James Dowen

Category: Business

How to work remotely as Coronavirus strikes…

So COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is now a super real thing, and looks like it will have detrimental effects to our way of life, the economy, health, and so much more. In light of recent events, a lot of employers are looking at how their employees can work remotely. It’s a big change for a lot of them, but it’s something that should be embraced and comes with numerous benefits. As a remote worker, you:

  • Don’t have to spend time commuting, which could be 2 hours (or even more) for some people every single day
  • This means you save money on travel (fuel, trains, etc)
  • It also means you have more personal time. If you start work at 9am, and your commute doesn’t exist because you’re working from home, then guess what – you have plenty of free time up until 9am. It also means when 5pm arrives (or whenever you finish for the day), you don’t have to spend more time getting home – you’re already there
  • Can generally focus more and not get involved in office politics, and other pointless office tasks

I’ve worked remotely for at least 6+ years as a web designer/developer, and luckily I’ve being busy for every day of that so I’ve had no time to slack off. But below are my tips for working effectively from home, and creating that streamlined environment to get your work done.

Time management

If you’re new to working from home, then this is especially difficult. It’s extremely tempting to do some washing up, watch a film, not get out of bed, and so on. Unfortunately, do enough of that during working hours and your team will soon know about it through the volume of work you’re producing.

Be strict with yourself, and make sure you only do work between your allocated hours. However, you can always make the most of being at home during your lunch break (and any other breaks).

This is partly related to creating a good working environment…

A distraction free working environment

Yes, there are numerous distractions while working at home. Whether it’s the house work that needs doing, or that great new series you’re hooked on. In order to stop these distractions and temptations, it’s ideal to create a working environment to separate you from your private life.

I always stick to working in my home office. It creates separation from my personal life, and only includes work related equipment. This way, I can’t be tempted to switch on the TV or walk over to the dishwasher and empty it. However, not everyone has the luxury of a home office – but it doesn’t mean you can’t create your own separate work environment. Whether that’s a desk in the corner of the living room, or a dining table – as long as you’re not slumped on the sofa or in bed on your laptop, then it’s better than nothing.

This also helps with switching off, you can leave your working environment when the day is complete and spend time with your family.

Reliable technology

There’s nothing worse than working from home with a sub-standard WiFi connection or a really old computer. It slows your down and makes your work process unbearable. You will need the ability to take calls over the internet, upload files, send emails, all without your internet losing connection half way through.

This related to the distraction point above, but it’s always ideal to purchase a pair of noise cancelling headphones. It can block out the surrounding environment if others are at home with you, and also allows you to focus more in your own little bubble. I personally use the AirPods Pro – great piece of kit!

Depending on the type of work you do, a second or external monitor is a great way to make use of screen real estate. With more working space on your screen, you can have multiple windows open at the same time – thus boosting productivity in some cases.

Communication

If your team are used to seeing you face to face, then all of a sudden remote working can be a small shock to the system. Luckily, there are numerous solutions out there to keep you in touch with your team, such as Skype, Slack, Zoom and Google Hangouts.

It’s important that communication is maintained so everyone is aware of progress, and so that help/support can be given to you (or from you) where possible. This keeps all teams engaged.


Overall, to just remember to stay healthy and look after yourself as working remotely can also be a fast tracked way to becoming a couch potato!

On another note, I have a job that allows me to work from anywhere. If you’re looking for a web designer, web developer, or online software developer, then visit my main website to read more about me and get in touch!

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 WordPress website for Top5s

Top5s approached me during the summer to rebuild their website from the ground up, and migrate all of their content from their old platform. With well over 2 million subscribers on YouTube, it’s important that the Top5s website is robust and user friendly, amongst other things. The new website has proven to be a success, and we will continue working hard to innovate the website and bring new features and content to the ever growing Top5s audience. Top5s left the following testimonial:

“After having a very unprofessional web design service with a previous company, I searched around for the best person to rebuild our website and take it to the next level. After coming across James I can honestly say he has been fantastic. Everything from communication to his input on what would make the site more appealing for our visitors. The passion and professionalism really shows in his work and I couldn’t recommended him more highly.”

Check out their announcement video below, and click here to view their website:

The website is built on WordPress, using a custom developed theme.

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.

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

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.

Every year, the services we use every day on the web tend to play tricks on us when it comes around to April Fools Day. Whether it be “announcing a new feature”, or “testing something out”, you’ll usually find that Google, YouTube, and Amazon alike have something in-store for us all. So this year, I’ve decided to search the web for the best pranks from the services we use on a daily basis.

Google Maps Pac-Man

google-maps-pac-man

 

If you head on over to Google Maps today, you will notice the new Pac-Man mode at the bottom of the screen (where Earth/Terrain view can be toggled). You can simply navigate to an area of your choice around the world, toggle Pac-Man mode and play for hours. Pretty cool eh?

Amazon’s Dash Button

I’m not too sure how I feel about this one, but I’m pretty sure this is an April Fools joke. Let’s say it’s 11pm and you’re making a cup of tea and realize you’re on the last tea bag (and you can’t be bothered to go out and get any more in the morning), well not a problem at all with Dash. Just click the Dash Button on your pack of teabags to automatically order some more. Welcome to the innovative world of Amazon! Watch the video below…

*note, for Prime members only

Samsung Galaxy BLADE Edge

Samsung have announced that they are extremely proud to introduce the world’s first smart knife, the Galaxy BLADE Edge. It’s safe, waterproof, fireproof, and even has a built in thermometer – quite a sweet innovation. It’s kitted out with Samsung’s Kitchen app, which automatically connects the device to other Samsung kitchen appliances to automate cooking. Custom handles are also available.

blade_spec

Google Reverse

Google are a company who think ahead of our time to create innovative products and services that we should find useful; so they’ve introduced Google Reverse over at com.google.

Windows Phone’s MS-DOS

Back in the day, before a graphical user interface was present on operating systems, Microsoft users had to be familiar with MS-DOS to get things done. Today, it looks like Microsoft are bringing MS-DOS into the mobile market. Download the app here.

 

Why web developers and web designers charge a deposit

When I start a new project with a client, I charge a deposit every time. Clients don’t usually question deposits, as most understand the importance of them. However, some clients will question it. Below, I’ve put together a list of reasons why a deposit should be charged, and I answer some typical questions asked by clients and other web designers who seek help.

Build a relationship

As with any industry, it’s important that the business has a strong relationship with a client. This creates consistency throughout the project which then results in a successful outcome. When a client contacts me, they put their trust in me to create them exactly what they need; and I want to trust the client. I want to know that I’m working with a client who is dedicated to the project, provides valuable input and feedback where it’s needed, and of course someone who takes their project seriously. Not to forget the obvious point, I need to trust that they will pay me for my time and skills.

It’s more professional

Most professional web designers and web developers will request a deposit before they begin work. This shows a sense of professionalism and it shows that the designer/developer is a dedicated professional.

The client becomes more involved

As soon as the client has paid a deposit, they instantly feel more involved in the project. In the long term, this means that the project is completed quickly and more efficiently – which works out nicely for the designer and the client.

Some customers may even decide to change their mind and call the whole project off completely. If this occurs, then the designer/developer is not completely out of pocket.

How much should a deposit be?

The standard price stands at 50% (approximately) of the final rate, with the remaining balance to be paid upon completion of the website. However, some larger projects may require payments to be taken in stages. For example, a project that takes a month to complete may see a payment being taken at the end of every week – this is solely up to the designer/developers.

If a client cancels, they lose their deposit

Of course, if you’re a client and you decide to cancel the project for whatever reason you may have – you’ll find that no designer/developer will refund you. Afterall, you are paying for their time and skills! However, if the designer/developer has taken a deposit but then calls the project off themselves, then you are entitled to a refund of the deposit.

So to summarize, I’d do anything to please the client. It’s my job. I charge a deposit for all of the above reasons, and to ensure I complete quality work. If you’re a web designer/developer and you think I’ve missed out some reasons, then let me know in the comments below. If you’re a client, maybe you’d like to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Copyright © 2020 James Dowen