Rob Tomlinson's blog

Attitude, experience and sounding-off are filed-away here in various combinations. Topics range from the technical (web design), to the commercial (being a freelancer), to the nifty (great software to use) as well as the annoying and delighting.

Website accessibility

The perpetual churn of new technologies and techniques can sometimes blind-side us to some fundamental issues in web design that we need to keep in focus all the time. One of these is accessibility which - for me - has been sharpened up by the brief but high-value book on the subject by Laura Kalbag, Accessibility for Everyone, published last year (2017) by A Book Apart.

Charles I, King and Collector

No better insight can be gained into the character of King Charles I - the king who in 1629 dissolved Parliament to begin an eleven-year stint of Personal Rule - than by visiting The Royal Academy of Arts’ exhibition entitled “Charles I, King and Collector”. His art collection was at the time the largest in Europe. Tranches of it were inherited; much of it was commissioned or purchased from the public purse. Paintings, sculptures, tapestries, manuscripts and miniatures totalling the best part of two thousand in number decorated the royal palaces. Twenty years later, Charles was tried by a re-constituted Parliament, steered by Oliver Cromwell, found guilty of high treason and beheaded.

Flowers in a glass vase

Flowers in a glass vase by the Dutch painter Jacob van Walscapelle is only midway in size between A1 and A2 paper sizes, an oil painting dwarfed by many of the larger canvases around it at the V&A Museum in London. What it lacks in scale it makes up for in quality. It is as if the light-infused oil paint applied just after the middle of the 17th century is still blazing off its canvas some 350 years later.

Website building resources

The business of building a website is sufficiently detailed. Anyone engaged in this detail comes to depend upon a wide range of resources. Amongst these, there are some on whose giant shoulders we alight almost routinely. They deserve mention.

This list is something that I should have posted long ago. So here it is, better late than never. Most are agnostic in the sense that they apply regardless of the technology that any one web developer or designer uses. All but one are free.

Database alley

Here’s my pseuds’ corner post for the year, which will be of especial interest to all who have worked with databases.

Viewing those big pictures

Handling the display of images where their height or their width exceeds the height or width of the user’s screen is an on-going challenge. It’s also been a moving target of a challenge. As the cameras we use to capture images become more powerful, the size of screens on which we might want to display these images get smaller. Just when the web design community settles on a neat way of dealing with this, the parameters shift once more.

To that mix might also be added the constraint of using plugins which are available for a particular platform. What’s available for Wordpress, might not be available for Drupal, and so on.

Targeting a menu link from two levels down

A web page usually has a menu link that gets you there, as does this blog post with its menu link in the vertical menu of blog posts, listed chronologically, newest at the top. When you are reading this post, that menu link will be styled bold. That bit is easy.

Strengthening your passwords

This won’t be new but the detail might be sufficiently interesting to make you do something about it.

There’s no need to re-explain the context in detail. In brief: the passwords we use for our on-line accounts need to be strong. A strong password is one that takes more time to crack using “brute force”.

Help is at hand

I usually build websites that my clients can work with themselves, enabling them to add, edit and delete content without their needing to come back to me for all of this sort of micro-management. Some of my clients like this facility and some don’t, preferring instead to have me work with their site’s content. Typically, I allow clients access to a sub-set of a site’s below-decks workings so that (a) they can’t break the site and (b) whatever they add automatically gets an agreed visual style applied to it without them needing to worry about that aspect of things.

Drupal version 8: loyalty or farewell?

Software evolves, updates are released and we all tread the moving pavement. So it is even with open-source software projects, such as Drupal and Wordpress. There are few exemptions. To Benjamin Franklin’s death and taxes, we should these days add software updates. And why not? Software projects are complicated and bugs slip out alongside improved functionality. So there is an inevitable iteration of minor and major releases. Minor releases, such as from Drupal 7.1 to Drupal 7.2, are usually evolutionary.