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About Matthew

  • Rank
    Advanced Member

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  • Experience
  • Area of Expertise
    Web Designer

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Shepton Mallet, Somerset
  • Interests
    Web design, graphic design, music, Minis, church, Wicked (the musical)
  1. 'Everything Manager' is a system I've been developing for my own uses for a number of years to keep track of all my web design clients. Basically, I wanted something to take care of everything centrally, rather than using multiple systems or using spreadsheets. It's now getting to the point where I might be able to offer it to other people if there is interest. So if you're a web designer and you're looking for a simple way to manage all your clients, projects and web hosting, read on! How it's built Despite appearances, this is not a Mac application. It's actually built using PHP, MySQL and jQuery, and runs on a server through any web browser. This means that it's actually cross-platform, so you can use it on a PC or a Mac, or anything else for that matter. All the code has been written by me, and is all tidy and object-oriented. How I've got it set up At the moment I've got a Site Specific Browser set up (courtesy of Fluid) to display the system as if it were an actual application, although it'll work in a normal browser just fine. I've got it running on our private development server, with password protection so it's protected. You could easily put it on a normal web server though, with adequate security in place. What it does Client Management. Add as many clients as you want, with some basic contact details, and add as many projects and hosting packages to each client. You can filter out inactive clients in the display to focus on the active ones. Project Management. Each project can contain details about estimates (which can be cancelled or accepted), multiple hourly rates, work logs (i.e. when you worked, what you did, how long it took, which hourly rate it was using, how far you travelled, one-off expense), web site systems (like CMS details), invoices and payments. Web Hosting Management. Each 'package' can have up to one domain and one webspace package. Invoices can be generated for each package. Invoice list. Shows a list of all open invoices, and flags up any that are overdue. Invoice reminders. Shows a list of any hosting packages that are coming up for renewal, so that you can generate the invoice and send it to the client in good time. Reports. Graphs of your yearly/monthly earnings. Calculates all sorts of totals that are useful for filling in your Self Assessment form at the end of each financial year. Timer. A little 'pop-up' that gives you a timer to log your work for any active project. Choose the project, choose which hourly rate to use, then set the timer running. You can stop and start the timer, and the total time is logged. You can also put in a description of the work you've done. Stuff I'm still working on Preferences. You'll probably want different settings to me, like a different invoice number format, or something. Choice of themes. At the moment it's designed to integrate nicely with Mac OS X, but it's all done with templates so I could easily create some templates for a Windows theme. Install script. More graphs. I like seeing project progress visually! Data export. Perhaps exporting to CSV format so work logs or payments can be opened in a spreadsheet program or printed. Email reminders. If it's supported by the server, email reminders could be sent to remind you to invoice a client when their hosting is due. What do you think? Would you be interested in this? To begin with at least I would be proposing to offer this for free, on the basis that there are plenty of other systems out there that you could pay for to do this.
  2. Can ye folk recommend

    I can vouch for PearTree. I've been using their reseller package for a few years now and found it to be superb. They've had a few instances of downtime (who doesn't?), but the quality of what they provide is brilliant. The servers feel very fast and I love the cPanel/WHM combination - works a treat. And it's jolly good value too. In all honesty, my only complaint about PearTree has been regarding communication. On the rare occasions that the servers have gone offline, there hasn't really been anything sent round explaining what went wrong or what they've done to stop it happening again. In fact once the server went down and their own site went with it, which meant that they had no way of getting in touch with any of their clients - I couldn't email them, and their only phone number was a sales one. Maybe Rob could reply and let us all know whether that's likely to change? In summary though, I've been very pleased with PearTree and would definitely recommend them if you're not ready for a VPS or dedicated server yet.
  3. The internet is dead

    Thanks for your advice and comments guys, much appreciated. In particular, thanks Rob for getting back - I can't access your web site or email you at the moment because of these problems, so communication is a bit of an issue. Also, your phone number has been engaged all day, did you know? Matthew
  4. The internet is dead

    Big problem. All my web sites are down, including one particularly large client. The problem started yesterday, and is still unresolved today. My web host (PearTreeUK) is uncontactable, but from what we can tell the problem doesn't lie with them necessarily. Doing a traceroute shows that it gets as far as claranet and then gives up. PearTree have mentioned that it might be a problem with PlusNet, and looking at PlusNet's web site they have reported some problems following some routine maintenance yesterday afternoon. It seems to be ISP-specific, so some people can access the web sites and others can't. What can I do? Who is to blame here? If it is a problem with PearTree's upstream provider, can my client take action against me anyway? Technically my client gets their service through me, so am I culpable even if I'm just a middle-man? Has anyone else been affected by this? HELP!! *crawls into a dark corner with a cup of tea* Matthew
  5. As a bit of background, my business caters to a pretty narrow clientèle - churches and Christian organisations (I do cater to commercial clients as well, but my main target is churches). So far I've been offering my services on a custom, bespoke, individually-tailored basis, where every part of the project is carefully structured and designed around the client's requirements. They tell me what they need, and I make it for them. What I'm thinking about now is whether to additionally offer some 'off-the-shelf' packages for my clients. I did try this a while back, offering a fixed set of functionality for a fixed price, and a couple of clients took up that offer. The trouble was, the design itself was still individually created, so in both cases it got quite messy because the clients ended up wanting more and more changed, and technically it was covered in the package, but it was taking a lot more time than I had expected. I withdrew those offers several months ago. So my next thought is to offer fixed packages with customisable templates instead. I would create a set of templates, and basically set everything up so clients can choose a design and put their own graphics in themselves. And I guess if they wanted anything beyond that I could charge a normal hourly rate for that. What do you think? Do your customers prefer completely custom designs or off-the-shelf packages? Am I going to be wasting my time creating a whole load of templates that no one will use? And is it actually going to be cost-effective from a business point of view? Your experiences and suggestions would be much appreciated.
  6. I'm in the same boat, actually. I'm employed 14 hours a week to look after a particularly large web site, and then I run my own web design business in the surrounding hours. I went to see an employment adviser at uni initially, who told me that it was very easy to start up my own business, and then went to see an accountant to check on the tax side of things. With the tax return form, basically you either fill it in by hand or online (online is easier, as they do the calculations for you there), declaring everything you earned in both your employed and self-employed jobs. If you're employed then you'll get a P60 form once a year telling you how much you've earned and how much you've already paid in tax, and both those figures need to be stated on your tax return form. What I was never told when I was starting out was about setting aside part of my income to go towards the tax. That's hit me quite hard this year, and I somehow need to find a significant amount of money to pay back to the tax man. That means having to earn more to pay for the tax. Which means next time round I'll have to pay even more tax. It's very depressing. Anyway, for those who don't already know (which included me not long ago), the basic rate of tax is 20%, so the advice about setting aside 25% of your income means you have a little extra buffer there in case you get your calculations wrong! Just thought I'd elaborate on what everyone else had said, just in case anyone was still in dark about anything...! Oh, and don't even think about tweaking the numbers to make it look like you've got a zero income - you will get caught out!!
  7. Peartree V4

    Call me old-fashioned, but I'd like to see more contrast between the text and the background. I'm finding the text a little hard to make out, as if it's washed out or it's got a piece of tracing paper over the top of it. It's also lacking in colour compared to your previous design, which does tend to make it a little less impressive. Nice design, it just doesn't pop out at me or encourage me to actually look any further in your web site. If you're selling your services you need to make your web site memorable, catchy, pleasing to the eye. It just looks a little too dull for my liking.
  8. Embedding Google Maps with map reference

    Thanks Wickham. I've actually been able to resolve the problem by finding an online conversion tool to convert the Landranger map reference I've got to Eastings-Northings format that Google Maps will accept. I had to sign up for an API key (which was free), but now nearby.org.uk is doing the conversion on-the-fly and sending the result back to me, which I can then use to plug into the Google Maps API to generate an embedded map. A little long-winded, perhaps, but it works! Yay! When this system is finished and online I'll maybe post about it here so you can all marvel at it...
  9. Ok, I've got a situation where I have a database of map references, of the format 'AB 123 456' (i.e. two letters, three numbers, three numbers). I need to display each map reference as a map on a web page. I can achieve a similar sort of thing with Google Maps using a postcode, and that works quite nicely, but I need to use the map reference instead, and Google Maps doesn't seem to know what to do with a map reference. Multimap does know what to do with map references of this type, but I'm having difficulty automating it so that I can just plug in any of my grid references (of which there are around 700). Multimap does give me the option of embedding a map on a web page, but from a little experimental reverse-engineering it's clear that just changing the map reference in the iframe url isn't enough - it's got a map id as well that goes with each map, which presumably they use for their own purposes, and keeping the map id the same and changing the map reference just breaks it. I can't generate the map id myself, by the looks of it, and I haven't found a map API like Google Maps' to be able to get around it. So, any suggestions? What can I try next? Are there any other mapping systems out there that I could try embedding?
  10. which cms?

    There's the official wiki: http://svn.modxcms.com/docs/display/MODx096/Template+Variables . Not the best wiki ever, perhaps, but might get you started. I personally found MODx to be really easy to use, so just playing with it usually answers your questions for you most of the time. When you install MODx it gives you the option of installing sample pages - if you select that option it'll populate it with various pages showing how it all works, from which you can see how templating and snippet calls work. Creating TVs is very straightforward, and using them is just a case of including their name in the page template (see wiki for details on that). And if you get into any difficulty, check out the forums, they answer pretty much everything!
  11. Webdesigners are cool........ I've decided

    Does sound like a running theme, web designers also being musicians. And just to add weight to that argument, I'll list the instruments I play: piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, cello, clarinet, saxophone, double bass, and I sing. And I write music (jazz, classical, worship, rock, and anything in between). As for whether I'm 'cool', I think it depends what sort of mood I'm in and what facet of my life I choose to emphasise at the time. Being in a band is undoubtedly cool. Being a Mini fanatic and still playing with Lego probably works the other way.
  12. What is the best FTP for Mac?

    Cyberduck all the way. And it does SSH too, which is nice if your server accepts it. Very stable, constant development too so regular updates, and free.
  13. which cms?

    If you're the one maintaining the content (i.e. you're doing the reviews, not getting visitors to review the products), then I would recommend something like MODx. MODx is open source, so free, and you can add in Template Variables (as many as you like) which are like extra fields that you can fill in for each page when you edit the content. You can then use the Ditto snippet to list each review like a news article (i.e. listed in date order). Integration of Lightbox isn't there out-of-the-box, but it's fairly straightforward to put it in. I've used the MaxiGallery snippet to good effect to provide an image gallery with Lightbox display. If you look at www.pago.co.uk (that's a site I did this year) you'll see a lot of their products listed with image galleries and suchlike, and that runs on MODx. If, on the other hand, you're planning on getting your visitors to do the reviewing, I might recommend CMS Made Simple, which is also free. I don't find it quite as easy to use, but it's got some fantastic plugins for managing end user logins and submission of content from visitors. The FormBuilder plugin in awesome once you get the hang of it, and might come in handy for this sort of application. If neither of those solutions is really what you want, you'll need to give us a bit more information on what you're trying to achieve!
  14. Put your Twitter profile up!

    I'm following too (@chapter9), but so far I have yet to see anything WDF-related pop up - is this actually being used?? Or is it just a ploy to get us all signed up to something for no reason...
  15. Expandable links without JS?

    Are you talking about creating drop-down menus? If so, CSS is your friend. If you put those links into an unordered list and each submenu into a nested unordered list, you can then use CSS so that the submenu is hidden by default and then when you hover over the parent item the submenu shows up. I used to do all my menus that way, until I realised it was just so much easier to use a bit of Javascript instead (the Spry dropdown list is pretty good).