I generally have a couple of website clients on the go alongside my main commissions as an artist [caution: superficial divisions - not always useful!]. I don’t do the web design full-time so, in addition to being a supplementary source of income, these commissions are really important to me as a way of keeping my skills as up-to-date as possible.
After several months working alongside Joe and Kelly in Rednal, we’ve now launched the website for their new holiday home Fern Cottage. Well, when I say new, I mean about 250 years old…
Fern Cottage was built circa 1750 and, as well as being one of those places that’s tucked away in it’s own quiet niche so you can forget that you’re just on the edge of Birmingham, it’s also famous for being one of the childhood homes of J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, that J.R.R Tolkien .
I’m happy to say that, in true Grand Designs stylee this project met with several delays linked in with the renovation of the cottage, but the results were worth waiting for. I just wish we were a bit further on into Spring so the turf and garden had had a chance to get going a bit.
So, what was I up to whilst Joe and Kelly were sanding the wooden beams in the ceilings and debating over the light fittings? Where was I bringing in a bit of learning curve to the web design?
This was the first challenge. As the projects I’m getting involved in get progressively larger in scale it was time to get the contracts and other paperwork up to standard too. I’d already learned my lessons (the hard way) with regards to fighting project creep and making sure there’s a design brief that sets out exactly what’s to be done for the price quoted, but it was time to make sure things like copyright and liability were explicitly covered too. Fortunately AIGA (founded as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, now a professional association for design in general) have already done most of the hard work with their Standard Form of Agreement. Perhaps a bit O.T.T. for most of the jobs I do for artist portfolio sites, but we felt it was necessary here. And of course, now I’ve developed my own templates from this, these can easily be adapted for future projects. Phew!
All this was backed up with Slim Timer so I could compare how long I estimated things would take with how long they actually did.
I’ve been implementing my own frameworks for coding sites for several years now (particularly with regards to browser resets and typography), but with the Fern Cottage project I decided to give the Blueprint CSS framework a try.
This felt sort of alien at first, however it was very easy to implement and yes, it did speed things up a lot – particularly with the usual fun and games getting compatibility across browsers.
This article sums things up quite nicely.
After a bit of wrangling I decided to leave the Blueprint classes in the code for all to see. Does it feel like cheating? Maybe just a little, but I’m sure I’ll get over it!
Setting up the tea and cake shot for the dining room section was quite fun too!
Getting social with Flickr
After a few photo shoots it became obvious that we had loads more photos that we wanted to share than we had space to put them on the website. Flickr came to the rescue and although it wasn’t appropriate to embed slideshows within the Fern Cottage site, Flickr was a nice way of extending stayatferncottage.co.uk out into the wider world. The We’ve stayed at Fern Cottage group is an important part of this and I’m hoping it will be both an appealing way for people to get involved (complementing the guestbook) and also an easy way for Joe and Kelly to document the cottage as it grows into itself.
Joe and Kelly would also be really interested in hearing from anyone who has any photos of Fern Cottage from the past so please get in touch with them if you have any Fern Cottage photos, or perhaps just add them to the Flickr group.