James Dowen

Category: Web Development (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.

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.

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/

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.

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 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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