Going Mobile! ForArgyll.com’s new design is Go!

For a while the design of the Forargyll.com website has been creaking. Obviously there’s the website’s popularity and its regular traffic above 3,000 unique visitors, but there’s also the increasing relevance of mobile devices as opposed to desktop. It is still the case that we get most traffic from PCs, but the proportion is declining and this or next year we expect mobile devices to take over.

So, we went looking for something that would give us two things: device flexibity and article readability, with also the capacity to include our red and green thumbs in the comments (among many other things). It also needed to be a light design, not using up too much bandwidth, as well as a more visually appealing layout.

Now, as a designer I’ve always enjoyed the pinterest model, particularly because it allows the reader to experience the serendipity of the newspaper reading experience – you never know what you are going to see next. Eschewing fixed sections and relying on presenting the freshest stories first, alongside putting the search facility front and centre, we think this should create a level of welcome variety for the reader which we hope will engage everyone further.

There are some other nice touches: the order of the articles changes on the homepage depending on their length – you actually see them move around sometimes. The comments section is a great improvement and all the new media icons are baked in, speeding up the website considerably. The ads are served as part of the design, and this means we no longer have to integrate cumbersome thirdparty applications, which is delightfuland we’ve done something fairly whizzy with the header image – it’ll take a minute or so of close observation to notice. You might ask why, and the answer will be, well, why not, because in a sense, that’s what it’s there for.

Refining the Special Sauce: A pinch of SQL, a peck of PHP, a dash of CSS. Delicious.

Silence on this blog over the last day or so, as I have been refining our production process – the Special Sauce of the title – by tinkering with the mix of PHP / MySQL / CSS which form the basis for the websites we run. That and using applescripts and folder actions to automagically print jobs saved from orders – a mouth-watering topping if you will.

If this sounds like unpalatable gobbledegook, then saying collation is my next challenge, and after that some insecure headers,  might make you think  I have lost it – either that or  I am making headway with improving Scottish Laird’s online infrastructure. In any event, it is certain to ensure the business copes with the oncoming Christmas tsunami more elegantly than it did with the last …

And once all of these technical considerations have been broiled into an elegant soupçon, I’ll be heating up the latest iteration of our business plan for serving in a week or so to HIE – a very slow-cooked dish indeed!

Now, time for supper.

#onlinestartup: Essential tools and skills for a successful online business startup

As I was working on my Q2 VAT return I was wondering what I would post about today – I was using excel, textedit, MySQL, phpmyadmin and cpanel to create the documents I needed to send off to our accountancy firm and thought, well, what are the essential components of a successful online business?

One of the things that immediately struck me was that aside from a wide skillset, which is the IP we work from, everything we use is either open source / free or priced at a marginal cost to the business. In other words, for anyone to set up an online business, all they need are the skills and the time, the rest is readily available if they have connectivity and a computer or even a tablet.

My second thought was that actually we do have some software which we have had to purchase, mostly the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign … ) but there are open source alternatives freely available.

I’ve listed everything below. Some of it is generic, some is specific – like the hosting solutions we use – how we knit it all together to create a market-leading business like Dunans Castle Limited, is another matter 😉

Foundation for online presence:

  • Open Source software – Linux / Apache / MySQL* / PHP*
  • Domain registrars: Bluehost.com (Top Level Domains) and 123-reg (UK domains)
  • Hosting solution: Mediatemple (US) and UnitedHosting (UK)

Maintaining online presence:

  • WordPress* including:
  • Cpanel* (maintaining the server)
  • phpmyadmin*
    • for website health
    • for customer metrics
    • for essential metadata

Communications & Marketing:

Spreadsheet / Word Processor

  • Excel for detailed cashflow analysis
  • Google spreadsheets for shared information
  • Word for compatibility
  • TextEdit or Textmate for csv, text & sql manipulation

Shared Information

  • Dropbox – for shared proprietory documents eg. .ai, .psd, .pdf, .jpg
  • Google Drive – for shared non-proprietory docs eg. simple spreadsheets and collaborative how-tos
  • Google Calendar for scheduling

Proprietory Software

  • Illustrator
  • Photoshop
  • Microsoft Office

* skills or competencies which can take several years to acquire.