Tools and Technologies

My preferred tools and technologies cover:

  • Web Page Design and Graphics Development
  • Web Page Development
  • Scripting
  • Databases
  • Project Management
  • Methodologies

They are:

Web Page Design and Graphics Development

My main tool for prototyping page designs and preparing site graphics is Xara Designer Pro. This is fast and allows me to explore design alternatives rapidly.

I use a variety of 'bitmap' tools for manipulating photos and similar graphics.

During the process of developing a website, I use Microsoft Visio to show the site structure and to document process and data requirements. I have experience with CASE tools for the latter role and can use them on request.

Web Page Development

My preferred tool is Adobe Dreamweaver; I value it for its use of templates and cross-product integration.

If you wish to maintain your site using a different tool, I will help you with any conversion work.

Scripting

Scripting can be used on the server managed by your ISP, or at the browser end.

Server-based scripts using, for example PHP, are programs which can use databases, and deliver great functions to the website visitor.

I have made extensive use of PHP, for example on Bricks and Brass:

Menu-generation from a database means that clean, simple HTML can be used without the hassles of browser incompatibilities.

I have also used Flash and ActionScript for example for a room-colouring tool. This imports XML palettes. I can also combine ActionScript and PHP.

I have adapted open source software such as phpBB3 (forum software). I have all the buttons and other graphics in Xara Designer so I can rapidly customise it for you too.

Browser-based scripts (typically JavaScript) are best reserved for minor tasks such as validating data entered in forms and fancy buttons but can also be used in AJAX and techniques such as creating sortable tables.

I have made heavy use of Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications with Access.

Databases

I have many years' experience at defining data requirements, and specifying and building databases.

I can reorganise, cleanse and merge existing data. I can load data from other formats e.g. Microsoft Excel to a database.

I am happy to define your requirements and then to act as your agent in dealing with another third party who is building applications and databases. I will ensure that the implications of design decisions are understood so that you do not have nasty surprises in a few months' time; you do not want to be told that your new system cannot easily be extended.

I have used MySQL and Microsoft Access extensively.

Project Management

Many web sites are needed 'yesterday' and so it is critical that we keep you, the client, and ourselves focused on delivering the most critical components in a timely and cost-effective way.

A project planning tool helps us to set target dates and to spot delays and resourcing issues before they become serious.

Methodologies

With more complex projects, it is essential that I take time to understand requirements, to analyse them in depth and to be able to communicate my findings to you, the client, and any third parties.

Methodologies (or 'methods') are 'languages' which help in this analysis and communication process.

I use traditional Information Engineering methods for documenting requirements.