These posts are on a broad range of topics – mostly about web design and development — but off-topic posts are scattered about.

Adding a scroll indicator
First posted on June 20, 2020

Scroll bars have been with us since the first GUI. They help us navigate content that is taller - or wider - than the window in which it is displayed. They come in various flavours, suitably modified as operating systems evolved, but invariably they consist of an...

Newtimber Hill and VE Day
First posted on May 8, 2020

The vault of heaven was almost discernible from under the skies above Newtimber Hill in Sussex yesterday. It is six weeks into a 'lockdown' trying to stem the advance of the coronavirus pandemic and it was our first venture by car anywhere in that time. Grief lies...

Pixel squeezing with JPEGmini
First posted on January 27, 2020

The smaller an image file size is, the better. Get that wrong and your page will load more slowly, your users will leave more quickly, your site SEO will suffer and the site's carbon footprint will tread more heavily. Anyone posting images to the web engages with...

Site migration with Backdrop CMS
First posted on January 2, 2020

With Backdrop CMS being a fork of Drupal, you could be forgiven for thinking that everything in Backdrop will be similar to everything in Drupal 7. It mostly...

BBC Sounds
First posted on November 24, 2019

Rants don't usually contain reasoned explanations. Although this may sound like one, it therefore isn't - as you will see. The BBC Sounds app (for Android) is so unfit fit for purpose that...

Bridget Riley at the Hayward Gallery
First posted on November 15, 2019

London's Tate Modern is home to some gorgeous Bridget Riley canvases, huge rectangles of rhombic mosaics, in shifting colour that one can stand in front of and lose oneself in. A fifteen minute stroll west along the embankment, the Hayward Gallery seems to have all...

Farewell Drupal 8. Hello Backdrop CMS
First posted on September 13, 2019

I have written before of my love affair with Drupal 7 and, separately, of my anxiety about Drupal 8. Drupal 7's abandon-ship, event-horizon end-of-life looms on...

Free and easy: OCR and file conversion on the web
First posted on July 29, 2019

The best things in life are free, as the song has it. In software terms, it's also when they work faultlessly and with minimal labour. Here are two fine examples that came my way recently and which I recommend without hesitation.

Online OCR courtesy of...

Field can contain HTML
First posted on August 30, 2018

For those for whom web standards matter, the devil is always in the detail. The content-management system Drupal throws this at us by the bucket load. No doubt other CMSs do the same. Fortunately, Drupal (both versions 7 and 8) comes up with its own solution to the...

The long-form web page
First posted on February 5, 2018

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's dictum that "Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away" can be re-deployed most helpfully when discussing Reader View, a topic that touches on web page design and...

Charles I, King and Collector
First posted on February 5, 2018

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...

Website accessibility
First posted on January 20, 2018

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...

Flowers in a glass vase by Jacob van Walscapelle
First posted on August 24, 2017

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...

Website building resources
First posted on April 22, 2017

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...

Database alley
First posted on April 20, 2017

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

It's a street name sign in our new home town of Worthing, although Field Row is not a street, more what we call in these...

Viewing those big pictures
First posted on April 20, 2017

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...

Targeting a menu link from two levels down
First posted on February 27, 2017

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
First posted on January 17, 2017

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...

Help is at hand
First posted on January 2, 2017

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...

Drupal version 8: loyalty or farewell?
First posted on October 29, 2016

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...

Progressive JPEGs and Donald Rumsfeld
First posted on August 8, 2016

In web design, even small decisions can have a big impact. The way in which your web designer compresses and saves JPEG images is a case in point. What's at stake is an improvement in user experience. The explanation of the technical stuff gives Donald Rumsfeld a...

No Man is an Island
First posted on June 24, 2016

With my fellow Brits voting collectively to leave the EU, these words written in 1624 come to mind:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away...

The long scroll
First posted on June 7, 2016

When did you last visit a website whose home page was based on a long scroll design? Probably only yesterday is my guess. There's a lot of them about.

Long scrolling has a number of variants but essentially it's when a page...

Viral content and long term lift - an example
First posted on August 24, 2015

The adage that 'Content is king' is not only true, but works in surprising ways. This post is about the intended consequences of good content which, when they come, surprise us. That apparent contradiction is deliberate, so read on.

But what is good content...

Rural business line repaired in less than 8 hours
First posted on August 5, 2015

This week a tractor collided with a post delivering our telephones lines, tearing the cable and leaving us stranded. The guy who did it was cutting the verges and banks in our commune, a service he performs three times a year (early-spring, mid-summer and late-...

Flash flushed
First posted on July 15, 2015

At last and after a long wait, the horror that is Adobe Flash may be one step closer to being terminated. The good folks over at Mozilla, they who develop the venerable Firefox browser, have been blocking Flash-based content from running in Adobe's Flash...

Know your tables
First posted on March 25, 2015

Occasionally I land on a website that really grabs me. It may be on a subject that doesn't interest me or it may be on one where I have a special interest. The common factor is usually that the presentation is compelling.

Here's one such example. It's on SEO...

The need for speed
First posted on August 16, 2014

The speed with which a web page loads is a major factor in how well your business will perform on-line. People don't have time to hang around and wait, so all avenues for reducing page load time are ones that must be explored.

April 9th 2010 was the date when...

A possible speed-up for French rural broadband?
First posted on August 15, 2014

We happen to pay a high price for living in a pretty, rural location. Our broadband speed maxes out at just under 512Kbps. That's 0.5Mbps a second. In 2014, that's a very high price – and we pay it to Orange. If you're in the same boat, this may...

Watermarks and brand recognition
First posted on August 15, 2014

Another of the many splendours that is Drupal is the ImageCache module. This provides you with the ability to configure a basketload of image-processing actions. The most obvious of these is to size,...

Characters dangling in space
First posted on June 20, 2014

The devil is so often in the detail and this is especially true when you combine French punctuation, HTML and responsive websites where text flows within fluid layouts and line length is something that I can no longer control.

This problem doesn't arise with...

Low page ranking and high bounce rates
First posted on June 20, 2014

The web is awash with information about how to achieve a high page rank in Google, some of it excellent, some of it not. It's usually expressed in terms of what needs to be done. This article takes the opposite approach by explaining a few points that should be...

Bookmark icons and Apple Touch icons
First posted on June 19, 2014

The favicon has been around since 1999 as a 16 pixel square image in the .ico format. Although it can now be provided at a size of 64 pixels square, it's function remains the same. It appears next to a web page's page title on your browser's tab or...

Mapping your business
First posted on April 26, 2014

I've been getting nicely revved up recently about using maps on websites – not plain old Google maps that help people plan a route to your door, but maps with multiple markers that help people visualise your business.

What does your business have...

Eddie Izzard and Pingdom
First posted on March 2, 2014

There's a magic line of comedian Eddie Izzard's in his Glorious tour about plane safety and the top-up valve on life jackets:

... and they have these life jackets and ... they've got a little pipe here for top-up. And I don't know about...

Web slideshows: the business case - for or against?
First posted on January 15, 2014

I've recently been pondering on the merits – or otherwise – of using slideshows (aka carousels). These are pretty much ubiquitous these days but I have my doubts as to their real value. Just because something might look great and can be...

Adieu Minitel !
First posted on March 14, 2012

It's official: the plug is finally being pulled on France's Minitel service on 30th June this year!

Way ahead of its time

Launched way back in 1982, the Minitel service was revolutionary, enabling at its height 25 million subscribers to communicate...

The chestnut leaf breakout
First posted on November 20, 2011

My workstation here in the Gers overlooks a magnificant horse-chestnut tree, aesculus hippocastanum (the conker variety, not the sweet chestnut one). It provides shade from the blasting sun and in April it transforms itself with countless bunches of pink-...

La garde-robe
First posted on November 19, 2011

My schoolboy humour and enjoyment of vocabulary get equal kicks from the medieval toilet suspended on the back wall of Trapeharde. Although the date over the front door is 1809, it's fairly likely that the shell and structure of parts of the place pre-date that. The...

Tagliatelle - a tag too far?
First posted on November 17, 2011

Occasionally some of my clients ask me if it's a good idea to add a block of tags beneath a blog article or a web page. Note that this isn't the same thing as including what are called metadata tags or meta tags. (For an...

Things that search engines look for
First posted on June 30, 2009

People in other professions perhaps wouldn't put up with this, but we should remember that this is how it has to be: the day someone knew what Google, for example, was really looking for, would be a day when the rest of us would be at a disadvantage!


Surrounded by orchids
First posted on May 24, 2009

It being May, the orchids are back and this year there seems to be an abundance of them. Perhaps this year's unusually wet spring in the Gers favoured them.

In previous years we have counted between 12 and 15 different species of orchid either on our land or...

The importance of web standards
First posted on August 16, 2008

One of the key features of my website development service is that sites I develop conform to web standards, and I keep banging on about this. So why does this matter so much?

To recap: web standards are a collection of international standards...

Meet the Soays
First posted on June 9, 2008

Our corner of the Gers is wonderfully hilly and we’re lucky to have a steeply-sloped 2 hectare (5 acre) field behind the house which is just too steep for a tractor. It’s ideal for sheep and inside the 800 metres of fencing that we've surrounded the field with we...