Services & skills
WordPress is an increasingly popular web publishing platform. Based on open-source PHP code and the MySQL database, WordPress has grown far beyond its humble beginnings as a blogging tool and is fast becoming the default development tool for small to medium sized websites.
Once up and running, WordPress makes publishing and editing online content a breeze. Setting up a basic WordPress blog can be a fairly simple process, but more advanced customisation — allowing much of the power of WordPress to be exploited — generally requires experience and skill.
I’ve been using WordPress for almost a decade, and it has been my primary development platform since 2008.
Once primarily a blogging system, WordPress has expanded massively since then and is now appropriate for a wide range of different projects… online portfolios, brochure sites, blogs, document libraries, large e-commerce applications… almost anything you can think of! And once it’s live, running a WordPress site is simplicity itself, with a user-friendly admin area ensuring content can be edited and updated with ease.
Basic generic WordPress sites are quick and fairly cheap to set up. Beyond that, many people need a site more tailored to their specific needs. Thanks to strong skills in PHP / MySQL programming as well as a thorough understanding of the system, I can produce the custom WordPress themes, plugins and functionality to make your website distinct.
Therefore I would, of course, recommend that new websites adopt the latest standard. However, at the same time, my experience allows me to work with older standards should it be required for legacy projects, and I am in the perfect position to update existing sites with newer technology; rendering older websites in fully responsive HTML5 and bringing them to the palm and the pocket, as well as to the desktop.
As well as possessing a high level of proficiency in these technologies, I take pride in my ability to produce streamlined, well-structured code that maximises the accessibility of a website or web application. Accessibility for everyone regardless of disability is part of the web’s power, and basic W3C guidelines in this area should always be followed. A more rigorous adherence to accessibility standards (up to triple-A rating) can be provided if and when needed.
PHP is an open-source scripting language that has been designed specifically for the web. It provides a platform onto which both HTML and SQL can be placed, allowing a website to interact with a database. PHP is arguably the most widely used server-side language on the web as it forms the basis of many common Content Management Systems; notably WordPress, but also Joomla, Drupal and many more.
Because it is open-source, PHP is free and can be easily installed on almost any web server (most hosting companies provide PHP as a standard component of all of their packages). Although I’ve been working with server-side scripting languages since the late 90s (in the form of ColdFusion), my decision to shift my primary focus to WordPress in 2008 prompted me to learn PHP.
Initially I used PHP simply to tweak or customise existing WordPress templates, but have since become proficient in the language and am happy to write a WordPress plugin or template to whatever specification you may have. Additionally I have also worked on PHP projects outside the WordPress framework, should you have a need for a web application or non-WordPress based website built on PHP.
Feel free to contact me should you have specific PHP requirements and I’ll be happy to discuss your project.
The web is an inherently multi-disciplinary medium, and is used most effectively when all aspects are brought together in harmony. This is why the overall design of a website is more about orchestrating different levels of design than in more traditional media.
Information architecture is where any good site should begin, once the initial concepts and goals are outlined. The structuring of the information and functions being presented in a website underpins the user experience, and should combine logic and intuition to provide an easy, engaging experience. Many problems encountered late in a site’s development are avoided through thoughtful design of the underlying architecture.
Graphic design is what most people think of when ‘design’ is mentioned. And while it is merely part of a whole in the web, it’s an important part. People are strongly visually orientated, and their response to the site’s aesthetics and visual structure plays a powerful part in how they interact with it as a whole. Of course, different projects call for differing aesthetics, and web design is all about meeting the challenge of creating a unique, appropriate look-and-feel for each site.
Navigation is the user’s experience of the site architecture, and is one of the prime areas where information and graphic design merge together. Visual cues such as hyperlink styles play a role alongside organisational cues such as site hierarchy and the labelling of site sections.
Web browsers, even today, can prove a stumbling block for site design, with different versions of different browsers rendering the same site in sometimes drastically different ways. It’s important therefore, to test a site in all the major web browsers during and after development, to ensure it is accessible and usable in as many different environments as possible.
There are Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) consultants who will run social media or Google AdWords campaigns for you and your website. Using Google Analytics or a similar tool, they can recommend or develop entire marketing strategies around your site.
I do not specialise in that kind of marketing. But over a decade and a half of developing websites, I’ve seen what works on the web, and what doesn’t. I’ve learnt that the structure of a website – from a purely technical standpoint – is an essential component of any good search engine ranking. Get that bit wrong at the start, and you instantly undermine every other SEO strategy you implement.
Responsive is no longer optional
Indeed, with Google actively removing websites from their database that are not responsive to different screen sizes (meaning that if a site does not display properly on a phone, it will no longer appear in search results), it has never been more important to have a well-written HTML5 website. Bad site structure and code can literally get a website excluded from the largest search engines.
When a website’s code is uncluttered, logical and coherent; search engines are able to quickly and easily index the content so that it features high in their results. Obviously there are numerous tricks to gaining a high ranking on the popular search engines, but they are all far more effective when site content is easily indexable. And that only happens when it is being displayed by well-written code.
Any site I develop has that solid foundation of clean, easily indexed, fully mobile-responsive code. In addition, if a site is based on WordPress I install and configure a suite of SEO plugins by default. These will ensure your website gets a leg-up in the rankings.
Web consultancy and advice
An unfortunate number of websites are created for no better reason than someone being told they “need a website”. And while that may well be true; unless you identify exactly why you need a website and what it can deliver you, then it’s unlikely to deliver very much of anything. Whether it’s a business seeking new customers or a better way to organise their information, an artist looking to gain a larger audience, or an enthusiast looking for a place to share their passion with the like-minded, it’s vital to have a clear plan for your website.
Having used and worked with the world wide web almost since its inception, I can provide advice and direction on a new web strategy or help overhaul or refine an old one. Headaches can be avoided, and time and money saved. Just let me know what you need from the web – or what you think you need from it – and I’ll steer you in the right direction towards achieving it.