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Craft-ing

Categories: Learning things, Our work, Useful/interesting

Craft is a new CMS that we have been using here at Supercool on a number of our smaller sites for a little while now.

Built by prominent member of the ExpressionEngine community (Pixel & Tonic), it focusses on being easy to use, flexible and (importantly) beautiful. For me as a developer it makes life that little bit easier when building a small site as it is faster and simpler to set up; however it's the control panel I'd like to focus on right now.

One of the things we like about Craft is the Live Preview option. This lets you preview your post as you write it, right beside the publish form; meaning you can do things like check how an image works within a block of text before you publish it.

Another aspect of Craft that is becoming more and more useful is that it all works seamlessly on mobile phones and tablets. It is fully responsive and doesn't assume anything about the device you might be using to edit or create content with, making writing that blog post on your phone during the train to work much more enjoyable!

Mock-up showing how the editing interface looks on mobile

Finally Craft keeps it simple – you only see what you need to see to do your work. No more clutter and a clean, intuitive interface throughout that doesn't get in your way.

Screengrab of a minimal interface

So, Craft is ideal for smaller websites and microsites right now – but as it grows and additional functionality becomes available, expect to see us using this slick new CMS on larger projects.

Souped-up CSS

Categories: Our work, Useful/interesting

Since last writing about CSS we've developed our very own CSS framework – and we call it Soup.

Based upon Inuit.css (version 4.5.5) we've extended, adapted, and generally built-up a library of re-usable objects to form a framework that works well for us. Inuit is very lightweight and makes no design decisions whatsoever, so it made sense to start from there – as well as it coming from Harry Roberts (who gave us the talk on CSS).

So why not just use Inuit as a base for each project? Why make more stuff to sit on top of it?

Well, we found that as good as it is having Inuit not making any design decisions, there are some basics that we start with across many projects.

Forms are a good example here – we'll always want a certain set of base styles for all web forms across a site, and they'll have similar design functions – such as a 'normal' and a 'focussed' state – so it seemed sensible to extend Inuit's form setup; all it takes is colour and/or font changes (and any other specific alterations, if required) to quickly create a nicely designed form.

As we tend to use a similar typographical setup with respect to font sizes and vertical rhythm, we also added this into Soup – along with icons, buttons and a bunch of other helpers.

Another part of our extending Inuit to match our own needs is on the responsive side of things. We tend to use a mobile-first approach, initially including only the styles that a mobile device would need, then adding-in extra styling in a separate file for bigger devices (thanks Jeremy Keith).

Finally the other major aspect of Soup is the JavaScript; we include a few things from Twitter's Bootstrap as well as validation, some polyfills and a few other bits and bobs we use a lot of the time.

This approach of having a simple starting setup has saved us a lot of time over the past 6 months of using it. For example, combining this frontend Soup with our backend ExpressionEngine boilerplate helped us get dropletpay.com designed and built in under 2 weeks.

Here's to moving onwards and upwards with the recent release and stabilisation of Inuit version 5!

The power of television

Categories: Extra-curricular, Learning things, Our work, Silly

For the past couple of weeks, my Tuesday nights between 8pm and about 10pm have been spent monitoring the impact of television. This is not a round-about way of saying I've just been sat there watching the telebox – oh, no; this is work! (Ish)

The very talented Lauren is currently doing rather well on BBC2's The Great British Sewing Bee and, having built the website for her haberdashery Guthrie & Ghani (have a look at the case study), we decided to monitor visits in real-time as we anticipated a traffic spike while the show was on-air. And we were right … sort of.


The site was viewed on a range of different devices and, right, spot the episode spikes within 'hourly views'. Zoiks!

FUN FACTS:

  • There was a massive spike in visits on the day the first episode aired – although the following day actually saw an increase in daily visits to the website.
  • Even discounting the on-air spikes, average daily traffic to the site has increased by a whopping 1000% since the first episode.
  • Episode 2 encouraged 13% more visits than episode 1. (The second episode also got slightly higher ratings – 2.57m compared with last week's 2.56m.)
  • During the show, there were spikes in activity on the website just after Lauren appeared on-screen, and just after she tweeted – particularly if the tweet included a link to the site (unsurprisingly).
  • There was a noticeable increase in activity on Guthrie & Ghani during the programme's 'history of sewing' item … which, ummm, may perchance suggest that some folks aren't hugely enamoured with this part of the show?!

So our hypothesis was correct, that a prime-time TV show would impact the website while on-air – but what we hadn't anticipated was that the number of concurrent users would actually reach its peak about 10 minutes after the end of each programme. I guess it's not that surprising – as people rush to their computers once the show's finished to find out more – but not something that had occurred to us before it happened.

Same again next week – Lauren, pictured above with those troublesome trousers, is still in the running for the title Britain's Best Amateur Sewer (shame about that homonym). Be sure to watch the next installment of The Great British Sewing Bee, BBC2, Tuesday, 8pm to see how she gets on. 

And while you do that, remember I'll be sat on a sofa with the TV on but actually watching my laptop, tabbing repeatedly between umpteen browser windows monitoring real-time stats, following who's tweeting what … and no doubt subconsciously learning a bit about sewing at the same time. That is the power of televsion.

Nine

Categories: Learning things, Our work

 

Nine lives, dressed to the nines, cloud nine, a stitch in time saves nine, nine-to-five, the whole nine yards … errrrr … nine years since the last all-new Corvette … ummm … Fluorine has the atomic no. 9 … okay, this is getting tenuous (but I knew A Level Chemistry would come in handy one day).

 

I've been thinking about the number nine because this Saturday, 19 January, Supercool turns nine years old. Nine! That's a lot of years!

Over these years we've been lucky enough to work with loads of great people on some really interesting projects – and every year we learn more and more, helping make us better and better at what we do. It's a pretty darn good job, all-told. Like I said – lucky.

The last batch was ace, so here's to the next nine years.