Tag: web development

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.

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.


Client Testimonial from Mr Patel

In February, I was contacted by a computer science student who is studying at university, named Mr Patel. He kindly asked me to help build a pension manager system, as part of a university module he had to complete. Now, I don’t really know much about pension schemes, how much people receive when they retire, etc. – so I knew that accepting this project would also be a bit of a learning curve for me; but I love to learn new things and implement what I’ve learnt into real life projects and systems. I accepted the project back in February and we completed it last week; and Mr Patel kindly left me this testimonial today in my inbox:

“In my search for a web developer in order to assist me in development for a university module, out of 10+ enquiries James Dowen was the quickest to reply and take an interest in my project from day one compared to others who never got back to me. He asked for a detailed explanation of the task in hand (which was one of a technical/complex nature) and agreed to take it on quoting an affordable price (for a student). Throughout the whole process he has been brilliant, always getting back to my emails almost immediately, even during times when I was being a pain with the requirements. The end product was delivered on time and was so much more than I had anticipated. Overall, my experience has been great which I cannot fault, in the future if any family/friends require web development I will insist and recommend them to use James. Thanks for everything mate, it is much appreciated.”

So Mr Patel, I would like to thank you for been such a pleasure to work with. I wish you the best of luck with your future studies and with whatever journey life decides to take you on.

Testimonials such as this inspire me to work harder and they enable me to enjoy my job even more than I already do.

Technical: Pension Manager was developed using HTML, CSS, jQuery, JavaSript, AJAX, PHP & MySQL.

I’m available for hire.

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.

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