability techniques.

Andrew uses his home office Windows based PC and uses IE7 to browse the web through a 2mb broadband connection.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Portfolio: Goals

1. Produce valid XHTML 1.0 Stict & CSS 2.1 code.
  • Working to professional standards.
  • To aid cross browser & cross platform compatibility [including screen readers].
  • Reduce site-wide load times [when compared to inline / internal styles].
  • To aid SEO.
  • W3C Validator for XHTML & CSS used to measure goal.
2. Level A WCAG 1.0 conformance.
  • Working to professional standards.
  • Websites should be to accessible to as wide an audience as possible.
  • WCAG conformance check-list to be used to measure goal.
3. Maximum 3 page loads to get to desired content from the home-page.
  • To aid usability / site navigation.
  • As recommended by Steve Krug [Krug [2000], Don’t Make Me Think’, Pg. 41.]
  • Site structure diagram & usability testing to provide evidence.
4. Portfolio to be up dated using a CMS.
  • To aid ease of updating & maintainability.
  • To further develop CMS knowledge.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Fourth quarter and the bases are loaded

I look over to my right to see the course schedule blu-tacked to the wall, depicting the remaining four (and a bit) months until the completion of my HND, and the reality of what is just around the corner is upon me.

My focus shifts now firmly upon employment & securing the skills that I need to obtain a job in this increasingly difficult economical climate.

Self Managed Learning Project
For this project I have chosen to learn the server-side programming language of PHP; the reasons for which are discussed in a previous post.

From an employability point of view, learning this language will put me in a strong standing for the type of jobs that I have been looking at.

I feel that of all the units that we have done so far this is the one that I will enjoy most, though I am a little apprehensive about the discipline of keeping accurate records of my learning for assessment.

Content Management
I am pleased to see the inclusion of this unit in the schedule. I have ‘played’ around with CMS during the brief moments of downtime this year but certainly feel that there is much to learn about the area.

From an employability point of view, I feel that this unit will be invaluable as increasingly, from my own experience, clients are requiring control over their website beyond handover.

Skills Gaps
Naturally, I have already began looking at job advertisements to see where the gaps in my skills are. Learning PHP will prove to be an invaluable feather in my employability cap, but increasingly I see jobs advertised asking for knowledge of ASP.NET as well as Flash with ActionScript; skills that without significant self study away from college I would be lacking.

I do feel that my creative work could be the weak link in my employment skills chain. Whilst I do have a small selection of work beyond the college assignments, I worry that this will not be enough commercially viable work to sufficiently showcase my skills; much practice, I feel, is required.

Some clarity I feel is needed surrounding the words ‘Junior Position’. When we complete this course do we apply specifically and explicitly for junior rolls or do our skills extend beyond the entry level position?

We enter now into the final quarter of the HND. Realising that our time on the course has never been more valuable, there can be no excuses, no missed opportunities, just perspirations & aspirations.

I would like to secure a job before leaving the course, however I appreciate that finding an employer that would be understanding enough to allow two days off a week to finish the course is a little optimistic at best. This will be only exacerbated by the competition not only from my classmates but also every other educational establishment's students & employment seeking professionals.

Good luck everyone.

Word Count: 488.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

SMLP Resources

1. PHP 5 in easy steps (Book)
ISBN: 1-84078-282-x
I have used elements of this book in other projects and has proven to be an invaluable as a beginner to the language.

2. The PHP Anthology (Book)
ISBN: 979-0-9758419-9-0
I purchased this book at the same time as the CSS Anthology from Sitepoint. This book could be considered as a reference book rather than a tutorial / walk through.

3. is a fantastic resource containing tutorials & reference material as well as links to related sites.

4. provides support spacifically tailored for MySQL use including forums & manuals.

W3 Schools is a well respected & established tutorial (and forum) web site; this section of the W3 Schools focus on PHP.

PHP tutorial & reference web site. The web site also has a supporting forum.

HTML Goodies delivers more than just advice on HTML & CSS; this area of the web site delivers tutorial based advice on working with PHP.

This web site delivers great PHP tutorials along with examples of source code to visualise the learning.

Kill PHP contains text & video PHP tutorials aimed at beginners.

PHP 101 - PHP for the absolute beginner.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Self Managed Learning Plan

My proposal for the SMLP is PHP. I fell that learning this skill at this stage of my career would benefit me greatly.

My previous qualifications & interests have centered around programming; though this is the first time that is has been focused on the web.

I currently posses a working knowledge & understanding of PHP & its uses on the web; though that knowledge is in its infancy & could be compared to my working knowledge of CSS before the completion of the A9 unit.

Though I have previously written & worked with databases, I am as yet to work with any web based server-side database.

Looking back on one of my previous post ‘Personal Development’, I identified the kind of roll that I would ideally find myself falling into. Additionally noted in the post is the identification of a skills gap; namely PHP.

Because I have a genuine interest in the subject & a programming background, I feel that I would have a high level of motivation & drive to develop my knowledge further.

My second choice for the project would be Flash with action script. Whilst I feel that this skill would be valuable to me & my development, it is not an area that I wish to specialize in so I feel that my knowledge would be likely to fade and / or become rusty after the assignment simply through a lack of call to use it.

In anticipation for this assignment I have already purchased books relating to PHP, though I have had little time to work trough.

I am looking forward to the unit & hope that I am permitted my first choice.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Third quarter and the bases are loaded…

It feels like only weeks ago that I was sat in my office talking with my colleagues about starting a web design & development degree; but in actuality, it was more like a little under two years!

So much has changed since then.


I felt that the CSS unit was fantastic! My only regret was that we had other units running at the same time which detracted from some of the more advanced learning. Though this was a shame, I still really enjoyed the way that the unit turned out.

Once again, this unit has shown me how little I actually knew & know about CSS. When John gave the lecture on the box model, everything fell into place. It reminded me almost of when I was learning clutch control in a car.

I am under no illusion that there is still much more to learn & that experience is perhaps the best way to develop my skills further; much like learning to drive, its not until you pass your test that you fully understand what you are doing.

On the Job

This project has been a real eye opener for me so far. Not so much at working with clients as I have had experience with this before (both web & non-web related) but how difficult it can be working with a team where everyone (myself included) is equally inexperienced.

The projects largest revelation for me is how difficult it can be to start up a new company; though I am sure that if this was a ‘real life’ job (what ever that means) then procedures would be in place with longevity of service in mind. The key I feel would be experience.

I do feel that the other team are at a definite advantage to us because up until the point of winning the pitches for the Games Development & the Photography sites we had done equal amounts of work & now we have to carry on with the work we were doing for the two clients that had been secured since almost the beginning of the project.

Culture Vulture
I have enjoyed this unit also so far. I enjoyed the research into the mini, both new and old, as it is a subject close to my heart.

The creative days that we are having has been a completely new experience for me; it feels almost what I imagine the first week of an ‘upstairs’ kind of class.
I have really enjoyed today’s day of exploring line, texture, colour, etc using photography of my local area.

With the end of the year within sight it is important, now more than ever, to stay focused & not loose direction.

Though I am listening to podcasts (Boagworld, Rissington, .net & TWiT to name a few) there is still a whole world of web out there yet to be explored.

I am looking into events where I can network with people in the industry & hopefully find employment; though further my education is still an option.