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Spring Flowers and Sunshine

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For the first time in what has seemed like ages, I saw the sun shining. I do not know about everyone else in Great Britain, but I am tired of the rain, winds, clouds, and flooding that we have been having. I know that my family and friends "across the pond" in North America are tired of the snow. My partner bought me flowers for Valentine's Day, and I choose yellow roses because it is one of my favourite colours, and I needed some bright colour. I thought that I would share. 


I do hope that spring is now on its way and that we have a sunny and warm summer ahead. I do think that spring is on its way at last because I saw the first snowdrops yesterday.

Happy Easter

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It does not seem like spring with the cold weather, but Easter is finally here. I hope all of my visitors have a great spring and great Easter. Maybe the weather will finally warm up and it will begin to feel more spring-like. I've photographed some cupcakes and posted them below. Enjoy!

Easter cupcakes, from Fiona Cairns

S'mores cupcake from Selfridges

Millie's Cookies cupcakes

Fiona Cairns sheep, cow, and pig cupcakes

I'm Going to be a Contractor

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While working at a past employer, I developed a few websites using the Adobe CQ5 content management system. This was self-taught and a new experience for all of us in the team, and we found quirks and established methods that led us to complete the projects. I've been wanting to make some notes on these areas for a while as I discovered my own methods and made more sense of the application. I hope to be working on CQ5 as well, as this was the plan before I accepted another position, so I thought that I'd dig up a few of my notes from the past and try to remember as much.

Overall, I enjoyed working with CQ5 as it allowed me to use some of my skills in Java as well as my skills in front-end development. I was diverted from this due to being head-hunted for a different position, which I accepted after much thought as I was considering contracting, but I felt that the company was wrong for me and the role I was sold never materialised. I took the risk, as I did have some reservations; I had a 50% chance of it working out and becoming the perfect role and perfect company. I did enjoy the role and provided a large amount of ground-work for the company to take what I've achieved to the next phase: research, user personas, user journeys, wireframes, visual designs, detailed features, site-maps, documentation, CSS, HTML templates based on the HTML5 Boilerplate, and responsive tablet/desktop framework. However, I feel that I am destined to do greater things.

I am really looking forward to "getting my hands dirty" again and working with other like-minded individuals who are passionate about technology, visual design, best standards/practices, and quality. I am really looking forward to using CQ5 again.

Over the next few days, I will be posting some information and tutorials related to CQ5 development. I've just formed my own company, so I intend to be contracting for a while. I feel that this is the right path for me, but we will see once I get a contract. Exciting times are ahead. (If you do need someone with my skills, please get in touch with me.)

I'm wondering if my visitors are contractors/freelancers or permanent staff? I'd like to know your thoughts. Do you have any advice? What do you enjoy the most? Do you miss being a permanent employee?

New Website Design Launched

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Hello, visitors. Happy New Year's Eve. You may have noticed the new website design for was launched at the weekend. There's still a few bits and pieces that will be sorted out in due time, but it's best to get it up and running, and I am pretty happy with my new design. Of course, there's a few areas that my perfectionist mind wants to work on. 

(Overall, the transition would be a much smoother one if this was my full-time job, but it isn't, and I've fallen into the trap that many web developers and agencies fall into with their personal websites: keeping them up-to-date.) 


The new website is responsive, so there's no need to scroll left-to-right on mobiles or tablets anymore. The website also uses HTML5 (to some extent) and CSS3. I've also prettied up the URLs, and I will be doing some work on the portfolio content in the coming days. In addition, I have another task to change the template of my blog to fit the site design, and that is best left as a project on its own.

There's a few issues on IE7 to fix, and I am not officially supporting IE6 anymore, so I need to do a few bits and pieces with this, and I also need to design some nice error pages.

I hope you enjoy the new design as much as I have building it.

Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings

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I hope that everyone is having a great day today and that everyone's holidays and New Year celebrations are full of friends, family, and happiness. I wish "Season's Greetings" to all of my visitors, and I hope that you all have the best 2013. I hope 2013 is better than 2012 was for you. Now, enjoy a virtual cupcake. *smile*

All the best,


A Sneak Peek at the New Web Design

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Hello visitors! I have been keeping this quiet, mainly because I have been putting my focus on work tasks over my personal projects recently. I had started a new design earlier in the year and had made some good progress on it early this spring. (I know, that is quite a while ago and it does seem to be the norm that a developer's/designer's or company's website takes a back seat while other work has been completed. I have seen this and experienced it numerous times.)

However, a few more hours spent last weekend, and my new design is now fully responsive. It looks good in IE8, IE9, Chrome, and Firefox. (IE7 does have a few issues that I need to sort out.) I still have to work on the body content and some integration with the blog, but a good chunk of my work will be some code reuse PHP database calls for my portfolio content. The sneak peak screenshot is below. (Obviously, there's the bits I need to fit in to the main content area and a few minor design tweaks.)


I've decided to give my new design a 'vintage' treatment, and I am in love with some of the vintage fonts that are available. In fact, I've used a few of them for this website, combining Google Fonts and CSS Fonts and FitText.js for responsive font displays. I've also used other vintage design elements.


Like my previous portfolio web designs, I have tried to create a neutral design, but I have also tried to give it some colour. I'm conscious that I do not want the design to overpower my portfolio pieces, so the primary colours must be neutral. 

The other element that I have focused on is making my design responsive. The current design is ancient; I designed it in early 2006 while I was living in Bath. Unfortunately, the idea was half-baked, and I was never happy with it as I rushed to launch it in early 2007. I actually prefer the previous design, and I still do. In early 2006, the world was not too concerned with mobile devices, and iPads were not even invented then. Now, these other devices are important to design for. Below is the design for the website that fits on a mobile device, such as an iPhone.


The image below is what my visitors will see if they visit using an iPad. (In both this image and the one above, visitors will be able to see more body text. I just don't really have that area designed yet enough to give it justice, so I cropped it from the images.)


I've included some screenshots of my previous portfolio designs below so that you can see the evolution. I started off with the neutral folder-like appearance, then I added colour and new fonts to each section. (Sorry that some of the images are broken; these images are from I then decided to create a pixel-art-inspired design with buildings that visitors could click on the images of to go 'inside' to see more about the projects. The design was featured in the four seasons. 


I am happy with my new design. What does everyone think? Leave me a message and let me know.

Recent Project:

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My latest website project was to create a redesign for the Pets in Practise website.  Pets in Practise is a company based in the North Hampshire and Berkshire area that specialises in giving advice on pet behaviour, training, and helping pets overcome behaviour problems.  The company's website was built a little over a year ago using the Joomla content management system for the employees to make updates, and the company wanted to refresh its design.

The redesign took two weeks, with the majority of the design and implementation completed at the weekend and in the evenings. This included a new design that was mocked up in Adobe Fireworks, colour correcting images to use for the slideshow, and development integration in Joomla Content Management System (CSS changes with some HTML changes). A screenshot of the new design is below.


Despite never having had any experience with Joomla before this project, I found it to be quite easy to understand and work through. Some of the editing within the Content Management System can be fiddly, but it was otherwise fine, bearing in mind that all Content Management Systems have their own strengths and weaknesses. It seemed robust enough to make the changes, though sometimes it inputs some bad code, which needed to be cleaned up in order to fix a few of the pages.

Obviously, for those of you who are doing a similar project or any web redesign project, I cannot state how important it is to back up the data files and database before beginning any work (as well as backing up the files once the website has gone live). Nothing went wrong for me, but it's always important to back everything up, and it's such a simple step that could save a project for potentially going completely wrong and losing everything. Also, I've got friends in the same industry who have told stories about an old employer not backing up the data, but they fortunately had taken a backup, so they were able to retrieve some of the work.

Coming back to the website redesign, I've attached a screenshot of their old design below, and I analysed what could be changed and put these items in a list.
  • The website is text-oriented, and there's not much that really grabs the user to pull them into the website. There's no definition of a hierarchy to pull the user in, such as headings. Most visitors will skim over material, but if the website is visually engaging and the content is presented with visual cues (defined headings and a hierarchy), then visitors will take a little time to skim and read content more thoroughly.
  • A phone number or contact information is not displayed prominently. There is a phone number in the footer, but it's not noticeable. A smaller, local business should include more prominent contact information so a prospective client can easily get in touch and not have to search the website for this information.
  • The navigation could be broken down into sub-navigation as one mentions information about the company and the other mentions specific information about training and behaviour. The navigation menu itself also feels a bit 'lost'.
  • I felt that the services offered was slightly vague on the home page, and this could be improved with headings and graphical elements breaking up the flow of the page.
  • I didn't like the slideshow photographs blended together, and I felt the photographs were stronger on their own.
  • The company has a Facebook page and a Twitter page, and I felt that this could be advertised more prominently to keep regular clients collaborating and up-to-date as the owner of the business keeps the social media websites up-to-date.
  • I felt that testimonials on the home page is absolutely necessary for this type of business and it could get clients to use the service. The company has many testimonials from previous clients, and I felt that it was a shame for these to be hidden under a sub-menu.
  • I felt that it was important to mention the owner and her qualifications on the website more prominently than in the footer, where it gets 'lost'.


Send me a message and let me know what you think of the new design.

Also, the owner is lovely, so if you have a problematic pet or need someone to speak about pets and are located in the area, then I am sure she could help. The website is

Spring Arrives with New Opportunities

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Last Friday, I left IG Group to continue my career at a new company based near Reading. I received the fantastic opportunity at the end of February. I had planned to make my career at IG Group; however, I could not pass up the new opportunity, where I will be using more of my skills and influences in the company's products.

I had been at IG Group for nearly a year and a half, and although I have been enjoying the Adobe CQ5 CMS work that I have spent most of my time at IG Group working on, there was no plan to convert any of the existing websites to this new CMS for the immediate future at the time I handed in my notice. (I feel that larger companies tend to work at a slower pace and suffer from the ability to organise projects; possibly because more people are involved in the decision-making process.) 
My last six months at the company had been crazy, particularly the months between October and February. During those months and over the Christmas and New Year's season, I sacrificed much of my time (and health!) on a project with a tight deadline and agreed to be on support over both Christmas and New Year's weeks, which required logging in to complete some tests to ensure that the environments were available on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, I felt a little under-appreciated and that my hard work over those three crazy months went unnoticed, even though the project was a success.  I felt that everyone on this project did a brilliant job, and the team worked really well together. Despite the feeling at the end of the project, which I felt should be celebrated and applauded, I did enjoy working on it over the past few months with other great individuals. Launching a new website without design/branding/new technology in three months was a challenge, and it was a successful project. I will miss working with my colleagues, but that happens when one changes jobs.
Leaving IG Group also means leaving London, and I have changed my focus and personal goals over the past month so that I could spend the remaining time enjoying the city. The photograph below was taken at the weekend in Hyde Park of daffodils during the warmest day yet this spring. I think that signifies the beginning of spring, and it signifies new changes for me. 
Now... hopefully I am back on track after the last long month and a spring clean of my objectives (such as my website redesign)! I look forward to my new role and new opportunities. I love working in IT/Web Development/Programming, so I am quite excited to get started.

I Leica New DSLR Camera

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For a couple of years, I've been wanting to get a new camera. Photography is one of my passions, and combine this with my love of travel, a digital SLR is a constant companion. I have also been using my boyfriend's point-and-shoot Panasonic. It's small enough to fit in my handbag and comes out during lunch break walks around London. Unfortunately, I will be leaving London soon, but that is a topic for another post.

My current camera is a digital SLR Canon Rebel. I've never been completely happy with the camera, even though I've calibrated it and set the white balance. Generally, it's been a good camera and has allowed me to have control, whilst giving me the option to change lenses. However, what I was not happy with was the colour of the images it captured. This seemed most evident to me in the "blue" colour range. I particularly remember a trip to Greece, and we had gone to the Aegean Sea, noted for its beautiful deep blue-green waters. Unfortunately, my digital SLR Canon Rebel refused to capture the beautiful blue. It's also done the same for photographs of the sky. Many may not have noticed this, but I did, and it really did annoy me. Why? Because my film SLR took the most amazing photographs and captured colour perfectly. Because a digital camera should be able to capture the colour and not compromise.

That leads me to this discussion and one reason that I have decided to go for the Leica V-Lux 3, after spending quite a few hours doing research. Leica cameras are an expensive brand, and there are comparable models out there, but after doing some research on other websites and comparing photographs of the results, I have made the decision to purchase the Leica V-Lux 3. (The comparable camera models are not quite as good when you compare them like-for-like, and I felt that spending some extra money would be worth the cost.) Even though the camera is not really a DSLR, I decided to try it anyway. Besides, carrying a lot of camera kit around on holiday and only using one lens mainly anyway, I decided that I would like a camera that is a bit lighter. The Leica Lux-3 does seem like Leica's marketing for the travel market.

My only regret is that I do not have the money to buy the Leica M8 or the Leica M9, which look like amazing cameras. However, if I could buy one, I certainly would not be taking it on holiday for fear of having it stolen or damaged. In that instance, I would not be getting all of my money out of it.

My Leica V-Lux 3 arrived earlier this week, but I was unable to test it properly until this weekend. I hopped on a train today and visited London. I used the automatic setting on the camera for most of the day. I still need to play with the settings more and discover how to change the aperture on manual settings. Some of my photographs look a little blurry, but this was probably due to incorrect shutter speed, slight over-exposure in the automatic setting, or simply focusing on the wrong area. However, I am pleased with the camera and very pleased with the colour. The image below was taken with my new camera using the automatic setting; I really could not spend ages setting manual settings in front of a busy street in front of a department store in central London, particularly as I am still learning how to use the camera. I absolutely love these rich colours.


Recent Project: IG INSIGHT

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Last summer and early autumn, I worked on a project that displays news and shares knowledge. The website can only be launched as a part of the dealing platform, so only customers who are able to log in will be able to see this website, which is known as INSIGHT. The project was developed in Adobe CQ5 CMS.

The knowledge section of the website is colour-coded depending on the category, and articles are displayed so that the user can learn the different terms. The 'news' section is the area that I developed on my own using Java, JSP, CSS, HTML, and Javascript in the Adobe CQ5 CMS platform. Simply, content editors can add news stories written by one of the analysts, and these articles are displayed and sorted. There's also a Twitter feed from the analysts and links to related areas in the 'knowledge' section. Most of the section for 'news' is automated, so this required a lot of coding to automate this and to display it as intended. The news stories are also organised by category, and there are areas that can be filtered, such as obtaining a list of all stories by author. There's also much more to it than the screenshots that I have posted.

This is one of the most exciting projects that I have worked on in a while, and I really enjoyed the mix of development in Java and translating the designs to HTML and CSS and Javascript. During my time at the company, this was the work I did for the "news and analysis" section was the most enjoyable.

The following image shows a news article. The image and first part of the text is obtained and displayed in the preview on the home page and category pages - as well as the author and the date.


The following screenshot is a section under one of the categories, and I built the navigation section under the heading, which are anchors in the current page and sibling pages and the grey box, as well as contributed to the CSS. This is a large area of the website.


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