Category Archive: Project 52

  1. Rachel Andrew visit

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    Rachel Andrew visits Abertay

    Last week we had a visit from Rachel Andrew to university where she was to give a talk about The Web and The Future, and it was a good talk. She concentrated on the basics that are required to succeed in the industry, and made the point that we were ideally placed to experiment with the emerging specs of HTML5 and CSS 3 by using them on uni projects which provide a lot more freedom than client work. She explained the current state of the web industry and some of the exciting things which are in the near future such as improvements in typography, and advancements in other areas.


  2. A good aspect of uni projects

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    After my rant from the other week, where I questioned the benefits of continuing with my university career, I thought I would highlight one of the benefits of university and the projects that are required to be undertaken. Experimenting with new techniques and technologies can be beneficial whilst trying to get your head around things such as HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery for example. By having a clearly defined project on a university project that is not subjected to the same audience and restrictions as a “real-world” project.

    Recently I’ve been working on a project which has allowed me to make use of a variety of HTML5 elements and also to use far more of the CSS3 techniques than I could get away with in a client project. Transitions and other experimental things such as background gradients can be used on more critical elements due to the nature of the project, whereas in a client site they should only be used on “extras” which were not design critical until the browsers have caught up with the specification.

    Having these experimentation opportunities is critical for students as the techniques which are taught to us can often leave a lot to be desired (one lecturer still uses table based layouts!) and by carrying out some independent learning and having somewhere to experiment can be vital for any future employment opportunities. If a student is interested in gaining a career in web design, I also feel it’s important to have their own website which they can show off their skills and show any future employers that they are keen and have a genuine interest in the subject.

    Students often suffer from a lack of experience and a limited portfolio when it comes to gaining employment but university projects can be beneficial as they provide projects with clearly defined goals and parameters. Whilst it’s good to create designs for fictional reasons and it can be extremely beneficial to practice design skills and play around out with the curriculum, it’s also good to work within the (sometimes painful) constraints of university projects.

    Like anything, the more you practice then the better you will become at something and the same applies to web design, and students shouldn’t just wait for lecturers to hand out the work – they should create it themselves.

  3. WordPress Exploit Scanner

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    Wordpress Exploit Scanner

    Recently I’ve been working on restoring a WordPress blog back to health after it was compromised, and after performing an upgrade to both WordPress itself and all contributed modules, I used the excellent WordPress Exploit Scanner to identify errors and inserted code within files, and it was able to identify that a malicious php script was inserted into the first line of almost every plugin file.


  4. University: Is it worth it?


    As some of you may know, I’m now in second year at university, and that was after spending some time at college prior to this. When I left school I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career, and due to circumstances at the time I went to work full-time in an office for 3 years, although that quickly got boring. Having had an interest in computers and web design since I was at school, I decided to leave full-time employment in order to pursue a career in this field, and I can honestly say I have no regrets about this decision at all.


  5. My First Drupal Theme

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    My First Drupal Theme

    After just completing my first Drupal theme created from scratch, it was a big learning curve trying to style certain aspects of the content, especially some of the Views generated content but that’s a discussion for another day. Wrestling with the different settings and style sheets included with modules took a bit of time and although it’s only a basic theme, I  was quite pleased with it. After completing this and fighting with the code to a certain extent, I was curious what changes would be made to theming in Drupal 7 after the involvement of Mark Boulton and the whole D7UX project. (more…)

  6. Embossed Design


    Embossed Design

    Over the last few months I’ve noticed a trend for websites to feature an embossed style, with large text and other UI elements given an embossed look to add some depth to the design. I admit to being a fan of this style, and have begun incorporating it into recent designs. With the emergence of CSS 3 techniques such as box-shadow and text-shadow have made it easier to empty this technique without the use of images and below are some of the best examples at the moment.


  7. Drupal 7 Alpha

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    Drupal 7 Alpha

    Drupal and WordPress are the two Content Management Systems I use regularly when developing sites, and as WordPress updates to 2.9.1, Drupal has recently released the alpha version of the upcoming Drupal 7. Having heard a lot about the progress over the last few months, and of the contribution to the D7UX project by Mark Boulton, I was curious to see what the alpha version would be like and yesterday I downloaded a copy to play with in a local environment and there are a few major noticeable differences from previous versions straight away.


  8. University Update

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    Abertay University

    There’s always been a debate within the web industry about whether it’s better to gain a university education or to gain a job within the industry in order to build up a portfolio of work and experience. Having been at university for just over a year and gaining work experience at the same time, I can see both sides of the argument. Whilst I’m enjoying my time here, there are areas where the course could be significantly improved, with the latest set of modules described below:

    Web Standards:

    This module was essentially all about valid code and practices for accessibility and usability, all basic and essential things to know for any web designer/developer. I had a slight advantage for this module having known a lot of the areas discussed previously and knew all about the table layouts v CSS layouts and validators etc. However, it baffles me why this module wasn’t delivered in first year instead of the HTML module we had to endure with the tutor telling us that inline styles and table layouts were still ok to be used if we wanted.


    This module was all about Flash and ActionScript 2.0, which although useful and good to know it is not something that interests me at all and do not enjoy Flash work at all. The module is called Web MultiMedia but rarely ventures out of Flash and there is a lot more to multimedia on the web than that.

    With the emergence of HTML 5 and the video and audio tags coming into effect within browsers, this could be a new era of multimedia embedded into sites but this has not been mentioned at all. The emergence of web apps such as Spotify etc have changed the way music is consumed on the web, and the Kindle has changed the book industry and popularised e-books.

    Designing Interfaces:

    This module was interesting and probably the highlight of the semester, with a lecturer who knew his subject and was passionate about it certainly helped. A lot of theory was introduced to the way that interfaces are designed and considerations were analysed in order to produce the most effective and attractive interface.

    The highlight of the semester for me.


    We had to endure a law module which was interesting, but too generic to really get me interested. The area of contract law is obviously essential to the industry as a key area is the relationship between client and designer and a good solid contract is key to this relationship. However, there was no mention of intellectual property or other law specific to computing and the internet which was a disappointment as this would have been more relevant and interesting.

    The current semester has just started this week and new modules include Web Scripting, Marketing and Information Design which has the potential to be an improvement on the previous one. This post has turned into a bit of a rant about the failings of the course, and although it’s not all bad, I can see why people skip the university route and head straight for industry.

    Photo Credit: Yellow Arrow

  9. Project 52

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    Project 52

    Well it’s the start of 2010 and the third year that this blog has been going, and I’m the first to admit that my posting schedule is a bit, well, erratic lets just say! It’s not that I don’t want to blog but often I find that with working, studying and working on personal projects as well as having a personal life that blogging slips to the bottom of the queue and often gets missed.

    This is the reason that I have signed up to Project 52, a challenge that involves creating a new blog post every week for 2010. The aim is to increase the content and to keep the site regularly updated more, as it does feel I’m neglecting it at times. I’ve had a weekly reminder in my Remember the Milk list for a while now but more often than not I either postpone it or delete without actually having done it, and this is another “kick up the backside” for me to actually blog a bit more and utilise the site more.

    The reason I moved to the blog from the homepage in the latest re-design was that it wasn’t updated too often and wasn’t good if users were presented with a scarcely updated blog when they accessed the site. I think one of the main reasons for this was that the blog was lacking in direction, with no clear plan of the kinds of posts I wanted and I blogged about a wide range of topics related to the web. I’ve been working on a plan for these posts which should follow a pattern for the weekly posts, and will be posted at the same time each week for consistency.

    So here’s looking towards some great (and regular) content in 2010!