Monday, 26 October 2009

I have successfully completed the Accidental Managers course

The course is now over. Having finished the 6 month course on Accidental Managers I now feel I am more of a Manager than an accidental one. The final day and presentations went well and it was interesting to see what everyone else had taken from the course as well as report back about ways in which I have used it to improve the team.

As with many people in creative industries designers/developers find themselves slowly moving into management as an additional role as roles progress and people become more involved in the running of a business - as the title states... Accidental Managers.

I have learnt a whole wealth of information and now believe combined with the knowledge from the PRINCE2 course I am now equipped with several skills and techniques that aid me in the day to day running of a team - I now have a sound foundation to manage a team, the people, the important part of the managers tool kit as well as being able to manage projects and time within the team.

I feel I am now a more approachable, efficient and productive manager and I have helped improve myself as well as the team and believe that by spending time focussing on the Process - the how and why a team works a certain way and if that can be improved - rather than simply working on the WHAT - the day to day getting jobs done - it is possible to improve performance, happiness and overall quality of work. It is the age old saying "SPEND TIME ON THE BUSINESS NOT IN IT".

Basically most teams get a job and aim for an end result. The way they do that is by simply tackling the problem at hand, often using techniques and processes they have used before simply because the last time it came out OK so we know that method works. This is restrictive as by spending time on how you achieve that end result and forcing some time out to evaluate and get the teams input on how the team functions and how that can be improved it is possible to improve several areas and achieve better results and often faster.

I may be posting some useful tips from time to time here on experiences I have had and the results of putting some of these techniques into practice so sign up to the RSS feed if you want to be the first in the know :) For more information on some of the techniques I learnt see my Smashing Magazine article here: Professional-Team-Management-Tips-For-Creative-Folks

For those of you interested in the course please visit:


Thursday, 1 October 2009

Wigan AWP is Live!

Another one of our very successful 14-19 (AWP) Area Wide Prospectus sites has gone live. For more information on the product in general see the previous post about the Tameside AWP launch. This one is for Wigan and you will notice that the new crisp, clean style of the Tameside one resonates through this one with the addition of some nice banner graphics using the new Wigan Life logo. The clean, easy to use search functionality takes pride of place and all the fancy ajax and javascript fanciness is here on this one as well along with the Careerstube content relevant video case studies and the advanced search and refining slider techniques.

Take a look and see what you think - all comments welcome.

Wigan AWP



Friday, 4 September 2009

Smashing Magazine article is now live!

I am proud to announce that my first article for Smashing Magazine has now been published and can be found here:

Seems to have gone down well so far which is promising and I am already looking into what to write about next. Would appreciate it if people can comment - good or bad - below the article and feel free to Digg it etc if you feel it is worthy.

Hope people find it useful and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.


Monday, 17 August 2009

Soon to appear on Smashing Magazine

I am proud to announce that Smashing Magazine will soon be publishing my first article. I contacted them regarding becoming an author for their design/development blog that currently has 142,000 thousand RSS followers and is often the first place to go on a Monday morning to see what new posts they have up there. After they vetted me - a process involving seeing who I was, what previous writing experience and examples I had and also finding out what it was I actually wanted to write about - I got asked to write a trial article that will be published within the next two weeks.

The article is entitled 'Team Management Tips for Creative Folk' and I look forward to the feedback. I hope people find it useful and it sparks debate within teams. Let me know what you think by commenting below it when it is published. I will post again here with a link once it is live.


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Rochdale AWP is live!

Our second 14-19 (AWP) Area Wide Prospectus has now gone live. For more information on the product in general see the previous post about the Tameside AWP launch. This one is for Rochdale and you will notice that the new crisp, clean style of the Tameside one resonates through this one. The clean, easy to use search functionality takes pride of place and all the fancy ajax and javascript fanciness is here on this one as well along with the Careerstube content relevant video case studies and the advanced search and refining slider techniques.

Take a look and see what you think - all comments welcome.

Rochdale AWP



Thursday, 16 July 2009

Tameside AWP is live!

Our first prospectus site is now live. It is, in my opinion, the nicest looking, has the best functionality and is the easiest to use on the market for this type of product. Each area across the UK is required by the government to provide a searchable online database of learning provision available in an area. This site is, essentially, a user friendly, fully searchable directory of education and training available in Tameside. Additional extras like ability to expand the search and look for courses within so many miles of your postcode, at certain providers, levels, age ranges etc, Boolean searching so you can look for a provider that supplies “art AND English AND Spanish”, embedding of relevant videos from our vast Careerstube video library for individual courses, searches and providers and integration with Ofsted to show school/college reports and a number of other fancy visual bits and bobs make this a great package all round that is at the forefront in this sector and one I really enjoyed working on. The design is simple and not cluttered yet visually interesting enough to appeal to the fairly broad 14-19 age range.

We have a load of other areas going live shortly with all sorts of fancy functionality and also some ILP (Individual Learning Plan) sites that allow users to record their educational experiences, arrange content on their dashboard, create CVs and the ability to create CV’s and information tailored toward a specific college/employer and send a token based invite to them to view their ILP as well as integration with our prospectus sites meaning when a user adds that a careers aspiration is to become an English teacher they are supplied with a series of links that are relevant to this career from the prospectus site and also a series of links to the pathways tool that shows them what they need to do to become and English Teacher and also what they can do after that.

Have a click around, see what you think. All comments are welcome and I am glad we have created such a solid product that can help 14-19 year olds plan their future.

Tameside AWP (Area Wide Prospectus)

Tameside ILP (Individual Learning Plan)


For more information on the product and other Idaho products visit -


Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Let's all be Geese

I have completed the first two days of the new Accidental Managers course and don't know where to start in describing what we have covered. Not only did this course deliver some amazing managerial skills and insights it also, as strong as it sounds, potentially improved my whole way of life and how I interact with people.

The course was expertly delivered by Greg Orme (Founder of Kirkbright) and Adrian Banger (Paradigm Partnerships) and they instantly engaged the group and had us actively involved in the activities. Both tutors obviously have amassed a huge amount of knowledge on the subject and interweave often comical real life stories to explain their points.

The course involved a series of activities that needed to be completed before hand. One of them was a DISC profile. This is possibly a more honest and accurate view of me than I would even care to admit to myself. I would say that after completing the online survey and getting the generated PDF immediately back that 99.5% of all the information in it was spot on. By using this profile it is possible to work out what kind of person I am, how best to deal with me and what characteristics can be seen. By using this model it is also possible to start assessing others behavoir and work out how best to deal with them. This is extremely useful when trying to get the most from a team. For example, if you have someone that is a 'High S' as it is termed (See the link above for explanation of terms) they may be the kind of person who is non confrontational and just because they sit there silently in a meeting when you offer a solution to a problem does not mean that they agree. Therefore you begin to learn how to draw out what you need from different team members and how you need to act with different characters and situations in order to get the most out of the situation.

There were several sessions on team building/management, being a leader, understanding yourself and understanding others. I also now have a load of suggestions for follow up material and books to further delve into the area of managing people and building teams which I am looking forward to reading. It has really lifted my spirits and made me actually excited about the possibilities and the ways in which I can improve the teams at work.

I still have a few more days split over the summer that will cover things like finance, law, intellectual property etc etc and I have a personal project to complete within my company to try out what I have learnt and try and improve an area of the business.

Basically, there is a hell of a lot of content that was covered in the first two days. Far too much to cover now. I need to sit down, process it and work out how I am going to apply it to my business. Bottom line is...... I couldn't recommend this course enough so if it is ever running again make sure you are first in the queue. I will create another post after my last few modules for an update.

I learnt a lot from just the first two days of this course. I won't go into too much detail as I am sure I will be implementing a lot of it into everyday life at work and I wouldn't want to spoil the teams fun by giving it all away too soon.

Below are a few links to useful documents, sites of the people running the course etc. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

Visit accidental managers

Finally, an explanation for the title of this post if it is unclear. It refers to a slide in the course which asked if you would rather have a team of geese or canaries. Canaries are very much self focussed, with their own needs at the front of their mind and are oriented toward shorter-term targets. Geese work as a team. They fly in a V which creates an up-draft and allows the geese behind a much longer flight. When the front one becomes tired they switch to the back. If a member moves away from the pack two follow in order to help it and either rejoining the group or make their own group. They are far more focussed on a common goal and look to long term targets. I think this is quite an important if not abstract metaphor as if you have a team full of geese you are more likely to have a happy, effective and successful team than if you have a team full of canaries.


Wednesday, 17 June 2009

How to Spot Quality within Web Design: Examples & Tips by

We all have certain RSS feeds we regularly keep on top of. I have certain ones pulled to my Google homepage that I like to check often like Smashing Magazine, Web Designer Wall etc etc. I have recently added a new one and found an interesting article on how to spot good web design.

Below are a sample of points taken from their article to give you a taster. Make sure you get over there and check out what they have to say.

Design using a grid system
Using a grid certainly helps you to understand the importance of spacing

Try & Try again
You can always use a method of trial and error until you find what looks right.

White Space isn’t a wasted space
Just because you have an empty area, it doesn’t mean you have to fill it.

Less really is More
Rather than trying to fit more in an area, fit less, give it space and keep just the vital important information.

Keep it Subtle
Small details that compliment the content are the key.

Think in Pixels
Borders, gradients, lines and shadows etc don’t have to be huge to be effective.

Before & After
Compare your results to how they looked before you applied the effects. Then you can see just how effective they are.

Is it Readable?
Don’t be scared of making your titles big and bold.

Have you thought about spacing?
Spacing can vastly improve readability.

Do your fonts fit the mood?
Make sure your fonts compliment the design.

Design using a Grid
Grids allow you to make the most of your space.

Test the Placement of Elements
Be the visitor, would you be able to use it.

Remove any unnecessary Elements
Anything that isn’t essential should be removed, or out of the way

Balance of Attention
Some things need to stay simple to allow others to shine

Build up your layers
Never just use one brush or texture, build your details up.

Experiment with opacity & Colour
Sometimes even 3% opacity can have a positive impact.

Don’t worry, Be Brave
Done be afraid to be too subtle, or too faded.

A boring topic doesn’t have to have a boring colour scheme.

Try using gradients, patterns, brushes on your colourful backgrounds. Colour alone doesn’t make something look good.

Stick to a Theme
Make sure your colours are relevant to your product/service.

Keep it Relevant
If you’re going to do something very new and unique, ask yourself “does it make sense” and “does it fit with the branding?” if so then go do it!

Ignore everything you know!
Okay maybe not everything, basic principles may stay the same, but there’s no point looking for inspiration on new ideas, you’ll just be heading in the wrong direction.

Keep a level of quality
I think generally if your new idea looks good, and works well it’s much easier for you to justify.

To view the article in full click the link below.

Quality within web design

Text and image above are sourced from the article in question and copyrighted to FUNCTION


Monday, 15 June 2009

I managed to get a place on the heavily sought after Accidental Managers course

'Accidental Managers is a training and development programme to help the rising stars of the creative and digital industries in the Northwest'. The course is to be delivered by Kirkbright a specialist in creative industry management training. After visiting the launch party at the Tate, Liverpool only a few weeks ago I am to attend the first session later this month and believe I will take an awful lot from the course. As the title suggests it delivers training to individuals who perhaps did not attend university courses in management but who have found them selves "accidentally" in that role as their positions have expanded and progressed within a company.

I believe that, combined with my Prince 2 practitioner qualification, this will make a great addition to the management side of my qualifications.

I have just had to complete a psychometric test before starting on the course and the results are spookily accurate.

I am definitely looking forward to the experience and will post again once the course is complete on my experiences.

View the programme here


Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Careerstube - The Largest Collection of Inspirational, Relevant and Real Careers Based Videos Online

I just realised today that one of our products at work has never been featured on my site so I thought I would give it a bit of publicity. One real issue that education has is that learning paths and careers are getting more specialist and young people are increasingly disengaged from the way that information about their future is presented. Look at their consumption of online self published video and you immediately see where Careerstube fills the gap.

Our solution was to develop a sophisticated video publishing system that can take any type of self published video - even from mobile phones - and publish, in context, transparently into any member website. Relevant content from people like them resonates in a way that cannot be achieved with traditional methods. The simple licencing and video sharing model offers members all the content for a fraction of the overall investment.

What it boils down to is an enormous pool of videos that 14-19 members can search through, add to and rate and then call upon the library to insert relevatn video content in their 14-19 prospectus sites. This is an amazing product and has already ammassed great interest and some great content. If you would like to view some of the content follow this link to Careerstube.


Thursday, 7 May 2009

The new Idaho Site is Live

After much hard work and sweat the new Idaho site is live. It is a million miles from the old one and I have really enjoyed working on it. It reflects the product based company Idaho are and the subtle, minimalist colours allow the vibrant product branding to stand out.

You will see many little fancy bits like a 3D flash carousel that uses XML to pull in images of each side of the box, a google map on the contact page that uses the latest in Google map functionality allowing directions to be pulled through to the site and styled and also a subtle little javascript effect that means the quote on the homepage fades up to black when hovered over rather than simply going from one colour to the next. We are also using some nice carousel effects on the product detail pages that allows you to scroll through the key benefits and then jump down to more detail.

Take a look and let me know what you think.


Monday, 27 April 2009

IE8 Compatibility

As most know IE8 is now available to download. Yet another browser to test in. Think I'm up to 3 IE's, Firefox, and then Safari and Opera on the Mac. Life would be so much simpler if all browsers rendered the same but that will never happen.

Just a little pointer to help you guys out. If you have it looking right in IE7 and want to force IE8 to render it properly you can simply add:

(<)meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=EmulateIE7" /(>)(<)!-- IE7 Mode --(>)
without the rounded brackets obviously. The code tag doesn't seem to work with blogger posts for some reason.

just below the title of the page. This isn't a proper fix. Ideally you should be making it work in IE8 with a separate style sheet if needed but if you have a load of sites you want to temporarily make work while you look into any issues then this might be useful.