Bringing Git to Optix

We have recently implemented a new system called “Git” into our development lifecycle. Git is a version control software application created by Linus Torvalds (creator of the Linux operating system). The idea of version control, is to keep track of all changes made to files in a particular project. It works by developers making changes locally, then performing a ‘push’ to a remote repository. Other developers can then ‘pull’ those changes and continue working on their own changes. This ensures that all developers are working on the same codebase. For Optix, it is used to manage the development and changes to all of our websites.  It also allows many other features to enable developers to keep track of changes to our sites.

Git is slowly becoming an industry standard in web development, but why the big fuss?

  • Collaborative Development – When multiple developers are working on a project (which can happen fairly often), sharing the same code can become unproductive, particularly if one developer is making site-breaking changes. Git allows developers to work independently of each other without affecting each other’s code. On the other hand, because each commit (a bunch of changes to a site) has to be documented by the developer, it also makes code reviews and project management much easier, as each developer has visibility on all code created.
  • Responsibility – Once a developer has ‘committed’ their changes, they are then responsible for that code. This means that if there is a later issue with the website related to some previous changes, a developer can see who committed the last changes, and what they changed.  This aides in fixing issues more efficiently for our clients and ensuring that once the fix is in place, it can be documented and referred back to later.
  • Restoration – Every so often, things go wrong. When they do, developers should have a way of reverting code back to its previous state. Trawling through our regular backups can take time, but Git allows us to do this seamlessly with the click of a few buttons. This leads to less downtime for our client’s sites. 
  • Codebase Lifetime – Any developer will tell you how difficult picking up old, undocumented code is. With Git, you have the entire history of the codebase for a project; every feature, change and tweak is documented and explained. For our web application development projects, this is crucial, and allows our developers to maintain sites over a longer period.
  • Deployment and Testing – Most developers, for better or worse, are still using technologies that have been around for longer than most web development companies (FTP being the most common, which was created in the 80’s) to deploy their websites to a server. These technologies are good, but they introduce human-error, they have encoding issues and they are pretty slow. Git allows us to use modern Continuous Integration tools (to automate testing and building our code) and deployment tools (to automate all of our deployment and rollbacks). This means changes can be rolled out to our customers smoothly and with little downtime. 

We realise this isn’t thrilling content for everyone, but keeping our tools and technology up to date is very important to us. Our web development team is always testing and reviewing tools like Git, to enable us to delight our clients with faster deployments and ultimately leading to more successful and engaging products.

If you would like to hear more about development or have a project in mind, call us now on 01392 667766

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South West Highways Launch Slick New Website

Optix Solutions won the tender to design and build the new website for South West Highway’s as part of a strategic rebrand and development to become SWH Group.

SWH Group provides a broad range of services, including highway and road maintenance, building construction, civil engineering, training and sign manufacturing. The aim of the website was to showcase the different services clearly and highlight prestigious projects completed throughout the region, as well as telling the company’s story and showing its passion for giving back to the local community. 

Optix Solutions Director, Alastair Banks said: “Through regular project meetings involving key stakeholders, a strong relationship has been created which has resulted in a real team effort to produce a website that is modern, clear and reflects SWH Group’s core values.”

A number of new sections were implemented on the site including:

  • A visual case studies module exhibiting completed projects which can be filtered by type.
  • A training zone advertising over 20 courses, including the option to apply.
  • An ‘Our People’ section to give users an insight to core employees within the business, including contact details.

View the new website here and let us know what you think! 

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Do you need a new website?

Before you even consider whether to build a new website, you need to ask yourself if you even need one? It's a broad and daunting question so we’ve picked out the top 4 questions you need to consider when deciding if you need a new website or not…

Is your site responsive?

The term ‘responsive design’ means that the website is designed to provide optimal viewing across multiple devices and browsers.  

The facts: 

  • 60% of internet accessed is via a mobile device
  • 87% of millennials (18-34 year olds) never separate from their devices
  • Since April 21st last year, responsiveness has been a ranking factor on Google and is likely to become more prolific as time goes on

Test it

The fastest way to test if your website is responsive is to open up your site and using your mouse drag the bottom right corner of your browser to the left. If your site adjusts to the new dimensions of the browser, your site is most likely to be responsive.

You can also use this handy tool, courtesy of Google: https://www.google.co.uk/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

Can you edit content?

The key to keeping your site up to date is a good, robust Content Management System (CMS) which allows you to add and edit content, this can be in the form of pages or a blog for example.

The facts: 

  • 73% of content writers plan to prioritize creating more engaging content in 2016
  • 60% of customers say they feel more positive about a brand after reading custom content on its site
  • Blogs generate 97% more inbound leads than sites without them 

Test it

This is easy to test – if you can edit your site from an admin area, then you have a CMS in place. Check any limitations that may be in place.

Do you prefer your competitor’s site or is your own outdated?

Website envy is a given, however, if you are finding yourself continuously amazed and jealous of your competitor’s site then it’s time to review your own. 

The facts: 

  • 88% of online consumers are unlikely to return to your site if they’ve have a bad experience (too many clicks, slow loading etc.)
  • 48% of people allege a website’s design as the number one factor when deciding the credibility of a company
  • 94% of user’s first impressions are design related

Test it

Check out your competitors and see what you think… It’s also a good idea to ask a few people to test your site and see how many clicks it takes to get to their destination, the less the better.

Can your site be found easily?

Whether it be a service or product, how can you expect customers to buy from you if they can’t even find your website? 

The facts: 

  • The top 5 results on search engine results pages (SERPs) get 75% of all clicks
  • 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine 
  • 75% of users never go further than page 1 on SERPs to find what they want

Test it

Open a new browser tab in ‘incognito mode’ and go to Google. Type in a few phrases you’d like your website to be found for. Where does your website appear (if at all)?

Want to know more?

Find out more about our website design and development process here.

 

Resources:
www.sweor.com blog.appboy.com smallbiztrends.com blog.skyhookwireless.com www.searchenginejournal.com 
blog.hubspot.com/insiders www.imaginepub.com

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March 2016 Go-Lives

We’ve had an incredibly busy month with lots of our clients ‘going-live’ with new shiny websites, not to mention our own of course!

The Devon Air Ambulance Trust

Before and After – http://www.daat.org/

DAAT’s original website wasn’t designed with a large digital marketing influence and as time went on, we realised we could improve the general interface of the site whilst incorporating user experience backed data to improve conversion rates and reduce bounce rates. 
We also repurposed a lot of the content, stripped back the navigation and tidied up the event pages to ensure great usability and hopefully a lot more user interaction – watch this space!

The Royal Marine’s Commando Challenge

Before and After – https://www.commandochallenge.co.uk/

After being recommended to the The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity by DAAT, we carried out a complete reconstruction of the Royal Marines Commando Challenge Website. 
We built the site from scratch, focussing on creating a military feel and encouraging signups. Although the site as a whole was a fairly basic one to produce, the signup form was one of the most complicated we had to build, pushing development to spend days on testing the form to ensure it all worked smoothly and signups were suitably reflected in the CMS. 

Hospiscare

Before and After – http://www.hospiscare.co.uk/

Hospiscare needed a full site revamp having had their old one for some time. This site was particurlarly large and required quite complicated funcionality. The redesign included a module which allows you to create micro-sites for any flagship events. Each of these microsites can include a signup form, photo gallery and a contact form, as well as the usual event information sections. This site was also required to be highly accessable for those with sight difficulties; through the click of a button you can put the whole site into high-contrast mode.

Exeter Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Before and After – https://www.exeterchamber.co.uk/

The Exeter Chamber of Commerce and Industry required a complete overhaul of their website. This site was very complicated and pushed the development team to work all hours and carry out extra training to make sure the site was kept at its highest possible standard. We were tasked to create an event booking system which needed complex options for each member which also incorporated an array of payment taking systems. The complication lay in the multiple existing members and ensuring no data was lost in transition. The new system again required intense testing which incorporated several extra members of staff. 

So, as you can see it’s been a busy month for us all here at Optix. A massive thank you to our Development Team –  Dean and Rich, Robin – our Head of Design, and James our Project Manager and everyone else who has been involved. 

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Working and Living in Devon by Optix Solutions

From tranquil views to a wealth of British culture, Devon has been a favourite with holiday makers seeking traditional family vacations for decades, but who knew that Devon would become a hub for striving businesses and a county full of commercial potential.

With the introduction to the Invest Devon scheme which includes Work Hubs, business support and networking opportunities, Devon has never been more ‘on the map’. Plans from Devon County Council to improve Devon’s infrastructure, double the number of new jobs and increase the rate of house building by 50%, have made the county even more desirable. As Devon County Council’s newest Business Ambassadors, Optix Solutions has a look at the benefits and perks of living and working in the (nearly) deep south.

Devon has never really been viewed as a place with great opportunity for jet setters and go getters by the rest of the country, however recent statistics tell us that Devon is the place to be if you are looking for work or wanting to start up a business. The business survival rate is over 5% above the national average, as well as employment rates being 76.8% versus the UK average of 71.1%. Devon’s Exeter University is ranked 8th in the UK, which also has a number of enterprises and research hubs including an Innovation Centre which is home to over 53 knowledge based organisations carrying out essential research and development.

Having been named as the best county in England in 2009 by Country Life magazine and with 450miles of coastline the quality of life is known for being better than that of the rest of the country. There is always loads to do including lots of free and family orientated days out as well as the renowned Jurassic Coast which takes you on a breath taking journey through England’s first Natural World Heritage Site. Of course we must not forget the usual popular attractions Devon has to offer; zoos, aquariums, farms, theme parks, botanical gardens, and an excess of outdoor adventure activities to suit both the dare devils and the safety conscious. Excellent public transport links provide affordable travel for non-drivers.

For those night owls, Exeter and Plymouth offer a buzzing nightlife with clubs and bars with a range of different music and themes and for the more laid back party-goer there is the famous Topsham 10 to conquer as well as loads of great local brewery’s and vineyards to try out.

Restaurants are in abundance in Devon with a significance on supporting local produce. From fresh fish caught off the coast of Exmouth to locally reared Dartmoor beef and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s own veg you are never far from fantastic home-grown food.

Low crime rates and little noise and air pollution, Devon is the place to be, business owner or employee, life has never been so fruitful.

If you're interested in working for Optix, send an email to info@optixsolutions.co.uk

 

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Taking care of our clients

Hi There.

My name is Dave and I'm a Senior Developer here at Optix.

Recently I redeveloped our client area and wanted to share with you all the sort of thing we like to do for our clients here at Optix .

Support

The first section is an area where you can submit support tickets.

You can report bugs, request changes and even request a quote for some new functionality you'd like. Once submitted we're alerted of what you would like done. We then assign it to the relevant person who will keep you updated via email throughout the process.

If you've requested a change or a bug fix there's also the ability to leave comments on the task and have a conversation with the person at Optix involved.

Once the task has been completed the person who made the change will let you know it's been completed and log the amount of time it took.

All tickets that have been submitted are kept for historical accuracy so that they can be referenced upon in the future, if the need arises.

Resources

The next section is a new feature, which will hold all kinds of useful documents for you to view and download. As of writing this there's not much in there for you, but as time goes by we will be adding all kinds of things we deem could be useful to you.

Content Request System

This is another new area of the website and is a pretty big feature.

Whilst going through the process of building a website, or adding new features to a current one, we may need to get some content or information from you. This is where the content requester comes in.

If we need something from you, we add in a new request, which in turn alerts you. You can then log into your client area and supply us with that content. What's wrong with just sending it over in an email like usual, you ask?

We, as a team at Optix, get thousands of emails a week, and using a centralized system such as this, allows us (and of course you) to keep a better track of what exactly has been submitted so that we can give you a higher degree of accuracy when it comes to making your shiny new website.

This system also gives us the ability to be able to reference details you've submitted way into the future with ease when it comes to any changes you'd like to make. If you're already a part of our client area, please take a look at it when you get a chance.

The new layout really is beautiful. If you're a client of ours but don't have access to the client area, or don't know your login details, give us a ring on 01392 667766 or email your account manager and they'll be able to help you out. The client area can be found here: http://client.optixsolutions.co.uk/ 

Many thanks for reading, Dave.

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