Happy New Year 2013 from kc web design kent

Happy New Year from kc web design kent! 2012 was a great year for kc web design kent and 2013 is going to be even better with some exciting new projects on the horizon!

What’s happening at kc web design kent in 2013?

We have a few projects going live in the next few weeks while we get started on a new web app client project which will last a few months. This web app is going to be very special and utilise HTML5 only technology to create a web app that works offline on mobiles. Very exciting, bleeding-edge development and a cracking web design project to start the new year.

We’ve also been working hard on our own web app project over the last few years and Deltr should be ready to go live in the next 3-6 months. 3 years hard work has gone into this web app and kc web design kent and Progress Technology are very exciting that it will soon be open to the public. Deltr is a new way to write content for websites and blogs and get paid for doing it. It’s simple to use and will be a fantastic revenue stream for anyone that enjoys writing. When the economy is still looking tough in the UK, a web app like this will help thousands of people create a second income on the web very easily with potential for good earnings. Stay tuned over the next few months for more information.

Also on the cards this year is our first venture into creating our own iPhone and iPad apps. Our first iOS app will be a weather app with a twist! Cirrus One will be like no other weather app on the market and will give the user a unique feature not seen before in this market place. We hope to have the Cirrus One teaser website up and running soon so stay tuned for more info again.

2013 looks like it’s going to be a great year here at kc web design kent and we all hope your 2013 will be a successful one to. Happy New Year!

A website designer in kent – Meetups & gatherings

When we moved 4 years ago with kc web design kent I thought this area might be a really cool place to work as a freelance website designer in kent. I was expecting lots of meet ups and gatherings and conferences but sadly there hasn’t been much of that at all.

A while ago I did try to help resurrect what looked like a great night called Canterbury Geeks (akin to the Oxford Geek Nights) but sadly this didn’t happen for one reason or another. Another interesting night, similar to Canterbury Geeks is Geekstable – a gathering of geeks in Whitstable. It sounds interesting but has been a bit sporadic this year so I haven’t managed to make it to any. Maybe next year, if it becomes a regular event, I’ll get to go one night. While doing a bit more research on this article I did come across Digibury which looks quite interesting and does seem to be regular with a good turn out. Digibury might be the one to try over the next few months. The guys at DecodeUK have started http://preparetoactivate.com this year which also looks like a great event so maybe another one to try in 2013. Being a freelance website designer in kent can be a lonely job sometimes so meet-ups like this can be an important part of networking and socialising for the lone web designer.

We need a website design conference in Kent?

As a website designer in kent it would be great to have some conferences that were closer. One of my big resolutions this past year was to get to a conference but I haven’t quite managed it yet. Having a great web design conference, even just a one day event, in Kent would be great. Somewhere you can get to within an hour or so and not have to travel all night to get to a conference for a 9am start. Maybe I’m just a bit lazy, or maybe it would be nice to see the web design community in Kent come together and create something special, in an amazing venue with some great speakers. There are some pretty high profile web design companies in kent so maybe someone will get something together. Maybe I will get something together and put on Kent’s first web design and development conference. Now there’s a thought…

Brilliant Retail, brilliant support

At the beginning of this year kc web design Kent built an e-commerce website for Drai Fine Art to sell fine art paintings and prints. We created a responsive website design to work on mobiles and tablets and built the website using Expression Engine and the Brilliant Retail e-commerce add-on. The initial build of the website was a relatively smooth process and working with Expression Engine and Brilliant Retail on this website design project was no trouble at all. Brilliant Retail hooks into Expression Engine perfectly and allows you to create fantastic e-commerce websites, is easy to use and setup and the client backend makes administering the store very easy. This past year the website kc web design kent designed for Drai Fine Art has been a huge success and as part of our ongoing relationship with Drai we wanted to upgrade Expression Engine and the Brilliant Retail e-commerce add-on to keep the site up-to-date.

For updating our EE websites at kc web design kent we use the fantastic Updater plugin which makes doing updates very easy, it also works with Brilliant Retail. The update to EE and Brilliant Retail went smoothly until we came to check the front end and admin area and found a few problems. The Brilliant Retail update hadn’t gone well in some places and so we were getting errors in the admin system and products weren’t showing on the website. After some time trying to troubleshoot the issues I contacted Brilliant Retail support. Their support is excellent and within a few emails the first problem was fixed. The second problem was a little more tricky but with access to the website files their support guy had it sorted and the website was working again. One of THE most important things that people underestimate when buying professional products is the support. You may not always need it but when you do you need it fast and solutions quickly and thats exactly what Brilliant Retail did. If you need an e-commerce plugin for Expression Engine then Brilliant Retails is the one to go for.

If you need an e-commerce website built on a CMS platform such as WordPress or Expression Engine then give kc web design kent a call. We. Are. Experts.

kc web design kent Dribbble PSD freebie button

Here’s another Dribbble PSD freebie from kc web design Kent. It’s just a simple button but free for everyone to use.

You can download the free Dribbble PSD freebie or see the post on Dribbble.

If you’re a professional website designer or just a freelance web designer, Dribbble freebies can help spark that little bit of creativity or give you a push in the right direction if you’re struggling with a web design project. This Dribbble freebie photoshop file is free to use on any of your web design projects, just leave me a comment on Dribbble if you use it somewhere.

At kc web design kent we love a freebie and Dribbble freebies are the highest quality freebies you’ll find. As a web designer or freelance website designer it’s important to get inspiration and collect snippets of designs you like for future reference. There are loads of sites like Pinterest that are great for collections of images but when collecting a library of PSD files for use in your website designs it’s helpful to have an easy way to categorise and store them for later use and at kc web design Kent we use Pixa. It’s perfect for creating folders of graphic files that are easily viewable and has made a huge difference to the way we store and use assets at the studio here at kc web design kent. Pixa has a great smart folder feature so any PSD files you add to a specific folder will automatically show up in the image view window in Pixa which makes it incredibly easy to store and search files. Give Pixa a try today if you have lots of graphic assets or icon sets you need access to when designing websites, it works a treat!

We’ll be doing some more Dribbble freebies at kc web design kent over the next few months so stay tuned for more goodies.

Photoshop CS6 Creative Cloud update

Adobe quietly rolled out an update to Photoshop CS6 yesterday and I almost didn’t notice two amazing new features for web designers. Apart from retina support, an improved crop tool, smart filters for video and a few other small updates there were two big additions that are going to get web designers and everyone at kc web design kent very excited.

Copy CSS

Yes, you read that right! Copy CSS! What, web code in Photoshop you say, it can’t be true! Just right click on a layer and you’ll see the new ‘copy CSS’ command. Click it and it will copy styles associated to that layer that you can paste into your favourite web design editor. It also works on groups of layers to! On simple buttons with gradients and shadows it works a treat and should make life a lot easier when building styles from a PSD file but when you copy CSS on anything complicated you get a lot of positioning styles as well which you may need to take out, still, its a big step in the right direction and will save a lot of time. Another nice feature is the ability to load a colour palette from an existing CSS file so if you need to make some new designs based on an existing website design then you can import the colours from the CSS file and see them in your colour palette. Very handy!

Conditional if statements in actions

Now, this one took me by surprise. Conditional if statements in actions. I almost overlooked this one and then realised what an incredible feature this is and one that will solve a problem that we’ve been searching for the answer to at kc web design kent for many years…intelligent image manipulation in batch processing. At kc web design kent we work with a lot of e-commerce website owners who regularly update their sites with new products and new product images. On some of the older bespoke web design projects we did it’s a process we have to go through here at kc web design kent for our clients. Until now the batch processing of images would have to be broken down into portrait and landscape so that we got the proportions correct but with conditional statements we can now create one action that can tell the difference between portrait and landscape images. Genius!

I’m Paul, a freelance web designer in Kent

I’m Paul, a freelance web designer in Kent. It’s taken me a while to actually come out and say it but yes, I am a freelance web designer. When I started kc web design Kent back in 2007 it was a collection of very talented web designers and developers all working as freelance web designers or freelance web developers in their own right but would come together under the kc web design umbrella for special projects. I still work with some of the original freelance web developers I did back then and these are the people I trust when big jobs come in. When the smaller jobs come in or jobs I know I can manage myself from a technical and timescale point of view then I’ll work solo, as a single freelance web designer.

It’s taken me a while to really appreciate what a single, lone freelance web designer can do and over 15 years as a web designer and developer have given me the skills to tackle most projects these days and so I do more work as a freelance web designer than I do in team based projects at kc web design Kent. As a freelance web designer I do still work in teams though and this is one of the great things about freelancing – you can work purely as a web designer or UI designer with a team of great people that are brilliant at their specific jobs. Being a freelance web designer in Kent also gives me the opportunity to work on some fantastic projects with people I wouldn’t normally get to work with and the variety and breadth of projects I work on now keeps every day new and exciting.

So, as kc web design Kent we do any kind of web design project with our great team here. As a freelance web designer I personally work on web design, iOS design or UI design projects of any size while also building Expression Engine and WordPress websites from scratch. If you’re looking for a freelance web designer in Kent for short or long term design projects then give me a call.

A freelance web designer in Kent

Reading the articles on kc web design Kent you’d get the impression that we’re a small design studio – which we are – but more and more these days I’m doing pure freelance design jobs on user interfaces and getting involved in bigger long term projects. As a freelance web designer in Kent and the owner of kc web design Kent it’s important to let prospective clients know what we do and how we do it. At kc web design Kent we do a lot of small bespoke web design projects that need coders and designers but these days it seems that freelance web designer jobs are becoming more common. So, kc web design Kent isn’t just a small web design studio, it’s also me doing a lot of freelance web design work and this is becoming increasing important to the business and to my clients. Being able to take on long term freelance web design projects and be a freelance web designer in Kent is a great way to work and has allowed kc web design kent to focus on what we do best – creating beautifully designed and crafted websites.

One of the things I wanted to do with the kc web design kent website over the next few months was to make it less studio based and more freelance web designer based so that prospective clients know exactly what we can offer in terms of skills and bookings. Although the small bespoke web design and coding projects will stay, I see more of the larger freelance web designer projects coming in over the next 12 months and this will change the way we work a little at kc web design Kent and I want to reflect that more in the overall essence of how we portray ourselves and in particular myself. As a freelance web designer in Kent I think it’s important to be known as yourself and for the work and skills you have as a person and not just a company. The work I do at kc web design kent and as a freelance web designer are equally important and from a work point of view exactly the same but I feel it’s important for new clients to be able to choose a great freelance web designer in Kent as well as work with a fantastic small web design studio.

Dribbble freebies infographic PSD file

Everyone loves a freebie and everyone loves Dribbble freebies so kc web design Kent have given you a little present to use in your own designs. Its a simple infographic that can be used for all sorts of number presentations.

You can download the PSD file from Dribbble or here.

Over the next few months we’ll be doing some more Dribbble freebies and giving back to a great web design community. If you’re a web designer that isn’t on Dribbble yet then do it now! Get some of your best work together and try and get an invite, it will be the best thing you do this year. The Dribbble community is fantastic and the quality of web design work on there is amazing. Dribbble freebies are also a great source to learn from as well as use in your own designs.

As well as the Dribbble freebies and great inspiration from some of the worlds top web designers there’s the job board which is well worth a look. Competition for the jobs is high and you’ll be applying for jobs along with lots of other top designers but the jobs that come through onto the job board are very good. It’s been a great source of freelance jobs for kc web design Kent and one place I keep going back to.

Keep an eye out on kc web design kent for more Dribbble freebies in the future and follow me on Dribbble.

 

WordPress themes for web designers

KC themes – WordPress themes for web designers – was created by kc web design Kent to give web designers a different kind of WordPress theme. The themes we create for KC themes – WordPress themes for web designers – are specifically designed for web designers by web designers who understand what makes a great WordPress theme easy to work with for a designer. Most WordPress themes come fully loaded with custom designs, option control panels and all sorts of extra features that make it easy for WordPress website owners to install and customise, but, if you’re a website designer and you don’t want to build WordPress themes from scratch you only have a few options such as using one of the bare-bones themes that are available. KC themes go one step further than a bare-bones theme and give you a layout and content types that make it easy for you to build onto and for your clients to edit content.

KC themes use the Zurb Foundation framework which makes responsive website design easy to create and adapt giving web designers the perfect base for adding their own unique designs. KC WordPress themes give web designers everything they need to get a professional WordPress theme installed and setup with dummy content so they can then create a unique design and craft it onto the ‘designless’ theme. Building WordPress themes based on the web designers own designs have never been easier and KC themes Wordpress themes for web designers make theme designing very easy for designers that don’t want to get into the guts of WordPress theme design. Our themes don’t come with huge control panels or code full of tags you’ve never seen before – they’re simple, easy to read and well commented so you can easily adapt the layout and add you own design. kc web design Kent have created KC themes so that you don’t have to start from scratch or use a theme that difficult to change to create your perfect WordPress design.

kc web design Kent have been building WordPress themes for our clients for many years and we’ve put all our expertise into KC themes to make creating great website designs a breeze. If you’d like a unique WordPress theme created for your website then get in touch with kc web design kent.

 

kc web design Kent review – The new iTunes 11

iTunes 11 came out today and the internet has been a flood of praise and criticism for Apples new version of its flagship music player. The top 5 latest features in the new iTunes are the completely redesigned interface, iCloud integration, a new mini player, up next queuing and a much better search as well as being much much faster and integrating a common look for the iTunes store across all Apple devices.

Working at a small web design studio like kc web design kent means working mostly in a room with no other people for the majority of the time. Working like this at kc web design kent has its pro’s and con’s and one of the nicest pro’s is being able to play what ever music I like on my retro hi-fi equipment and 6 speakers! iTunes 11 does feel a lot faster, especially on a large music collection, and after spending the last few years just hitting play and shuffle it did feel nice whizzing around the UI and selecting specific albums and songs again. In fact, I’ve listen to more old music today because of the improved UI than I have done in a long time.

The overall feel of the new version is quite nice but there are a few places where some sloppy UI design has crept in with some unsightly shadows and what looks like fuzzy text. There were some reactions on Twitter stating the new font used was Helvetica instead of the normal Apple Lucida. All in all though, the new version is pretty good. The iCloud integration will make a lot of people happy and the new UI design is sharp and slick and zippy. All I need now is that Apple TV to create the whole house entertainment system and a way to stream movies into the kc web design kent office…must write that letter to Santa.

 

kc web design kent – Google Nexus 7 review

kc web design kent – Google Nexus 7 review. I talked about the need for hardware testing for responsive web design a few days ago and mentioned the devices we were going to add to our arsenal here at kc web design Kent. One of those was the Google Nexus 7 tablet.

First good thing I have to say about the Nexus 7, and more specifically about Google, was the delivery was super fast! Ordered 1 day, came the next, even though the order stated 2/3 days. Well done Google, have a +1. The Nexus 7 comes in a very well packaged box with the bare minimum of accessories: the tablet, charger and small booklet…no sign of a screen cloth though which I would consider to be an essential accessory for a touch device. After a quick charge the Nexus 7 started up and straight away notified me of an OS update which I agreed to. It then restarted pretty quickly and setup the update which then allowed me to access the device properly. On first look it seems like a really nice small tablet. It’s responsive to touch commands and the Android OS feels quick and fluid once you get used to it (which took a while after using so many Apple devices…I kept going for that home button!). After about 30 mins of using it I got another OS update notification so I agreed and it was installed. And 30 mins later another one, to update to Android 4.2, which is hopefully the last update and the Nexus is now on the latest version.

As the Nexus 7 will be used purely for testing I went straight to the browser and looked at a few responsive web designs we’ve done here at kc web design kent and straight away it showed that no matter how good you think you’re media queries are, there’s always a device where your responsive website design doesn’t look quite right. Because of the screen size of the 7″ Nexus the portrait and landscape sizes fall between some widely used media queries and so a few sites needed some tweaks. This just shows the importance of testing on real devices and is the reason why we’re gathering a suite of devices to test on at kc web design Kent.

After using the Nexus 7 for a day or so I think its pretty good. Once you get used to a different OS and different way of navigating around it becomes fairly intuitive, although I still keep going for that home button. It still makes me think that Apple have got it right but Android aren’t far behind and the Nexus is a good device and a very good price.

If you’d like more information on responsive web design or how your website can be adapted to work on all major mobile devices then give kc web design Kent a call.

Responsive web design hardware testing

As responsive web design becomes more and more relevant and the majority of websites that get built now are made to work on most devices, the problems of testing become more appearent. At kc web design Kent pretty much all of the websites we build now are responsive and testing them on all the devices out there is becoming impractical. You can get away with testing specific break points in the browser and there are a lot (more than 19 at last count) of responsive web design tools out there that help with this. While testing in the browser is fine and will give you a pretty good idea of how things will look at those screen sizes, it’s a good idea to have a few real devices to hand to check. You’ll never get a real feel for a particular device unless you have it in your hand but what do you do when there are so many different devices on the market?

To make things a little easier at kc web design kent we’ve started to build a small testing suite of what we consider to be a good cross section of devices that will enable us to view our responsive web design builds. Currently, we’re limiting our testing suite to a minimal amount of devices and adding more as the device landscape changes. For kc web design Kent’s first round of devices we’ve decided to go for these:

Retina iPad – To test retina images

Google Nexus 7 – A good, all round small tablet

iPhone 4S – Your average iPhone user

HTC Desire – One of the best selling Android phones

iPad 1 & iPhone 3G – For testing on older devices

At kc web design Kent we think this is a good starting point and should provide a more tactile testing experience for our responsive web design projects and enable us to get a better feel for how our website designs and web apps react and work on these devices. I’m sure we’ll add more as the market changes but for now I think these will do just fine.

 

 

Fujitsu UK blog

Over the last few months, kc web design Kent have been working hard with Fujitsu UK and Progress SEO to completely rebuild and redesign the Fujitsu UK blog website.

Working with Progress SEO, kc web design Kent rebuilt the Fujitsu UK blog from the ground up. We setup a brand new server that was security audited by Fujitsu and installed WordPress on the dedicated system. WordPress was secured, tuned and audited again by Fujitsu to make sure the whole system was secure. Once kc web design Kent had built the core of the new system we created a unique WordPress theme that mirrored the look and feel of the Fujitsu UK website but had unique features for the blog and was hooked in to all the usual WordPress widgets and menus.

The old Fujitsu blog was structured in a very strange way and utilised WordPress Multisite to construct one site out of many sites with each website representing a different ‘blog’ subject. With the new Fujitsu UK blog website, kc web design Kent completely restructured the content and created one new site that held all the different blog subjects enabling Fujitsu to consolidate all their blogs into one easy to manage website.

The new Fujitsu UK blog is part of a wider campaign created by the fantastic Progress SEO and kc web design Kent will be working closely with them over the coming months to improve and adapt the Fujitsu UK blog for specific SEO purposes and design tweaks.

Visit Website

William Cowley Parchment & Vellum

kc web design Kent and William Cowley have been working hard over the last few months to launch a brand new website for the 140 year old parchment and vellum maker. When Adrian from William Cowley first came to see me at kc web design Kent I was instantly drawn to this project. William Cowley are one of only 3 companies in the world that still make Vellum (a type of parchment made from animal skins – all ethically sourced of course) and it’s a company that’s been around for 140 years. They still make Vellum in the same way they did 140 years ago and the methods used are top secret. William Cowley have a fantastic heritage and have contributed parchment and vellum to some amazing projects and uses such as Royal wedding certificates and Bibles on display in Museums.

The quality of the parchments and the tactile nature (honestly, Vellum is unbreakable, you just can’t rip the stuff!) of what they do is fascinating and kc web design kent wanted to try and get across this feeling of a beautiful physical product on the website design. Working very closely with William Cowley, kc web design kent designed and built a WordPress based website design that was unique, showed the heritage of a 140 year old business as well as the skill and craftsmanship involved, while making the website still feel modern. Easy!

…I must back up the phone message, I’ve just left you, to say that I’m delighted with the finished result. Many thanks for all your efforts (and patience!) to get everything right, it’s much appreciated.

 

Visit Website

 

HTML5 local storage

I love how the internet works some days. After spending most of Friday researching HTML5 local storage and how it might work with a new web app we’re creating I came in this morning to find a nice link in an article in my RSS reader mentioning this…

Imagine you’re filling a complex form on site, or typing effervescent and extensive comment. And when you’re almost done with that browser is crashed, or you closed tab mistakenly, or electricity is turned off, or something else break your efforts. Disgusting, huh? With Sisyphus on site you just reopen page in your modern (with HTML5 support) browser and see all your changes at that forms. It’s lightweight (3.5 KB) jQuery plugin uses Local Storage to prevent your work being lost.

Perfect. Just what I was looking for. You can read more about Sisyphus on the Github page here…http://simsalabim.github.com/sisyphus/

I’ll be taking a good look at this over the next week or so and other options for HTML5 local storage and how it might work with large forms and in browser calculations.

Responsive web design – Pull Down for Navigation

Pull down for navigation is a great way to display your website navigation on responsive web designs. On smaller devices such as the iPhone the pull down for navigation system allows you to create a bar at the top of the screen that you pull down to reveal the navigation boxes. It works really well and we’ve been using it on the kc web design kent responsive web design ever since we built it. Unfortunately, ever since iOS6 was released something in the update to Safari on iOS6 broke the pull down for navigation javascript code. Fortunately, theres an easy fix. Just replace this line…

top: mobileNavHeight + 'px !important'

with this one…

top: mobileNavHeight + 'px'

And it will work again on iOS6 in your responsive web design.

Responsive web design navigation

There are many ways of achieving good navigation on smaller devices in your responsive web design projects. There seems to be no set standard yet and many websites use navigation features such as drop down menus, responsive navigation bars that expand, pull down to reveal, slide in from the side navigation and many more. A lot of it comes down to the complexity of your responsive web design project and how the website design will look on smaller devices. It’s a case of working out whats going to work best for your website design. We do have a kind of standard forming on mobile navigation in that lots of people are starting to use the convention of the 3 line icon to denote a navigation element that will reveal a full nav bar on responsive web design mobile sites.

Expression Engine plugins for web designers

At kc web design Kent we build a lot of WordPress websites. Recently we’ve been doing a lot of WordPress website design and a lot of UI/UX design but haven’t done an Expression Engine websites design in a while. In my previous post I spoke about the fantastic Updater plugin for adding automated updates to Expression Engine.

In this post I’m going to talk about the plugins and modules we use at kc web design kent when we build an Expression Engine web design project. So, here’s the basic list then a small run through of each one…

kc web design Kent’s Expression Engine plugins for web designers

I’m only going to provide a brief overview of each plugin to keep this post as short as I can so if you need more info about each one head over to http://devot-ee.com

SEO Lite

A simple but effective solution for adding extra SEO options for titles and meta to each page/post in Expression Engine. It took a few tweaks to get the homepage and default options working but well worth a look.

CP analytics

Always a standard plugin we add at kc web design Kent, the Control Panel Analytics plugins does just that – it adds a panel to the dashboard so users can see their Google Analytics stats from within Expression Engine.

Developer button

This one we recently found and it’s very simple but works well for web designs while in a development website design. All it does is install a new nag link at the top of the admin that has a dropdown with all the most used things you’ll need while developing a site in Expression Engine. Very handy while developing!

Word-Limit

There are a few standard add-ons that you just can’r do a website design without and Word Limit is one of them. It does exactly what it says, limits words and comes in handy for news snippets and excerpts.

Freeform

Freeform seems to be the go-to solution for Expression Engine forms these days and for good reason. Its easy to use and setup and works very well.

Mountee

Now, Mountee isn’t so much a plugin, but it does need a plugin to work. Mountee is actually an app for Mac OSX that allows you to connect to your Expression Engine templates like you would via FTP so you can work on your templates in Coda or Espresso locally and when you save the files it automatically updates Expression Engine. It has changed the way we code templates at kc web design kent and makes life much, much easier than having to edit your templates from within the Expression Engine admin system. A must for any web design!

NSM override css

A quick simple change to make the Expression Engine admin control panel a bit more client/corporate friendly. Makes it look a bit better and comes in a choice of colours so you can fit it into your clients brand a bit better. And don’t forget to change the logo of Expression Engine to your clients on the login page for that added bit of customisation!

SG tagstripper

Another simple one. It strips tags from content and you can specify which ones to keep and which ones to strip which is very useful.

Wygwam 2.6.3

This is the first time I’ve used an extended rich text editor and this one is great. It adds a lot more features for the client to use and allows you to add custom styles to be selected from the RTE. One feature that has made a huge difference is being able to specify a style to be used that will style the contents of the text editor content which gives the user a way to preview advanced styles within the editor. Very useful for any content thats heavily styled and needs to be viewed by the user while editing.

Snaptcha

Captcha in Expression Engine has never been perfect. Snaptcha makes it a lot better and far less intrusive.

Columnbo

This plugin enables you to construct tables and lists from field types and makes outputting data in custom columns and tables very easy. You can even specify the tags to use which enables you to output any set of tags to create your layout. Very useful for pricing tables and grids of data.

MX cloner

Another simple but very useful plugin especially when developing a website design. It lets you clone a post or page with one click in the Expression Engine admin so duplicating pages is very easy.

 

Web design Kent tools – Updater for Expression Engine

At kc web design Kent we use WordPress and Expression Engine to build most of our websites. They’re both fantastic content management systems but very different. After doing a lot of WordPress website design recently it’s been nice to get back into Expression Engine.

One of the things that WordPress does extremely well is updating. Whether it’s a plugin or the core itself, updating is fully automated and can be done with the click of a button in most cases. Unfortunately this is where Expression Engine is lacking some what. There’s no automated update process built in to Expression Engine so each time you want to upgrade the core system you have to backup database and files, copy over the new files then replace any custom files and themes. All the time you do this the site is offline and it does take some time to do it properly. For most web design professionals, including us here at kc web design kent, upgrading and updating core systems isn’t the most exciting of jobs and one that should be done easily and quickly – like WordPress does.

Updater for Expression Engine web design pro’s

To make things a lot easier when updating Expression Engine theres a plugin that can automate the process for you and gives you a very WordPress-like auto upgrade. For web designers and other web design professionals that don’t want to spend a lot of time doing manual upgrades to Expression Engine then the Updater plugin from Dev Demon is a brilliant time saver. It automates the whole process of backing up, installing the new files, taking the site offline for a few minutes and then adding back in your themes. It needs Expression Engine 2.2 or higher (which was a little disappointing as kc web design Kent needed it to work on some old pre 2.2 sites) and only costs $15! Hopefully, Expression Engine will talk the Dev Demon and get this functionality built into the core of Expression Engine as it’s definitely lacking in this area.

 

Web design and designing in the browser

As the way we design websites at kc web design kent changes and responsive design becomes the normal way to build websites then so do the tools and processes we use. On a recent responsive web design project we decided to work in a different way and leave design until last. The process we used was client and business goal exploration, wire framing, prototyping responsive layouts in the browser using Zurb Foundation and then applying the design elements. The beauty of working this way is that all the goals, call-to-action points and key features are defined before any design decisions are made on colours, textures and look & feel.

At kc web design kent and many other web design studios the way we work is always changing and evolving and this new way of working in the browser can feel quite strange if you’re used to designing flat comps in Photoshop that you then turn into HTML. The problem with responsive web design and flat design mockups is that its very difficult to design various versions of the website for different screen sizes and then turn those into real web pages. Its far easier for you as a web designer to think about layout first for multiple screen sizes before any design elements are thought about. It’s also easier for the client to visualise responsive layouts and see them working as a prototype in the browser. Explaining responsive web design and it’s benefits can be tricky so allowing the client to see how it works and how the layout adapts at an early stage can be very helpful.

From a pure design point of view it’s also very interesting to get to the design stage with all the layouts and elements in the right place and working on all devices. All we then do at this stage is concentrate on colour schemes and style guides and images and textures. Working this way allows you to focus on each stage properly and also lets the client be subjective about each stage of the project and build without having to look at one or two flat design comps and have to make a decision on all aspects of the layout and design at one time.

Working this way on our new project has been very successful and we’ll be doing more designing in the browser on responsive web design projects at kc web design kent from now on.

kc web design kent are experts in responsive web design so if you need your current site made accessible to all mobile devices then give us a call today.

WordPress themes for web designers

As we get ready for the launch of KC Themes at kc web design kent I thought it might be the right time to talk about why we’ve created KC Themes – Wordpress themes for web designers. At kc web design kent we create a lot of WordPress sites for many, many different types of businesses and even personal sites. We’ve created blogs for Fujitsu, e-commerce websites, large corporate sites and more and they all have one thing in common – We have to create unique themes and they’re mostly responsive these days. As we’ve created more and more WordPress responsive websites at kc web design kent we’ve started using web design good practice and created our own set of files and tools that we use to get us started on each new theme. As we’re mostly making responsive websites we tend to use a framework and our favourite is the Zurb Foundation responsive framework.

After years of searching for good WordPress themes to customise and use as starting points we decided to make our own at kc web design kent and so KC Themes was born. We know there are lots of good free responsive themes out there that utilise all the good frameworks but we wanted to build something that was purely aimed at web designers that would give them everything they needed to start a great design. Our Designer Themes will come with all the tools you need to get setup quickly and easily and give you the perfect foundation to start your design on. Each theme will come with a pre-built homepage layout to get you started and include all the web design bits and bobs you’d expect to have. We hope our Wordpress themes for web designers will be a great resource for web designers and also a great way for new designers to learn how to create WordPress themes. Head over to KC Themes for a sneak peak at the landing page. We’ll be launching in the next week or 2 so keep coming back! And we’ll be having a launch discount for the first week so get your themes quick!

Hydrant & UK Vets Online

kc web design Kent are delighted to be working with the talented developers at Hydrant on lots of new exciting website design projects including this user interface redesign for UK Vets Online. Working with Hydrant as a UI consultant and designer we took over the UI/UX design for UK Vets Online, the UK’s largest online network for Vet practices. The UI and general website design needed an update and key features completely redesigning.

kc web design Kent spent many hours sketching and wireframing specific areas of the site together with the developers at Hydrant to create the perfect interface for Vets to administer their websites and content and improve the whole UKVOL experience. kc web design Kent designed and built a new interactive dashboard area with interchangeable widgets and ways for the user to access all areas of the website. Key sections, such as the free content area, were completely redesigned to improve user flow and interaction. The importance of good UI design was especially relevant to this section as the previous version of the free content area was hidden, illogical and very difficult to use to the point where it was the least used feature in the system but probably one of the most useful to Vets and to MSD. The key goals for this redesign were to make the free content area easy to use for first time users yet still advanced enough for users that knew the system. kc web design kent sketched and wireframed mockups for user testing and designed a system that was iTunes like in feel, was easy to use and only relied on a few key pages and was very visual to aid new users.

The new UKVOL website design is working very well and the improvements kc web design kent have made have had a big impact on the usage of important features. This is an ongoing project for kc web design Kent and Hydrant and there’ll be more to come on UKVOL over the next 12 months.

WordPress ecommerce web design

Many moons ago at kc web design kent we used to create large, bespoke e-commerce systems. kc web design kent created bespoke e-commerce systems like this because there weren’t that many good off-the-shelf e-commerce systems out there that could do the job. 10 years later and there are lots of great e-commerce systems such as Lemonstand, Magento and the subscription based services such as Shopify and Big Commerce. Although these systems are fantastic and each have their own pros and cons, today I’m going to concentrate on WordPress ecommerce plugins.

WordPress ecommerce plugins

Over the past few years at kc web design kent we’ve been doing more and more WordPress based website design and we’ve been keeping an eye on the WordPress ecommerce plugin market with interest. A few years ago creating an online shop with WordPress wasn’t an easy job but two plugins have now made the creation of e-commerce shops with WordPress a lot easier. The two main WordPress ecommerce contenders are WP E-commerce and WooCommerce.

After having used both Wordpress ecommerce plugins for an internal project here at kc web design kent (Designer Themes – WordPress themes for web designers!…more info on this coming very soon) we’ve had a good chance to evaluate both of these Wordpress ecommerce plugins. At first look it seemed like WP e-commerce was the favourite; it had a huge community, lots of additional plugins and seemed to be used on lots of good WordPress ecommerce websites. After installation though, it took a long time to get into the guts of it and get it to do the things we needed out of the box. It’s not that it wasn’t good, it’s just that a few things were missing that we needed and it didn’t feel ‘full’ enough for the complicated shop we were creating.

The Woocommerce WordPress ecommerce plugin, from the chaps at Woothemes, wasn’t on the top of my list to start with but after installing and then having the option to add dummy pages and shop data I was initially very impressed. The documentation is vast and we soon found we could do pretty much everything we needed straight away. The layout in WordPress for the shop admin is very nicely done, quite similar to WP e-commerce but it has a slightly different edge to it. Something about it feels a bit more intuitive and even though there seems to be more options and lots of different ways to deal with products it doesn’t make it feel complicated.

There’s not much between them but after using both Wordpress ecommerce plugins I have to lean towards Woocommerce and that’s what we’ve decided to use on our new secret project at kc web design kent. I’d recommend checking out both Wordpress ecommerce plugins though as a lot of it will be down to personal preference.

Using web design frameworks & bootstraps

At kc web design Kent we use website design frameworks and bootstraps a lot. Web design frameworks are a great way to prototype in the browser very quickly and build interactive wireframes that look great and work well in the browser. Most web design frameworks are now responsive which can help take the pain out of building responsive website design from scratch. Lots of website design frameworks and bootstraps have appeared over the last few years but the main two are Zurb’s Foundation and Twitters Bootstrap. Both of these web design frameworks are excellent and choosing between them is very difficult so it mostly comes down to personal preference. At kc web design Kent we’ve use Twitters Bootstrap on a few projects but recently we’ve been using more of the Zurb Foundation web design framework.

Why the Zurb Foundation web design framework?

As I mentioned before, choosing a website design framework is a lot to do with personal preference. There is one thats better than the other, they’re just different. There’s just something about the Foundation web design framework that I feel comfortable with. At kc web design kent we currently have 3 projects running side-by-side that all use the Foundation web design framework for prototyping and production design and so using it on lots of website design projects means you gain a greater understanding and familiarity of the framework which makes using it a lot easier. Much better than swapping between lots of frameworks and having to learn different classes again. Sticking with one framework and knowing it well has far more benefits than trying lots of different web design frameworks.

Foundation also has everything you’d need to build a prototype and production website. Its responsive, includes Jquery and sliders, has all sorts of classes to manage mobile and tablet designs, comes with a great grid system thats intuitive to learn and code with and provides a fantastic ‘foundation’ to build you great looking websites designs onto. In fact, we think Foundation is such a good website design framework that kc web design Kent have used it to create a new breed of WordPress themes just for web designers!

 

Website design in Ashford, Kent

kc web design Kent have been established in Canterbury for over 4 years now and we continue to serve companies in Canterbury, Thanet, Ashford, Maidstone, Ramsgate, Dover and all of the South East and London. kc web design Kent work with companies all over Kent and especially for website design in Ashford and the rest of the UK as well as some global companies such as Fujitsu and The Toll Group.

As the web design industry continues to grow and physical boundaries become less important we’re finding that more and more work is carried out with companies from all over the UK but, there is also a trend we’re seeing here at kc web design Kent where more and more local companies are contacting us and want to work together, face-to-face. On larger projects with lots of planning, sketching, wire-framing and fast iterations where we’re designing in the browser and building complicated grid based responsive website designs it’s very important to be able to spend time with the client. Being able to do face-to-face exploration meetings at an early stage in a project is key to a successful website design especially on larger web design builds. Website design in Ashford, Canterbury, Maidstone, Ramsgate and all over Kent, London and the South East is what we specialise in at kc web design Kent and as a local website design company in Kent we understand how important it is to work with local companies.

If you’re a local company in Kent and have a business in Canterbury, Thanet, Ashford, Maidstone, Ramsgate, Dover or anywhere else in Kent and you’re looking for a local web design company for Website design in Ashford or other local towns in Kent then get in touch with kc web design Kent and find out what we can do to help your business.

WordPress themes for web designers

At kc web design Kent we use WordPress a lot. We use WordPress for simple web design projects, e-commerce web design projects and even large business website design projects. It’s flexible, easy to theme and great to work with the guts of it and the admin interface is easy to customise and for our clients to learn. This is why 20% of the internets’ websites are now powered by WordPress – that’s millions of website designs all using the same system!

As web designers at kc web design Kent we know the value of creating a unique design for our clients websites, especially when we use WordPress because there are so many themes available. Most of our clients commission us to create unique themes designed around their particular brand but some of our smaller clients have sometimes seen themes they like that they want customised. There are some great premium themes around and the quality of these themes is amazing. There are also some really good framework style themes around for building your designs onto but many of them can be overly complicated, difficult to customise and change and often not well commented for beginner web designers to learn from.

WordPress themes for web designers

At kc web design Kent we’re in the process of creating our own WordPress theme framework and we will soon be releasing ‘WordPress themes for web designers’. These premium themes will be designed by web designers, for web designers and will give you everything you need to build your design onto. They’ll be easy to customise, have everything you need already added and working, be commented and documented so you know what everything does and how to change it. The themes will also come in a series of different layouts for the most popular website types along with some more unique website layouts. Wordpress themes for web designers will use the Zurb Foundation framework and be fully responsive. Here’s a list of features we’ll be adding to our starter themes over the next few weeks…

  • Simple, elegant themes. No mess, no fluff, just easy to use and build your own design onto.
  • Built on the Foundation framework
  • Fully responsive
  • Easy to build onto and edit
  • No messy, multiple CSS files to wade through to find styles to change. Just one simple fully commented CSS file.
  • Minimal Javascript but Jquery ready
  • No huge theme options panel. You’re a designer right, you don’t need those!
  • Easy to use custom post types for specialised content management
  • Language ready for easy translation
  • Google Font ready with nice typography
  • Icon font ready
  • IE6 minimal styles
  • List of recommended plugins and security measures
  • Fully documented functions.php file so you know exactly what each bit does and how to change or add sections such as custom post types

If you’re interested in Wordpress themes for web designers then contact kc web design Kent and let us know what else you’d need or if you want us to notify you when the themes launch.

kc web design Kent and the Google search roller-coaster

It seems like every few weeks now our Google search rankings for kc web design Kent take quite a large dip. Another Google algorithm update or just bad SEO? I’m beginning to think its the former. We don’t really change our SEO model that much, we try to write good content, don’t try and get bad back links or any other back-handed methods and we make sure we stick to all the guidelines. But when Google make a major change to the searches we do seem to dip quite a lot.

Last week we were slowly rising up the search listings for ‘website design kent’ and had made it on to page 2. Not a bad job out of 12,300,000 results! Suddenly, without any warning or reason kc web design Kent dropped from page 2 to page 5 overnight. And some of our other listing went the same way…we were on page 3 for ‘web design kent’ and took a big dip down to page 7 for that one. Other search terms such as ‘website design canterbury‘ and ‘web design canterbury’ faired a little better and our page 1 ranking stayed in place but dropped a few places. It may be that there’s a huge amount of competition for the major search terms and keywords such as ‘web design kent’ and ‘website design kent’ and this competition is creating the fluctuations. I’d expect a bit of natural movement up and down in the organic search listings but dropping 3/4 pages overnight seems very harsh.

For ‘web design kent’ and ‘website design kent‘ we have now come back up a few pages but we’re still down on what we had last week. Maybe after a few more good, keyword rich articles we’ll be back up to where we were before. If there’s a lesson learned here its that SEO isn’t a quick fix and leave alone option. SEO takes hard work, ongoing monitoring and constant tweaking.

$_get not working with WordPress custom permalinks

Many hours have been spent today at kc web design Kent pulling hair and banging heads over a very frustrating WordPress problem. $_get requests to retrieve simple query string variables from a WordPress URL just wouldn’t work. We tried everything and spent hours trying to add functions to deal with custom variables, check PHP configs and test theme templates all with no luck. Whatever we tried just did not work. So, for everyone out there having the same issues (and we saw a lot of you!) here is the stupidly simple answer…

Make sure the rewrite module is enabled and working in Apache!

Yes, it’s that simple! But it was very hard to track down because even with the rewrite module disabled the WordPress custom permalinks would still work, they just wouldn’t pass the variables to the page. Something in the rewrite module deals with the query string and without it enabled they wouldn’t work with a custom permalink structure. Whatever was in the htaccess file would still redirect to the correct permalink page but ignored the variables in the query string.

A very frustrating day has been spent searching for a fix so I hope anyone else having this problem finds this post and uses this fix for $_get requests not working with WordPress custom permalinks.

 

Responsive web design – The difficulties

Responsive web design seems to be the holy grail of the web design industry and the moment but it’s not all plain sailing. Responsive web design can present a whole new array of issues and problems for the novice (and advanced!) web designer and isn’t necessarily the easy way to device independent web design nirvana.

What is responsive web design?

Responsive web design (RWD) is when we build a website for our clients that will be viewable on all devices from mobile to desktop without having to provide a separate site or different content for each device. We display the same website for all devices but styled differently to make the most of the screen space on each device.

What are the problems?

Responsive web design isn’t an easy fix for a tricky problem. It’s an advanced solution to a new problem that seems to have taken off in the industry. There are alternatives to responsive web design but responsive web design seems to have really caught on. It’s popular and get’s used a lot, clients like the buzz word and it seems like the ideal solution. But, there are issues. Designing a responsive web design for multiple devices means you have to test on those devices. As if testing in multiple versions of IE and other browsers wasn’t tricky enough we know have to test in multiple mobile browsers on multiple devices. Nobody can own all the devices we need to test on so we have to use a best guess approach about what we know about device screen sizes. There are online tools to help with testing and virtual device browsers which we need to use to make sure our responsive web designs work correctly on phones we may not have physical versions of.

Getting the screen breakpoints right for every device screen size can also be very difficult, especially if you want to target a lot of breakpoints and device screen sizes. There are good lists around of breakpoints but they all seem slightly different, there is no standard set as yet.

Pixel density is also another issue. The retina screen on the iPhone first brought us the problem of viewing normal web graphics on a HD screen and so we know can supply a different set of graphic assets just for those screens which now include the new iPhone 5 , the iPad and the new retina laptops.

As the device list grows to include things like widescreen TV’s (how long before we have browsers on fridges, etc) so does the difficulty in creating a responsive website design that works on EVERY device.

Responsive web design isn’t for every project and can increase the costs so talk to kc web design kent before you start your next responsive web design project. We can help define what you need and whether you need it at all.

 

VirtualBox VM’s for IE testing

When we build websites at kc web design Kent we always have to test in all browsers. The main progressive browsers are normally the easiest but testing in multiple versions of IE can be tricky. We’ve previously used all sorts of different methods from the paid browser testing online services to stand-alone IE instances and virtual machines. Virtual machines are always the better option as you can continually refresh the browser while you’re working on your web design but they can be very difficult to setup. kc web design Kent recently came across a great resource for installing VirtualBox VMs that makes the whole process very easy and will give you a different VM for IE 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Firstly, you’ll need a copy of VirtualBox if you don’t already use it. If you don’t then I’d recommend you do! It’s free and faster than Parallels and VMware Fusion and we’ve been using it here at kc web design kent for a long time now and can’t say a bad word about it. Once you have VirtualBox installed your ready to download and install the IE VM’s. Normally this would be a royal pain in the *** but the lovely  xdissent on Github has created a self installer that does it all for you. For full instructions check out the Github repo but as a brief overview the process is here…

  1. Install VirtualBox.
  2. Download ievms using terminal:
  3. Launch Virtual Box.
  4. Choose ievms image.
  5. Install VirtualBox Guest Additions.

Once launched the password for each VM is “Password1”.

The files it downloads are many and large. For some reason Microsoft makes it VM images huge even though they are just a bare OS with IE installed. It could take a while to download, especially if you want all versions of IE so be patient. Once you start using the VM’s you may notice that the OS is limited to 30 days because its not registered or authorised but don’t worry, VirtualBox will take a snapshot when you first use the VM so when the 30 day warning appears just revert back to the original snapshot and the 30 days will start again. You should be able to keep doing this for ever!