James Dowen

Let a robot gain you Instagram followers

I’m a regular user of Instagram, and I’ve managed to build up a good following over the past couple of years I’ve been using it for by posting good photos and interacting with others. Recently though, I created a way to automate the interaction part of my account by creating a robot.

How the robot works is by automatically liking certain photos on hashtags related to my account. For example, it will automatically like hundreds of photos a day with the hashtags #webdesign, #webdevelopment, and more. In turn, this spreads your name across the Instagram network and gets people looking at your profile – which in a lot of cases results in them liking your photos and following you.

However, the robot can do so much more. It can automatically follow users, unfollow users, comment on photos, send private messages, and so on. I chose not to do this on my account because I like to control these things myself (not let a robot do it for me). I have used these techniques on other business accounts which are now gaining thousands of followers each month.

If you’d like access to the robot to grow your following, just email me your Instagram username to hello@jamesdowen.com and we can discuss further.

Top 10 websites that web designers & developers must see in 2017

Over the years as a web designer and developer, I’ve come across a number of different websites and resources that assist with productivity and inspiration. Below is a list of the top 10 websites I think you should take a look at if you’re web designer and/or developer. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a professional who’s been in the industry for years – I’m confident you’ll enjoy looking through the below:

1) GitHub

Mainly for developers, GitHub isn’t just great for collaborating on projects where multiple developers are involved. I am often the only developer on a project and use GitHub as a tool to backup my code.

2) Wunderlist

This website/app is great for writing todo lists. I use this not only for my working life, but to also keep my personal life on track. It’s pretty similar to the many other todo list apps in existence, but the elegant design drawn me towards this one.

3) Codrops

While great for many things including news and resources, my favourite part of Codrops is their how-to articles and demos. There are a tonne of beautiful CSS experiments and examples on there that any designer or developer could embrace

4) Web Designer News

This site does not publish articles itself, but rather curates them from other trusted sites. It’s great resource for easily hunting down the latest news in the industry.

5) Stack Overflow

This had to be included really. My go to platform for any development or programming related problem.

6) Scotch

A library of super well written articles and tutorials on all things web dev.

7) CodyHouse

Pretty much the same reason as Codrops but different experiments.

8) Asana

Perfect for managing multiple ongoing projects. You can add tasks, sub tasks, attachments, assigned to other people if working in a team, etc.

9) CSS Winner

Awards are given every day to well designed websites. Browsing through the award winners tends to give you great design inspiration for your next website.

10) Smashing Magazine

Full of coding news, tutorials, tips, and more. Reading this daily will sure help to keep you in the know.

5 things to consider when creating a website

A website is important to any business. It is a customers first port of call when they require information, potential customers visit your website to find out more, and for a lot of people their website is even their primary income source. But when you are getting a new website, or completely revamping your current one, there’s a lot to consider.

There’s often some things that people fail to consider which may have negative impacts on the website in the near future…

1) Is my website responsive?

A responsive website (or mobile and tablet friendly as some may call it) is important today as it will accommodate the ever growing mobile user-base. Over half of internet traffic comes from a mobile device, and if your new website is not suitable for browsing on a mobile device, then potential customers will most likely leave the site.

2) Website Hosting

You’ll find there’s often very cheap web hosting available for as little as £1.99 per month. While this seems good on paper, I’ve seen many people become let down over the years by poor service levels, resulting in a lot of downtime for their site. 100% uptime of your websites server is a necessity. If someone visits your website while it’s down, stats show that 87% will not return again.

3) Social Media Integration

This is expected by most today, therefore making it mandatory that your site users can easily interact with you on social media via your website. Whether this be links to your social media profiles so you can easily be found, or embedding social feeds, site visitors expect to be able to find this information easily.

4) Security

I once worked at an agency who mainly built WordPress websites for their clients. While this wasn’t an issue in the short term, the longer term often seen plugins and themes not kept up to date – causing security vulnerabilities to appear. Sites would often be attacked with spam comments, spam links, technical errors and so on; not a great look for those visiting your site. This can easily be prevented by keeping site and server software up to date, or using secure programming methods if going down the bespoke route.

5) Content

It used to be said that content was king. Although things have changed on the web over the years, this still appears to be the case in most cases. It’s important that all text is unique and not copy/pasted from another website. Doing this will flag your website as duplicate content to search engines, thus resulting in a possible site ban and loss of traffic. Duplicate content isn’t the only worry though; content must be engaging and of a high quality.

This is just a handful of five factors to consider when creating your new website. The list could go into the hundreds, and it varies from site to site. A small business site would have less factors than a large-scale ecommerce website.

 

How to speed up your website with .htaccess

Loading speed is still a common issue for many websites from small to big today. If your website takes longer than 2 seconds to load, then it most people will leave your website and go elsewhere without a second thought – and will never again return to your website.

There’s also another consequence to slow loading times, Google are now using loading times as a ranking factor on search results. So, if your competitors have faster loading times, then chances are there website could rank higher than yours in search engine results – potentially costing you a great amount of traffic. Below are some quick ways of increasing your loading times with .htaccess:

If you’d like help doing this on your own website, then please do contact me.

3 Quick Shortcuts for PHPStorm

PHPStorm is my IDE of choice for all web based projects as it provides an easy to use development environment for all of the technologies I use – especially PHP.

It also comes fully equipped with plenty of shortcuts to make life easier, of which three can be found below:

CTRL-D – Duplicate the current selected line.

Instead of writing out full HTML, generate it using Emmet (already built into PHPStorm). Simply type as below and press tab.

CTRL-Shift-F – Find/replace a phrase in your entire project.

MacBook Pro 2016 – OLED Design Concept

So many of us (myself included) have been waiting a long time for Apple to update the MacBook Pro range – with the last major update been back in 2012. I have a 2012 MacBook Pro model myself, but it’s in dire need of an update and I’ve been patiently waiting for Apple to announce something new.

There’s rumours around the web claiming that the new model will feature an OLED display (amongst other things). Take a look at the OLED design concepts by Martin Hajek below:

Macbook Pro 2016 OLED

Macbook Pro 2016 OLED

Macbook Pro 2016 OLED

Macbook Pro 2016 OLED

10 Examples of Beautiful Material Design

Since Google released their standards and guidelines for Material Design, the concept has taken both the web and mobile apps by storm.

Below I’ve compiled 10 examples of Material Design out in the wild, ranging from websites, to logos, to apps.

1) RunKeeper – App

 

2) McDonalds – Logo Concept 

3) Ieidium – Website Design 

4) Jeepney – Logo 

5) Instagram – App Concept 

6) Wallet – Website/App 

7) Dings – App

8) Tablified – Website/App 

9) Cine+ – Logo

 

10) Homework – App 

Testimonial from Toby Choules, of Combined Unsigned

Initial design concept

News Feed – Initial design concept

I haven’t posted much onto here in a while, simply due to the massive workload I’ve had on. So my time has been more focused on creating websites for clients rather than writing posts on mine (which I don’t mind at all).

Recently I’ve been working on a music-related social network for unsigned artists. Combined Unsigned is an upcoming social network, that allows unsigned artists and producers to post their music, images and other content. The platform also allows users to easily instant message each other, follow each other, and interact in a number of other ways (such as through “Liking” and commenting on posts).

cu blog23

Profile – Initial design concept

Combined Unsigned has been designed and developed entirely from scratch and runs on an entirely bespoke system. This boosts efficiency, flexibility and security and is something I would recommend for all websites. The site adopts responsive design (mobile and tablet friendly) and utilizes the latest technologies to make the most of the web today. Technologies include HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, AJAX, PHP and MySQL.

It’s been a pleasure to work with Toby on this project and I wish him every success. Toby left the following kind words:

Everything is amazing. The look, the overall vibe of it, he way it functions, I honestly don’t think anyone could have nailed this the way you have. Great work!

Contact me today about web design and web development.

Turning Time Into Colour

The web we see today is built on code, and all of the various colours we see are mostly written in CSS as HEX values. For example, the blue colour on this blog has a HEX value of #3FC0F6, and the grey background has a HEX value of #F1F1F1.

So, here’s an experiment that turns time into colour by taking the values of the hours, minutes and seconds and using them as HEX values: http://jamesdowen.com/projects/hextime/.

Internet Trends Report 2015

At around this time every year, Mary Meeker (business partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) releases a full insight into current internet usage and mobile trends.

The report was revealed at yesterday’s Recode Code Conference, and has been embedded below:

To summarise some key points from the report:

  • The Internet population has grew by 8% this year.
  • New Internet users are “likely” to access the Internet via a mobile device upon their first visit
  • In the U.S., 64% of people are online using a smartphone
  • Mobile subscriptions have grew to 7 billion
  • Time spent on mobile devices has grew by a massive 29%
  • 87% of teenagers claim that their phone never leaves their side, whether it be day or night

Overall, the report contains literally hundreds of pages of data – which is well worth a read.

This shows that the Internet is still growing vastly on an annual basis. Moreover, we can see the mobile market beginning to completely dominate much of today’s Internet usage.

Because of this, it’s important that your website is mobile friendly. If it isn’t, there are potentially a lot of people which aren’t visiting your website because of this, especially as Google is now using mobile friendliness as a ranking factor.

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Copyright © 2017 - James Dowen

Freelance Web Developer