Work Placement – The Report and Website Design Project
Work Experience at LifeStyle Computers
Following an in class meeting with Liam it was agreed that I would document my work experience while working at LifeStyle Computers for a 10-day period, commencing Monday 9th May to Friday 20thMay 2011.
LifeStyle Computers is a small company forming part of the TOGA Group Partnership, specialising in Computer Network Installations for the Business and Public Sectors. LSC is a preferred installer for 2 large national retailers of home technology.
The type of work we do is varied and can be anything from a simple home PC or MAC installation up to and including a large computer network or Media installation. We do not do as many Home Media installations as we’d like to do, by this I mean Home Cinema systems incorporating a projector, large LCD screen and sound system all controlled by a central device a configurable control panel able to control a variety of devices including the Lighting, Audio, Video and sometimes a Media System PC.LSC has full Public Liability Insurance a Health & Safety Policy and is registered with the Data Protection Agency.
2.0 Organising and Planning the Working Week
I generally Log into my job listings account at the beginning of the week and see the available jobs for the 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 commitments and any long standing service arrangements we have.Typically I am only able to accept only one or two jobs a day from these job listings due to other commitments.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.
In addition the company also receive new jobs orders by email on a daily basis. We can also choose to accept or decline these depending on workload. We also receive a number of calls each day from new and existing customers seeking a new PC or Laptop, support and/or upgrades that we manage to fit in around all the other work. We 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 pass work onto our business partners or engage contractors when required.
3.0 Typical working day
For example my typical working day would consist of two or more site visit’s usually to customers homes. When a customer buys a new computer from a major High Street retailer they will have also purchased installation and setup services, which we provide on behalf of the retailer. Todays first job was to setup an HP laptop, connect to the Internet and then transfer settings and data from the customers old PC using Microsoft’s Transfer Wizard.
In the afternoon I unpacked and setup an iMac, this was 1 of only 2 that I’d worked on this year. Macs are still not that common outside of the Media Industry. The customer was especially pleased when I also set up his email, backups and instructed him on how to use some of the pre-loaded MAC applications. (The customer completes a feedback form at the end of the visit)
4.0 Working on Accounts – The VAT Return
One of my regular back office jobs is to chase any outstanding invoices, complete the accounts and submit a VAT return to HMRC. I have designed a range of office processes and documentation, which makes this job relatively easy 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. The VAT sheet is automated, by this I mean as I manually enter the separate figures the totals and VAT amounts 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 Output, Inputs and Payable can then be entered onto the HMRC VAT Return. Of course these days I now do this online.
5.0 Website Design
5.1 Design Choices
I decided that while I’m 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 Website Design for the company. For me this new Website Design must make use of 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 Design.
One off the great things about Website Design uasing WordPress is that it is easy to test your Website Design online by opening a free account and picking one of the 100s of Themes (Website Design’s) to help you get started. When it comes to Website Design I tend to want to get something up and running very quickly and then go back and re-design/modify the Website Design rather than start with a blank sheet and map out a Website Design from scratch. I know the latter choice should be the preferred way to Website Design but it’s not my way of doing things.
Over the year I’ve been looking at the range of Website Design’s, 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 Design, of course if you start with a Website 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.
5.2 Pages, Categories and Custom Menus
One of the things I’ve come to understand about Website Design and 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.
WordPress 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 Website Design using WordPress 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 writer an effective content management system without the writer of the Blog article having to understand anything about Website Design. Even better if they use a Blogging tool such as Microsoft’s Writer they can just add content to the Website Design as simply as they would say write a Word document.
Another great thing about Website Design 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.
5.3 WordPress Theme Choices
I’ve tried some of the Website Design 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 Website Design 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 Website Design themes I have looked at, the most promising of which is the single column and two sidebar Website Design with the orange coloured header (see Fig 9.0).
I enjoy much of the hands on computer work, particularly systems building and network installations that I do. However there are some things that when running a business you have to do, for example accounts which I wish I could avoid doing. Working in computers is no longer so much of a challenge and this was one of my original reasons for going back into education, to pursue new challenges and to take my career in a new direction. I do enjoy dealing with the general public, in fact I’d say most of my time on site is generally spent interacting/instructing the customer rather than working with the technology. For example most of the customers I interact with are new and/or unsure about computers and need instruction on how to use applications, how to connect to the Internet and send and receive emails, the basics really.
On another note as part of my work experience fortnight I looked at re-designing the company website which I had originally designed many years ago to fit a particular need. The company Website Design works well as a localised site bringing in enquiries, particularly from local people seeking computer support and upgrades. It also catches the eye of local businesses looking for network installations services. But I’ve begun to realise that some of the traffic it receives is now not so relevant to our current business. For example we used to specialise in a particular brand of Media Center Computers, which we no longer supply or support but for which we still receive enquiries. I also wanted to re-design the site so that anyone in the company could update the content without having the need to understand web design or web applications hence the decision to base the new Website Design on WordPress.
To summarise the last two weeks, I think this has re-affirmed my desire for a new career path away from computer hardware. I have re-discovered my interest in Website Design by researching and working on the Website Design project and to this end have downloaded a number of Website Design tools and demos in order to research new Website Design techniques and methods. I’ve also purchased dynamic web space suitable for hosting the new WordPress based website.
I still enjoy the customer contact aspect of my job, in particular instructing/ educating the customer regarding the computers operation, which brings to mind something that I had already considered as a possible future career path i.e. something leading into IT Training or Education. To this end I will try and source some work experience in Training and/or Education at some point in the future and confirm if this is really something that I’d like to do.