James Dowen

Category: Web Design (page 1 of 3)

Building a new website & brand for top pension provider

A recent client project seen me design and develop an online marketing solution for Pension Expert, a leading pension advice company providing consultation on various types of pensions and retirement plans.

They contacted me about rebuilding their website to deliver on the goal of providing their visitors a way of easily getting in touch with a pension consultant. As well as that, Pension Expert also possesed a dated logo, so branding was a must to make the website appealing – thus leading to future conversions and more business.

The website employs on-page search engine optimisation to assist it in ranking as highly as possible via organic measures. As standard, the website is also pagespeed and mobile optimised – a must for the modern web.

Overall, the Pension Expert team are happy with their new online presence, and the results from their website.

Visit https://www.pensionexpert.org/ to take a look at the project in the real world. Alternatively, contact me by clicking here to learn more about how I can help you and your business.

Why I Purchased A 49″ Samsung Monitor For Productivity

Ever since starting my career, I’ve always moved from gadget to gadget, and device to device, in a mission to fine tune my set up and be as comfortable and as productive as I can be.

The most common thing to change is my monitor (or monitors, depending where we are in the history of my setups). Over the years, I’ve gone from having one monitor, to two, to three, to two wider ones, and so on. This would change pretty much annually, until in 2018 I replaced two monitors with one 34″ ultrawide curved LG monitor. This served me well for over 2 years, and allowed me to have the benefits of two “normal” monitors, but without the bezel or gap in the middle. 

I get bored quite easily though, so the time recently came for a change. I had eyed up the Samsung LC49RG90SSUXEN 49” Curved Gaming Monitor on Amazon for a long time, and I noticed the price dropped so I snapped it up. Delivery was fast, as usual with Amazon Prime, so I had it within 1-2 days.

Now though, I’ve used the monitor daily for well over a month, so I feel that’s enough time to comment on the practicality of such a thing. The first major obstacle for most will be making sure you have enough desk space. For a monitor this large and this heavy, the legs are pretty beastly. Alternatively, you could wall mount the monitor – which would be my preferred option if I actually had a wall directly behind my desk.

This monitor really is a productivity boost though. At 5120px wide, it’s the perfect tool for pretty much any job in the digital world. At any given time, I can see all of my communication apps (Slack, Skype, etc), as well as my code, and any designs I’m working off – all at the same time with no need to switch between windows. The time saved through this method alone is worth it. Concentration can be distributed to any program almost immediately, and it comes naturally as well without any obscene head movements – which some may expect on such a large and curved screen.

I use a 16inch MacBook Pro, so connecting to that via a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort cable is seamless, and I imagine would be seamless for any other computer.

I’ll never actually use this monitor for gaming, so don’t be distracted by the fact it’s a “gaming” monitor. I’m sure it’s great for gaming, but it really is next level for productivity.

Admittedly, I was worried that monitors like this would be a one-time fad, but after a month of use I would completely recommend this monitor for productivity, for pretty much anyone who works in the digital space. I’m a web designer/developer by trade, but I can see this being perfect for video editors, photo editors, musicians, and so on.

If you’d also like to take the jump into the next level of productivity, then the cheapest I’ve found this current monitor is on Amazon, available here.

How to make your website more accessible

From a users point of view, accessibility is one of the most important aspects of a modern website. An accessible website means that users who have learning difficulties, or may be impaired in a particular way, are still able to consume and enjoy the contents of the websites they visit. These users often use screen readers and other devices to digest the contents of a website.

Not only that, but accessibility is also a good marketing and business move. Google and other search engines use accessibility as a key ranking factor for websites today.

A professional web designer will consider this when crafting a website, so I’ve put together some tips below for achieving this:

The Language Attribute:

Set a lang attribute to the language your website is presented in on the opening <html> tag. For example, <html lang=”en”>.

Alternative Image Content:

It’s important that all images have alt attributes set on the <img> tag. This helps to describe, in text, what the image is – especially useful for those who can’t see images, or if an image doesn’t load.

Allow Zooming:

Especially on mobile devices, don’t set [user-scalable=”no”] on the meta viewport tag. It’s good practice to let a user have control over the web page, and they may want to zoom into a specific element they cannot see properly.

Use ARIA Attributes:

Elements such as aria-label=”What this button does” come in handy for elements that do not have a clear text meaning behind them, such as a <button> that only contains an icon.

Avoid Low Contrast Text:

Text on a background which causes it to have a low contrast is troublesome for some groups of disabilities and makes text hard or near impossible to read.

Use Tables Only For Data:

Luckily, the days of using HTML tables for layouts are long gone. But it’s best to make sure you’re still only using HTML tables for actual tabular data, and nothing else.

Crafting a leading eLearning platform for Scholar Hub

One of my longer term client web design/development projects has seen great growth since the beginning of our relationship. Originally tasked with creating an eLearning platform that allows students to learn about religion online, Scholar Hub quickly grew into a platform that allowed students of all ages to learn about any subject. My continued relationship with them has allowed Scholar Hub to offer:

  • Easy and intelligent search to find the right educator
  • A streamlined booking process for both the student andeducator
  • Quick communication via on-platform messaging
  • One-click future session bookings and payments
  • Instant AI-powered ID verification for educators
  • Advanced technological security
  • Secure card handling
  • Social feeds
  • A comprehensive learning space, allowing students/educators to video call, share screen, use an interactive shared whiteboard, message, and send files – all in one online platform.

Scholar Hub is still in its early days, but I’m excited to see where they go and support them on that journey.

If you’re looking to learn something new, or would like your children to learn something extra outside of school, then head on over to https://www.scholarhub.co.uk/.

Are you looking to have your own platform developed? Contact me to find out more today!

Designing & developing my new website for 2020

It’s been at least a year since I even touched the design of my site, and with how fast the web moves forward in terms of both design and development – I thought the start of the year would be a good time to address the situation (go check it out at https://jamesdowen.com/).

My site currently ranks well for specific keywords, so the main challenge was maintaining those crucial rankings. One of the most important SEO ranking factors today is pagespeed, and with my old site scoring 99/100, this was pretty hard to match, let alone beat. This alone involved taking great care during the programming stage, and ensuring every asset was appropriately compressed and served, but not to the point where the assets lose too much quality and begin to look blurry.

The other is content. My site has always being a one page site since its inception, so I’ve kept that same structure and same content throughout (apart from changing a few words). This means the design refresh uses pretty much the exact same content as before.

Old version of jamesdowen.com

Another key concept was to include animated elements, fitting in with a modern web trend of creating engaging content. On desktop, we feature an animated particle blob effect that the user can control with their mouse. This is a quirky feature to help boost interaction. This isn’t present on tablet or mobile devices though due to performance issues.

Animated particle blob

As well as that, we have certain user controlled elements that are binded to scrolling events. The example below shows the / (forward slash) rotating with the speed that the user scrolls.

Rotating element on scroll

Further down, we have the services bubble, which essentially lays out my skillset surrounding a picture of desk/office space. Rather than it be displayed as a static image, I wanted to bring some life to this section. The background features a forever looping bubbling effect, creates with pure CSS, and each skill floating gently with a slight overlay.

Services bubble

Last, but not least, we have the menu and the start project/contact section. The particle explosion that takes place when opening and closing the start project area is something cool that I’m happy we adopted and managed to fit in.

Menu and contact sections

If you’re looking for a new website, then head to my very own new website at jamesdowen.com and I’ll be happy to help you. I’m a freelance web designer and developer, and I’m available to work on websites, web-apps and online systems.

How to make the most of the dark mode craze using CSS

This is just a short post, but I had a question through my inbox recently about devices using dark mode. There’s a large rise in dark mode users across systems like iOS and MacOS especially, but how are websites reacting to this?

Well luckily for developers out there, there’s an option to run certain CSS when dark mode is detected on a users device.

So now we can start inverting our website colours and fitting in with the dark mode craze.

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 live 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.”

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/

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.

 

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