Help Elsa and Anna inspire the next generation of IT professionals.

Learn to code with Elsa and Anna from Frozen

If you work in IT in the UK you will know how hard it is to recruit good junior IT staff. The schools and universities were switching youngsters off to IT until very recently.

I was therefore very pleased to receive a press release from the Government Education Department promoting the new Hour of Code and the uk.code.org website.

If you’ve got school aged children the site is a great way to get them into coding BUT perhaps more importantly it’s a great way for parents to learn a little bit of coding so that they can help their children.

I think it’s a really great tool for anyone who wants to learn a little bit about software / application development. I’m often asked what people can do to get into IT and I’d say studying this site would be a great stepping stone in that direction.  From this you should then be able to get into basic app creation or web site development.  Certainly enough to put together a small portfolio to show agencies and future employers…. IT is still any industry where ability and experience count for more than formal qualifications.

I loved the simple Elsa development studio, which reminded me of LOGO back in the 1980’s but brought right up to date with characters from Frozen.  My children who are technically still too young for this were immediately captivated by being able to move Elsa around the screen with some simple instructions…. little did they know they’d written their first lines of code.

I’ve pasted in some text from the official government press release below because I think it’s useful.

Secretary of State Nicky Morgan is asking parents to consider trying Coding for the first time in 2016 having recently taken her own first coding lesson.

Coding for many will seem a far removed and unnecessary skill to learn in later life but the reality is the more parents can support the skills their children are learning in the classroom the more likely we are to ensure a generation of digital natives progress into adulthood.

Getting an introduction is easier than you might with the Hour of Code website offering a wide range of introductory tutorials aimed at young and old.

After years of switching children off to computing with boring ICT lessons that just taught them how to use Powerpoint the government has done something to help develop the next generation of IT professionals. The new computing curriculum, introduced in the UK during September 2014, has a greater focus on how computers work. Transform children from passive users to active creators of technology, it includes teaching children how to code and create their own programmes.

Demand for high-level skills in computing is set to grow, with the UK’s long-term economic future dependent on high-level technology skills.

The Government has a vision for a secure cyberspace, contributing to economic prosperity, national security and a strong society. That’s why the government is encouraging a new generation of pupils with the digital skills and confidence needed to meet this challenge.

I’d encourage you to give this excellent site a go and recommend people who want to understand IT / Computing.


Apple iCloud KeyChain Web Developers Best Practice Guide

Apple’s password manager (iCloud KeyChain for Safari) may not be the best password manager but that’s completely irrelevant because by now it’s already the most popular, most widely adopted password manager in the World. It’s therefore important that you make sure your website is compatible with this piece of Apple technology. As a user of Apple’s Safari I’m increasingly shocked at the number of major websites that are not compatible with the Apple password manager.

Testing that your site works with Apples iCloud password manager will improve your User Experience (UX) and also improves your sites security.  In my experience people are much more likely to use a strong password if Safari picks the password for them.  In addition to this Safari generates a random strong password for each site, so the chances of a hack on one site being used to gain access to another are greatly reduced.

The key points to making your site compatible are:

  1. Make sure that testing your site against the Safari password manager is incorporated into your user acceptance test plans from now on.
  2. Make sure that testing includes your password change page and password recovery pages. Specifically make sure that when your user picks a new password that this gets saved away properly by Safari and is used next time they need to logon.
  3. Make sure that your site can accept the long complex passwords generated by Safari – currently 15 long containing upper and lower case and dashes.  For example:

    Apple Safari Web designers and developers password manager guidelines.
    The most frequent issue we encounter is that sites don’t allow the hyphen in passwords.

  4. Make sure that your website does not undermine this great security by then emailing out this strong password to the user/customer as part of their registration confirmation.
  5. Make sure that your website does not store passwords as clear text in its database. It should be using a one way hashing algorithm so that the password itself can never be retrieved.

If you discover any hints or tips for making your website work really well with Apple’s Safari / iCloud KeyChain password manager do please get in touch and leave a comment below.  We’ll be sure to update this blog post as we discover more about it.


My top 10 most useful websites for web developers.

People often ask me questions like How do you get started in web design / development and what books and websites do you recommend?

I’ve been thinking about this and have put together my top 10 list of websites which I regularly refer to when working on technical web development projects.

1. For CSS and HTML reference my favourite site now is www.sitepoint.com they have a clean simple HTML and CSS reference.  They also publish an excellent range of web development books and publish online articles etc.

2. Until recently www.w3schools.com would have been at number 1, but I think that Sitepoint have an edge now in the areas that they cover.  Still it can be useful to have more than one source of information and more examples.  This site also has guides to a wider range of topics than Sitepoint.

3. Although in many way we prefer Java for large projects, PHP has many strengths and is a very serious alternative to Java.  The www.php.net is a great reference guide to the PHP language.

4. CSS is very powerful and I regularly turn to www.csszengarden.com for two reasons.  Firstly for inspiration and secondly to demonstrate to clients and junior staff how CSS can transform a piece of marked up content in so many ways.

5. For quality reference books I love www.safaribooksonline.com. I’m often on the road so online access to eBooks is much better than having a pile of books stuck back in the office.

6. When I’m driving around I often listen to Paul Boag’s podcast which is all about web development.  They often mention useful tips, tricks and products and you can catch up later with the transcription which they publish at boagworld.com.

7. It’s important for IT professionals to stay up to date with developments in the field.  I recommend that you make a point of reading the IBM Systems Journal which can be found online at http://www.research.ibm.com/journal/sjindex.html

8. If you are serious about web development it won’t be long before you need to look at the HTTP response that you are getting back from your web servers.  There are lots of ways of doing this but I often find myself using the free online viewer at www.rexswain.com/httpview.html.

9. Behind most of our PHP and Java applications you’ll find a MySQL database so the http://www.mysql.com/ site contains essential reading.

10. Coming back to the question, how do you get into web design? well you need to read as much as you can on the subject.  If you’re like me you don’t have much time these days and you have to be selective about what you read.  I always find time to check http://www.alistapart.com/ at least once a week to see what new articles they have published on web design.

There were so many sites I could have listed here but many focus on niche web technologies.  The sites I’ve picked will give you a good grounding in current state of web design.