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.

Web slideshows: the business case - for or against?

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 used is not sufficient enough justification for using it. So here are some thoughts on where and when a slideshow can and shouldn’t be used.

From impoverishment to enlightenment with Internet Explorer

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is acknowledged by web designers to be a special case. The Microsoft juggernaut decided in its own wisdom to just do things differently with IE with the result that coders had to jump hoops to make their work look acceptable when viewed through the quirky prism of IE.

The murky past

Without digging back into the primordial soup, versions 6, 7 and 8 of IE made life extremely difficult for coders. Although these browsers supported CSS, they didn’t match the W3C standard. The ‘broken box model’ was the most notorious ‘feature’ of these early browsers.

Fonts - giving shape to meaning

Webfonts are here and are getting better – and I’ve started using them increasingly on some of the sites I’ve been working on. Whilst I’m cautious about adopting new trends for the sake of it, the arguments for using webfonts are more and more persuasive.

Telephone virus scam - in English, in France

Today I received a call from a guy who said he worked for a Microsoft subsidiary based in Liverpool. His pitch was that their computer systems were laden with emails that had come from my computer and, because his company was in the business of computer security, he could tell that my computer had been compromised and was bulging with viruses.

I asked him to forward me some example emails, but he declined, saying they weren’t allowed to do this.

His accent was Indian – and I’d read a couple of articles about this sort of scam being run out of India. I played along with it for a while.

Adieu Minitel !

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 with each other safely and conveniently.

The chestnut leaf breakout

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-tinged white blossom. Bit by bit it etched itself on my imagination to the point where part of it had figuratively found purchase on the masthead on this website (in the 2010 and 2011 designs).

La garde-robe

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 toilet alone is suggestive of this given its rough and ready design.

Tagliatelle - a tag too far?

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 explanation of these, see blow.)

Tags in this sense are vocabulary terms that can be used to organise or categorise content. You might see them arranged in a block under an article, looking something like this:

Where does the time go?

Although the websites I build are done at a flat-rate fee agreed in advance, additional work that is subsequently requested is often charged at an hourly rate. This is the norm in the freelance world.

This presents a nice organisational challenge, especially when a working day is diced and sliced between two or three different projects. Not only do I need a method that enables me to track where I’ve spent my time, my clients rightly need to know that when I charge them for x amount of time, then it really was like that.

Backup belt and braces

Having suffered hard disk failures in the past and having been responsible for client data (software and websites) for around 17 years I admit to being paranoid about data loss. I try to operate as if all hard disks are bound to fail when you least expect them to and I therefore have in place backup strategies that try to minimise the impact of this when it happens.