Rob Tomlinson's blog

Attitude, experience and sounding-off are filed-away here in various combinations. Topics range from the technical (web design), to the commercial (being a freelancer), to the nifty (great software to use) as well as the annoying and delighting. The opinions expressed here are unashamedly mine.

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.

The website evolves once more

This website first started life in 1999 and it’s interesting - if geeky - to look back at its evolving design (and underlying technology). (This burst of nostalgia has been provoked by version 7’s launch last Thursday.)

You can see most of these versions on The Way Back Machine’s website, though not the first version.

(Thumbnails can be clicked for pop-ups … if you are bold enough!)

Intelligent web publishing

Of all the reasons to move your static website to a dynamic content-management system (CMS) website, I believe the most potent is what I call ‘intelligent web publishing’.

Business is an activity and websites need to reflect the details and direction of that activity. Enabling the publishing of this information - often in small chunks - is what a good website should do.

Search engine optimisation examined

Most people start an internet search with Google, so let’s begin this blog article there. Here’s a screenshot of page 1’s results for “sports car sales” on Google UK:



Things that search engines look for

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!

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!

Billable hours? Not to be sneezed at!

One of my UK clients came to me with an interesting problem: he wanted changes made to one of his websites, but the agency that originally built it for him wanted to charge him £80 an hour plus VAT.

He wanted to know what I could do…

I had a look at the site and found some interesting things:

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