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Work Placement – Website Design Project

Friday 13th May 2011 – updated Friday 10th June 2011

Final Design for LifeStyle Computers Website

LifeStyle Computers Website Design - Modified WordPress Theme

LifeStyle Computers Website Design - Modified WordPress Theme

Design Choices

I’ve decided that while I’m technically on a work placement with LifeStyle Computers that I would look at some long standing web projects and take the opportunity to research and prototype a new design for the company website. For me the key to this new design is my new familiarity with WordPress, having used it over the last year to Blog and document my work during my first year at University. So it was an easy choice to look at using this platform for the basis for a new company website.

One off the great things about WordPress is that it is easy to test your designs online by opening a free account and picking one of the 100s of Themes to help you get started. When it comes to design I tend to want to get something up and running very quickly and then go back and re-design/modify rather than start with a blank sheet and map out a design. I know the latter choice should be the preferred way to design but it’s not my way of doing things.

Over the year I’ve been looking at the range of Blog/Theme designs and most fit into a basic structure of a choice of number of columns and sidebars, some themes include Footers and the option of modifying the header image. This means that I can basically choose a theme to start and modify this at any point in the future without dramatically changing the look of the website, of course if you start with a design that has sidebars and then switch to one without, this data will not be displayed so it’s probably better to work from the other way round, that is pick a basic theme one column and one sidebar. Then if you want to change designs later to say two columns and two sidebars no data will be lost.

Pages, Categories and Custom Menus

One of the things I’ve come to understand about Blogs is that essentially all the posts are stored in one file/location in post date order so the most recent post is the one shown first. The way that a Blog displays posts other than date sequence is by the use of categories, by selecting these the posts set with this category are pulled from the Blogs database and displayed in category/posting date order.

Pages and there are two types can be set as Static Page or default dynamic. What this means if you set a Page to be static this Pages and it’s data are fixed which makes it ideal to become the Home page of a Blog site or for any Data that you always want to be displayed regardless of Post Date order.

One of the great things about Blogs I’ve become aware of is Custom Menus, using this option it is possible to design a navigation menu using a mix of Pages and Categories so for example I could have a Menu that includes a static page for my Home Page and Categories as Menu options which would look like dedicated pages on the Menu bar. But Category Menu links would work differently from Page menu links because the data they hold will be dynamic. By this I mean the content would change depending on Blog postings using this category. For example say I had a Menu Heading using the category ‘New Products’ when a site visitor clicks on the Menu Heading ‘New Products’ all the Blogs with that category would appear on this Menu option latest displayed in date of posting order with the most recent shown first.

Now what’s even more exciting about designing a website this way is that the site owner can just Blog to their site in the normal way, but by setting the category they automatically tell the site under which Menu heading they want the content to be displayed. This effectively gives the user an effective content management system without the user having to understand anything about website design. Even better if they use a Blogging tools such as Microsoft’s Writer they can just add content as simply as they would say write a Word document.

Another great thing about designing this way is the ease of adding more Menu headings, just add a new category and include this in your custom menu and it’s done. You can even choose sub categories and parent these to the main categories giving you Menu sub-headings.

Theme Choices

I’ve tried some of the Themes freely available on WordPress rather than design one from scratch, which I plan to do when I have both the time and the tools to do so. But for now the off the shelf Themes will do while I concentrate on designing Menu options and deciding on what content I want to show. I’ve added some examples of some of the themes I have looked at below, the most promising of which is the single column and two sidebar design with the orange coloured header.

Prototype Website Location

To see the progress of my website design so far click here

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Work Placement – Accounts and VAT

Monday & Tuesday 9th/10th May 2011

The VAT Return

One of my jobs every 3 months is to chase any outstanding invoices, complete the accounts and submit a VAT return to HMRC.

I work as a self employed computer engineer and so I have designed a range of office processes and documentation which makes the back office functions relatively easier to do. One of these is my Quarterly VAT sheet which I use to record all my Outputs (that’s money coming in) and my Inputs (that’s my expenditure), which sounds the wrong way round but this ties in with HMRC’s VAT Return.

Each of my transactions are given a classification for example Income is classified as (1) and say Computer Supplies are classified as (7). This makes the organisation of invoices much easier, so for example I put all my computer purchases together in the (7) file. I use one of those concertina style folders that have 12 file pockets and I fill these up as I go along with all invoices that come in, ready for inclusion into the Quarterly VAT return. I also do this as my Accountant wants to be able to follow my expenditure over a 12 month period and they find this easier if I use a classification number so that they know how much I expend and on what.

One of the reasons for doing this is that some expenses are taxed differently from others, for example capital equipment cannot be claimed in their entirety in the first year they have to be depreciated over a period between 2 and 3 years much more if it’s a building etc.

Screenshot of Quarterly VAT Return sheet

Quarterley VAT calculator - Excel Workbook

Quarterly VAT calculator - Excel Workbook

 

My VAT sheet is automated using macros and various calculations, by this I mean as I manually enter the individual figures the totals and VAT totals are automatically updated. This process continues until the last figures have been entered and then the totals in the 3 Boxes at the bottom of the sheet Outputs, Inputs and Payable can then be entered onto the HMRC VAT Return.

One of the key cells on the VAT sheet is the value for VAT rate, I’ve actually named this as VAT and so all the calculations are based on this for example Cell X = Cell Y times VAT and of course these days I now enter all this information online.

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Work Placement – Planning the weekly appointments

Friday 6th May 2011

Usually on a Friday I log into my jobs account and see the available jobs for the following week, which I can accept of reject as I choose usually depending on the type of work, location and price. I also have to factor in our own work commitment’s and any long standing service arrangements we have.

Typically I am only able to accept one or two jobs a day due to University commitment’s, but over the summer months I’ll be able to take on more of these jobs.

This is an example list of the sort of jobs we can expect to receive at any one time. There is another list which relates to the Audio Visual installations including Home Cinema set-ups and large screen TV installs.

LifeStyle Computers - Online Work Orders and Weekly Job Listings

LifeStyle Computers - Online Work Orders and Weekly Job Listings

 

In addition to this job list we also receive emails on a daily basis for new jobs and proposed long term installations which come in as the week progresses. We can also choose to accept or decline these depending on workload.

On top of all this we also receive a number of calls each day from new customers seeking a new PC or Laptop, support and/or upgrades which we fit in around all the other work. We also have to produce quotations for Small to Medium Network Installations on a regular basis.

As you can imagine sometimes the workload can be overwhelming and therefore we have to pass work onto our business partners or engage contractors when required or indeed pass jobs by.

There are lots of negatives with being self-employed but one of the big positives in working for yourself is you get to choose which jobs to do or not. Of course this only applies once you have achieved the minimum income level for that week.

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Personal Development – Ian Hunt Artist and Designer?

Artist and Designer


Tuesday 16th November 2010

Ian Hunt Artist and Designer

I’ve noticed in many discussions in publications and on the Internet that this question (Artist and Designer) is not easily answered. I suspect this is due in some respects to the growth of New/Digital Media where in many cases you need to be both an Artist and Designer in order to deliver on a project.

Firstly you need to be an Artist in order to be able to come up with the original concept, an element of originality, but then in order to implement the concept you will need to have a range of skills which typically reside in the domain of the Designer.

The question is so how do I fit in? Artist and Designer, well that’s easy I’ve always thought of myself first as a Designer but hopefully with some Artistic ability.

Creative Control – Artist and Designer

As a designer creative control maybe limited to implementing the vision of an Artist, but in many roles in the Digital Industry the role of Designer/Artist is a combination of the two and so the Designer has creative control within the limits of the design/client brief, after all the client pays for the design and so they will have ultimate creative control.

I’d better qualify that last statement, the client has some creative control if they commission the work. But of course if the Artist/Designer creates and then sells on completion then they had creative control.

A role in the Digital Industry – Artist and Designer

Too early to decide? Artist and Designer – personally I think so, over the next three years I should be able to determine what I find interesting as the Artist and Designer, what I have skills/aptitude in and from this make a decision on a future career choice.

But one thing that I think I have already decided is that, after working on a freelance or self employed for the last 25 years it is unlikely that I would seek employment on permanent basis on PAYE . So my next role will be as a freelancer or I will start a new business or take an existing business in a new direction. Of course the ideal role may come in which case this statement will remain open.

Artist and Designer

Artist and Designer

 

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