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Web Development

Well, the main body of my web development work is that which I've done for a company called CJ WildBird Foods; this is because I am the in-house developer there - and graphic designer when the need arises.

I've also worked on some template designs for people and used to be an in-house designer for a, now defunct company, called Garden Internet. The content is a little light on the ground on this page at the moment but I'll add some more template designs when I upload them (since they're no longer in use on live sites).

Web Portfolio

  • birdfood.co.uk - CJ WIldBird Foods. I built this site from scratch, database, back and front end coding and the graphic design work - then again, that's what they pay me for. Still, I do take some pride in it - it's cross platform, cross browser compatible (mostly, there seems to be an issue with Firefox on Apple OSX), easily customisable and reasonably search engine/screen reader friendly despite being quite image heavy; it's fairly quick to load as well and almost entirely standards compliant (there is an onresize attribute on every page which isn't standard).
  • birdfood.ie - this is a conversion from the main CJ's codebase to serve the Irish market. It's largely the same but lacking an SSL no sensitive information can entered by the customers, therefore there's no account management section. Also because the merchant account provider couldn't process Euros the entire order processing system had to be rewritten (well most of it was just dropped) to integrate with WorldPay instead, this is part of the reason why the site has no SSL currently - payments are processed externally.
  • wildlifebooks.com - another conversion from the main CJ's codebase for their sister company, Subbuteo Natural History Books. The main conversions here were to do with incorporating additional information such as authors and product formats (hardback, papaerback, CD etc) into the products and therefore the site search.
  • cockshuttchurch.org.uk - I work with the guy that runs this site; he'd inherited it from whoever ran it before and was having a hard time with the code. So I built this site for him and pointed him at Seamonkey (Composer) to maintain it. He provided the content and photos for the new version; in fact he provided enough information for me to build the entire site in 12 hours.

Notes on web development

The law (a translation for practical application)


Because of the incorporeal nature of the content this is possibly the single biggest minefield on the web. It's far easier to copy a jpg than an oil painting. However, almost everything on the web will be subject to some form of copyright whether explicitly noted or not. Even this speil about copyright is subject to copyright; you can't legally copy this without my prior consent. In short, don't copy anything including music, images or text unless it's explicitly stated that you can.

There are certain exceptions. Anything under an Open Source type license can be copied (and altered) within the terms of that license, this includes the GPL (generally leave the readme note intact) and anything released under Creative Commons.

There may also be "fair use" provisions (dependant upon country) under which you can copy, and alter, copyrighted works. These provisons might include copying for the purpose of satire or education, or ripping a CD to MP3 (in America, this is illegal in the UK).

Interestingly, one of the ways the major copyright holders (those representing the music industry) cracked down on file-sharing software like Napster was to say that they (Napster et al) were inducing copyright theft as the perception was that their software was predominantly used for sharing music; that's what most of their users were there for and therefore how they generated advertising revenue - that they were profiting from crime essentially. Could Microsoft be prosecuted, under UK law, for inducing copyright theft by having the "Rip" functionality built into Media Player (which is currently built into the operating system that they charge for)? It's not one I'd take to court but...

As a final note: read the terms and conditions of any "user generated content" sites you may be signed up to. Facebook for instance (and I am just using this as an example, they're probably all quite similar); anything you upload to Facebook including text and photos becomes property of Facebook in all but name. By uploading any content you are granting them an irrevocable, eternal license to use anything you've uploaded for basically whatever they like so long as that content is hosted there.

So if you or a friend uploads an embarrasing picture of you drunk at a party, Facebook can use that picture in a web banner advertising campaign if they like. Now I'm not saying don't use Facebook (or any other social networking site for that matter), it is actually really good for what it's intended for, but just be aware of what it is you're actually signing up for. Facebook is not free; it doesn't cost actual cash, but you are giving them a carte blanche license to use your intellectual property, so don't use it as a photography or graphic design portfolio.

Not really surprising this, but it doesn't work the other way around. Facebook get basically unlimited rights to use anything good that anyone uploads but they are not liable for anything bad (including underage pornography, script exploits and so on).

The Disability Discrimination Act

Being based in the UK websites do, in fact, fall under the regulations outlined in the Disability Discrimination Act - other countries have similar legislation (and it may vary from State to State in the US) - in short this means your website should be accessible; it should, for instance, be functional when accessed via screen reading software or render properly when the font size is increased. From a design standpoint, make sure that there is a good contrast between text and background colours and provide alternative (plain text) information for images or embedded objects (such as Flash movies)... and that's just a few basic points.

This has gained greater prevalence in recent years with the W3C creating the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) - so while the legalities may vary from country to country there is at least a code of "best practice" available now. While not a guarantee of total international legal compliance, following these guidelines should help. As of yet however, no case has actually been brought to court in the UK (as far as I'm aware), not that that's any excuse not to follow the WAI guidelines.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

I only started looking at this in any depth when making amends to someone's website. When trawling through the database I looked at the tables relating to taxation and thought they looked a little over-simplified - and they were.

In essence, VAT legislation, with regards to eCommerce and European Union countries is not too horrendous but it does depend on what you're selling and to whom. Physical goods are not a problem, tax is calculated based on the point of despatch. Therefore if you're based in the UK, selling DVDs you would need to apply 17.5% VAT. Books are VAT exempt in the UK of course so that's a different matter.

When supplying private (not business) EU customers with a service (i.e. not a physical object) the tax is based upon the recipient's location. So if you're based in the UK selling software (via download) to a customer in Germany, you need to account for German VAT (this is why my Ultima Online subscription increased from $9.99 to £9.99 when the legislation was introduced) - of course, if you're selling that same software on disk it once again becomes a physical product and so UK VAT is applicable... oh what fun. Just to make matters even better, the rules all change with B2B transactions.

The question is, why would you, as a web developer need to have any knowledge of this whatsoever? Well, database design is all about modelling the real world into a data structure upon which you can run your application - if you don't know what it is you're trying to model you're not going to be able to do it very well, are you?

Disclaimer: this is based upon the law as I understand it; I am not a lawyer so there may well be nuances that I'm overlooking, but this may serve as a quick, rule of thumb, laymans guide. Specific circumstances would need verification by a legal firm. Most of this information has been gleaned from practical experience or from reading the information available from sites like out-law.com, the Pinsent Masons' online legal tentacle.