cookandkaye

scientific and technical website design projects news

WordPress 4

WordPress logo

WordPress 4 is now available, this offers better integration with social media, and improved embedding of video and other content into your posts and pages. There are no known issues with the update from version 3 to version 4 for CookandKaye customers, so as long as you back-up before you start, you can use the auto-update feature to enjoy the improved performance! (Contact us if you need any assistance).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: If your WordPress version is before 3, you may require a couple of tweeks to your database settings to keep plugins running, please contact us before updating!

First Frost

First frost

First frost: We have had a good end to the Summer, but it is now creeping into Autumn, and clear night skies are letting the temperature fall. Still I was a little surprised to see frost when walking our dog Cas this morning!

Redesign of Lochaline Dive Centre’s website

Lochaline Dive Centre screenshot

Working from the existing WordPress templates to keep control over costs, we have updated the Lochaline Dive Centre website to match their current printed identity.

The re-designed site features a home page slide-show, with visual guide to the Dive Centre’s booking system, to allow visitors to plan their diving or snorkelling holiday on the West Coast of Scotland. These, and pre-existing features, such as the interactive map of dive sites in the Sound of Mull, have also been converted to a flexible layout, permitting the site to be more easily used on mobile devices with smaller screens.

Lochaline Dive Centre

COSHH – Managing Safety

COSHH 2014 screenshot

Management of safety protocols in a modern chemistry lab is fraught with problems. The safety officers have to ensure that work flows are kept as simple as possible, whilst ensuring that workers have:

  • Completed any requisite training before undertaking a procedure – and that this training is up-to-date
  • Evaluated any problems that might be attendant on a procedure they are about to undertake
  • Set in place robust measures for when something does go wrong

This is complicated in the Universtiy environment due to the wide range of skill levels that must all be safely managed, from undergraduate student to Post Doctoral level researcher.

Some years ago we developed our first COSHH (‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health’ – a process for the safe management of chemicals within the workplace) management system in conjunction with the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield. This has subsequently been adopted by two other departments within the university.

More recently we have extended the original system to manage ‘Special Permissions’ within the same COSHH framework. These include application to work out of hours, or with certain categories of chemicals, and types of apparatus. This extension simplifies the safety interface for workers, so it is always clear how they need to manage their activities to help ensure safe working practices are maintained within the department.

A further extension opens a common space for the management of ‘Standard Operating Practices’ within the department. These demonstrate ‘best practice for a range of processes where hazard has been identified, from lifting heavy objects, transport and storage of chemicals, through to the safe use and maintenance of vacuum pumps. The common editorial framework allows all members of the department to contribute to the development of these best practices.

The original COSHH system was built in 2009, and has survived 5 years in the wild, building up a database of safety data for over 12,000 chemicals. It was updated in 2012 to accommodate changes in chemical hazard classifications adopted under European law.

Previously – original post on the COSHH system – note the screenshot at the top of this post shows an updated site design to more-closely match the latest University styling, and also incorporates elements of flexible design to cope with smaller mobile device screen sizes.

SEM Calibration Standards

SEM Calibration Standards – is a new website for Eastern Analytical, a long established company developing software and standards for analytical electron microscopy. Their products have a broad range of applications including forensic work.

Screenshot of the Calibration Standards home page

Above: Screenshot of the Calibration Standards home page, shown at about 50% scale. The home page copy links directly to the four primary sales areas for the company.

SEM Calibration Standards icon in the form of an SEM stud Products available from calibrationstandards.net include innovative sample holders and software, that can allow you relocate a trace of contamination – such as a gunshot residue – on a large sample quickly. Motorised stages that permit you to compare wear marks from two cartridge cases, to establish in a visually convincing manner that they were fired from the same weapon.
Above left: The icon design from the Calibration Standards website is in the form of an SEM stud.

Calibration Standards on a small screen We built the website in WordPress, which makes it as easy as possible for the site owner to add or edit product information and other details. The site uses a bespoke template which provides pages in ‘HTML5’, and uses the latest style sheet code (CSS3) elements to permit page resizing. This allows visitors to review the site on a large screen attached to a PC, or on the move on their smart-phone.
Right: A screenshot of the Calibration Standards website as it would appear on a small screen, with the menu tab displaying the menu.

The smart phone (small screen) design has a simple flip-out menu and shopping cart, to make site navigation as simple and intuitive as possible.

The WordPress template permits the addition of extended meta-content to pages, to assist with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Mobility Nationwide affiliate Scheme

This is a test page for the Mobility Nationwide affiliates scheme, which is designed to improve the service companies provide to disabled people and their helpers in the UK.

Click on the link or image below to see how it works:

Mobility Nationwide affiliate scheme

Mobility Nationwide – leading the industry!

Our association with Mobility Nationwide goes back to 2008, when we took on the site after the tragic death of their first web designer. Since that time Mobility Nationwide have achieved and held a position as a leading supplier of high quality used wheelchair accessible vehicles in the UK.

This is an industry that has a diffuse customer base that is not very mobile, so reliant on online sales. A strong website is essential to success…

Over the years we have worked to keep their site fresh and accessible, to differentiate our offering, whilst building a strong brand presence by retaining the colour flow, logos and other design elements. An important function of the site is to demonstrate ‘firm’ – as much as is possible in the shifting online sands. This is achieved by demonstrating the fact that Mobility Nationwide is an industry leader, with solid market presence and good historic form. At the same time the site advertises the fact that the business is family owned and managed, and they will go the extra mile to ensure that the vehicle you receive ticks all your boxes.

Recently we completed the latest upgrade of the website – you can read a post on the last major upgrade here. The latest change moves the site to the new HTML5 ‘standard’, that is more compatible with mobile browsers, and adds a range of new features.

These new features are, however, a natural development from the original custom database managed site that we inherited in 2008. As a designer this provides the same feeling of continuity that we are trying to convey to Mobility Nationwide’s customers, we feel our own historic links through the code. Each iteration has added features and new capabilities whilst retaining an administration system that provides familiarity for the client, and puts all of the sales-relevant website data immediately to hand. Whilst many companies can work with an ‘off the peg’ content management system, Mobility Nationwide’s success helps to show that a bespoke service can pay dividends, and their attention to detail is to be commended in any enterprise.

Screenshot of the new Mobility Nationwide website home page.

Above: The new home page for Mobility Nationwide, showing one of the new active effects, where a vehicle description is revealed on mouse over, the panel moves upwards so nothing is lost below the visitor’s current view.

The changes that HTML5 offer web design includes greatly improved reliability for Javascript, coupled with much more powerful styling in CSS3 (the HTML isn’t actually much changed!). As a consequence the new site can offer improved page displays, using Javascript and CSS3 to bring more content ‘above the fold’, so it is easy for a visitor to get all of the specifications for a vehicle in one place – without scrolling…

With the expansion in our client’s business, the new site can now advertises vehicles by manufacturer, as the stock levels justify this fine-grained approach. To handle this requirement we have added display pages where the general specifications of different wheelchair adapted vehicles can be discussed and compared. In this way the customer gets more background information that can help them make the best choice for their circumstances.

In the end, building a good business is all about ensuring that your customer gets the right product for their circumstances…

You can visit the new Mobility Nationwide website through the link below:

Wheelchair accessible vehicles from Mobility Nationwide

We regret that due to the bespoke nature of our work for Mobility Nationwide, we are unable to offer competing web services within the industry.

INSIGNEO’s new mobile friendly website

INSIGNEO website screenshot showing mobile and full width versions
INSIGNEO website design, showing mobile (left) and full width versions

INSIGNEO’s website features an annotated slideshow, to permit them to bring all of their strands of activity ‘above the fold’ on the home page – whether you are viewing it on a mobile phone, or wide-screen device! The slideshow is fully editable within WordPress, so it can be kept fresh by adding photos for news items alongside their on-going strands (such as their very successful launch in May 2013).

The site also has a custom diary, again fully editable within WordPress, that allows INSIGNEO to post seminar details of interest to its internal academic audience.

MESH mobile friendly website

MESH website, showing phone screen (left) and wide screen (right) MESH website, showing phone screen (left) and wide screen (right)

Following on from our last post (Websites for smart phones take centre stage) we’ve used a very slightly modified standard WordPress template to create a holding page for MESH – the ME Self Help website. This project will start in earnest later in 2013, and is intended to allow ME sufferers to record any changes in their symptoms in response to whatever treatment they are receiving.

The template follows the ‘mobile first’ philosophy, so smart phones users can see an interact with all of the site content.

Websites for smart phones take centre stage

Your website might not work well on smaller displays.

Since the start of the world wide web there has been a problem that the devices your visitor uses to view your website can be very different in their basic capacity for displaying your site. Over the last ten years this problem reduced, as visitors adopted a fairly standard ‘web-enabled-device’ configuration consisting of a desktop computer, with a ‘modern’ browser, and a screen of about 1200x800px in dimensions.

Over the last five years, however, this situation has started to change again with the growing popularity of mobile devices, such as tablets and smart phones:

Global internet usage through mobile devices, not including tablets*, has almost doubled to 8.5% in January 2012 from 4.3% last year according to free web analytics company StatCounter.

While the stats above indicate that we need to start paying attention to these small-screen devices, the actual numbers of mobile browsers out in the wild is probably greater than that of our traditional desktop driving visitor – but browsing the web on a phone is, lets face it, painful.

HTML5 to the rescue?

The widespread adoption of HTML5 – which is not a recognised standard – is in part because it allows web-designers to adapt their designs for smaller screens, to smoothly simplify their sites, so that it works on a smart phone.

This approach is not without problems – the main smart-phone vendors are well aware that to be any use their browser must do a reasonable job of a ‘traditional’ website, allowing visitors using their smart phone full access to the web.

Often web designers actually make their sites worse by hacking out bits to simplify the site. This is particularly true if we try and adapt our sites for tablets – our philosophy (CookandKaye) is that these have large enough screens to manage all but the most bloated web layout, so generally we would leave well alone! (This is also cheaper for you!)

WordPress 2012 theme – the web on its head

We use WordPress themes very extensively* – with a small amount of customisation they offer a solid entry-level website for many of our clients. We therefore follow the latest theme developments with a great deal of interest. Over the last couple of years WordPress templates have attempted, with moderate success, to scale their layout to the smaller screen.

The latest template, however, changes everything by designing for the small screen, and then ‘going large’ for desktop and tablet displays.

Above: Movie showing the ‘smartphone first’ approach to web design. It focuses on what you need on your page first, and makes this available to a small-screen display. This may then be enhanced in an all-singing and dancing large screen version**.

This really is a daring piece of design, taking on board the probability that in a relatively small space of time a lot of people’s main browser will be on their phone. This may already be the case with the traditional WordPress market – instant news from the blogs you follow should be available instantly, wherever you are, and on whatever device you have to hand (usually your phone). Where the cutting edge leads, however, it is likely that the rest of the web will follow. This may be a couple of years down the road, but still an important decision for a new website design.

The advantages of the new WordPress design are obvious – in focussing on the mobile site first, you help ensure that a mobile user has everything they need from your website. There are, however, a number of downsides:

  1. Without enhancement the site looks a bit minimalist on a traditional display (and with a better processor). Thus we still have a two layer design, adding background images and multi-column layouts where these can be appreciated on a larger screen. The second layer is activated using HTML5.
  2. The bugbear is, however, Internet Explorer (as ever). Unfortunately a lot of people out there are still using older versions of IE, and these don’t understand HTML5. As a consequence we need a third layer – essentially an entirely independent set of styling instructions for these dinosaurs.

The advantage of this design philosophy is that you only have one website to manage, and the clever 2012 theme delivers the appropriate styling for the device. The problem is that there is quite a lot of extra work required to follow this design practice.

Conclusions – where to with your website?

The WordPress 2012 theme is a great, future (and past) proof, all-round theme for basic sites. As long as you like grey, which is apparently the new black, again. If you can use it ‘as is’ – go for it!

Adapting the design philosophy to create bespoke sites will, however, add to the price (but probably not as much as a second mobile site). In deciding whether or not this is a good move for your business, you need to take into account the type of service you are offering. For many businesses and academic institutions, we expect the conversion to mobile browsing to be a bit behind the curve, so for a website lifespan of three to five years, the added cost may not be justified.

If you have an existing site, you can check on the numbers of people using mobile devices on your site now (if you have these statistics), and work out where you are on the adoption curve. This may well indicate that a competent mobile site must be considered essential.

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* We are not alone in recommending WordPress for a lot of our work. It accounts for over half of all CMS driven websites, and one in six of ALL websites (Feb 2013 w3techs.com) (BACK)
** Now with HTML5 movies – these are rather larger than the old Flash movies, but can play on mobile devices, though prone to jitters as the graphics processor on mobile devices is very under-powered compared to desktop machines. This may be one reason Apple chose not to support Flash, as Flash movies have to be re-generated on the fly – making for tiny downloads, but lots of graphic processor work… (BACK)