Articles

A collection of things I’ve written.

eCommerce Site - ApprovedFood.co.uk

Today saw the first public showing of the eCommerce site refresh for www.approvedfood.co.uk, which we’re amazingly proud of.

This is an ongoing extensive web development project and encompasses replacing the existing eCommerce site, refreshing the design, revitalising the customer experience, improving security, fixing bugs and much more. This is much more than a simple reskin and it will help the thousands of daily visitors find their way around the products much easier and Approved Food get more control, data and a rapid turn-around on changes and support.

One of the things we did is to incorporate greatly enhanced tracking via Google Analytics using Custom Vars, Custom Reports, Goals/Funnels and eCommerce tracking so Approved Food can find out, down to the product and user, what’s working and improve areas that need attention.

The site uses not only uses up-to-date visual elements to improve the experience but it also gracefully scales back to the rogue and basic browsers.

ApprovedFood.co.uk will continue to improve over the coming weeks along with the associated Mobile and Social Media streams like Twitter and Facebook as these now come under Ring Alpha’s remit to manage.

New Hosting service for mid-size eCommerce site

Hosted Dell R410 Server

Ring Alpha recently provide a server migration service for one of our ongoing clients, a mid-size eCommerce store with thousands of transactions going through every day. The requirement was to improve the performance and technical specification of their site ahead of Ring Alpha providing them with a new eCommerce solution.

Lets find out what we did…

After a number of discussions with our client, it was obvious the rapidly growing eCommerce business had grown out of their existing hosting company and were in need of a technical upgrade that could cope with their increasing number of customers.

What’s needed?

Our first task was to evaluate what they would need out of a new server and new hosting company to enable their business to scale over the coming months.

Discover the technical needs

The evaluation task itself involved detailed analysis of how their existing server was currently performing at a low level to highlight areas that needed improving. We checked out the server loads on various areas and made our checklist.

The new technical spec was a massive leap forwards and critically included 4 times the amount of memory and new hard-drive configuration that improved the disk performance of 4 times too.

Hosting Partners

The next job was to make a shortlist of hosting providers that met all of the requirements, one of which was that it should be UK based and ideally local to the business.

Recommendations

We contacted our regular list of hosting partners, negotiated improved specifications and lower monthly costs before making our recommendation of 2 of them, which were a good match for this particular job.

Summary

Our work has delivered an improved technical specification that meets the needs of the business, all at a reduced price.

Our experience in working at a low level with server and network hardware, understanding the demands of the base level software like Apache and MySQL, the higher level loads of the eCommerce software matched with the needs of the business and their customers all rolled up into Ring Alpha being able to find a new server and hosting partner specific for this job.

Tips for Pricing Website Design

2 min read

If you are fairly new to the website design business, then you may be at a loss as to what to charge. If you charge too much, you may never get any clients. If you charge too little, your perceived value can be lower than your time is worth. In order to choose the right price for your services, you will need to do a little research and make a few decisions.

See what others are charging You can talk to other website designers in your area to find out what they are pricing. You could also go to trade shows and converse with people. Check out the Bureau of Labor statistics to find out what other professionals are charging for services in your area.

Figure out how much you want hourly Decide on an annual salary that you can live with. Then choose a realistic number of hours you will be actually working. Divide the annual salary by the number of hours worked and you should have a reasonable hourly rate. Before you set your price, make sure to check with others in your market to see what they are charging.

Dissect your services so that you can put a price on them One way to come up with a good estimate is to determine how much time you will be spending on the website design. To the best of your ability, make a list of all the smaller parts of your project. Just as if you were designing for poster or brochure printing, you need to gather graphics, arrange layout, add text, and proof. Once you have this list, you can estimate how much time each of those jobs will take.

Include other possible costs Add the different tasks together and multiply by your hourly rate. Add 10-20% to the cost for contingencies. Then include prices of graphics you might have to pay for or any other costs. Just as with brochure printing, there will be some pieces that you have to outsource. This should be a pretty close estimate of your time and costs. It is always better to estimate high. Projects almost always take longer than you think they will.

Don’t reduce your price to get business The clients that want to pay close to nothing for your valuable work will not be easy clients to work for anyway. As you build a name for yourself, you will find clients who are more than willing to pay a reasonable rate for quality work.

Market yourself for a higher priced bracket When you build a portfolio of quality of projects, your proven value will go up. Utilize personal branding and clients will start coming to you specifically to do work for them. Once you are in high demand, you will be in a position to raise your fees. Until then, keep your prices at or just below the average market price in your area.

 

Top Link Cloaking Plugins for WordPress

If you have a blog with affiliated link hijacking. It does not matter if you are writing about poster printing or computer programing, this is problem that every blogger will face. In order to prevent someone else from taking the money for your affiliated your site. There are many plugins available for WordPress, but here are some of the best.

Pretty Link

If you want to mask your affiliated come from your own domain, tack clicks from emails, and spread forums and comments on blogs, then Pretty Link is the best option for you. You can also upgrade to Pretty Link Pro so that you can have the capability to automate your Pretty Link creation.

WP Marketer

WP Marketer is a free plugin for WordPress that will manage your affiliated to manage your inventory, set up ads in posts and landing pages, or track your results. With WP Marketer, you will have more control than ever before.

Link Hopper

Link Hopper is very useful for managing your affiliated make changes in one location and Link Hopper will then also make this change throughout your site for you.

W-Shadow

“Slightly Advanced Computer Stuff (and some magic),” according to W-Shadow. This link cloaking plugin for WordPress will cloak your outgoing when.

Max Blog Press Ninja Affiliate

Ninja Affiliate contains common WordPress affiliate plugin features: link autolinking, customer styling for

Eclipse Cloaker

In order to avoid loosing your commissions, choose Eclipse Cloaker to cloak your the link cloaking and track link stats so that you know where you are making the most money. It is compatible with all browsers and provides free upgrades.

Instant WordPress Link

This plugin specializes in “in-text” advertising. With Instant WordPress Link, you can count clicks, style custom conversion, shorten URLs, and much more. Created by the well-known plugin developer, Tricks and Tips HQ, Instant WordPress Link is one that you can rely on for quality.

No matter what your topic, your blog should be free of worry. Keep your blog safe from hijackers by cloaking other features that come along with link cloaking plugins.

 

Where have I been?

2 min read

It’s been quite a long time since I posted about Game Production as I’ve been focusing my efforts on my new venture ‘Ring Alpha’ where I’m currently focusing on making my own video games and collaborating with other indie developers around the world.

It’s pretty obvious that the UK games industry has been in a massive state of flux for the last 2 years and there’s no sign of this slowing down anytime soon. I’ve been caught in the midst of this shift and personally suffered a few times this year but it’s not stopped me yet. Right now I have lost faith in the large traditional companies who are really struggling to redirect their oil-tanker like ideas and my only desire is to work with Indie developers right now.

We’ve seen the fallout from these changes and there have been massive lay-offs this year as we’ve seen some of the UKs biggest developer close their days and the upshot of this is that the job market is crowded with lots of developers looking for fewer and fewer jobs. The failing game developers have been left to rot before the vultures swoop in and pick over the carcases looking for tasty morsels of IP and down on their luck developers.

The makeup of a typical team means that production/management roles are few and far between and what few there are have many applicants, which of course means that salaries get driven lower and lower as it’s essentially a buyers market.

On the flip-side skilled, experienced programmers who can work onsite are a rarity. There is opportunity out there if you can work hard and find it.

On a more personal note, unlike most Production staff I have always kept my programming skills up-to-date and I’m now taking advantage of this to make my own games and collaborate with others around the world via sites like oDesk, Elance and PeoplePerHour. At the moment I’m concurrently developing games for iOS devices and also HTML5 and I find the experience invigorating and pain-free.

What I have witnessed and experienced by engaging with the global development community is that the UK remains are very expensive location to make games and if you’re able to work with a global sparse team that you direct accurately and manage efficiently then there are thousands of people out there who can bring your game to life (me included).

All things said, 2010 has been a painful year for me personally but I’m over it now and I feel like I’ve escaped the cul-de-sac of ‘traditional’ game development and joined the mainstream, even though it’s a little belated.

So, it’s back to work, heads down, making things happen.

Thanks.

Precisely how To Add Content material To A Joomla Website

4 min read

I will teach you how one can make pages with static content.

To begin with, make sure you log in to your web site Administration Area.

Then choose Content –> Article Manager. At the same time, it is possible to click on Article Manager icon in your Administration home website page. Within Article Manager you might discover a list of your web site content webpages. But if your in the beginning stages this might be a listing of most of the default Joomla articles. You are able to select the checkbox on the left, pick the ones you don’t need published, next on the top right, press “unpublish.”

To design a new web page, mouse click New at the top right of the webpage.

At this point you are on a website page where you may produce your content. You will see certain fields:

*Title: Give the website page a title. It should be brief and also detailed (ex: ‘About Us’);

*Alias: You can also make a title to the point on your page. In case you leave this field blank Joomla will set up an alias through the page title changing spaces by hyphens. (i.e.: about-us when your page title is ‘About Us’);

*Section: Select a category to your website page. If you don’t have any, select ‘Uncategorized’. This field is required and your article won’t be published if you leave ‘-Select Section-‘ value in the field;

*Published: Here you could change your web page publish state. You can check ‘No’ radio press button if you do not desire your content to be published. This area is set as ‘Yes’ automatically;

* Front Page: This field tells whether your webpage will be viewable on the front page of your website or otherwise;

*Category: Pick a category for the static content material webpage. When you’ve got no categories or don’t need your article to be in any category, select’Uncategorized’;

*Text: Type your own text right here. Here’s the static web page. You may use the TinyMCE provided editor or download some rather enhanced editors and employ them to create your own pages. We advocate to give JCE a test.

On the right side you observe the article’s overview and 3 sections pertaining to advanced controls.

Setting the Parameters (Article):

*Author: You should have various authors on your site therefore if you want to individualize your write-up, pick a name within the list;

* Author Alias: The same as with Article Alias - ensure it is understandable or Joomla ! will do that for you. This is going to help when you’ve got many authors writing for ones webpage;

* Access Level: Right here you’ve got three alternatives: Public, Registered and Specials. Choose who’ll see your article and who will not;

* Created date: While default the current time is placed with this area. Yet you may create make it published earlier.

* Start Publishing: Modify this particular date if you want your article to be released afterwards. It will be published at time chosen;

* Finish Publishing: When you require the web page to end up being released for just a limited time type right here the actual date (and hour) if you want an article to be unpublished. This particular characteristic is also automated.

Parameters (Advanced):

The vast majority of these fields happen to be established as ‘Use Global’. The easiest way will be to set the most suitable fields in Parameters (it appear in Article Manager) and customize a variety of them for each and every article when necessary. I will summarizethe actual function of every field in another tutorial.

Metadata Information:

*Description: It’s a field when you type in written text for your meta description tag. It is significant to make it informative in addition to describing the information of the web page. Ensure that it stays detailed along with short about 156 characters.

*Keywords: Right here you can include keywords your website page will be optimized for search engines. They are included with your meta keywords tag. A number of authorities think keywords are no longer utilised by search engines; and we would certainly concur; however, you can still include them if you like.

*Author: This field will add meta author tag for a webpage. Virtually pointless through the Website seo position seeing that search engines does not pay that attention to all meta tags.

*Robots: You ought to limit crawlers’ the means to access your own content material which is not for any individual to find on a search engine. If that’s so, you should put values “noindex, nofollow”. There’s just 4 values in this field - index, noindex, follow, nofollow. But you need to use only 2 of these separated by comma.

Whenever done, it is important to check your spelling, examine just about all fields and click on ‘Save’.

You now are done with your new ‘About Us’ webpage and it is time to develop a Menu hyperlink for this webpage.

Practical Ways to Improve Website Readability

2 min read

A readable website will encourage your viewers to remain on your website longer and investigate your content further. Perhaps they will even come back and maybe share your website with their friends. The alternative, unfortunately, is an unreadable website to which viewers get annoyed and promptly leave, never to return. Here are some easy ways to avoid this catastrophe and make your website more readable.

Keep your pages clean.

Do not try to stuff your pages with unnecessary junk. Image backgrounds, flashing ads, and pop up distractions to ruin the point of the page. Instead, use a solid contrasting background and font. Keep entire viewing experience will be much improved with fewer distractions.

Stick to the standard.

When someone picks up a brochure to browse, they look inside for the bulk of the text and on the back for contact information. Just as with brochure printing, websites need to contain certain elements to be more readable. To vary from the standard usually means to confuse and irritate viewers. Therefore, always make your or both. In addition, do not make any other text blue or underlined. Place the site map at the top of the page and the contact, terms, conditions, and other similar

Make the format simple.

Do not use frames since these take longer to load, in addition to a number of other problems. Keep your text blocks small, and separate chunks of text with bullets and subheads. Another way to separate text chunks is to write many small paragraphs. Your text width should also be kept small, about 600 pixels wide, so create columns if need be. By breaking up your text, you will make reading more inviting.

Organize your site well.

A great navigational menu can be a lifesaver. Make sure that your front page looks like a front page. Also, keep the basic format, headers, footers, menus, and such the same on every page so that everything is easy to find.

Use text that is easy to read.

Avoid tiny fonts and if possible make your text scalable so that your viewer can choose the size for themselves. Sans-serif and plain text rather than italics are easier to read. Keeping your text consistent will also help. This means you need to avoid using multiple styles of font and bold or italic fonts.

Creating a website with better readability is a gift to your viewers and a smart business move. Take a little bit of time to make sure that your site is readable and you will see much better results with your website.

 

Hesketh

Play, Create, Share and Perform your own music using this simple to use tool. Built from the ground up with performance and sharing in mind, your friends will love your music.

Early Days

2 min read


title: Early days date: 2010-10-16 18:34:30

type: post

slider_style: sample.css slide_redirect_url: http://ringalpha.com/blog/early-days/— Over the last few weeks I’ve been ramping up my efforts to get my teeth into all these prototypes I’ve got milling around, most of which are linked from my homepage. They work but they’re not really manageable or agile from a development perspective.

Prototypes

All of the prototypes exist in one form or another, most are in a playable form but none of them are what I’d consider publishable so they need quite a bit of work on them yet. They certainly don’t have good artwork that will come by me joining with a great artist nor the design finesse that comes from playing the game and working with smart game designers.

Tools & Tech

I’m focusing on my tech & tools right now and I’ve tidied up lots of the legacy bits & bobs, things I threw in just to test out if I liked an idea once it was translated into something you could play. More formal class structures, tidied up the interfaces and generally moved everything towards C++ to enable me to move prototypes to other platforms relatively quickly. I’ve also unified the common bits of code into something that’s more usable across titles, which was the aim going forwards.

Hardware I code everything on a Mac Mini now and my PC hasn’t been on for many months. My PC is faster and I prefer W7 to OSX but it’s also true that it’s a damn sight noisier, consumes more power and I can’t make iOS apps on it *but* I can do everything on a Mac. I never thought I’d be in the Apple camp but needs must.

I did buy a cool bit of kit in the form of a Synology DS210j Disk Station NAS with 4Tb of storage. It’s cool because it’s a little server; not only does doe the usual file serving, media serving it also has an inbuilt downloader (NNTP/Torrent/file) but I’ve also got it running a SVN server too! How cool is that!

Building a Series

My intent is to bring out a series of games, all of which build on the experience and tech of the previous one. This not only shortens the development cycle but it also means that core elements get thorough field testing by real people like you as there’s only so much I can test myself.

So, I sit here feeling a bit happier that everything is consolidating and I’ve chosen which project I’m going to bring out next so it’s all hands focused on that one for now.

Studio needs a better name

Oh, I’m not too struck on the name ‘Ring Alpha’ either so I may change the name at some point. The name was thrust upon me when I needed to setup a UK legal entity for my work, which includes things beyond game development so it needed to be something techy and unique, not strictly games, not strictly IT, not strictly consultant like so I plumbed for this. I do think I need a new name for the Game Dev bit though.

I’ll keep you all updated on progress.

Simeon