News

Google fonts with a beautiful ampersand – what’s up with Baskerville?

Design, News, Website Design, Wordpress

I spent some time recently working on a couple of website designs that could really use a little design flourish, and I thought styling the ampersand would be just enough. Looking back to an old bit of code I knew you could usee CSS to style your special ameprsands, render them in Baskerville styled in Italic and hey presto….. wait what? This doesn’t look so good anymore, what the heck is up with Baskerville.

After trawling the web for a while I *think* I have found the answer – Baskerville is now called ‘Libre Baskerville’ in the Google font library, so changing your css font-family reference from “Baskerville” to “Libre Baskerville” fixed it up. For a couple of great references on styling beautiful ampersands I’d recommend these resources.

https://johndjameson.com/blog/ampersands-and-google-fonts/

My Top 30 Fonts with the Sexiest Ampersands

Speed Up WordPress With Hosting & Caching Changes

News, Wordpress

I wrote an article last year about how to speed Woocommerce up. It’s turned out to be a pretty popular post, but as with everything online things have moved on and it feels like the right time for an update. WordPress is great but the number one complaint you hear is ‘WordPress is slow!’ – it doesn’t have to be, and here’s our advice on how to speed up WordPress making 2 simple changes – optimise your hosting and cache your content.

Change Your Hosting

You need to start by figuring out if your hosting is part of the problem. This website is hosted on a server managed by Names.co.uk. We have used WP Engine in the past for some clients who preferred that as a hosting option, and Dreamhost has also come highly recommended.

Use Google PageSpeed Insights to check a variety of issues on your website, including server response time. Server response time measures how long it takes to load the necessary HTML to begin rendering the page from your server, subtracting out the network latency between Google and your server.

If it looks like your server response time is slow then this is the single most important thing you can change to speed up your WordPress website.

If you find your hosting is lacking there’s plenty of good hosting companies out there that you can move your website to, and the market has changed a bit in recent years with the emergence of companies like WP Engine and Dreamhost. WP Engine provide hosting just for WordPress websites and aims to deliver super fast hosting whilst dealing with a lot of the configuration for you. They provide caching and a CDN and handle updates for you so if you’re a ‘not so techy’ WordPress website owner this could be the best solution for you to speed up your WordPress website. With plans starting from $29 (£18) per month and a 60 day money back guarantee you can’t really go wrong giving it a go! WordPress Hosting with WPEngine.com →

If you want a more ‘independent’ feel to your hosting I’d recommend Namesco. They host this very website and I’ve been a happy customer of theirs since 2008, using both a VPS (Virtual Private Server) and a dedicated server. There have been a few blips along the way but the uptime has been for the most part superb, their support has improved with a team who have been endlessly patient with me over the years. They provide plenty of hosting options, from shared hosting, through to fully managed dedicated servers and cloud hosting. Visit the Namesco Website →


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$50 off shared hosting

Caching Your Content – Pre-Making Your Sandwiches!

So what is caching? The simplest way I can think of describing it is this – Imagine walking into a cafe and ordering a sandwich, waiting for someone to slice the bread, and make the sandwich. Compare that to walking in to the same cafe, ordering the same sandwich but being handed it straight away, so you hand your money over and off you go. You’re already half way down the street while the other guy is still waiting for his bread to be buttered. Are you still with me?!

If you’re confused, what I’m saying is you need to pre-make your web pages.

WordPress stores all your page and post content in a database, and every visitor to your website that asks to see one of your pages is making the WordPress elves scurry off to find all the bits of data and assemble them into a page. Imagine 20 visitors ask for the same page this afternoon, if that’s a page you only update once a month then why would you do that? It would be much more sensible to have a pre-assembled version ready to show each of them wouldn’t it? ANd then if you made a change to that content you’d just rebuild that version and so on. Well, that’s caching your pages!

There are several well known caching plugins that have been around for a number of years and while they do a great job they are pretty complicated and awkward to set up and use. And then WP Rocket walked into my life a few months ago and all that changed. It’s not free, but you get what you pay for, remember! You download it, install and configure it in less time than it takes to put the kettle on. Seriously, just by activating the plugin you are caching your pages. It is amazing! Visit the WP Rocket website →

Hacking M.E.D.I.C With The Wellcome Trust & Open Data

News, Website Design

Last weekend I was lucky enough to join a great group of people at a Rewired State hack event for the Wellcome Trust. On a beautiful morning in London we were given access to a tonne of open science data and asked to show the Wellcome Trust what could be done with it.

Pretty quickly our team joined together with the idea to build a monitoring system for Intensive Care. Currently the existing monitoring equipment is plugged into a network and the data is saved (not everywhere, but increasingly so). We asked ourselves the question “what could we do if we centralised all that data?”. Our team included a couple of data analysts and they started discussing the possibility of finding ‘usefulness’ within the data. “Would we find any patterns in terms of vital statistic changes and mortality rates?”.mockup

Having access to this data is AMAZING not only because we can learn so much from it, but because we can DO so much with it.

So we set to it, the devs building the frontend and the framework, and the ‘data guys’ crunched numbers. It was so exciting when they started to realise that they had found some potential clues in the data – certain numbers changing in a certain direction seemed to point towards higher probability that the patient would die.

By combining the two ideas we came up with MEDIC – Monitoring & Early Detection in Intensive Care. We would pipe all of that live data into a central database and show a live representation of that patient on a screen so all their vital stats are instantly visible and instead of a zillion alarms going off if something does start to go wrong there would be one centralised alarm. This would reduce the possibility of alarm saturation, the phenomenon where so many alarms go off in the intensive care unit that they start to lose their significance.

By tying that together with the results of the data analysis, an algorithm, we could change the status of any of those patients to ‘warning’ should their stats be showing signs that from the historical data suggest their condition is likely to worsen soon.

A summary of the project can be found here – we were very proud to be awarded the Open Research prize.

I have to say we were really excited by the possibilities of this, having access to this data is AMAZING not only because we can learn so much from it, but because we can DO so much with it. Thank you fellow team members (Allen Lin, Ben Webb, Emily Christy, Florian Rathgeber, John Sandall, Matt Shawkat, Tom Pollard), thank you Rewired State and thank you Wellcome Trust. What a great weekend.

A Weekend Working With Hondas Cultural Engineers

News

I spent last weekend working with 22 other developers and creatives from around the country and most of Hondas Cultural Engineers. It was a privilege to be involved in this fantastic event – ‘Power Of Minds’ run by Rewired State and Honda’s Dream Factory.

My team (Matthew Applegate, Sym Roe, Kevin Fong, Emily Christy) came up with BikeAlert which was one of 4 projects to be selected to go forward for public voting. We won the design category and will shortly be available for the public to vote for it to receive some funding from Honda to take the idea further. In a nutshell this was our design concept.

  • Each year over 40% of the many cycling accidents (many fatal) can be attributed to a single problem – a large vehicle turning left and being unaware of a cyclist in their blind spot.
  • BikeAlert aims to solve this problem.

Each bike would be fitted with a tiny transmitter uniquely encoded to only interact with the BikeAlert receivers. The receiver (in the vehicle) can see the signal and knows a bike is is very close and potentially in a dangerous position.

Sensors take over for further positional data along with integration with on board speakers for further positional information which crucially is not distracting for the driver. The receiver would also tie in with road accident data to provide simple but vital warnings to the driver.

Update

We won a prize from Honda to try and develop the idea further! When there is more news we will update this blog.