May 24 2016

S8080 help Nottingham City Council with new Umbraco website

Nottingham city council Umbraco website homepage
When Nottingham City Council appointed us via G-Cloud, we were delighted to learn that they had chosen Umbraco, the open-source CMS, to develop their new online self-service platform.

As an agency, our public sector clients tend to request either Drupal or Umbraco. The Council had spent time during their discovery phase investigating the suitable platforms for a large, busy local government website and Umbraco matched their requirements exactly.

Channel shift is becoming increasingly important for local government as digital transformation strategies are being realised in order to improve customer access to council services. Umbraco (and Drupal) are both powerful and flexible enough for the most demanding council and open source means they don’t pay a single penny for the software. This frees up budgets for the important stuff: user experience (UX), engaging designing and robust, secure functionality.

Nottingham city council Umbraco website mobile

As well as the obvious cost benefits of digital self-service, modern local authority content management systems allow a mobile first approach. This means users can undertake online transactions like arranging waste collections or making planning applications using their phones or tablets as well as their laptops and computers, making life easier for users and the Council. From the outset, our brief was to create a “great looking”, user-friendly, customer centred experience that could stand up against the very best local government websites in the UK. Here’s how we designed and developed the Council website:

  • We co-designed a clear top-task focused homepage
  • We broke down the content into compartmentalised areas to simplify the information
  • The Council’s brand colours were used consistently for content hierarchy
  • We developed a user-friendly column based dropdown navigation
  • The site was designed to be extremely accessible and fast to use
  • The CMS platform was specifically designed to enable the Council to add their own micro-sites
  • The mobile first templates we developed and tested across multiple devices
  • Our Umbraco technical developers Implemented Nottingham City Council’s preferred search solution provided by Funnelback
  • We created a suite of content blocks in which to build the content pages
  • We made it super easy for the Council’s in-house team to further develop the site by componentising and templating the functionality so it can be updated separately
  • We set up the server architecture and deployed the website which  is hosted on Microsoft Azures’ scalable cloud hosting platform
  • We will be providing ongoing maintenance and support, but typically 3rd level technical Umbraco expertise, so the day to day support on the website will be handled by Nottingham City Councils IT team

To find out how your organisation can use an open-source content management system for customer centred digital transformation, take a look at Umbraco and Drupal – two extremely capable and extensible CMS’s.

 

Nottingham city council Umbraco website screens

 

nottscc-mockup-large-4

 

May 23 2013

Native app vs mobile web: the shortfalls of mobile accessibility

One of the biggest demands by clients that we face is providing websites and applications for mobile devices. It’s no big news that web design is in a state of flux with the introduction of a wave of mobile devices, each with varying screen sizes and functionality, which raise a whole range of questions about web design best practice. Within the mobile app market, there is much debate over which is the better of two contrasting systems to deliver content to mobile devices – native applications, which can be downloaded from app stores and are installable software, and web apps – effectively websites that respond to being viewed on mobile devices.

Mobile development and apps IMAGE

Many argue that native apps offer better user experience; they are typically run much faster and utilise device functionality to perform sophisticated tasks, making them feature rich – plus, they don’t always require an internet connect to work. There are however drawbacks – they consume device resources, such as battery life; and require regular updates to maintain security and update their functionality. Not to mention that the issue that comes with market penetration. For example, Twitter’s mobile app might appear exactly the same on both Android and iPhone – but they will be built from different technologies – Java and xCode respectively. This presents large overheads when it comes to maintaining multi-platform apps for one service.

Mobile web apps

There are far fewer constraints when working with web apps – they require an internet connection yes – they are after all typically a mobile optimised version of a website. However, for our clients, they provide the better solution. They are extremely scalable – using standard compliant technologies such as HTML and CSS, website content can easily be optimised for mobile devices through techniques such as content adaption.

There are also other technologies that lend themselves to enriching user-experience that have begun to challenge the UX of native apps – such as HTML5 and various JavaScript platforms. As a web design and development agency, these technologies have provide us with the means to create engaging and highly interactive content that can on the surface behave to a greater extent as native apps would do.

Mobile accessibility

The benefits don’t end there – one of the biggest advantages web apps has over native apps, is ensuring accessibility standards can be met. Mobile accessibility standards for web apps focuses on standardising the implementation of HTML in an effort to ensure that content are viewable on mobile devices. Back in the day, WCAG 1.0 concerned itself with standardising good, accessible HTML – but post 2008, due to the diversity of technologies that were supported by modern browsers, such as CSS and JavaScript, WAI were prompted to revise their guidelines to create for more holistic standard. The outcome, WCAG 2.0 – which has since remained the gold standard.

It is important to remember that accessibility standards beyond the browser exist outside of web content accessibility standards. These guidelines don’t apply to the mass app markets we see available for the tablet and smartphone operating systems. Additionally, with native app SDK’s being made freely available to developers, regulating accessibility standards for native apps is near non-existent.

Of course we haven’t touched in this post on responsive designs for mobile web design which we are currently doing lots of work on… so more coming on that.

Resources

If you would like to chat about how S8080 could help improve mobile website design and user experience, call 01792 485566 and ask for Chris or Matt, or email, info@s8080.com.

Nov 26 2010

Seabird: Open Web phone concept

An amazing glimpse at how users might interact with their mobile content as devices and technology advances, form the Mozilla Labs’ Concept Series.

 

Aug 5 2009

Orange launches first Welsh language phone

Orange has had a look at the Welsh-speaking community and decided it needs a phone of its very own, so has launched the Samsung S6500 with Welsh language on board.

 

See the full Techradar article.

Jul 27 2009

Mobile: Android pulls ahead of Windows Mobile

AdMob (a mobile advertising platform) have released their latest metrics report – and as far as their advertising impressions go, Google Android has now pulled in front of Windows Mobile (in terms of requests to the AdMob network, not handset marketshare).

The difference is actually even more pronounced in the UK than the US.

Of course, this is just one advertising network, and results may well be skewed depending on how/where their adverts are displayed, but it’s still a useful thing to note as the mobile web continues to grow in popularity at a tremendous speed.

(via Android and Me

Apr 14 2009

New Google Mail Mobile Interface

Google have updated their mobile Google Mail interface to use cutting-edge HTML5 and CSS3 features available to WebKit-based browsers and the upcoming Firefox 3.5.
The new interface provides new functionality such as offline access – you can load Gmail in your browser even if you go offline, then reply to e-mails, etc, and it’ll all be synced back to the ‘cloud’ when you’re next online. The new Gmail also uses the <canvas> HTML element (a region of a web page defined in HTML code, which can then be drawn on with JavaScript) to draw various graphic – thus preventing the need to download images – as well as CSS animations and transformations to make the interface more dynamic. Clever stuff.

It’s amazing that this kind of stuff is leading the way is on mobile devices, where the most popular browsers (Safari on the iPhone, and the Android browser on Android-based phones) are generally more capable and advanced than the current versions of the most popular desktop browsers.

For more information, see:

Feb 5 2009

Mobile web design and screen sizes

Whilst doing some research on mobile web design, I was looking for information on how to cater for the wide range of devices and screen sizes that are out there, and came across a useful article at mobiForge.com: Effective Design for Multiple Screen Sizes.

It provides some handy statistics on the most common screen sizes for mobile devices; I was amazed that 128 pixels is the most common width for a mobile (I would’ve imagined it to be a little bigger). It actually turns out that most devices share one of three widths: 128, 176, or 240 pixels. These values are generally getting bigger year-on-year – especially with the advent of the iPhone in 2007 (which has a 320 pixel wide screen).

 

The gist of the article is that by targeting your design at a medium screen size, and using good, clean, semantic markup, it’s fairly straightforward to make a site that degrades gracefully to smaller screen sizes, and can be progressively enhanced to provide extra functionality/styles to more capable devices.

 

Jan 15 2009

CSSiPhone.com

A gallery of creative iPhone friendly sites.

My wife had an iPhone for Christmas – I have never seen her so immersed in tech.

One of my implementation team, JSJ, proudly showed me our latest launch on his iPhone… I was pretty impressed. (More on that soon).