28 Nov 2010

The big freeze...

I timed my exit from Canada, in part, to avoid the upcoming winter. It's not unheard of to get temperatures of -40°C in Toronto – the kind of climate that makes your teeth hurt after being outside for about a minute. So coming back just ahead of winter's arrival seemed like a smart idea.

So what happened last week?

This happened! I was visiting my parents in the Borders region of Scotland when I awoke one morning to five inches of snow. It's the most snow to hit Britain at this time of year for 17 years. Oh well, at least it feels mild to me now after living in Canada!

I've been back in the UK for three weeks and it's been very busy with us looking for a house to rent. After a speedy search in the Bradford area and a rather protracted affair with an estate agent, we have finally found a great house in Clayton Heights. It's an end terrace three-bedroom house which will give me a much-needed studio space. I start work again for The Globe And Mail newspaper in a week's time and the clock is ticking down. The new Mac system is ordered, the shipping has cleared customs and we need to buy a washing machine and a few bits and bobs. Then it'll be the dreaded unpacking – we have 90 boxes to sort through.

But it's not been all work. Last week we went to a wine tasting evening in a church hall in Heaton. Not something I would ordinarily have done, but what a laugh it turned out to be. I can now swill, gurgle and savour the bouquet with the best of them. You can't go too wrong spending £10 to get six glasses of red and white wine and a tasting lesson from a bloke from Oddbins.

As well as savouring the delights of the grape and searching for a new home, I've rebuilt my website.

I felt my previous, completely Flash-based, site was too bloated and cumbersome. I was never very happy with its navigation or the way it behaved in any browser other than Safari. Plus it was nigh on impossible for Google bots to get in there and catalogue its contents as it was one large 3 meg self-contained .swf file. What I've done now is revert to a simpler, and in many ways more elegant, html structure. I thought very carefully about user interactions this time and...

... how they would apply to iPad users. I've optimised the size of buttons for both computer and tablet platforms, so on a PC you will get some roll-over actions and on the iPad you will get some brief touch animations that make a wee difference to the overall experience. It's quite telling that I was able to build the new site using free time here and there over a month, whereas the previous Flash site took three months – spending a few hours on it almost every day.

I'm very much looking forward to my next post which will hopefully be filed from my new office, hurrah!

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