development

The A-Z of life at RKH | Django

D is for Django in the A-Z of life at RKH.

Named after the famous 8-fingered guitarist, Django Reinhardt, Django is our digital team's development framework of choice - we use it to build and run almost all of our websites and apps. You might not have heard of it, but without it the likes of Instagram, Pinterest and our very own Police.uk website wouldn't exist.

Django provides a common set of tools to help build new websites and apps, which is great because our development team works on a LOT of different projects. Thanks to Django and the rules and conventions it introduces, somebody that has worked on one of our apps can easily jump in and work on another without wasting time having to completely re-learn how it works.

Django also does a lot of the essential heavy lifting techie stuff associated with building websites and apps automatically: handling browser requests, securing user accounts, validating user input and letting designers work on page templates without breaking anything. It does all of this in an efficient, safe and secure way, meaning our team can focus on cleverer and more innovative ideas instead of the underlying grunt work.

Whilst Django itself is developer-friendly, fast and secure, it is the fact that it is open source and supported by a community of thousands of other developers around the world that really makes it shine. If we run into a problem, somebody else has probably run into it and will have shared their solution. Likewise, if we have solved a particular problem, we can share it with the community so that everybody else benefits too.

We use Django for the majority of our web projects because it handles the stuff we always need in ways we can rely on, and frees up the team to focus on our specialities, the value we can provide for our clients.

If you're interested in learning Django for yourself, here's a great tutorial.

Thank you for the music… and the framework!

A-Z of life at RKH | CPD

C is for CPD in the A-Z of life at RKH, or Continuing Personal Development to give it its full name.

It was a close run thing between coffee (we drink lots of lovely Has Bean coffee every day), code, cat gifs and CPD when deciding for C but our sensible side prevailed this time.

The fast changing nature of marketing means every day is very much the cliched school day. As a naturally inquisitive bunch we’re always sharing the latest news in our areas and discussing new ideas as they come up. We also study for qualifications, attend courses, dial into webinars, read books and much more to develop our skills and knowledge of relevant subjects through more formal training. 

Look past the food photos we share from our staff meetings and you’ll sometimes see someone presenting on the training they’ve taken part in. Getting everyone together to listen to new ideas and then discussing these as an agency allows us to consider how best to integrate new thinking into the varied work we do. 

Learning, discussing ideas and having fun doing this is great but it’s important we share what we know with everyone we work with too. Through training we’re able to offer better advice to our clients on the potential of the latest developments in marketing in relation to their needs.

Making sure all members of the team take part in 24 hours of training each year is a requirement of our IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) membership. This means everyone has the chance to develop skills and gain the knowledge they need to do a fantastic job.

Our commitment to CPD, mixed with the vast quantity of coffee consumed at the agency, ensures our work remains creative, effective and offers great value in a rapidly changing industry.

Musings on the Northern User Experience Conference

The golden rule for every businessman is this: “Put yourself in your customer’s place.”
- Orison Swett Marden

Over the years, the word research has gained a bad reputation. Many businesses and entrepreneurs hear the word mentioned and instantly come back with a list of better things they could do with their precious time and money.

Say, for instance, that you’ve been having issues with a certain way of doing something. You go on to develop a new method that resolves these issues and launch it to the public. Sounds like a brilliant money making scheme! But was anyone else experiencing the same problems as you? How do you really know what you’ve created is exactly what is needed if you haven’t asked the people who could end up using it?

The same principle applies to websites. In order to make a website user-friendly, you first need to know what’s friendly for its target market. Conducting research will help you learn why users make certain choices and how they behave in their environment. It helps you gain a better understanding of your audience and determine how your product or service fits into their lives.

As the online world continues to grow, so does the value of a good website - and by good I mean a site that is aware of its users’ needs and has taken these into account throughout its development. This movement towards research was certainly noticeable at the recent Northern User Experience Conference (#NUX4) in Manchester, which was sold out for the first time in the event’s history.

The underlying message behind the various talks was that better products and websites can be developed through the use of effective research. For some of you reading this post, User Research might be a completely new concept that you haven’t really ever considered, others might be UX pros; either way, here are a few things that I think everyone can reflect on…

Fall in love with problems before falling in love with solutions

Now on the face of it, that statement doesn’t seem terribly optimistic, but if you think about it, unless your idea solves a real problem, success is highly unlikely. Tomer Sharon’s talk focussed on the importance of having an idea that solves a real problem and then developing that idea using and implementing feedback from real people. Abandoning assumptions and observing real life will enable you to create something far more relevant for your audience than if you go it alone.

Pre-empt common problems

Unfortunately the working world is not always plain sailing and the same issues will often occur time and time again, affecting your working relationship with the client and having a real cost on the project. For instance, with UX being a relatively new phenomenon, as an agency we need to help clients understand the added value this research will bring to their project.

Evangia Grinblo gave some great advice on how to resolve some of these common blockers. By categorising the different ‘kinds’ of issue you might face and creating a knowledge base for dealing with these types of problems, you’ll be in a far better position to resolve them earlier on when you next face them; paving the way for a happier, more productive relationship, that both parties will gain from.

Don't leave anyone out

Categorising users is sometimes necessary, but if you’re exposing that in your product or website, you’ll alienate people that feel like they don’t fit. Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s talk focussed on being inclusive and catering for all your users, and not just writing off certain people because they don’t fit your idea of a ‘common user’. These people are normally the most important as they’re highlighting that there’s something wrong with your solution that needs addressing.

So to sum up: always question what you’re creating, make sure you’re doing the right thing in the right way, welcome feedback and criticism - it’ll help you in the long run - and don’t leave anyone out. It’s worth the extra effort… I promise.