James Dowen

Bringing PTW Sports to the leading edge

Through a mutual connection in the USA, Gary Cohn of PTW Sports contacted me regarding building a new internal and external system to increase the efficiency of his business and to boost conversions – leading to more sales.

PTW Sports’ investment included a system that allowed for the following to happen:

  • Internal staff to design and create forms for the events that they run across the US, and the consulting services that they offer
  • These forms can then be published directly, allowing customers to view and fill out the forms
  • Form data is collected in the system, and processed so that it can easily be used for registers, imported into external software, and so on
  • Based on the data customers have entered, they will then be prompted to pay their fee. Depending on the option, this will be a one off fee, or the system allows them to create a custom tailored plan, paid over their choice of monthly term

After deployment of the system, which seen an instant success by bringing benefits to the company that they never even knew existed, Gary wanted to invest in the company website. The website is a key selling point for PTW Sports, as it’s a point of reference for all upcoming events, company information, FAQ’s, and also acts as a strong lead generation platform for the company. His old website was not performing, and looked even more outdated than it already did when the new system was deployed.

A wise move was made to move forward with the redesign and rebuild of this website, which is now like at https://ptwsports.com

Gary is really impressed with the look and feel of the website and the system, as well as all of the functionality that the system offers. He had the following to say about the service I provided:

“We have contracted with James on several critical projects for Play to Win. He developed programs and a site for us that made our company relevant, leading edge, and focused. Our site is clean and direct and our ability to be proactive with clients and prospects has never been better. We are so thankful and appreciative of everything he has done for us and we look forward to our next project.”

Blogging from a mile high…

Well technically, it’s 37,000 feet according to the screen above my head right now – with 1190km to go to my destination. But that’s nothing compared to the time I’ll be spending on a plane throughout March with the various planned business trips (and maybe partly leisure) I have coming up – including other parts of Europe, and a trip to India.

My problem is that I hate wasting time, and I find the time in the air to be dead time. There’s still no WiFi option on a lot of flights, and if there is it barely works, or if you’re in economy, then the leg room just doesn’t warrant using a laptop (unless you want neck ache for the remainder of your trip). I sometimes pick up .NET magazine, but I’m not one for reading books or magazines – so I soon get bored of that.

However, with no internet, an iPad Pro and an imagination that I struggle to switch off – I see it as a chance to catch up on some blog posts. I’ve so far written one, with this being the second, and I plan on writing at least one more after this. I can schedule these to publish through the upcoming weeks, so Google can at least think my blog is active when indexing. 

On another note, I’ve taken on some interesting clients recently – and I can’t wait to share the work I produce for them. These new clients include a large London based investment firm, as well as a project for a popular gaming YouTuber with a subscriber count of about 3,000,000. Oh, and there’s also a personal business project I’m working on with a partner – so I’m really looking forward to progressing on that and releasing that to the public.

A new website for Certes IT Recruitment

Certes approached me with the vision of bringing their current website at the time up to a more modern and sleek design, that better reflects the industry that they serve – IT recruitment. In a competitive market like this, it’s important that well established agencies like Certes maintain their high profile web presence with an update to date website to stay current. Below is how their website looked prior to design and development work:

As well as providing a new design, we also worked on eliminating many unnecessary pages, especially after they were advised of how easy it is to lose a users attention, and how simple navigation is vital to creating a positive user journey on any website.

The job searching process is more streamlined than before, allowing users to easily search for jobs through various filters. Following that, the simple application process is made simpler if the user has an account, allowing them to easily apply to jobs without having to fill in their information or upload their CV every time.

We developed an API alongside their job software provider to connect the two systems together, meaning when jobs are posted on their internal systems, they are also pushed to their main website. This works both ways; as when a user applies to a job, this application gets automatically sent to their internal software.

Content pages are also much easier to digest, with a reduction in lengthy text and the introduction of more relevant imagery.

Overall, Certes is well deserving of their long overdue redesigned and redeveloped website. Visit their new website at https://certes.co.uk/

Why you need a bespoke web design in 2019

There are numerous web designers and so called web designers out there today offering template or theme based websites to their clients. Of course there’s no problem with this if they’re up front about it, and if the client is willing to do this because of a limited budget or even a limited timeframe. But where possible, I’d always advise a client to go for a bespoke website design over using an out of the box template or theme.

Even if the designer is using a system like WordPress, a bespoke design can still be created and developed as a theme; it doesn’t just have to be a custom system that this service is offered with. Below are some points explaining why I always recommend a bespoke design to clients:

It’s unique:

By using an out of the box template, your website will essentially look the same as thousands of other websites using that same template. This includes any templates purchased from sites such as Themeforest for $60, such as the one below. The below template has over 400,000+ sales.

A bespoke design is completely tailored to your brand, which is carried across through every page and area of your website. It gives the designer true flexibility to really push the boundaries of your new website. Limitations on design will not exist with a bespoke option.

It’s optimised for speed:

Page speed is an ultimate ranking factor for modern search engine algorithms, so it’s extremely important that it’s addressed on all websites. Google and other major search engines constantly check how long a website takes to load on both desktop and mobile, and ranks it accordingly in results. This is great for the user as they get a fast web browsing experience.

Because a bespoke design doesn’t include any unnecessary code or resources once the website is built, this means that loading times can often be cut in half. Google’s own Pagespeed Insights tool is very useful for assessing the page speed of a website; it also gives tips on how to improve. As an example, check out the score of my own website below:

It’s future proof:

With an innovative bespoke website design that incorporates numerous modern design elements, it boosts its potential lifespan to over five years, as compared to around 2 years for a template based design based on their sluggish features.

It’s search engine optimised:

When a developer is working on the frontend of a bespoke design, they aren’t dealing with “code bloat” – making it easier for them to implement the necessary markup to help with on-page SEO. Not to mention the above page speed benefits that this also has, which ties in strongly with SEO.

It’s cost effective:

Although it may cost more than a template based website, it doesn’t mean its the wrong solution. When taking in the longer term benefits of SEO, the potential lifespan and everything else, it’s bound to be a greater return on investment for you and your business.

Remember, some web designers aren’t transparent and may be charging a hefty fee for your website despite only creating it based on a template.

If you have any questions or need help creating a bespoke website for your business, then get in touch with me.

Using iPad Pro for Web Development

As I began travelling more and more, it became quite a responsibility to travel with a heavy £3,000 MacBook Pro. I wanted an alternative that would still allow me to carry out business and work tasks, such as email and programming.

Visiting the Apple Store was more than enough to persuade me to make the leap and purchase the 12.9 inch 2018 iPad Pro – although it came at a cost of nearly £1,200 with the Smart Keyboard Folio addon.

As well as web development, it’s extremely handy for client meetings and calls. It’s great for making annotations to web pages, taking notes and hosting Skype calls.

After purchasing the iPad, you’ll also need the relevant apps in order to carry out your coding tasks. I went with Coda at a cost of £23.99, as it’s important that you choose a coding tool that does everything you need it to.

After extensive research, I found this to be the best one for my needs; although I understand developers needs differ so it’s important to do your research, read the reviews and check out some YouTube videos. The better apps will cost, but are ultimately a small price to pay in comparison to the iPad itself and for completing quality work.

I’m an avid PHPStorm fan, but it seems the developers currently have no plan to bring this software to iOS just yet. Coda is the closest alternative I could find, which includes key features similar PHPStorm such as “projects”, which Coda refers to as “sites”, and of course FTP – which saves having to use a separate app. The one thing Coda lacks is the ability to hook up to version control such as Github, but that’s probably down to the lack of software to support it from the iOS side.

The iPad will mainly be used for backend coding, as front end is still a struggle without being able to use certain features, especially Inspect Element as found on many desktop browsers. However, Coda is still great for most forms of coding, especially with the range of syntax highlighting available for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Python, and more. They do have various front end tools, such as a preview mode to see your changes live without going into the browser, but I’d still find this very tricky to use if coding from a static design.

Although becoming less frequent with the power of the internet, when meeting a client in person we can easily annotate a web design together to get an understanding of their required changes and additions. This can be a lot easier than writing a list with no clear direction in many cases. This becomes even more fun if you opted to purchase the Apple Pencil, which is something I’d recommend if you’re a graphic designer especially.

Ultimately, the iPad Pro is a great portable tool for anyone in the web design or development business regardless of your role. They do offer a smaller model, but from what I’ve seen it would be more of a struggle to work efficiently from. There’s also many other things that can be done to accelerate your professional or personal life.

Web Designer/Developer Office Tour 2019

After moving house in June of 2018, I thought it would be beneficial to turn one of the rooms into a fully functional office. As a web designer/developer, it’s important that my working environment is comfy, well equipped and suitable to my working style. I’ve collated some photos below of certain key areas of the office, including the equipment and tech I use.


My primary working machine is the Space Grey Macbook Pro, operating with 16GB of RAM – mostly linked up to an external curved monitor (also the reason for its closed lid and the plant hiding the adapters).

I used to be a dual screen monitor kind of guy, but since upgrading to this 4K Ultrawide LG curved monitor, I haven’t looked back. The screen quality and resolution allows for a productive workflow.

Originally using the white Apple Magic Keyboard and Mouse, I switched to the Space Grey versions in the New Year.

I often get in the “zone” with the Apple AirPods with music, but they’re also perfect for calls with clients and partners.

I needed some colour in the room, so a few green plants are well suited for this.

As well as some colour, the walls were genuinely plain anyway, so a few art prints don’t go a miss.

Ergonomics is very important when your job requires you to sit down for a lot of the day, so a high quality and sturdy chair is a must have.

Although rarely used, I have a mini “chill out” area in the corner for a sofa and small side table.

Building a user content generated website

I’ve recently worked on a lot of projects, all of different shapes and sizes – which of course keeps things interesting. Crownion is a content generation site aimed at the African market, specifically Nigeria. The site allows for quizzes, surveys, and lists – collectively referred to as “Vibes” to be posted by site admins, and the site users. By participating in vibes, users are rewarded with points or cash, depending on the vibes they complete and how long it takes them to do so – these can then be withdrawn at any point.

As well as participating in Vibes, users can also participate in a regular “Payboard” what runs numerous times throughout the day. Users who are able to guess the four correct numbers within ten seconds. have a large cash prize credited to their account.

As standard, the website is fully responsive and comes equipped with reliable functionality all around, including via the expansive admin system used by the site owners to manage all users, content, action withdrawals, view stats, and more.

 

A new FUTWIZ, ready for FIFA 19

A couple of months ago, I was awarded the contract of taking the existing futwiz.com website and providing a complete redesign. As they already have a backend developer on their team, only frontend development was required.

Although maintaining the same pages and features, I had to redesign and deliver frontend responsive code for the core pages and features of their website. With over 40 templates involved, it was always going to be a big task to ensure every single one was designed and delivered to the highest quality and standard.

Mainly generating their revenue through adverts, each page had to consider advert positioning to maximise their revenue – without inflicting on user experience. The website accomodates a series of both full page and banner adverts.

A large majority of the FUTWIZ target audience access the site via mobile devices, so it was of great importance to have the responsiveness of the website adapt to any screen size. The mobile viewport features a swipe navigational system, as well as an easy access player search feature – one of the most common aspects of the website.

Alongside that, with a database of thousands of players, including all player data, I had to make it easy for their users to access the basic and advanced search options.

Ultimately, the FUTWIZ website has enjoyed a well deserved refresh from the below – which better engages their audience and provides quick and easy access to the data they seek.

 

A refreshed look and feel for Pomanda

After a recommendation from a previous client, Fieldhouse Associates, Pomanda approached me to re-imagine their website and primary sales funnel: pomanda.com

Previously, their website featured over the top infographics and animations, portraying their website as “childish”, not geared towards the professionals in their target audience.

Before the redesign

We worked on creating more subtle infographics and animations, as well as custom icon design relating to the services that Pomanda and their platform provide. Web-based animations were developed in a cross browser compatible measure, and remained subtle, as well as effective.

General site-wide scrolling animation

Pulsing effect on tower

Cloud moving on scroll, as well as auto-rolling clouds

And as standard, the Pomanda website is fully responsive and adapts perfectly to a device of any size.

We completely re-imagined the Pomanda website and re-built it from the ground up, and we are now working hard on Phase 2, which will be launching alongside their main product launch at the start of September.

After the re-design

Redesigning RAMM Science

I was recently tasked with redesigning the RAMM Science company website. RAMM Science provide services and software in the blockchain and artificial intelligence industries.

James goes above and beyond to deliver clean design, clean code, on time and on budget. He was able to take my vague requests and churn out a beautiful and functional site. I look forward to working with James for our future projects. Dont hire him, because I want him all to myself. – Alain Richardt

This involved evaluating their existing website – and following a brief that they provided – to create the best solution for them. The website had to portray the services and software that they offer in a professional manor, but with a modern and quirky design to match their target audience. As RAMM Science were not too sure on what content they wanted to include, strategic direction was also given on this aspect of the project.

Below is a screenshot of how their old website looked (not the best, as you can tell):

The homepage was refreshed to the below (although this screenshot was taken from an original design concept, so it contains filler/example content). This new version provides a way for visitors to easily navigate the site, and provides two call to actions. The background is actually a smoke animation, and the vertical scrolling content slider provides needed effect:

The developer in me spotted an opportunity to also include subtle web animations, utilising video and CSS3 transitions – which compliment the design style of this website.

The new RAMM Science website will be live in the coming week once the team source and upload the required contents.

 

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