Author: Andrew Smallwood

I'm a digital strategist at heart with a passion for UX, code, analytics and marketing. I want to know how everything works and am competent enough to figure it all out for myself.

Design process: Picking a frontend framework

Web framework

Front end frameworks first appeared on my radar in about 2016. They made so much sense. Why start coding from scratch every time? Why not build an approach of best practice, accessible, semantic, browser compatible code that covers common elements like the grid, typography and interactive elements like buttons and forms.

Bootstrap wasn’t the first but it was definitely the breakout from the group.

Developed in house at Twitter, Bootstrap was made available for free as an open source project. Very quickly Bootstrap was marginalised in the web development community because it was abused and often used as the defacto style of a website or application when this was never the intention.

The other main go to framework that I use is Foundation by Zurb. This was around before Bootstrap but came on my radar because it was stripped back somewhat but also a more fully fledged approach because it also included email and app versions.

It’s good to know both but even better to specialise in one. They evolve through versions and the markup changes so as a developer, you need to keep up with the pace.

Check these frameworks out on their websites where they have a wealth of documentation to help learn them but more importantly they help you learn proper, semantic coding.

Where does this fit in my redesign project?

The next step in the redesign project is to lay out the sketch designs in raw, unstyled HTML based on a framework.

Take a look at these two images. One is a design from Sketch of the target layout. The other is the raw layout based on the Zurb Foundation framework.

The next post will outline the process to create the layout and then slowly align the various elements to match the Sketch design.

Desig process: Using Foundation locally

Dowload Foundation

Websites need to work on a web server so when you want to develop locally, you need to mimic the live environment on your machine.

I use MAMP to do this and it’s available for both Mac and Windows. It’s super easy to install and then you get all the benefits of a live environment with an Apache web server and PHP support.

For now though, it’s just going to be used primitively as a server to display an HTML version of the new website.

Design process: Picking a font

Picking a font

When I select fonts for projects I tend to use Google Fonts. The collection is free to use, available to download and works across the web.

Gone are the days that websites could only use system fonts that come with computers. OK, in 2020, email is still an issue but pick a similar fallback and go forth with your edgy font selections.

Design process: Selecting colours

When creating a new look and feel for anything, the necessary building blocks will be difficult at first.

How are they going to all blend together to create the brand you desire.

As time progresses and you have the fundamentals in place, it becomes easier and easier.

So, where to start? I tend to start with the colour palette. You can’t really feel a design in black and white, so colour is integral.

Documenting my redesign

AJ Smallwood website 2017

After 14 years, I’ve finally closed my Ltd company, Coast Design. Along the way, I’ve learned to do so much but very rarely do I get the chance to document my learning or even demonstrate it on a project of my own.

Recently I’ve passed many of my clients onto various contacts who I know can take on the different elements of web design and digital marketing.

My marathon journey

Andrew Smallwood running the London Marathon

On Sunday 29 April 2019 I was one of 35,000 people who ran the London Marathon. Everyone has their own special reason for running and I am no different.

Some may be running to support a loved one, others may be running to remember someone. 

I didn’t run for anyone. For the first time in my life, I’ve been completely selfish. I ran for myself.

But this was far more than just a 26.2 mile run. It was far more than the 359.2 miles that I did in training and it was far more than the three half marathons I did in the 12 months leading up to the marathon.

This journey started on 18 October 2017. It was three months since I became separated from my wife. Three months of not sleeping in my own bed, three months of barely seeing my dog and also followed a period of being under immense pressure at work. It was my first opportunity to get away from things and go visit my parents in Florida.

At this point in my life I could have gone one of two ways. 

I could have gone off the rails, turned to alcohol, eaten loads and lost my way completely. Mentally, it would have been very easy to slip into that lifestyle.

Instead, I woke up at 6am on that first crisp morning in Poinciana, laced up my old battered running trainers, plugged in my headphones, played Joli Mai by Daphni and ran into the morning sun.

Andrew Smallwood running in Poinciana

I got lost. Both physically and mentally. 

Having been to Poinciana many times before I thought I knew where I was going, but the streets all look the same and I took some wrong turnings. But those wrong turnings took me on a new path. I got lost in my thoughts about who I was, where my life was going and what should happen next. 

It took an hour for me to run 6.6 miles and find my way home as the Florida sun rose but it set me on a path to continue running; primarily for the mind rather than for physical fitness.

I started to realise that the main reason to run was to give my mind a break. 

To think. 

To switch off. 

I can’t underestimate the effect this had on my mental wellbeing and it’s the reason I continue to run. 

Shortly after returning to the UK, I signed up to run the Hackney Half Marathon and I ran for the charity CALM. This gave me a sense of purpose and the choice of charity was very apt. 

Team CALM

CALM stands for the Campaign Against Living Miserably and it raises awareness about male depression.

The biggest killer of males under 45 in the UK is suicide

Read more at The Calmzone

This is a shocking fact and it needs to be highlighted so more people are aware and more people talk about it. But I understand the stigma around talking about it. Because I never have. 

This is my first public admission that I struggle. 

I’ve never got close to the ’S’ word and I’ve never been diagnosed with depression but I’m very self aware that I have had a cloud over my head over the 21 month period since my untimely separation. It’s not only a recent thing, I’ve consistently had periods of being down over the past 20 years and I’ve never been able to explain it.

It’s more than just having a bad day. It can sometimes last weeks and months at a time. But life goes on and you have to put a brave face on things, especially at work where you need to be seen to be resilient, even though you may not be.

So what do you do? Well, I continue to run.

It gives me time to think. It gives me time to switch off. It helps me sleep at night and hey, I can fit back into some clothes that I thought I’d never wear again too!

I said at the start of this post that I ran for myself. That’s a bit of a lie.

I officially ran for NSPCC and have raised about £3000 for them.

But more than that, I’ve run for everyone that has supported me throughout this testing period of my life.

  • For the colleagues at work who have always invited me out for a drink and a chat.
  • For my new friends in London who are always there to help me look after Slinky.
  • For my childhood friends who keep me going with every WhatsApp message I receive.
  • For my sister and brother-in-law who gave me a place to live when I had no where else to go.
  • For my parents who are always on the end of a FaceTime call.

The road to the marathon has been long.

But after conquering London it feels like it’s the end of the first act of my life. The second act starts now…

Training the marathon route

London Marathon

At times I like to switch up my training route to keep it fresh. Sometimes, not knowing how long you have to run down a road until you see the street you need to turn left at, keeps you guessing about how long you have left.

At other times though, it’s really important to tread the same route, especially if you are tracking your pace, or if you know the elevation of the route. It means you can gauge your pace accordingly.

Research of the WWE Network

Reimagining the WWE Network

The most important part of my project to reimagine the WWE Network, I undertook some user research. 

Yes, my brain is full of ideas of how to make improvements to the WWE Network but some of the more crazy ones need to be validated by the WWE Universe.

I set up a questionnaire and seeded it out on various wrestling related Facebook Groups and Subreddits. 

Marathon breakfasts – Porridge oats

Overnight oats ingredients

I’ve slowly been compiling my marathon diet having been given an initial framework to work from. Since then, I’ve been breaking it down into the different meals so here’s what I’m concentrating on for breakfast.

This may sound crazy but at the age of 35 I don’t ever remember eating porridge! And on my first morning of following the instructions of making porridge, it exploded in my microwave so I spent more time cleaning than I did eating.

Then I remembered a friend of mine had mentioned overnight oats. Having researched these on websites like BBC Good Food and the Quaker Oats website, I set about making my own overnight oats with my own recipe.