Archive for the 'General' Category

Why the PC industry has trouble competing with the MacBook Air

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Apple never had a huge range of different systems, so reducing the variation and streamlining its manufacturing was probably more palatable than it would be for others. The traditional PC OEMs insist on a kind of pointless diversity, which means that they sell relatively low numbers of lots of models. They have no option but to stick with less highly integrated, less efficient processes. And this impacts their entire supply chain; it’s set up to produce commodity parts assembled in standard ways, not specialized custom components.

Read the whole article about Intel’s Ultrabook initiative.

What does a designer need to know?

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Lately there has been a fair amount of discussion as to what skills/knowledge a designer needs to know. Should a designer know HTML and CSS? Can you make a fantastic design without knowledge of the material that will be used to create the finished article?

For the most part, I’m not too bothered. Design and development are very different skills and I fully understand that you can be good at one without being good at the other. But there is one area where that doesn’t work.

Fonts.

Fonts have licensing and performance issues around them. Get it wrong and your site not only looks awful, but performs slowly and could cost you a fortune in lawsuits.

Getting Measured

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Exciting times – my other company PizzaPowered is pleased to announce the closed beta for our first software product.

Measure is a tool designed to scan your website and point out errors and potential warning signs. From broken links and missing images, to more subtle problems, like duplicate page titles or missing “alt” tags – all of which are important when looking at search engine optimisation – and just for making sure that your website is performing as well as it should.

Measure is still in closed beta at the moment, but we’re ironing out the bugs and it’s not too long till we can look forward to an official launch. If you’d like to give it a try, just get in touch.

Mailshots boost sales – promoting your products online

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The latest in a series of related systems for Telescope Studios has just gone live.

The EShot Order system allows Telescope to build email templates and upload your products. You can then log in, pick a template, a subset of your products and a list of customers. The system builds your mailshot for you, giving you a preview of how it will look before it is sent out – and then once confirmed, it is sent to your recipients.

Extremely easy to use and simple to manage, the EShot Order system is the absolute quickest way to promote your products online and boost your sales!

Cooks of Bedford’s new online store opens

Friday, May 20th, 2011

It’s been a busy few months at 3hv Towers.

Not only have we grown from a simple one-man freelance operation into a micro-agency (myself, one programmer and one designer/developer), but we’ve been working hard on our new integrated eCommerce platform – codenamed Marquez.

The first incarnation of this has been developed in close conjunction with Telescope Studios in Leeds and is designed to integrate with a centralised products database.

Cooks of Bedford have the honour of being the first of these stores to go live – with many more planned for the coming months.

Each store has an unlimited pool of products, each defined with multiple variations and price breaks. This data can be synchronised from an external source (in this case, from Telescope’s custom “Coupons” platform) and maintained within the store. Payment is done through Paypal, although more gateways are planned, and customers have a full order history. Of course, VAT is fully dealt with, as are shipping costs (including thresholds for free delivery). Plus the design is fully customisable – Telescope are offering two standard designs, but the possibilities are endless.

All in all, the new stores offer everything a retailer needs to start selling online. If you’d like to know more then get in touch today!

What does it all mean?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

We opened the bank account for my other company, PizzaPowered, the other day.

And one of the things that struck me was how little the guy behind the desk knew about companies like ours.

Not just the surprise at the fact that we did things online.

Or the amazement at the way we were dressed.

But he didn’t know what we meant by B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer). Or Software as a Service (software that you rent, rather than buy outright, usually delivered through a web-browser).

The worrying aspect being that these are the people who can ultimately decide if a business lives or dies. And they don’t know some of the basic terms for companies in a space that isn’t so new any more.

Trade Counter Promotions launches

Friday, February 18th, 2011

The Trade Counter Promotions site has been live for a few weeks now.

Built upon 3hv’s own ecommerce base (codenamed Marquez) on the Radiant platform, it communicates with a central database to ensure that all product entries are up to date, with data feeds coming straight from the suppliers.

Stupid jokes

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Will Jessop organises the North West Ruby User Group (of which our own Leeds Ruby Thing is an offshoot).

He recently joined 37Signals as a sysadmin – and unfortunately his first week also coincided with a load of downtime on Basecamp and Campfire. As many of us depend upon their services, this prompted many of us to instantly put two and two together and scream “Damn you Will Jessop!”

After a business lunch (honestly, we were discussing code and software design for PizzaPowered) at Mr Foley’s we decided that “Damn you Will Jessop” needed building.  Luckily, Will’s first piece of deployed work was to add an API to the 37Signals’ status feed – perfect for our needs.

So a few days later, after a bit of HTML and Javascript coding – Damn you Will Jessop was born.  It shows a picture of Will when things are going well and an angry Caius shaking his fist as soon as 37Signals reports an error.

This caused a fair amount of laughter in the NWRUG IRC channel – and Will even mentioned it to his colleagues, who thought it was funny too.

Stupid joke sites like this may take up a couple of hours of our time, probably when we should be doing something else.  But it made me smile, a lot, and with that, work needn’t seem such a chore.

iPhone versus Android: it’s Mac versus Windows all over again

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

The marketplace, the economics, the entire dynamics of the ecosystem are completely different to the 80s and 90s.

But, after six hours with an Android phone (my two and half year old iPhone 3G is dying a slow death), there is one striking similarity.

The Mac had a wonderful desktop with user interface elements never seen before (although the idea of the GUI was bought from Xerox PARC, Apple added pull-down menus and icons) and a large investment in researching how these elements should be put together – which were written down into the infamous “Human Interface Guidelines”.  Windows had the same user interface elements (although as far as I am aware, Microsoft copied them without ever paying or even acknowledging where they came from) but it had no such research or guidelines (or rather they had guidelines but there was never any pressure to follow them).

The iPhone has a wonderful user interface with interactions never seen before (although touch screen phones and devices pre-date the iPhone by many years) but along with it comes a series of strict guidelines on how to build your user-interface – one very important one being that a tappable area should have a minimum physical size.  Android has the same user controls and interactions, but there is no consistency in their usage; one common example being a number of apps let you swipe a page off to the left to reveal the page to the right hand side.  But if you want to go back to the previous page, you don’t swipe rightwards, you press the back button.

A tiny detail.

And just like Mac versus Windows, it’s these tiny differences that add up to a feeling of frustration and dissatisfaction.  However as the cause of this dissatisfaction is so tiny you never know where to attribute it.  You just realise that you swear less and feel a little bit happier when using a Mac or iPhone.

PS: Don’t get me wrong, I can feel the potential in Android.  And widgets on the home screen is a great idea.

But the user-experience is shocking.

Sadly, most people buy purely on price, not experience.  And then wonder why they hate their computer and/or device.

The Total Handling Solutions store goes live

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

3hv is pleased to announce that the Total Handling Solutions online store is now live and taking orders.

Built upon the Spree platform, Total Handling is the first of a suite of sites that synchronise with a central products database.  It displays those products and allows you to pay, either via Paypal or using secure encryption to allow you to enter your card details directly.