Rob Tomlinson's blog

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

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.

What's included with my new website and what's extra?

Every client seeks and deserves reassurance when signing up for a new website. It doesn’t matter if they are up-to-speed with web technology or not. At some point they will ask: “What’s included with the new design?” This question of course has its uncomfortable twin: “What’s not included and what must I pay as an extra?” Web design is no different to any other ‘industry’. The norm is one of perpetual flux, change and progress. So the answer to these questions today is not the same as it was several years ago.

So here goes: here’s what I believe should be included without question when a new site is designed for a client.

Progressive JPEGs and Donald Rumsfeld

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 small but important walk-on part, so keep an eye out for his sneaky appearance here.

Interactivity that supports content

Here’s an example of how complexity beneath the surface of a web page looks as natural and intuitive as you can get. It concerns maps, menus and information. You can see the interface I’m describing on this website on the page with a map of Places and their associated articles (new tab/window). Check it out then return here for the rest of this article.

No Man is an Island

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 by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

The long scroll

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.

Viral content and long term lift - an example

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?

‘Good content’, I keep explaining to clients, is not always content that you’d like to have on your website. It is content that people are looking for — and maybe can’t find easily elsewhere. By definition, good content is useful, maybe even authoritative.

Rural business line repaired in less than 8 hours

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-autumn). This is the second time he’s taken out our line, so by definition he’s now a recidivist!

For those of you living, like us, in deeply rural France, you know what this means. It’s separation from the modern world, no telephone, no internet. One is expelled for a while to the dark side of Pluto.

Flash flushed

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 plugin for ages. If you want to view Flash animations or video in Firefox, you must accept a warning that Flash is known to be vulnerable. This isn’t news. What is news is that Facebook is now proposing that Adobe now kills Flash off. Hurray! Let’s hope it happens.