Blog Archive for May, 2012

What I Actually Do

Posted: Thu 17th May 2012 by Dexter with 3 Comments
What I Actually Do

When it comes to websites, most people are familiar with the term web design and I’ve often been contacted by people who were looking for a web designer. I guess I can fulfill that role but my focus is more towards web development. What’s the difference?

Definitions are not firmly cast in stone, but web design really refers to the visual aspects of a website. Client side code is sometimes considered part of the process but design really is about what people actually see and interact with… the logo, page background, navigation, the typography, buttons and layout… the user interface in other words. A web designer would tend to spend their time in software like Adobe Photoshop, maybe Fireworks and some Illustrator.

I tend to spend more time in Dreamweaver writing code. I take what the designer has done in Photoshop and I make it into the website cutting the design up into parts and writing the markup that positions everything where it needs to be on the site. When someone fills out a form on a website and hits the submit button, I take care of what happens next… whether the data gets stored in a database, converted into a PDF or Excel sheet, gets sent to an email address or the data is manipulated in some way before or during these processes. I write the HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, SQL etc that is required to make all these things happen. Below is a sample of some of what that code looks like. The sample actually does nothing in particular. It just gives an idea of what some basic┬ácode looks like.

The “Mix A Drink” feature on the White Oak website is an example of some fun custom code I wrote which uses a lot of Javascript to control what you see when ingredients are selected and de-selected and then AJAX with PHP is used to look into the database and find the drinks that match the ingredients you selected.

Development requires focus, especially when working on something complex. When you get distracted you can end up making silly errors that cost you a lot of time trying to fix. Sometimes I prefer working at night as it is quiet and there are no phones ringing or emails that require prompt answers so it’s easier to focus and get things done quickly. I also find it very necessary when working on something complex to map out all the processes that need to take place before starting to write any code. That helps a lot and this is why it’s important to know what functionality is really required by the user early on too.

Web development is definitely more logic based. You have to be able to think in a sequential way and consider the ‘possibilities’. I usually get Justin and as many people as possible to test what I’ve done as the way a user interacts with something is sometimes unpredictable. They click on something you don’t expect and expose an error or something you forgot to consider. That’s where ‘considering the possibilities’ comes in.

Design is more creative but both worlds intertwine and depend on each other. It is the design that makes the difference between an attractive, friendly, usable site and one that people just don’t want to use but all the ‘workings’ are in the development.

Gold and Best Of Show Online

Posted: Thu 17th May 2012 by Dexter with No Comments
Gold and Best Of Show Online

In February this year iuGO Digital was awarded 2 Gold CAF Addy Awards for the White Oak website and Angostura IN ‘D MIX mobile application. A lot of hard work went into creating both and I would say we were for the most part pleased with the end result. I am grateful that our efforts were recognised but honestly didn’t expect any awards. I guess after submitting the website and mobile app to CAF, my brain proceeded to think about the work we had at hand and not about whether we would win something or not.

When you create something you tend to have some vision as to how you would like it to turn out. For me it is always interesting to compare the ideas you started off with to the end product. In the case of the White Oak website and IN ‘D MIX mobile app, both saw changes along the production line but changes that were necessary especially with respect to the mobile app.

Several Trinidadian companies and brands have established themselves online but only a few have entered the mobile app market thus far. It is still relatively new territory here. BlackBerry became extremely popular in Trinidad when mobile carriers began offering BlackBerry phones at very low prices. Smartphones became affordable for the average person and the BlackBerry Curve became the Trinidad “me too”. This happened only about 2 years ago.

So Trinidad is a ‘BlackBerry country’ and still relatively new to smartphones (at large) in comparison to other markets globally, but looking at the range of mobile devices available in the world today, you would find that apps are generally far more prevalent and popular with iPhone and Android users. I think the reason for this is both the availability of apps and the performance of apps on devices. I have found through hands-on testing and research that the performance of apps on different BlackBerry devices vary quite a bit by model, operating system and available space on the device. As such we have had to simplify features of the IN ‘D MIX app so that it would run on as many BlackBerry devices as possible and we have still found that performance is variable and that there are some compatibility issues so there is still work to be done. On the iPhone however performance of the app was quite consistent.

I think as mobile carrier device and service offerings improve we will see great changes in the market that will only lead to more and better local mobile applications being developed. This is the inevitable future. A notable recent change is Digicel’s introduction of 4G mobile internet access which bmobile will be following suit with as soon as they can I’m sure. The word so far is September.

With respect to the White Oak website, I felt that we achieved what we envisioned particularly with the “Mix A Drink” feature both visually and functionally. Users are able to select ingredients they have in their kitchen off a counter top, then the website clears the counter top of ingredients and presents you with drinks you can make. This worked exactly as intended and is definitely a popular feature with people who have viewed the website. I must thank everyone who worked with Justin and I to make the site what it is. We had Angostura’s mixologist mix like a hundred drinks using Angostura Rums and had them photographed for the site and app. We got some cool underground DJ mixes for the WO Music player and are working with more DJs presently to get more. A few users have even contributed their own mixes. We also worked with a few designers for different design elements of the website and the app. I even did a bit of design myself. In the end it was a good team effort and I think collaboration is an important part of our process. Justin and I always bounce ideas off of each other down to some of the smallest things, weighing out pros and cons in an attempt to get the best result.

At the end of the day winning an award is cool but the goal is never that. Our aim is to do better and better work and provide better digital marketing products and services to clients. We intend to do that by keeping up with new and emerging digital technologies and refining our methods. Work on the White Oak website and Angostura IN ‘D MIX app has not ended. Changes and improvements are in the pipeline. Stay tuned for more.