James Dowen

Category: Web Design (page 1 of 2)

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.


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/.

Koolwan – Chinese Holiday Website

Recently, I launched a website for the Chinese-targeted Spanish holiday villa company, Koolwan. This is a fully functional website which has been fully designed and developed bespoke by myself. Aimed at the Chinese market, Koolwan has the following features:

  • Advanced search facility
  • Online booking system with options to add extras to the booking, with on the fly price calculation and a dynamic payment system
  • A bespoke CMS to allow Koolwan to manage bookings themselves, create vouchers, etc
  • User accounts (including profile picture, the ability to view past bookings, etc)
  • Voucher code facility
  • And much more

Yin Wang, Business Development Manager at Koolwan, had the following to say:

James is an amazing programmer.  He is very patient, and always solved any issues along the way very quickly.  I am very happy to have worked with him. Great job!


I wish Yin and Koolwan the best of luck with the future of their business.

If you’re looking for a web designer and/or web developer, then please get in touch as I’m available to take on more work.

Bespoke is always the best option when it comes to building a website; there is more flexibility, it’s easier to scale as your website grows, you aren’t tied down to the design of ready made templates (which other sites will also be using), your website is more secure, it’s more efficient with faster loading times, and so much more.


I was recently approached on Twitter to create a website for the #KeepHartBeautiful campaign. It was simply a one page website with a logo and some text, allowing the campaign to express their thoughts without the 140 character limit on Twitter.

I went on and created the website for free (because I’m good like that and knew it wouldn’t take me long) for this good cause. Now I’m not from the Hart District of Hampshire, I’m from Birmingham (as many of you would know if you’ve spoken to me on the phone) – but I do wish #KeepHartBeautiful the best of luck and I also hope they reach their target on Kickstarter.

Testimonial from Joel Davis, of The Social Ad Team

Joel contacted me with an exact vision of what he wanted. He had everything from his logo, to his website, briefed in a document which he had given to me beforehand – which was great in assisting me to understand what Joel wanted from The Social Ad Team website.

I went on to do the following for The Social Ad Team:

  • Logo design
  • Website design
  • Website development
  • Responsive web design
  • Blog
  • On-page SEO
  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Website analytics

It has been a real pleasure to work with James. He is passionate about his work, responsive, creative and incredibly fast.

This was a bespoke build, allowing for greater flexibility, easy scalability in the future, more customisation, and an overall more efficient website.

Most of my clients’ websites use my bespoke CMS to edit content, publish blog posts, etc.  but I’ve actually trialed something new on the CMS for The Social Ad Team – a new WYSIWYG editor (but a million times better than the others out there). This new content editor allows the client to edit content by simply opening up the live website, clicking wherever they’d like to edit and just start typing. How simple is that? There isn’t even a “save” button as it saves automatically. I hope to use this on all future websites.

Visit The Social Ad Team at socialadteam.co.uk.

I’m available to hire.

Testimonial from Alex Ferguson, of Freight Negotiate

I often receive testimonials from clients when completing a job for them – but I never actually post them anywhere in the public domain. So this is definitely something I’m going to be doing more often.

I recently developed a website for a company called Freight Negotiate. Alex Ferguson, Managing Director, approached me with a vision of exactly what she wanted. Freight Negotiate was to be a modern and dynamic platform that allows companies to ship their products around the world by allowing various hauliers to bid on shipments, resulting in cheaper rates for shippers and more work for hauliers.

After various email discussions and a meeting, Alex decided to move forward with the project. When Freight Negotiate launched recently, Alex had the following to say:

I am really impressed with the site and to produce something this good in such a short space of time is phenomenal. It has been a pleasure working with you and I certainly look forward to growing the business with the aid of your web development skills in the near future.

Freight Negotiate launched with the following features:

  • Instant messaging
  • Live bidding
  • Advanced search functions
  • A dynamic payment system (including 30 day credit applications)
  • Free registration
  • Secure SSL
  • Simple shipment management
  • And so much more!

I wish Alex and Freight Negotiate great success in the future.

What’s responsive design and why is it so important?

We live in a world of smartphones, tablets, and thousands of different devices – all with different screen sizes. As a web developer, it’s my job to keep up with the trend and ensure websites I build adopt this responsive strategy.

What is responsive design?

Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).


As Wikipedia states above, responsive design ensures that your website is optimized for all screen sizes, ranging from desktop computers, to tablets, to smartphones.

It also works as one website. For example, years ago when visiting a website on your desktop computer you’d remain on www.domain.com. However, if you was to visit that website on your phone, you’d be redirected to m.domain.com – a completely seperate website built specifically for smartphones. Today though, if you was to visit a website that’s responsive on you computer and drag the browser window down in size then the website would adapt to the new screen size – this is a prime example of responsive design and how it works.

Why is responsive design so important?

As previously mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are thousands of variations of different devices out there, all varying in size. As there is no standard width for a smartphone or tablet, it becomes more and more practical to have a responsive website by the day.

Future proof

Making your website responsive not only makes it look good on phones, it also makes it futureproof. Not only will it work well on devices which are currently on the market – it will also work on devices to come for a number of years.

It’s more SEO friendly

Did you know Google are now using responsive design as a ranking factor? If your website is responsive and your competitors isn’t, then you have one over on them when people are searching for your services or products.

Cost effective

Building a mobile version of a website would probably double your design and development costs – as effectively two websites are being designed and developed. However, responsive design is part of the same website. You only ever have one website which adapts to screen size. While some freelancers/agencies charge for responsive web design as an optional extra, others (like myself) include it as a standard.


Everyday, more and more websites go responsive. If yours is not yet responsive, then now is a good time to consider it. If you’re looking to get a new website developed, then ensure it’s responsive too.

Update: March 2015

As of April 21st 2015, Google will be penalizing websites that aren’t mobile friendly in mobile search results. Get a responsive website now.

Update: April 2015

Read more about mobile websites at Google Developers. Here, you can check if your website is already mobile friendly, read best SEO practices, and more. – Thanks to Thomas Digby.


Copyright © 2017 - James Dowen

Freelance Web Developer