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Digital design

I've made loads of apps...

I've worked in digital since 2005, initially as a front-end designer & developer, moving into user experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design for native mobile and web apps, and now managing a development team of my own - but I've also done stints as a project manager, copywriter, content strategist, CMS technical support guy, and the classic "bloke who sits in the corner and looks after the website".

My employers have ranged from large organisations (both national & local government, and higher education), through charities and not-for-profit’s, right down to small independent companies, so I've seen the web evolve from a whole bunch of different viewpoints.

At present my job title is the wonderfully vague "Software Development Manager", which means it's my responsibility to lead a group of specialist research software engineers, ensuring that as a team we have the skills, capacity and expertise to provide a software platform that meets the needs of the UK research community, as well as our national and international colleagues.

Mad skills

Forget all the rock-star/ninja/Jedi/super-fire-pony stuff - I've met people who've described themselves as being "full stack", but that usually means they know some PHP and a little bit of CSS - so here's the stuff that I'm good at:

  • Front-end development (HTML5/CSS/JavaScript)
  • Web standards
  • Semantic markup
  • Typography
  • Prototyping and wire-framing
  • Page design and layout
  • Usability
  • Information architecture
  • Interface design
  • Project delivery

My reading list

Although I studied IT at university, you have to keep on going under your own steam if you wan't to stay up to date - plus there's only so much they can teach you in 3 years, so I’ve done a lot of self-learning in the years since. Much of this has come from books by leaders in the field, so here’s a list of reference material that I always like to have to hand:

  • The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald Norman
  • Emotional Design, by Donald Norman
  • Don't Make Me Think, by Steve Krug
  • It's Not Rocket Surgery, by Steve Krug
  • The Art of Captaincy, by Mike Brearley
  • Grid Systems in Graphic Design, by Josef Muller Brockman
  • The Elements of Typographic Style, by Robert Brinkhurst
  • Designing with Web Standards, by Jeffrey Zeldman
  • Handcrafted CSS, by Dan Cederholm
  • Hardboiled Web Design, by Andy Clarke
  • The Elements of Usability, by Jessie James Garrett
  • Eric Meyer on CSS by, Eric Meyer
  • The Icon Handbook, by Jon Hicks
  • Graphic Design: The new basics, by Ellen Lupton
  • Learning JQuery, by Karl Swedberg

I also follow online news services around tech and management to keep me up to date, including:


Every designer has their preferred set of tools, and although I'm not really a believer that there's one 'right' way of doing things, for what its worth here are the tools I use on a daily basis while working on the web...


Pencil and paper are the first port of call for layout and wireframes, which I usually convert into interactive prototypes using the brilliant POP app..

For graphic design I used Fireworks for the longest time - although jumped ship to Illustrator when HD screens came in. When it comes to creating "retina" artwork then vector is the only way to go, and although I know a lot of people prefer Sketch, I've been an Adobe man since before the browser wars, and don't see it changing any time soon!


I've never worked anywhere that doesn't use Dreamweaver, so default to using it for 99% of my code, and although I did dabble with CodeKit when SASS erupted on the scene, i've gone back to DW since they integrated proper CSS pre-processing support.

For version control it's all about Tower and Beanstalk, which I used to interface with Git, and take care of all my deploys. I really should learn to use the command line one day - but there's always something more important to do first. Like learning to swim, for example. Really must get round to that one...

Browsers and testing

I've always been a standards-based coder, and lean toward webkit as my benchmark for testing layout, so I write my code for Chrome first, then tweak it for other browsers. When it comes to testing the FireFox developer toolbar is still indispensable, as well as FireBug, and YSlow.

I'm lucky to have access to a whole bunch of mobile devices in the office, so when it comes to mobile sites we test in iOS & Android on "real" handsets, and use the ever-reliable Browserstack for everything else.

The W3 validators and the Wave Accessibility tester are also really useful tools, although no substitute for a real person testing your site.


You can see my most up to date portfolio pieces on the Behance website, including work-in-progress projects, and some ace non-web stuff like the guitar I've recently built.