Life is full of little discoveries and triumphs.
Here are some of the things we have uncovered or conquered lately.

The Laravel Universe

What is Laravel?

Laravel is a framework for the PHP programming language. Developed by Taylor Otwell it allows “Elegant applications delivered at warp speed“. They are Taylor’s words but after developing several Laravel applications over the past couple of years, I tend to agree. It makes building maintainable web applications and APIs a breeze.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Database migrations – essential for smooth deployments and updates to your applications.
  • Composer dependency management – if you do PHP and don’t know Composer, you are likely doing it wrong!
  • Restful Routing – perfect for building your backend API (to feed your Angular front-end?).
  • Eloquent ORM – speeds up development of most database apps.
  • Mail, Authentication, Storage, etc – so many pieces of the app jigsaw that come in the box ready to go.

If that isn’t enough then there is a growing ecosystem of Laravel related tools and services that also smooth the journey from idea to delivery.

Forge will save you hours

Of course it is easy enough to provision a server on Linode or AWS and set-up deployment from Git for your new Laravel application. But for $10 a month Laravel Forge makes it all so incredibly simple, doing all the work of setting up and managing servers to run your applications for you.

Provision, host, and deploy PHP applications on AWS, DigitalOcean, and Linode.

Learn Laravel the Way way!

I don’t think there is anybody on the planet better at making code stuff understandable than Jeffrey Way of Laracasts. His prolific site is dedicated to teaching anybody, from beginner to more seasoned developer, the finer arts of development with Laravel as well as other tools. The forums are also the best place to find answers to Laravel questions.

Deploy without downtime!

Another piece of the Laravel armoury is Envoyer. While forge will automatically deploy your app from github or bitbucket, this will result in a short spell of downtime, which can turn out to be longer if something goes wrong.

Envoyer, also produced by Taylor, adds continuous deployment of your Laravel applications. You’ll still need Forge (or something else) to actually provision servers, but once added to Envoyer you can deploy your apps without downtime for users.

Build it with Laravel

As a modern PHP framework, Laravel can be used to build any web based application.

Most applications are backed by some kind of database, and Laravel’s Eloquent ORM makes building such application very straight-forward. Though for more complex database applications, you may find yourself needing to leave the ORM behind.

Laravel’s views coupled with the Blade templating system means your front-end can also be built quickly with Laravel. These days though, the front end experience demands something more, using Javascript frameworks like Angular or React. This often means you are better off splitting off the front-end, and building your back-end as an API. Laravel is strong here too, with everything you need to build the API’s restful routes.

Angular and Laravel makes a very happy alliance. Having built serval applications with this pairing, I hope to say more about this in future posts.

Summing up

Laravel is a perfect partner for building modern web applications. The other tools in the Laravel eco-system can make life even easier too. Coupling Laravel with something like Angular makes building powerful, elegant applications possible.

Breaking the silence

I really have neglected the blog here for some time. 2 years in fact! So I think it is about time I broke the silence.

laravel-l-slantThe silence is due in part to being, well, just too busy to blog. I have been working on several large web-based applications for clients using what has become a well-rounded toolset of Angular JS up front and Laravel serving up the rear. It sounds like some pantomime horse, but it is much cooler than that.

This has also brought more exposure to the ever increasing number of tools available for the modern web development workflow: Git, Gulp, Bower, SASS, Codeception, Jasmine, Blueprint….the list is endless. What I’ve learnt is that the vast number of available tools can be a little overwhelming and the key has been settling on a set that provides a workflow that suits you and the people you are working with.

This has been a welcome change from WordPress related work, but has also brought new skills and tools into my WordPress workflow too.

I’ve been building WordPress themes and plugins ( for over 10 years, building many sites and applications for clients using the evolving CMS in that time. Branching out into other projects, learning new tools and returning to my software engineering roots has been a conscious decision on my part over the last couple of years.

But, despite my predictions of its demise, WordPress is still the goto choice for many projects. It is also set to continue to be so. So yes I am still building WordPress sites for clients as well as lots of custom work on integrations and plugins.

Now having broken the silence here, I’m hoping to share a little more on web development, tools and workflow in upcoming posts.


Tweaking Admin Styles in WordPress 3.8

The most significant change you’ll notice when you spin up WordPress 3.8, is the re-styled admin dashboard, previously previewed via the MP6 plugin. Such changes always come with a degree of controversy, though most of the changes at this point are rather cosmetic. For new users the WordPress back-end can be a little overwhelming at first and while some of the changes in 3.8 have the effect of bringing clarity to the interface, there is a lot more that needs doing and some things that shouldn’t have been changed! read on

Kick London site wins Award at #cnmac13

We are delighted to be able to announce that one of our recent client projects, Kick London, won an award at the Christian New Media Awards and Conference 2013 for Best Christian Organisation Web Site.


It’s great news for Kick, who are a relatively small London charity, doing some great work across the city with values based sports activities for young people. There was stiff competition with some great web sites from other organisations, but we were thrilled to see Kick receive the award. The other fantastic nominees, were probably some of the biggest names in the Christian world, so were even more delighted to see our project make the headlines. The other nominees were Leprosy Mission (runner-up), Christian Aid Collective, Evangelical Alliance and Operation Mobilisation.

I’m pretty sure the other nominees would have had bigger budgets, and certainly have more resources. This was one of those David vs Goliath moments, showing what can be done with limited resources.

This was our first time at CNMAC, but well worth the trip with or without the privilege of collecting an award. We got to meet lots of  interesting people and hear all about what’s been happening in the digital church world.

Of course if you would like an affordable, award-winning web site, you know where to come!

Does your web site work on mobiles and tablets?

50% of people use a mobile as their primary browser

Responsive DesignDo visitors to your web site have to squint or pinch and zoom to read your content when using their smartphone or tablet?

Until recently most web sites were designed using a fixed width (960 pixels was most common) and designed on a desktop computer with a nice big monitor. But 50% of potential visitors to your site use a mobile or tablet as their primary internet browser. (See Infographic: 2013 Mobile Growth Statistics.)

Over the last few years clever designers (like us?) have noticed this change in technology and so started designing web sites that scale and adapt to the user’s device size and capabilities. This is called Responsive Web Design (RWD) and produces sites that are mobile and tablet friendly.

The result is happy users and visitors who can actually read your content on their mobiles.

Kick London Web SiteEven the page you are reading right now is using a responsive design. Don’t believe us? Try resizing your browser and see how content is displayed differently as the browser window gets smaller. You could even try it on your smartphone to see what a difference this makes to being able to interact with a web site on the go.

Is it time your web site was mobile friendly?

Get in Touch

Goodbye Flickr, Hello TroveBox (OpenPhoto)

Since my last post, my search for a flickr alternative continued. Flickr haven’t listened and I just stopped using it. Not through protest, simply because it is unusable.

Since then I discovered TroveBox, or should I say “reacquainted myself” with OpenPhoto, as TroveBox is the hosted version of the open source image hosting software. There is so much I like about TroveBox. read on

Alternatives to flickr

I have been a Pro user of flickr for some time. It has until now been the simplest way to manage, share and publish images. That is until somebody at Yahoo let their five year old have a go at designing a new interface. At best the new interface is simply unusable.

At the outset, I have to say that after much searching, there isn’t really a direct replacement for flickr. In dumping flickr you will to some extent need to review what your image hosting and sharing needs really are. It could be time to change your image workflow. If you switch from flickr this is almost certainly going to be forced on you, but it may not be such a bad thing.
read on

Ten Years of WordPress and LIVINGOS Themes

On May 27th WordPress is officially 10 years old. The world’s greatest content management system started as a fork from the B2/Cafelog blogging software by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little and has grown exponentially since to become a huge community and industry.

By way of celebration I thought I would share our part in that journey. read on

Finding a New Home for Google Reader Feeds

On 1st July 2013, Google is pulling the plug on the only app I actually use every day! Reader has been the place to keep up with news from all the bogs and sites I have taken an interest in for the last few years.  But now the Grand Daddy of the web is to have a “spring clean” and loosing lots of friends in the process. The demise of Reader causes me to question the wisdom of relying on Google for anything, but for now here are some of the alternatives I’ve been exploring. read on

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