Design Services

Logo & corporate stationery design

Project shown is Fox IT

Design Services

Logo, business cards, website & brand guidelines

Project shown is Jarred Consulting

Website Design

User friendly websites

Project shown is Firstford

Build your website

I build most websites using WordPress*, an open source content management system, so that you have full control over your website content. Every website I build is, by default, optimised for search engines and built to be responsive.

Design your branding

I can manage the branding process for your business, whether it be a new logo, or a full set of branded business stationery and digital designs. You may want a cohesive set of branded social media accounts, or a design for your fleet of vehicles.

Market your business

Your new website will only feel like a good return on investment if you get enquiries or orders from it. It’s a good idea to budget for at least 2-3 months SEO marketing to build your search traffic.

Contact me to discuss your next creative project

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Recent posts

Wordpress and design blog posts


Apps, Software Development, Xamarin

Setting up your Xamarin development environment in Visual Studio

I’ve been developing apps using C# in Xamarin for a number of years now, up until now as a side project but as Xamarin was bought by Microsoft earlier this year and the annual license is now free it seemed the right time to start focusing on Xamarin a little more.

In order to develop apps using Xamarin you have to decide whether to develop on a PC or a Mac primarily, and then get your overall system set up and running. My setup of choice was to do all my coding on my PC in Visual Studio 2015 and use my Mac Mini on the same network to run my IOS simulators on, and connect my IOS test devices to. It’s important that the installed SDK versions for Xamarin match on both the PC and the Mac or you can run into compilation or deployment problems down the line.

During the process of getting all of this setup, and up to date I ran into a number of issues which, from the Google searches I did, seems I’m not the only person to have these problems. I’ve collected a rough and ready list of some of the errors and their solutions to hopefully save others a bit of the time it took me to eventually get to a stable working system.

During this process you may need to know a couple of key things –

1. Find the IP address of your Mac on the network
2. View your Xamarin log files
3. Update the Xamarin and XCode installs on your Mac
4. Update the Xamarin and SDKs on your PC.

This post will help you do each of those, and if you still haven’t got up and running by the end of this post you can turn to both the Xamarin forums and Stack Exchange for help.


Find the IP address of your Mac on the network

In the top right hand corner of your Mac screen you’ll see the little Wifi symbol that shows your Mac is connected to a Wifi network – click on this symbol while holding down the Ctrl key on your Mac and you’ll see some extra info appear in the dropdown list, inlcuding the IP adress of your Mac on the network.

Xamarin setup process and common error messages

Typically at some point you’ll have a problem getting your PC to connect to your Mac – this wouldn’t be a problem in itself apart from the fact for some reason the useful error messages are hidden deep within the Xamarin log files. Incidentally it’s vital that your PC and Mac are on the same Wifi network…. I had issues at one point because my laptop had autoconnected to a BT Openzone Wifi network and the Mac was on the normal office one. Just a simple point that’s easily overlooked. Presuming it’s not that, you will need the log files! Using the instructions below to get to the log file you are likely to find a message like:

“The installed Xamarin.iOS (version 10.0) on the Mac macname.local (192.168.x.xx) is not compatible with the local Xamarin.iOS 10.2.”

Which is just telling you to update whichever systemis behind and then you will be able to connect to your Mac no problem..

1. Error occurred in the designer agent. Object reference not set to an instance of an object – designer won’t load. Can happen for a number of reasons, in my case when I went on to my Mac and opened XCode / Apple developer account there was a license agreement dialogue box that needed to be accepted by me. Once I’d done that everything worked fine.

2. Failed to create the a fat library. The solution to this was to go to the Mac and open Xcode. An update had been installed and it was waiting for me to accept a new user agreement. Once I’d done that and returned to Visual Studio on the PC I could build the project no problem.

Xamarin related updates

There’s a series of places that updates need to be ‘triggered’ when you’re using Xamarin – the PC, the Mac, and if you are debugging on a device, then the device environment itself.

Updates are located in Visual Studio on the PC. On the Mac there’s system updates which might include Xcode, that needs to be kept up to date. You’ll also have Xamarin Studio installed on your Mac, and that has an updater that will need to be run as well by clicking the File > Check for updates button.

On your device you need to go to follow the normal process for updating your version of IOS (I’m only developing on Apple devices at he moment until I’ve got more comfortable with the full development cycle).

Diagnosing problems and using the Xamarin log files

The log files can be located by going to Help > Xamarin > Open Logs in Visual Studio and then browsing to the relevant folder location as follows:

Mac – ~/Library/Logs/Xamarin-[MAJOR.MINOR]
Windows – %LOCALAPPDATA%\Xamarin\Logs (on Windows 10 this will be something like C:\Users\Bob\AppData\Local\Xamarin\Logs)

If you don’t see the folder you may have to tell File Explorer to show hidden files as they could be hidden by default.

Also in Visual Studio pay close attention to the output window. Top left of that window is a dropdown that says ‘Show output from ‘ and then there are several options:

– Build
– Build order
– Debug
– Xamarin
– Diagnostics

You find different type of information in each and they are often worth trawling through if you are encountering problems.

My next Xamarin post will relate to some of the initial stumbling blocks I encountered when building my first Xamarin app.

brochure design Woking
Client Focus, Design

Traditional Marketing – leaflet design & print for a client

We recently were asked to design and print a double sided A5 leaflet for one of our long standing clients. As well as doing online marketing and SEO for them they wanted to do some traditional marketing too, so we designed this marketing brochure for them to deliver to their potential block management clients.

We then managed the print process for them and delivered the finished brochures to them this week.

styled baskerville ampersand
Design, News, Website Design, Wordpress

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

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

Speed Up WordPress With Hosting & Caching Changes

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 →


SPEEDUP-250x250-v1
$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 →